I haven’t read Barack Obama’s first book, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance*, but according to this morning’s Washington Post, it’s an illuminating tome that exposes (among other things) that Obama was once young! And that he made bad choices over 20 years ago!
Obama’s revelations were not an issue during his Senate campaign two years ago. But now his open narrative of early, bad choices, including drug use starting in high school and ending in college, as well as his tortured search for racial identity, are sure to receive new scrutiny.
I’m shocked — shocked — to learn that someone my age used drugs.
Okay… no. I’m not. My eyebrows barely twitched in reaction to this news. While I do know some people in this same age range who managed to arrive at the relative sanity of adulthood without ever trying anything illicit (or at least inhaling), they’re few and far between. Very few. Very far.
The WaPo article goes on:
As a potential candidate, Obama has presented himself as a fresh voice offering a politics of hope. Many say he offers something new in American politics: an African American with a less-than-traditional name who has so far demonstrated broad appeal. What remains to be seen is whether the candor he offered in his early memoir will be greeted with a new-style acceptance by voters.
It was not so long ago that such blunt admissions would have led to a candidate’s undoing, and there is uneasiness in Democratic circles that “Dreams From My Father” will provide a blueprint for negative attacks.
And of course they’re correct to be uneasy; it will open the door for negative attacks. Then again, that’s the way our highly evolved political system works, does it not? Had Barack Obama not written his book eleven years ago, somebody would have
been dug out of his past come forward and said, “Barack and I used to hang out behind the bleachers in high school and get high”.
You know they would.
In Barack Obama’s case, however, the resultant negativity is likely to be even worse — because there’s little else on which to attack him. Furthermore, he scares the opposition, both Republican and Democrat. A relative unknown with a fresh approach and a clean slate is dangerous to those who’ve accumulated some personal and political baggage during their own years in the limelight.
I’m willing to bet some presidential hopefuls are keeping plenty of their own indiscretions (youthful and not-so-much) very carefully under wraps. Or don’t you think other candidates are doing their dangdest to hide things?
To me, the real story behind Obama’s revelations is one of personal triumph. Many young people sadly do not emerge from those years well; the choices of their youth carry into young adulthood. Furthermore, his message to young urban black men is that one can, in fact, make different choices — choices that will lead to a radically different outcome than the difficult, dangerous, and ultimately destructive lifestyle of drugs and crime.
All in all, I think I’ve decided I like Barack Obama better today. I also think it’s high time I read that book.
* * * * *
There are a number of people blogging about this (unsurprisingly). Polimom was particularly impressed by Captain Ed’s take. Here’s a snippet:
Are we to argue that anyone who used pot in high school and college will forever be banned from high public office? (Stop snickering — you know what I mean.) No one goes through life without making mistakes, after all, and the mistakes Obama describes have been made by plenty of people in my generation, regardless of skin color, economic strata, or location. It would make a big difference if Obama or anyone else was still making these mistakes, but it looks like those issues are twenty years past or more — hardly indicative of the man he his now, or the value of his talents to his constituents.
And I enjoyed this immensely from Ankle Biting Pundits:
This just in: I don’t care.
Please leave a comment in our comment thread if you have never done anything in your life that you are not proud of.
I am a recovering alcoholic. B.T. is a sex addict. BDP is a compulsive overeater. Okay, I made those last two up. (BDP Comment: Hey, why does he get to be the sex-addict? I’ve got more seniority here, so I think I should get to choose my made up addiction. Let B.T. be the fatty, and let me score all the babes!) BT Comment: No no, Pat, you got it wrong: I’m a sex MACHINE!!!!
Indeed. Glass houses, stones, and all that.
Two h/ts: memeorandum (where one can also follow other reactions), and TMV, where Pete Abel’s title really sums this up: The Measure of a Man.
* Saying I haven’t read the book reminded me of my very good friend Jon Swift. He, like so many of us, has found that one needn’t actually read a book to have an opinion.