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Monday, March 17, 2008

Concern Troll of the Day
Posted by Jill | 7:06 AM
I don't know if this is going to be a regular feature, but it doesn't get more concern trollish than today's op-ed by Roger Cohen, in which he hands the Republicans a nice cudgel with which to beat Barack Obama:

I’ve been thinking about this because not enough has been written about Obama’s family. As Auma suggested, it’s unusual in the extent of its continent-crossing, religion-melding, color-fusing richness. But the Benetton-ad family is less unusual than it may seem. This is the age of globalized, far-flung families. Remittances make the world go round.

More needs to be written because if Obama gets the Democratic nomination, you know the Republican attack machine, through innuendo and otherwise, will go after his identity, just as it went after Senator John Kerry’s in 2004.

The difference is that Obama is much more certain and coherent about who he is than Kerry was. He has built his identity in a shifting world; that resonates with a lot of Americans. His radical Chicago pastor contributed to that journey. Now Obama has grown beyond him. I have no problem with that.

But you can already see the headlines: Obama has brother in China! You can hear the whisperings about a polygamous father.

That not enough has been written about his family is strange in that Obama himself devoted a remarkable book, “Dreams From My Father,” to his quest to fill the void left by an absent Dad.

As Auma said to me: “He was trying to figure out who he was. He needed to be whole to be able to do what he’s doing now. He went about it the right way. A big chunk of his life was missing. It’s very healthy that he now knows he has these roots here.”

Those roots were discovered during Obama’s first visit to Kenya two decades ago. During that trip, as recounted in his memoir, he encountered Ruth in Nairobi. She is described as “a white woman with a long jaw and graying hair.”

But who is Ruth, a woman who divorced Obama’s father, remarried, and gave the family name of her second husband to her two sons by Obama Sr.? In the book she says, with less than exquisite tact, to Barack Obama: “But your mother remarried. I wonder why she had you keep your name?”

As for Ruth’s son, and Obama’s half brother, Mark, the one in China, he’s described as studying physics at Stanford in the 1980s. “The things Mark studies are so complicated only a handful of people really understand it at all,” Ruth enthuses.

But Mark, “a black man of my height and complexion,” tells Obama his work’s a breeze. He expresses limited interest in their shared father who died in 1982 at 46: “Life’s hard enough without all the excess baggage,” he muses.

If nominated, Obama’s family baggage will get pored over. Four years ago, Bush’s people cast Kerry as un-American for speaking French. A Republican camp campaigning at the sorry nadir of Bush’s handiwork will try to portray the war hero John McCain as more American and patriotic than his opponent.

And if they weren't going to use this before, they sure as hell will now.

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