Michael M. Bates
January 31, 2007
The initial Obama obstacle is relative
By Michael M. Bates

Barack, you got some 'splainin' to do. Or so it seems as Senator Obama, a leading Democratic candidate, recently devoted time he could have spent on important stuff like fundraising to deny he was educated at an extremist Muslim school.

Maybe Mr. Obama is kicking himself for writing "Dreams from My Father" a dozen years ago. That book provided numerous details that Team Clinton otherwise would have had to hire private detectives to unearth.

Obama reveals in his book that for two years he attended a Muslim school in Indonesia: "In the Muslim school, the teacher wrote to tell my mother that I made faces during Koranic studies."

Young Barack appears to have been an equal opportunity skeptic. He went to a Catholic school for two years and "when it came time to pray, I would pretend to close my eyes, then peek around the room. Nothing happened. No angels descended. Just a parched old nun and thirty brown children, muttering words."

So far, the senator's not been forced to issue denials that he studied at an extremist Catholic school. His mother, it's been reported, was an atheist. He's described her as "a lonely witness for secular humanism, a soldier for New Deal, Peace Corps, position paper liberalism."

This white woman from Kansas went to Hawaii and married a black man from Kenya. Barack Obama says his father was an atheist, although when he died his family demanded a Muslim burial. The senator's father left his wife and two-year-old Barack to pursue a Ph.D. at Harvard. The younger Obama would see his father only once more.

The senior Obama was a piece of work. The white woman from Kansas was his second wife. He had left his first wife, a Kenyan, pregnant and caring for another of his sons, to go to college in Hawaii a few years earlier. Eventually he returned to Kenya, was given a good government job, and married yet again.

Quite clearly, Barack Senior liked matrimony. Perhaps that's why he didn't legally end all his marriages. As best as I can calculate from the senator's book, Daddy Obama's final legacy was eight children by four different women, not all of them wives.

Senator Obama's grandfather was also an interesting fellow. According to "Dreams from My Father," the man was a little hard to satisfy when it came to housekeeping. If potential spouses "were lazy or broke a dish," he "would beat them severely." Gramps finally settled on the woman of his dreams, however, and gave her father fifteen cattle for her. Hillary should have a field day with that.

Naturally, a man with what we now recognize as anger management issues needed defense weapons. So he had two machetes "that he kept very, very sharp." He even gave each of them a name. How droll.

So Barack Obama studied the Koran as a child. So Barack Obama's father wasn't a role model and was a Muslim. So Barack Obama's mother was a secular humanist. So Barack Obama's step-father was a Muslim. So Barack Obama's grandfather wouldn't be mistaken for Alan Alda.

So what? I detest sounding like James Carville defending another Clinton "peccadillo," but I don't see Barack Obama's responsibility for the family in which he was born. Or the schools to which he was sent.

If the two years he spent at a Muslim school, no matter how radical it may have been, had no more influence than the two years at a Catholic one, I don't think we need to worry about his being a terrorist sympathizer. Even if his middle name is Hussein.

What I think we should be asking about, and holding Barack Obama responsible for, is what he's done of his own volition. His extremely liberal voting records as a state legislator and a U.S. Senator deserve critical analysis.

And what about his admitted drug use? Again from his book:

"Pot had helped, and booze, maybe a little blow when you could afford it... Junkie. Pothead. That's where I'd been headed: the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man."

How long and how frequently did he abuse drugs? Was there a permanent impact? Does he regret using them? Exactly how old was he and to what does he attribute his poor judgment?

Obama writes in his book of a visit from a half-sister in which he learns more about the life of a father he didn't know. His image of his father was dramatically changed:

"Replaced by... what? A bitter drunk? An abusive husband? A defeated, lonely bureaucrat?" He goes on to contemplate: "What stood in the way of my succumbing to the same defeat that had brought down the Old Man? Who might protect me from doubt or warn me against all the traps that seem laid in a black man's soul?"

Does Barack Obama believe that black men's souls have different traps than those of white men? If so, why is it?

That might be worth exploring. Not like those elements of his life over which he had no control.

This Michael Bates column appeared in the February 1, 2007 Reporter Newspapers.

© Michael M. Bates


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Michael M. Bates

Michael M. Bates has written a weekly column of opinion or nonsense, depending on your viewpoint since 1985 for the (southwest suburban Chicago) Reporter Newspapers... (more)

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