[Language and content warning for this one, readers, but necessary for reporting purposes…]
In a busy news summer, it turned out, one of the biggest stories was “The Obama Factor,” David Samuels August 2 Tablet interview with David Garrow, a Pulitzer Prize winner for Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and author of the massive Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama, published in 2017. The interview attracted attention for a previously redacted section of a letter the former president wrote to fellow Occidental College student Alex McNear in 1982.
“In regard to homosexuality, I must say that I believe this is an attempt to remove oneself from the present, a refusal perhaps to perpetuate the endless farce of earthly life. You see, I make love to men daily, but in the imagination,” the 21-year-old Obama wrote to McNear in November, 1982. “My mind is androgynous to a great extent and I hope to make it more so until I can think in terms of people, not women as opposed to men. But, in returning to the body, I see that I have been made a man, and physically in life, I choose to accept that contingency.”
In a September 6 interview with Tucker Carlson, convicted con artist Larry Sinclair claimed he had performed oral sex on Obama in Chicago in late 1999. Sinclair made similar claims some 15 years earlier, but the issue goes back to Dreams from My Father, published in 1995. Here is what Garrow said about that book in Rising Star:
“Dreams from My Father was not a memoir or an autobiography; it was instead, in multitudinous ways, without any question a work of historical fiction. It featured many true-to-life figures and a bevy of accurately described events that indeed had occurred, but it employed the techniques and literary license of a novel, and its most important composite character was the narrator himself.” (emphasis original)
In the early going of Dreams, readers meet a happy-drunk black poet known only as “Frank,” who counsels young Barry Soetoro – stepson of Lolo Soetoro, the Indonesian student his mother Ann Dunham married in 1965 – before he goes off to college. Garrow correctly identifies the poet as Frank Marshall Davis, an African American Communist who spent much of his life supporting the white Stalinist dictatorship of the Soviet Union.
As Paul Kengor showed in The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis – The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor, Davis was a journalistic Stakhanov for the Communist Party. In 1948, the Party sent Davis to Hawaii, where he lent a hand to Harry Bridges’ longshoremen’s union, then under Communist control. Davis also ran a paper company and photography studio, but by the 1960s Frank fell on hard times. So in 1968, under the pseudonym Bob Greene, Davis authored Sex Rebel, Black: Memoirs of a Gash Gourmet.
In respect to Frank, and in the cause of accuracy, this book will be cited just as Davis wrote it. Think of Sen. John Kennedy reading aloud from Gender Queer, or Tipper Gore’s hearings on rock lyrics back in the 1980s.
“In addition to cunnilingus, at times I enjoy analingus,” Davis tells readers right up front. “I often wish I had two penises to enjoy simultaneously the sensations of oral and genital copulation.” As Frank explains, “I would invite trouble if I named those with whom I have enjoyed supreme pleasure.” Therefore, says the author, “I have changed names and identities. However, all incidents I have described were taken from actual experiences,” and “under certain circumstances I am bisexual.”
In certain circumstances, Davis writes, “I enjoy sucking another man’s cock.” On the other hand, the author enjoys “feasting on cunt,” and so on. Sex Rebel: Black is as raunchy as it gets, but some of the themes show up in Davis’ Livin’ the Blues: Memoirs of a Black Journalist and Poet, from the University of Wisconsin Press in 1992, five years after the author died.
Frank is an only child who quickly learns that “grown-ups must put their mouths down there. . . Frankly, I was proud of myself for solving this strange riddle. And more significantly, this undoubtedly triggered my lifelong oral orientation; it had to start somewhere.”
According to Frank, “women had a cock” and “since our meaning of the key word was the exact opposite of common parlance, a cocksucker logically engaged in cunnilingus.” This reversal makes sense only as a cover-up for Sex Rebel: Black, and Davis has more to say on the subject.
Anal intercourse is “cornholing” but “gay” is not his term of choice for same-sex affection. “I have neither contempt for nor antagonism against the homosexual, either male or female,” Davis wrote. In addition:
“Contemporary American society still treats homosexuals as it does other unpopular minorities such as blacks – with hate, scorn and discrimination. During the dramatic civil rights demonstrations of the 1960s, I often thought we ought to form a united front with joint sit-ins at cafes. In my mind I envisioned the result. An indignant white restaurant manager frantically phoning the police, ‘Get here in a hurry!’ We got niggers at our counters and our washrooms are loaded with fairies and lesbians!’ Or perhaps there might have been a joint March on Washington waving banners: Blacks and Homos, Arise!”
In Rising Star, Garrow noted Davis’ “kinky exploits,” so the letter to Alex McNear makes sense. Garrow doesn’t care about the sexual fantasies but he is concerned about the composite character’s legacy.
“The whole Obamacare thing was, in large part, a fraud,” Garrow told Samuels, and the Iran deal “offensive and puzzling. I mean, it’s an explicitly antisemitic state.” Garrow also found “the Cuba thing deeply puzzling and offensive. It’s a fucking dictatorship that imprisons all sorts of truly progressive, creative people.”
Samuels, who writes for Harpers, the Atlantic and New York Times Magazine, notes that Obama is “fixated on Iran after the Iran deal failed.” The easy explanation is that “Joe Biden is not running that part of his administration. Obama is. He doesn’t even have to pick up the phone because all of his people are already inside the White House.” Samuels is also disturbed about the Dreams novel.
“There was something about this fictional character that he created actually becoming president that helped precipitate the disaster that we are living through now.” That’s the Obama factor, and there’s more to it.
“So how do you talk all this foundation-land, community-organizer shit and then preside over the transformation of the country into a Gilded Age oligarchy?” wonders Samuels. “Maybe I just answered my own question: Obama is the Magic Negro of the billionaire industrial complex.” If anybody thought the current disaster is much worse than the Gilded Age it would be hard to blame them. David Garrow is on to it.
“He’s not normal,” Garrow said of Obama, “as in not a normal politician or a normal human being.” For the composite character, “everything has to be a success. Everything has to be a victory.” Ask yourself how you like the promised land so far.
Endnote: Frank disappeared from the audio version of Dreams from My Father and makes no appearance in The Audacity of Hope or Believer, the 2015 memoir by “Obama’s narrator” David Axelrod. Frank Marshall Davis is also missing from A Promised Land, in which Dreams from My Father gets only a single mention. Frank is also missing from Becoming and The Light We Carry, by Michelle Obama, who explains that David Axelrod would “lead the messaging for Barack.” For further reading, see this author’s Barack ‘em Up: A Literary Investigation, and Yes I Con: United Fakes of America.