Even when they are trying to be even-handed, academics show their biases. Case in point: a double book review in the Chronicle of Higher Education that seeks to equate the fathers of the two presidential candidates. “When both men reflect on the meaning of family, they focus on their patriarchs, the hard drinking, demanding men who were absent for much of their youth—Obama’s because he returned to his native Kenya, McCain’s because he was frequently at sea,” David Haven Blake writes in the September 19, 2008 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Blake is an associate professor of English at the College of New Jersey. The problem with his review of the candidates’ autobiographies is that in relaying the tales of Admiral McCain and Barack Obama, Sr., he puts their exploits on the same scale, though arguably the accomplishments of the former were more epic in scope than those of the latter.
“McCain’s father, Jack, commanded a submarine in World War II, and at the height of the Vietnam War he served as commander in chief of the U. S. Pacific Command,” Black writes. “Nicknamed ‘Mr. Seapower,’ he was the first son of a four-star admiral to reach that rank himself.”
It turns out that Blake has had some experience with the U. S. military. “Teaching at the Air Force Academy gave me profound respect for men such as Lance Sijan and John McCain, but it also made me suspicious about the way nations can use such stories to justify aggression and dampen political debate,” he wrote on September 19 in the Huffington Post Unfortunately, Blake evinces no similar suspicions of Obama père and fils in his September 19 take on Dreams of My Father. “The marriage’s rupture introduced a series of father figures into Obama’s life—among them his Kansas-born grandfather, an Indonesian geologist (his mother’s second husband), an African-American poet named Frank, and the Reverend Jeremiah Wright,” Blake writes of the aftermath of the dissolution of Young Barack’s parents’ union.
As Accuracy in Media’s Cliff Kincaid frequently points out, the poetic mentor was Frank Marshall Davis, whom communists themselves now identify as one of their own, although Blake makes no mention of this less-than-literary history. The now famously incendiary Rev. Wright became a Daddy-on-the-scene to Barack, Jr. when the latter was pushing 30.
If Blake’s treatment of Davis and Rev. Wright could be described as wanting, his characterization of the Democratic standard bearer’s dreaming dad is one that gentleman’s contemporaries might scarcely recognize. “After graduating from Harvard, the Old Man, as his African children called him, had taken a lucrative job with an oil company,” Blake writes. “His education and commitment to his people had given him prominence in the young country.”
“He married several times and raised several families.” Actually, as journalist Jerome R. Corsi points out in Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality:
• There is no record that Barack, Sr., graduated Harvard;
• The oil company job may have been genuine but Barack Sr. had a reputation for what we would today call “padding his resume”; and
• The marriages overlapped.
Ironically, even his origins were not as humble as his famous son led readers to believe they were. “I would say he was better off than other people in the village,” the candidate’s uncle told Corsi of the senator’s grandfather. “He traveled all over the world with the British for a long time.”
As well, Corsi relates an extraordinary assessment of Obama’s dad by one of senior’s contemporaries. “Like his father, although charming, generous and extraordinarily clever, Obama senior was also imperious, cruel and given to boasting about his brain and wealth,” Philip Ochieng wrote in an essay published in the Daily Mail of Nairobi on Nov. 1, 2004. Ultimately, despite its flaws, or perhaps, in today’s academic climate, because of them, Obama Junior’s memoir is destined to become a mandatory campus classic for decades to come whether the author gets elected president or not.
“Obama subtitles his memoir A Story of Race and Inheritance, and the book provides a revelatory account of growing up black in the 1970s and 1980s,” Blake notes in the Chronicle. “College students across the country will soon find the book on their reading lists, where it will occupy an honored position next to the writings of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Ann Jacobs, and Malcolm X.”
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.