Obama's On-Again, Off-Limits-Again Personal Biography

President Obama will give a speech to American schoolchildren today. In that speech, he will exhort them to study hard and get an education. Then, according to the White House, he will add a bit of personal biography:

When I was your age, I was wrestling with questions about who I was; about what it meant to be the son of a white mother and a black father, and not having that father in my life.

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Fair enough. Most people go through a period in their life when they must come to terms with their identity. President Obama has spoken and written about his struggle to come to terms with his mixed-race ancestry and his father’s abandonment of his wife and young son. It hardly comes as a surprise to anyone that abandonment by a parent would leave a lasting scar. Neither does it come as a surprise that a young boy might be confused about where he belongs when his parents belong to different racial groups and different countries.

Unfortunately, when someone who isn’t Barack Obama comments on his heritage, the press seizes on it as evidence as racism. This expected fate befell former House Speaker and favorite media punching bag Newt Gingrich, who is now pilloried as a racist by none other than Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post. Capehart declares:

Gingrich’s comments on President Obama and his worldview are so beyond the pale that the only time the presumed presidential aspirant should ever come close to the Oval Office in the future is either on a tour of the West Wing or as a guest of the next Republican president of the United States.

What could Gingrich have said that is so incredibly offensive? After all, a certain vice-president once commented while on the senatorial campaign trail, “You cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.” Another former senator who went on to bigger and better things described Rust Belt Midwesterners as “cling[ing] to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment…” What could Gingrich have said that trumped these two quotes?

Echoing an influential piece in Forbes magazine by author Dinesh D’Souza, Brace yourselves. Gingrich said that “President Obama may follow a ‘Kenyan, anti-colonial’ worldview.” Yes, that’s it. To claim that referring to a “Kenyan, anti-colonial’ outlook is brazen racism is as absurd as claiming that referring to an academic’s embrace of French existentialism reveals hatred of all things Gallic. It’s particularly absurd to cry racism when the person whose views are up for discussion has trumpeted his ties to the country in question. Tony Blair was mocked as an American poodle for much less.

Questioning whether a particular person shares the same worldview you do is not inherently racist. At its most basic level, it’s an attempt to understand how another person thinks. Recognizing that a person’s worldview may have been shaped by influences that did not shape one’s own worldview leads to understanding that people view the world differently. And aren’t we supposed to celebrate diversity?

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Furthermore, agree or disagree with Gingrich’s comment and the D’Souza article that spawned it, Gingrich himself is far less concerned with the Kenyan aspects of Obama’s politics than with the leftist aspects. In the same interview, Gingrich opines that Obama followed the great tradition of Saul Alinsky and crafted an image of moderation that was fundamentally false. In fact, Gingrich places Obama as a member of a long line of American opportunists: “Edison, Ford, the Wright Brothers, Bill Gates.”

If the Left truly views Gingrich’s remark as racist, they ought to go back to junior high and review the lesson, “Some people think X, and other people think Y. In America, most people think X, but in other countries most people think Y. Even so, some people in American who think Y, and some people in other countries think X.” Otherwise, they ought to stop cynically shouting “racism!” every time someone criticizes The One. Come on, guys, you’re looking desperate.

Which, of course, you are.

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