OBAMA THE CHAMELEON; Ruthlessly Ambitious: Barack Obama in 1987 with His African Half-Brothers Abongo (Left) and Ben

Daily Mail (London), November 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

OBAMA THE CHAMELEON; Ruthlessly Ambitious: Barack Obama in 1987 with His African Half-Brothers Abongo (Left) and Ben


Byline: David Jones

OF ALL Barack Obama's many gifts, perhaps the greatest is his power to communicate with people of all colours, creeds and classes.

It is a tribute to his talent that, although he is the least experienced politician ever to stand on the threshold of the White House, we think we know all about him.

His easy familiarity before the cameras is one of the major reasons why he is an odds-on certainty to become the first black President of America next Tuesday.

But what is going on behind that implacable facade, and how did he rise with such velocity? Obama's response, when faced with this question, is always the same. He has written two autobiographies totalling 800 pages and all his secrets are contained therein.

He shrugs: 'What else do you want to know about me?' For the uninitiated, the narrative Obama presents is as follows. As the son of a Kenyan father and a white mother from Kansas, he was raised by his well-meaning, but out-of-touch grandparents in Hawaii, where he suffered an angry, alienated, racially tormented youth.

During his teens, he says, he sought oblivion by smoking cannabis and snorting cocaine 'the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man'.

But in his 20s he found his idenfrom tity by joining the black civil rights movement, as a community worker in the ghettoes of Chicago.

After gaining a Harvard law degree, he became a local politician. Then finally, as if by preordination, he found himself on the road to greatness.

It is a parable that happens to be perfectly suited to an aspiring U.S. President in these troubled times. However, we would do well to remember that Obama's books, though beautifully crafted, were written by an ambitious politician.

We can therefore take it as read that he has good reason to disguise the characters with pseudonyms, conflate key incidents and 'remember' selectively.

By talking to Obama's relatives and friends, his past and present colleagues, I have uncovered a very different Barack Obama story.

With his exotic East African-Mid Western background, one of the fundamentals of Obama's popular appeal is that he promises to bridge the great chasm which still divides America's black, white and Hispanic communities. And nowhere more than in his adopted home city of Chicago. The role seems to come to him naturally and effortlessly, but this is far from true.

In fact, he only learned to move seamlessly between these polarised worlds in his 30s, when he realised he would have to broaden his appeal if he was ever to fulfil his huge ambition.

Obama's working life began in New York, where he was briefly employed as a financial writer.

HE CITES two reasons for turning his back on a potentially lucrative career in business.

First, as the only black employee in his company above the level of cleaner or security guard, he felt like an outsider.

Second, and more intriguingly, he says he split up with a white girlfriend who failed to understand his need to immerse himself in black culture.

The relationship ended, he recalls, after he visited her well-heeled grandfather's country house. As he gazed at the photographs of great white statesmen on the mantelpiece, it dawned on him that he would have to abandon his roots to remain with her.

For an aspiring black politician, this is a powerful metaphor but one has to question its veracity.

Nobody I have spoken to can recall seeing Obama with the mysterious WASP girlfriend. Furthermore, given that every minute detail of his life has been scrutinised since he declared his intention to run for office, surely she would have been identified by now if she existed? In any case, what were these 'roots'? Apart from the four years when he lived in Indonesia with his mother and her second husband, Obama spent his youth in a comfortable Honolulu apartment with his grandparents, Stanley and Madelyn Dunham.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

OBAMA THE CHAMELEON; Ruthlessly Ambitious: Barack Obama in 1987 with His African Half-Brothers Abongo (Left) and Ben
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.