In a new biography, Obama asks: Am I an American?
Former Washington Post reporter David Maraniss has penned a new biography of Barack Obama, The Early Years. Excerpts were recently published in Vanity Fair.
The excerpt focuses on Obama’s brief time in New York after his graduation from Columbia University. The son of a Kenyan father and an American expatriate mother, Obama emerges as a man questioning whether he viewed himself, or wanted to be viewed by others, as an American. Not in a citizenship sense — Obama was born in the United States and that was that — but in the sense of how he saw the world and wanted to be seen by it.
Obama had a lot of Pakistani friends; Maraniss writes that if Obama and his girlfriend socialized as a couple, “it was almost always with the Pakistanis.” Obama appeared to identify with his friends as fellow non-Americans. “For years when Barack was around them, he seemed to share their attitudes as sophisticated outsiders who looked at politics from an international perspective,” Maraniss writes. “He was one of them, in that sense.”
And yet, he chose not to become president of Pock-ee-stahn?
But Obama was ambitious. Appalled by the “dirty deeds” of “Reagan and his minions” (as he wrote in “Dreams from My Father”), Obama became increasingly interested in, as Maraniss writes, “gaining power in order to change things.” He couldn’t do that as an international guy hanging around with his Pakistani friends; he needed to become an American.
Which he then did, carefully and deliberately. In public.
In private of course, he still views himself as the aloof international outsider, determined to prove his inherent superiority.