Barack Obama

About Obama's Mother

|

Alan Vanneman has a thoughtful survey of reviews of Janny Scott's new biography of Ann Dunham, A Singular Woman The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mother. Snippets:

When Ann Dunham was dying of ovarian cancer in Honolulu, Barack Obama, "preoccupied with legal work and his newly published book" (as [reviewer Jacob] Weisberg tells it), failed to make the trip from New York to visit her.

One suspects that Barack wrote Dreams from My Father about his father precisely because he didn't know him. Barack Sr. was smart; he left early, so that his son could imagine him as the sort of dad he should have had but didn't. Barack couldn't do that with Ann; she wasn't around very much, but she was around enough for Barack to remember that she didn't seem to care about him very much at all….

Obama referred to himself as his mother's "experiment," suggesting that she was more in love with the idea of having a child by a black man than she was in love with the child she actually produced. Obama obviously didn't care very much about being an experiment, but somehow he found the wit to survive it. Now if only he would get out of Afghanistan, cut the defense budget in half, restore our civil liberties, abandon the Bush/Obama "I am above the law" concept of the presidency, and stop talking about high-speed rail and "green" jobs, everything would be OK.

Full Vanneman here.

I always found it odd that Obama's mother was so absent from her son's autobiography, but this certainly helps to explain it. I tend to think that children identify with the parent they are least like as a way of asserting psychic independence from the bigger influence on them.

I'm not a fan of psychoanalyzing pols from a distance—not only is it almost always inaccurate, it's typically a cheap way to score partisan points under the guise of impartiality. (See, in very different contexts, the attempts to paint Barry Goldwater as certifiably insane and Obama as the seething son of a post-colonial Kenyan radical.) And it's not clear that who someone was in their teens or twenties tells you much about their policy prescriptions in their elected life. But Scott's book sounds interesting for the story it tells of a woman who left what must have been a stultifying existence in late '50s and early '60s America for a life that might not have been much more fulfilling.

NEXT: Reason.tv: Calculate YOUR Share of Govt Spending on War, Entitlements, & More

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Like many misfits, Dunham preferred exile. If you don’t know how to fit in, or don’t want to, it’s simpler to be in a place where you can’t fit in.

    Guess the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

    1. Yeah, the entire Dunham family was a bunch of commie psychos.

      Though in fairness, any woman having to suffer with the name “Stanley” because of her whackjob father would probably have serious issues.

  2. Holy shit! Obama’s mother was white? Maybe that’s why he won’t show anyone his birth certificate.

    1. His mother was what?!? To think, I dined with that biracial motherfucker.

  3. Let me be the first to say it….Racist!

  4. It still trips me out that the man wrote an autobiography before having done shit all in life except graduating from law school. Maybe if I’d have written one after I graduated from college, I’d be president now…

    1. Let me be clear.

      There are some who say I didn’t actually write it.

      1. How dishonest! Luckily libertarians don’t truck with politicians who have others write things in their name.

  5. Interesting. But WAY too soon. Like his autobiographies.

    I’m still reading of John Adams biographies and Plato’s Republic and shit like that. I’ll be long dead before Obama’s (or either Bush’s, or Clinton’s, or Reagan’s, Carter’s, Nixons, Johnson’s, Kennedy’s, Eisenhower’s) “worth-reading-my- biography-now” date is valid.

    We’re just now at the point where analysis of Truman/Roosevelt II era – and them as people – is relevant/useful/remotely interesting. Obama? Please.

    Just my view – I may be wrong.

    1. “I’m still reading of John Adams biographies and Plato’s Republic and shit like that.”

      That is so gay. Especially the Plato shit.

      1. Yepper – those pretty much scream “gay”.

    2. Correct me if I’m wrong, but all of the other presidents you listed at least waited until after they had been president before publishing autobiographies. Obama’s narcissism knows no such limits.

      1. And I started three wars after they gave me the Peace Prize.

  6. When Ann Dunham was dying of ovarian cancer in Honolulu, Barack Obama, “preoccupied with legal work and his newly published book” (as [reviewer Jacob] Weisberg tells it), failed to make the trip from New York to visit her.

    What a fucking ingrate. As if one needed more reason to despise him.

    (I can understand such a reaction to an abusive parent but there’s no reason to think that’s the case here)

    1. Obama:

      “The biggest mistake I made was not being at my mother’s bedside when she died. She was in Hawaii in a hospital, and we didn’t know how fast it was going to take, and I didn’t get there in time.”

      1. I dunno, that strikes me as pretty weak.

        When your mother is admitted to a hospital with end-stage cancer, you drop everything and go. You don’t say “Gosh, I’ve got all kinds of paperwork here. I’d rather take the chance that she dies alone than be a week late with my TPS report.”

        1. 1. What Middle Age Crazy said about mortality being an abstract concept to young men. Not just young men, but anyone who hasn’t seen many loved ones die.

          2. People have very different reactions to their parents’ health problems. It is not uncommon, to one’s later regret, to brush them off and perhaps throw oneself into one’s work as a coping mechanism.

        2. What the hell?!?!

          You know guys (this is not just you RC) Obama does not have to be a damaged monster in order for us to find fault in his politics and policies.

          1. it is fun knowing these things anyway….

    2. I don’t like the man myself, but I’m willing to cut him some slack on this one. Mortality is an abstract concept to most young men. I made a similar mistake myself once.

    3. There’s nothing to indicate she ever abused him, but she abandoned him twice during his formative years to go pursue her career of studying third worlders. That sort of thing will impact just about anybody.

