Sunday, February 24, 2008

Mrs. Obama

What struck me about Michelle Obama's prepared statement that 'this is the first time in my adult life that I am proud of my country" was the reaction (or lack thereof) of the crowd. Had a Republican said such a thing I imagine a collective gasp from the crowd, not nodding heads and polite cheers.

The moment I heard that Princeton wasn't going to release Michelle Obama's sociology thesis, I immediately knew it was on race. Having read a couple blurbs, I can't say I was surprised by her take. I can say I was deeply disappointed. National Review's John Derbyshire says it well:

Mrs. Obama's Thesis

O.K., I read Mrs Obama's senior sociology thesis, "Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community". What effect, if any, will it have on the presidential campaign? I'd say a moderate positive, offset by a slight negative.

The positive comes from the Obama people having released the thing. It makes them look open and transparent, and highlights (or low-darks) Mrs. Clinton's not having released her tax returns.

The slight negative is slight because this is a candidate's wife. Nobody's asking you to vote for her. Ronald Reagan's enemies, who were very numerous and unprincipled, might have had a lot of fun with Nancy's Smith College senior papers, but nobody seems to have thought of it. A candidate's wife's college term papers just aren't consequential.

On the other hand, the slight negative is negative because the thesis reveals a cast of mind that most voters find deeply unattractive. Plainly Mrs. Obama had that cast of mind in 1985. Recent remarks suggest she still has it. The fact that Barack Obama chose her as a wife and seems to get on well with her, indicates that he shares it. It's that deeply, unrelentingly critical way of thinking about the U.S.A., and about most of our citizens, that characterizes the "victicrat" — the person who has been taught, or who has taught herself, that she is a pitiful figure buffeted by hostile forces, whose only hope for survival is to return the hostility, and to band together with others like herself ("the Black community") for mutual aid, all of them in a hostile posture to the out-group.

Most Americans don't see our country like that, and have a low opinion of people who do. Millions of white — or, as Mrs. Obama writes, "White" — Americans would love to have had the breaks Mrs. Obama had, and resent the fact that they didn't have them because they don't belong to a designated victim group. They resent the ease with which two beneficiaries of those breaks can parlay their victim status into two six-digit salaries and a seven-digit house, without ever doing any kind of work that adds to the nation's wealth or security. And they especially resent that people who have attained those heights of success, with the assistance of those breaks, seem to nurse nothing but hostile emotions towards the country that made it possible for them.

Net-net, I doubt it will make much difference, or should. The thesis itself is pretty dire; but then, so are most of the college productions of 21-year-olds. I got my degree by solving differential equations and the like — no prose required, for which I am very grateful.

Kudos to Mr. Derbyshire for acknowledging that a candidate's wife's college term paper shouldn't be terribly consequential in choosing a president. He is probably correct noting that someone could have had fun with Nancy Reagan's writings as a 20 year old, if only they had thought of it.

I do have two disagreements. The first (and I think Mr. Derbyshire would agree in hindsight) is lumping Mrs. Obama with the kind of people who "seem to nurse nothing but hostile emotions towards the country that made it possible for them". Undoubtedly, she harbors some negative feelings towards America, in addition to projecting herself as a victim of some sorts. Nonetheless, he should have made it more clear that he was not referring to her in that sentence.

The second disagreement is I think this will have a little more impact than Mr. Derbyshire thinks. This is precisely the type of mentality on our country, race and fairness that makes ordinary American's recoil. Obama's entire appeal to many is the hope he will take us beyond such thinking. The fact she still holds these beliefs to some extent will not be lost on many people. The thesis helps confirms what she is thinking when she says she is "proud of her country for the first time as an adult" some 20 years later.

What was left unsaid is how pervalant such sentiments are among certain segments of our society. Let's face it; nearly all such people are on the Left. That explains the polite cheers.


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