By all official accounts, Barack Obama will turn 60 on Aug. 4. To celebrate, presuming rising seas do not swamp “his oceanside abode, set on nearly 30 acres” in Martha’s Vineyard, Obama will host an A-list bash.
Of course, were guests to question that birth date they would be instantly labeled “conspiracy theorists” by media people who know less about Barack Obama’s early years than they do about George Washington’s.
One thing most in the media do not know about Obama is that he spent the first year of his life not in Honolulu, as we have been told, but in Seattle, Washington.
Now, however, even his mainstream biographers concede Obama arrived in Seattle in late August 1961 so that his mother, Ann Dunham, could attend classes at the University of Washington. At the time, Obama would have been roughly 3 weeks old, awfully young for so fraught an adventure.
Ann knew the territory. Although Obama like to picture his mother as a “white middle-class girl from Kansas,” Ann spent her formative years in Seattle.
Obama’s most thorough biographers – David Remnick, David Maraniss, David Garrow, all Pulitzer Prize winners – report her family’s move to Seattle in 1954 or 1955 when Ann was about 12. There is little controversy here.
There is more controversy, however, about the motivations behind the Dunham family move to Hawaii. All three Davids agree that the move took place in the summer of 1960 when Ann was 17.
At the time, she was something of a wild child. As Garrow reports, Ann saw the celebrated Franco-Brazilian film “Black Orpheus” while still in high school and “may have been especially struck by the film’s male lead, black Brazilian actor Breno Mello.”
Obama speaks about his mother’s reaction to this film at length in his 1995 memoir, “Dreams from My Father.” In the summer before his senior year in college, Ann visited him in New York and dragged him to see “Black Orpheus” at a revival house.
Ann explained that she had first seen the film in the summer before her senior year in high school while working as an au pair in Chicago. “I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen,” she tells her son.
Her enthusiasm embarrasses Obama. Imagining himself the arbiter of all things black, he reflects, “I suddenly realized that the depiction of childlike blacks I was now seeing on the screen, the reverse image of Conrad’s dark savages, was what my mother had carried with her to Hawaii all those years before.”
If Ann carried those images to Hawaii, she did so reluctantly. All three Davids report that she strongly resisted her family’s move to Hawaii at the end of her senior year in high school.
The three Davids are less certain, however, as to why the Dunhams pulled up stakes so abruptly. Without any contrary evidence, they accept the family saga that Ann’s loser father, Stanley Dunham, spotted some sort of new opportunity in the retail furniture business.
They ignore the fact, however, that Ann’s mother, Madelyn Dunham, was the family financial rock, the one whose work as an escrow officer and later as a bank vice-president kept the family afloat. Madelyn could not have been any more eager to move than Ann.
The three Pulitzer Prize winners skip over these details as incidental because they assume a priori that there was no merit to the lawsuits brought against Obama and the DNC to produce his birth certificate.
Yet, as anyone familiar with the sexual and racial mores of 1960 should understand, one set of circumstances makes perfect sense of the Dunham’s abrupt move and would give the Obama camp good cause to hide the certificate.
In 1960, parents routinely sent their pregnant daughters to visit an “aunt” in some distant city before they started to show. In 1960, if the baby’s father was black, a white mother-to-be could go no place more accepting than Hawaii. There a biracial child had a decent chance of growing up without stigma.
Parents who moved abruptly to Hawaii to protect their daughter’s reputation would have had little compunction about recruiting a friendly African eager to extend his visa courtesy of a pregnant American “wife.”
Registering a home birth six months after it actually happened would be the final step in a well-executed plan to save face and give their grandson an identity.
If my suspicions are right, the real issue may not be where Obama was born, but when. It’s possible that Ann fled Hawaii in late August 1961 with a baby who was just a few weeks old, but her decision to leave would seem much more prudent if the baby had been born several months prior.
Until the time Obama ran for president, he may have believed the origins story his mother and grandparents fed him since childhood. He might not have learned the real story until after he declared for president.
In any campaign, the candidate’s staffers do a dumpster dive on their candidate to head off the opposition. A birth date in January or February 1961 would have stripped Obama of what Remnick called his “signature appeal,” his role as product of a great multicultural love affair.
More personally troubling, it would have deprived Obama of the very identity his mother and grandparents had labored to create, and Lord knows Obama had identity problems enough already.
As to the birth certificate the Obama camp produced in April 2011 under Donald Trump’s prodding, recall that the law firm that produced it, Perkins Coie, was also responsible for the Steele dossier. Draw your own conclusions.
Jack Cashill’s latest book, “Barack Obama’s Promised Land: Deplorables Need Not Apply,” is now widely available. See www.cashill.com for more information.
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