      1. And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me,
        he’d grown up just me, yeah,
        my son was just like me

      2. Vanneman’s article really does cut through the utter bs in the way the times book review and slate tried to find the bright side of what a substandard mother and terrible father Obama had. Seems to me that abandoning a child is a million times worse than neglecting to visit a sick parent.

    4. What a fucking ingrate.

      There is no reason why an adult should have to love their mother. particularly if she was a shitty one.

      1. I’ll bet you don’t like apple pie.

  7. Wait, so Vanneman writes books based on other people’s stuff. Now he’s too lazy to read a book and write a review, but writes a survey of reviews?

    Seriously? Somebody pays him for this shit?

    1. Please see my next book, “Crime and Punishment”. It has a forward by The Gobbler.

      It will be an excellent complement to my last book, “Dreams From My Father”.

  8. Both reviews…dance gracelessly around the obvious fact that our president’s mom and dad were lousy parents.

    To do otherwise would highlight the fact that candidate Obama didn’t get the same treatment other candidates got. In a culture where Trig Palin’s parentage becomes a major topic of discussion, this can’t even be said to be irrelevant. Awkward — best let the “wingnuts” bring it up.

    1. No offense, Vanneman

  9. Singular woman? More like a self-hating cracker that hooked up with a black man that hated white people and didn’t even bother staying around.

    Did she even have a job? I hear Obama was raised by his white grandparents, oh right, she was too busy chasing Obama’s baby daddy in Africa.

    Sad, so sad.
    http://libertarians4freedom.blogspot.com/

  10. nothin for nothin but…

    Obama’s mom was preggers when she was 17. What was the age of consent in Hawaii at that time?

    1. He wasn’t conceived or born in the USA – so it doesn’t matter

      🙂

  11. Both reviews…dance gracelessly around the obvious fact that our president’s mom and dad were lousy parents.

    Barack Obama has a compelling personal narrative, you haters.

    1. A VIBRANT BACKGROUND

      1. His is a rags-to-riches story, a truly American story.

  12. She may not really be his motther. Barrak Obama born in Kenya. I don’t need proof, I just know it is true.

  13. I always found it odd that Obama’s mother was so absent from her son’s autobiography, but this certainly helps to explain it.

    It was always pretty obvious that Stanley getting knocked up at the age of 17 by a black dude was nothing more than a FUCK YOU DAD moment. You can hardly blame Barry for being estranged from her.

    1. Being a Black guy who has dated White women in the past, that element can’t be denied. Also, there’s that whole nonconformity-as-pose mindset, which would lead to a…less than warm relationship. Feeling like your mom’s experiment doesn’t bring out visions of milk and cookies after school, huh?

      1. One of my cousins did the very same. Her dad was a Paris Island drill sergeant with an attitude that made the Great Santini seem like a mellow guy. She is still a mess, but her kid turned out pretty good. I’m going down to his college graduation this weekend.

      2. It’s a wonder that Obama didn’t turn out to be a coke head.

      3. “Being a Black guy”

        I don’t believe you. Everyone knows that only whites are libertarians.

      4. Feeling like your mom’s experiment doesn’t bring out visions of milk and cookies after school, huh?

        Honestly, I can’t imagine how it would have helped. Your other point about the nonconformity-as-pose mindset is a salient one, too–it’s one of the more repulsive features of sixties culture.

        As much as I dislike Obama, I’m not going to hate on the guy for having to deal with being born to shitty parents.

  14. Obama has mother issues….

    Of course everyone has issues with their parents.

    It is interesting but worse then worthless as a tool for explanation of who he is and why he does what he does.

    1. I don’t. My parents are awesome.

      1. I have always felt neglected. Never saw my dad unless he needed a quick slam. Never even a “thank you”. Just a gruff “now pull up your pants and get the hell outta here”.

      2. My parents are awesome.

        I would argue thinking your parents are awesome is an issue….

        …Momma’s Boy

      3. I’m sure they’re very proud of whatever it is you’ve become.

        1. They have to be, or else he uses them in his stabby robot experiments.

      4. Didn’t they force you to live in Pittsburgh during your formative years?

    2. Is it worthless, though? Seems to me like only someone with severe personal issues would be such a striver he’d feel the need to put himself through the hell of becoming President. Certainly that would seem to explain our last few Presidents.

      1. “only someone with severe personal issues would be such a striver”

        I’m pretty sure the Bushes think of holding high office as their birthright. Our current President is just a token Negro and has been all his life. He’s always just been handed things for free. Why not the Presidency?

      2. Seems to me like only someone with severe personal issues would be such a striver he’d feel the need to put himself through the hell of becoming President.

        There are plenty of people with severe personal issues.

        I don’t see all of them running for president.

        My point still stands…we all have personal issues many of them severe (I do not see Obama’s issues as severe). A president is no different.

  15. Obama referred to himself as his mother’s “experiment,” suggesting that she was more in love with the idea of having a child by a black man than she was in love with the child she actually produced.

    Wow. A man with mother issues. Take a number.

    1. Wow, a poster on H&R with mommy issues. How unusual.

      1. Show us on the doll where your mommy touched you.

        1. I can’t. I can only show you where I wanted her to touch me.

          1. Well played, sir. Well played.

  16. Describe in single words only the good things that come into your mind about your mother.
    My mother? Let me tell you about my mother…

    1. +1

  17. If anything, Barrack Obama always struck me as a guy with daddy issues, not mommy ones. His book Dreams of my father should’ve been subtitled And how I wasn’t in them…WAAAH!.

    He’s like a bottle-blonde stripper trapped in a Kenyan’s body…

  18. Full Vanneman here.

    But could my eyes take it?

    1. There’s a H&R regular meme in the making here.

      I’m going Full Vanneman on your ass.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.