Sunday, June 03, 2012

Preppies for President

A careful reader should always scan a New York Times story for hidden nuggets that may not comport with the headline.  In this morning's edition Mark Lebovich has a piece comparing Romney and Obama with the intent of illustrating how the two are practically twin sons of different mothers.

They are both relatively shy non-traditional political operators who don't shoot from the hip, both love Star Trek, both enjoy baked spicy chicken, and both followed similar educational paths.

Wait, what? Similar educational paths? Yes--
The candidates attended two of the most elite preparatory schools in the country — Punahou in Hawaii for Mr. Obama, Cranbrook in Michigan for Mr. Romney (George Romney spoke at Mitt’s graduation).
Wow, Punahou is one of the most 'elite' in the country? Go figure. That didn't seem a major part of the narrative in 2008. 

For instance, here's a pretty good Times article from February 2008 about Obama's drug dabbling in school, referring correctly to Punahou as a 'preparatory school' (not elite), including some of his deep conversations while there:
Mr. Kakugawa remembered that the two often discussed wealth and class and that their disaffection would surface. He said race would come up in the conversations, usually when talking about white girls they thought about dating. “We were dealing with acceptance and adaptation, and both had to do with the fact that we were not part of the moneyed elite,” Mr. Kakugawa said.
So while they were attending one of the most elite prep schools in the nation they were talking about how rough they had it?  Hmm.

Here's a Politico article from 2008 basically slamming the GOP for trying to make hay about Obama's attendance at an elite school:
Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt declined to comment on the latest iteration of a subject previously raised by Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye, a Hillary Rodham Clinton backer who attended a public school down the road from Punahou, and who cracked before the state's primary that the private school “was not school for the impoverished.”
Obama had an answer--he attended on 'scholarship'.  Does that mean free?  If so, that means they were discussing how rough they had it for not being in the 'moneyed elite' while attending one of the most elite prep schools in the nation, for free.  If not, that means he attended one of the most elite prep schools in the nation, which means he wasn't exactly poor. 

But he was raised by a single mother on food stamps (despite living with his step-father, an elite in the Indonesian military and his grandmother, a bank VP) and was born poor:
Shenkman said that presidents who grow up in humble circumstances — including modest childhood homes — add to the American dream that anybody can be president. "In fact, very few presidents are born poor," Shenkman said. "Obama happens to fit the bill."

That humble burnished narrative goes back a ways.  An article written in 1990 referred to Obama's attendance in 'public schools' on his way to Harvard yard, despite Punahou being a pricey private prep school.  Why was that fact omitted?  Was it just a simple fact-checking error like his literary bio a few years later that said he was born in Kenya, or perhaps a 'composite' similar to the story about the only other black at Punahou he pushed away to make a point about racial redemption?  Times writer Jackie Calmes explored that person--"Coretta"--after Obama had victory safely secured in January 2009 and was perhaps the first Times writer to use the term "one of the most elite schools in the nation" in reference to Punahou while suggesting it's racist leanings by exposing the real Coretta, Joella Edwards:
“I was ‘the lonely only’ until he came,” she said, adding that she wished she had known then how sympathetic Mr. Obama felt. Five years later Ms. Edwards left Punahou, tired of “the n-word” and taunts of “Aunt Jemima,” she said.
Joella didn't remember being pushed away by Barry but hey, the little red-headed girl from Dreams who wanted to touch Obama's fro doesn't remember doing that either, nor does she remember Joella.  More fact-checking errors, perhaps. 

Bottom line, since Obama 'made it' there's no longer any reason to downplay his less-than-humble background as he vies against Richie Romney for a second term. Just be careful making the claim that his past narrative was massaged to help promote a struggling young community organizer who hated the suburbs and eschewed his business suit job in NYC in favor of being sucked into the Chicago political machine, introduced to politics by a small-c communist and noted unrepentant domestic terrorist.  Such are the ramblings of a racist birther.

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