To understand how Barack Obama evolved from the guy who assured us there is “not a black America and a white America … there’s the United States of America” to the guy who mocked Republican concerns about Critical Race Theory, you have to look no further than his in-house race whisperer, wife Michelle.
The prescient and fearless Christopher Hitchens sensed Michelle’s subversive influence during the 2008 campaign and dared to say so out loud.
“All right, then, how is it that the loathsome [Jeremiah] Wright married him, baptized his children, and received donations from him?” he asked. “Could it possibly have anything, I wonder, to do with Mrs. Obama?”
As if to prove Hitchens’ point, in her memoir, “Becoming,” an unapologetic Michelle describes Wright as “a sensational preacher with a passion for social justice.”
From her days at Princeton forward, Michelle has projected a racial paranoia that her white-raised husband never did. Along with Jesse “I want to cut his nuts out” Jackson and Al “72 official White House visits” Sharpton, Michelle kept Obama locked in a past that left him feeling guilty for never having lived it.
Truth be told, Michelle never lived it either. She grew up in a comfortable two-parent family and wafted through life on a magic carpet of unearned benefits.
In “Becoming,” Michelle shows she still cannot face her own reality. After reviewing her grades and test scores at the public magnet school she attended, her high school counselor reportedly told her she was not “Princeton material.”
An angry Michelle defied her guidance counselor and applied to Princeton anyhow. “And ultimately, I suppose that I did show that college counselor,” she writes, “because six or seven months later, a letter arrived in our mailbox on Euclid Avenue, offering me admission to Princeton.”
It was cruel of Princeton to admit Michelle. The Princeton experience only intensified her insecurities. Once on campus, she admits, she hung out almost exclusively with other black students.
She tells of encounters with white students who questioned why she was there. “These moments could be demoralizing,” she writes, “even if I’m sure I was just imagining some of it. It planted a seed of doubt. Was I here merely as part of a social experiment?”
As her writing bears out, the answer to that question is yes.
Hitchens wrote of her senior thesis: “To describe it as hard to read would be a mistake; the thesis cannot be ‘read’ at all, in the strict sense of the verb. This is because it wasn’t written in any known language.”
Still, Harvard Law School beckoned, and Michelle writes about this as though she deserved to be there. She did not. Right out of law school, she was making more than a $100,000 a year in 1990 dollars. She did not deserve that either.
For all her race-based good fortune, however, Michelle continued to relish playing victim. A classic case involved her incognito trip to a Virginia Target store in September 2011.
On the David Letterman show in March 2012, a cheerful Michelle shared her tale. “I have to tell you something about this trip though,” she said with a smile.
“No one knew that was me. Because a woman actually walked up to me, right? I was in the detergent aisle, and she said – I kid you not – she said, ‘Excuse me, I just have to ask you something,’ and I thought, ‘Cover’s blown.’ She said, ‘Can you reach on that shelf and hand me the detergent?'”
In telling the story, Michelle laughed, explaining that the woman was short and needed help from Michelle, who is nearly 6 feet tall.
“That was my interaction. I felt so good,” said Michelle. When Letterman asked whether the woman recognized the first lady, Michelle answered, “She had no idea who I was.”
In December 2014, four months after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, People magazine interviewed the Obamas for a story focusing on their encounters with racism.
Michelle began by saying, “I tell this story – I mean, even as the first lady.” Here, she suggests that the tale has already become folklore.
Michelle continued, “During that wonderfully publicized trip I took to Target, not highly disguised, the only person who came up to me in the store was a woman who asked me to help her take something off a shelf.”
Why did the woman ask? “Because,” said Michelle, “she didn’t see me as the first lady, she saw me as someone who could help her.”
Here, Michelle wanted the readers of People to believe that the woman was white, that she recognized the “not highly disguised” Michelle, and treated her like the help even knowing she was the first lady.
Michelle did not want this to be seen as an isolated incident. She concluded, “Those kinds of things happen in life. So it isn’t anything new.”
Although Obama knows better, he presents Michelle’s insecurities and resentments as indisputable truths.
In his memoir, “A Promised Land,” for instance, he cites the time in 2008 that Michelle said unthinkingly, “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country.”
Although admitting Michelle made a “textbook gaffe,” Obama cannot leave it at that. As he did throughout his presidency, he felt compelled to gird himself with the Kevlar of his wife’s cultural heritage.
“I understood this to be part of a larger and uglier agenda out there,” Obama writes of the negative reaction to Michelle’s comment, “a slowly accruing, deliberately negative portrait of us built from stereotypes, stoked by fear, and meant to feed a general nervousness about the idea of a Black person making the country’s most important decisions with his Black family in the White House.”
In truth, America was never afraid of Michelle, but Obama was. If Michelle ever becomes president, we might begin to understand why.
Jack Cashill’s latest book, “Barack Obama’s Promised Land: Deplorables Need Not Apply,” is now on pre-sale. See www.cashill.com for more information.
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