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The long shadow of Barack Obama’s identity crisis

The Washington Post has obsessed over an incident in which Mitt Romney allegedly cut the hair of a fellow high school student. The mainstream media paid plenty of attention to George W. Bush’s “irresponsible youth,” and speculated about whether he had used cocaine. Yet, the MSM has essentially ignored Barack Obama’s admission in his autobiography of cocaine use, of attending Socialist seminars while in college, and of being drawn as a young man to Marxists and Communists.

Is this another example of MSM bias? Of course it is. Yet one can distinguish Obama’s indiscretions from those of Romney and Bush. The two Republicans came from very wealthy backgrounds and had a clear path they were expected to follow. They can be viewed as spoiled rich kids, and in Bush’s case as someone who strayed a bit from the path.

Obama did not come from a wealthy background, nor was there a clear path for him to follow. His youth was filled with ambiguity – including, but not limited to, ambiguity about his race and his relationship to the United States (though not ambiguity about where he was born). In Obama’s words:

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. . . .I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents. . . .

Thus, it was natural for the young Obama to experiment as he searched for his identity and his own way into the world.

But this raises an obvious, though seldom asked set of questions: Did Obama resolve his identity issue? If so, when, and what was the resolution?

We know that as an adult, Obama continued to associate, and started working, with the same kind of left-wing radicals he had gravitated towards as a youth. And when he found religion, it was in the form of the Black liberation theology of Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Moreover, as late as March 2008, Obama said he could “no more disown [Rev. Wright] than I can disown the black community. . .no more disown him than I can my white grandmother. . .”

Based on the record, the case can be made that Obama still has not resolved the fundamental identity issues that drove him to experiment with weird, obnoxious ideologies that are fundamentally hostile to America and what it has stood for. That’s scary.

The case can also be made, and has been by Stanley Kurtz, that Obama has resolved these issues in favor of a radicalism that, though less virulent than that of Rev. Wright, Frank Davis (the Communist who mentored Obama in Hawaii), and Bill Ayers, is ambivalent at best about America and what it has stood for. That’s very scary.

But I’m hard-pressed to see a plausible case that Obama has resolved his identity issues by fully discarding the radical belief systems to which he was drawn both as a teenager and a mature adult. If he has genuinely done so, when did he do it and what prompted the change? His candidacy for high political office likely would have prompted only steps to conceal his ideology. His ascension to the presidency would have imposed constraints on his ability to act, but not necessarily any change in his underlying beliefs.

It’s easy to outgrow a penchant for nasty pranks. It’s difficult, though not uncommon, to overcome alcohol abuse problems. It’s common to discard radical ideologies as one matures. Romney accomplished the first feat and Bush the second. Unfortunately, we know that Obama continued to be attracted to radical ideologies during the late 1980s and 1990s, and the evidence is lacking that the attraction has ended. Perhaps it is too deeply rooted in persistent issues of identity.

JOHN adds: I hope Paul won’t mind if I add a bit of personal sub-text. As Paul says, “It’s common to discard radical ideologies as one matures.” When Paul and I were college roommates, we were both radicals; it is fair to say that we were Communists. That may sound implausibly stupid now, but it is true. As we not only got older but experienced more of the world, our views changed–”evolved,” as Barack Obama might say. You can easily document that change. We became convinced that we were horribly misguided in our youth–for example, by opposing, on radical rather than prudential grounds, the Vietnam War–and tried hard to make amends. There is no mystery about our current views; we have expressed them countless times in many forums. I don’t think it has occurred to anyone to doubt our sincerity, whether they agree with our mature judgments or not. I agree with Paul that it is weird, at best, that there is apparently no documented process whereby Barack Obama “evolved” from an anti-American radical to a person who could possibly be fit for high office.

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