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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Not from Kansas

It's amazing how bad the fact-checking can be in a newspaper like the Washington Post (emphasis mine):

Obama's embodiment of a newer America begins but hardly ends with the fact that he would be the first black president. In a country where people liked to know where you were from, Obama lacks a ready answer — he is part Hawaii, part Kansas, part Chicago. In a recent speech in Berlin, he declared himself a "citizen of the world."

Perhaps the reporter got his facts in part from Obama's first general election political advertisement, which was carefully scripted to make it sound as if Obama was closely connected to Kansas and benefited directly from values associated with rural America:

I'm Barack Obama. America is a country of strong familes and strong values. My life's been blessed by both. I was raised by a single mom and my grandparents. We didn't have much money. But they taught me values straight from the Kansas heartland where they grew up — accountability and self-reliance, love of country, working hard without making excuses, and treating your neighbors as you'd like to be treated....

In fact, as told in Obama's autobiography, Dreams From My Father, Obama's maternal grandparents were originally from Kansas, but after World War 2, they then lived in California, Kansas again, a "series of small towns in Texas," and then Seattle, before finally settling in Hawaii in 1959. Obama, born in Hawaii in 1961, returned there to live with them after a stint in Indonesia with his mom and her second husband.

Claiming that his mother "grew up" in Kansas is a stretch. Suggesting that Barack Obama himself had any connection to Kansas other than a genealogical one would be a complete misstatement, no matter how much his campaign or the WaPo might wish to leaven his exotic roots with some plain old Kansas heartland. Indeed, one may fairly infer from their voluntarily leaving Kansas not once but twice that Obama's grandparents didn't think absorbing "Kansas values" was a very high priority for their daughter. I'm not knocking Hawaii, or Obama's grandparents for that matter. But this "Kansas connection" is just another artificial, manufactured "detail" from a narrative in which fact and fiction blur together seamlessly and shamelessly.

Just how blurry is the image, and how tenuous is the American public's grasp of the reality about Barack Obama? We're a mere three months from the presidential election, and yet the writers and editors of the major newspaper of our nation's capital city don't even know what state(s) the Democratic nominee is — or, more precisely, is not — from.

(Bonus points for you, my gentle and well-informed readers, if you can name (without Googling or other internet browsing) the three major metropolitan areas on the American mainland other than Chicago in which Barack Obama actually has lived for substantial periods of time. Hints: None of them were even mentioned in the WaPo story, none of them are associated with "heartland values," and none of them is in Kansas.)

Posted by Beldar at 12:44 AM in 2008 Election, Mainstream Media, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Not from Kansas and sent a trackback ping are listed here:


(1) wrlaw made the following comment | Aug 12, 2008 8:38:04 AM | Permalink


(2) steve sturm made the following comment | Aug 12, 2008 8:40:20 AM | Permalink

I'll go with New York and Washington DC, I'm stuck on the third.

(3) steve sturm made the following comment | Aug 12, 2008 8:41:08 AM | Permalink

I've got to learn to type faster.

(4) fromdelmar made the following comment | Aug 12, 2008 9:20:56 AM | Permalink

Boston/Cambridge, New York City, Washington, D.C.

(5) Beldar made the following comment | Aug 12, 2008 1:10:14 PM | Permalink

Perhaps this was a trick question. I actually didn't intend to ask it in a way that included Washington, D.C., since Obama's wife and daughters don't live there too and so much of his time since his election to the U.S. Senate has been spent in campaigning elsewhere. But I suppose that as the question actually was phrased, Washington, D.C. would probably count for one.

Between you, you've gotten the ones I intended: Los Angeles (while attending Occidental College); New York (while completing his undergraduate degree at Columbia and then working briefly for a financial publishing company before moving to Chicago to become a "community organizer"); and Boston (and indeed more specifically, Cambridge, while attending Harvard Law School).

(6) Jim Rhoads aka vnjagvet made the following comment | Aug 12, 2008 7:44:29 PM | Permalink

As I am sure Beldar knows, I am a McCain supporter.

But the gist of the ad is that BHO's grandparents taught him heartland values, not that he, his mom or his grandparents lived there for a long time. The ad's wording is very clever.

It could have been written by a pretty good lawyer. Ya think BHO had a hand in it?

(7) yonason made the following comment | Aug 26, 2008 9:39:02 PM | Permalink


Didn't he run for wizard of Emerald City a while back?

(8) yonason made the following comment | Aug 26, 2008 9:47:53 PM | Permalink

Oh, yes, I remember now. He was defeated by a tin can, a pussycat and a bale of hay. Tough campaign, too, It got so heated once, Obama is quoted as saying, "They better hope I never get my hands on those Ruby slippers!"

(9) yonason made the following comment | Aug 26, 2008 10:00:53 PM | Permalink


He father was a raving Marxist, and his Grandfather, Stanley Dunham, used to take Obie along when he hung out with his good buddy, the Communist Frank M. Davis.

Some "values!"

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