Fueling Family Feuds

Ed Schultz, MSNBC talk show host and serial race baiter, has reached a new low: on his last Thursday night broadcast, he attacked Congressman Allen West (R-FL) for not doing enough to help his own brother, Arlan, find work. Arlan, a father of four living in Atlanta, has been unemployed for more than two months. Congressman West encouraged his brother to attend a jobs fair hosted by the Democrats. That has Schultz piping mad. “Congressman West,” he railed, “what kind of conditions have you set for your brother to get a job? What have you done? …You haven’t done a damn thing about [unemployment in America].”

If politicians’ families are fair game, Mr. Schultz, it’s worth asking what President Obama has done for his own extended family.

Take, for example, his half-brother, George. George was discovered living in a Kenyan shantytown by the Italian edition of Vanity Fair in 2008. Life’s been tough for George, who claims that he lives on less than a dollar a month. He’s so ashamed of his station in life that he often denies even being related to Obama. It’s easy to see why. His two-meter by three-meter shack features a calendar showing exotic beaches of the world, vistas he most likely will never see. Maybe Barack Obama can bring Brother George on his next trip to Martha’s Vineyard?

Meanwhile, one of the president’s other half-brothers, Malik Obama, decided he wanted not two, but three wives. Last year, the then-52-year-old married a then-19-year-old high school dropout. The girl’s mother wasn’t pleased and wanted her daughter to stay in school, but the marriage went ahead nonetheless, and President Obama, insofar as I can tell, said nothing about it, despite his hope that everyone go to college and having been best man at Malik’s other wedding. Indeed Malik was, according to him, best man at Barack’s wedding, but this time I don’t think Barack even bothered sending a wedding present.

Or consider his half-aunt Zeituni Onyango. Onyango, who arrived in America in 2000 on a temporary visa, had her asylum request rejected by an immigration judge in 2004. Not content to follow the immigration law, she simply ignored it and moved into a Boston public housing project, where, in short order, she became a salaried “health advisor” with the Boston Housing Authority, earning more than $700 a month, which is nearly twelve times the yearly per capita GDP of her native Kenya. To be sure, that’s not exactly a lot of money, especially in Boston, but she somehow got by, and even illegally contributed $260 to her nephew’s presidential campaign in 2008, despite not being a citizen. President Obama, as best as I can tell, kept the money, and has done little, if anything, for his aunt. It’s not clear whether he had a hand in saving her from deportation.

President Obama has asked that families be kept out of politics. “Lay off my wife,” he told Republicans questioning his wife’s racialist politics. When asked about Bristol Palin, Governor Sarah Palin’s pregnant teen daughter, Obama reiterated that view, promising that anyone that attacked a candidate’s family would be fired. But a mere three days later, Howard W. Gutman, one of his finance committee members, attacked Sarah Palin’s parenting skills on the Laura Ingraham show. “If my daughter had just come home at 17 years old and said, ‘Mom, Dad, I’m pregnant, we have a family problem, ‘I wouldn’t say, ‘You know what we’re going to do? We’re going to take this private family problem…and you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to go on the international stage and broadcast this to the world….This wasn’t a working mother issue, this was a parent issue.” Gutman, far from fired, was appointed an inauguration trustee and was later appointed ambassador to Belgium.

For Democrats and their allies in the media, this sort of family attack is par for the course. Indeed Barack Obama got his start, thanks to David Axelrod working with the help of the Chicago-area press to release his opponents’ messy divorce records. According to The Chicago Tribune, Axelrod and Obama’s senatorial campaign pressured them to demand the unsealing of Democratic competitor M. Blair Hull’s divorce records. The campaign, having already leaked the records contents, even organized a demonstration of women’s groups against Hull around the same time they began airing pro-Obama ads. Also, and perhaps not entirely coincidentally, Republican Illinois Senate Jack Ryan and actress Jeri Ryan had their divorce records unsealed by a Los Angeles judge, despite the protests to keep the proceedings sealed for the sake of their son. It didn’t matter to Obama, who while professing not to make an issue of Ryan’s personal life, ignored (or encouraged?) aides to email reporters with details of that very personal life.

This is natural. Which is why Democrats feel no shame attacking Michele Bachmann or her husband. Or why Mike Wallace even asked Romney if he and his high school sweetheart had pre-marital sex, but asks next to nothing about Barack Obama’s marriage.

That’s because political is personal–and familial–and nothing is off limits. Republicans, like West, ought to be preparing for the inevitable intrusions into family life. Lurking beneath all of this is the presumption that families can’t disagree politically, much like black Americans can’t disagree with the first black president’s policies. This was, of course, precisely West’s point when he called black Democratic leaders “overseers” of a “21st century plantation.”

And now, predictably, the modern-day overseers are trying to turn family members against one another, quoting his own brother’s criticism of him as the “kind of conversation” and “kind of dialogue” which is “not productive.” We’ve had many such conversations, dialogues, and even beer summits on race, but so far, blacks, who suffer more than 16% unemployment, are hearing nothing but cheap talk and spin coming of MSNBC and the White House. After all, to paraphrase President Obama’s not-quite-original admonition: “Don’t tell Americans words don’t matter.”

But actions matter a lot, too.

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