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It only took nearly six years for the media to begin vetting President Obama’s past.
Today, Vanity Fair released an excerpt from a new biography of Barack Obama by David Maraniss. The excerpt discusses Barack Obama's first love affair, with a white Australian woman named Genevieve Cook. It's a telling examination of who Obama was as a young man -- and it shows a self-absorbed "internationalist" with delusions of grandeur.
The book itself sounds like an ode to Obama. Maraniss writes, “At age 20, Obama was a man of the world … He could not be of one place, rooted and provincial.” No, says Maraniss, this was a broadminded young man who “knew the ways of different cultures better than he knew himself.”
When he first moved to New York, he was in the midst of an affair with Alexandra McNear, a girl from Occidental. They exchanged a series of purple letters with one another – turgid missives from overfevered young minds. Here, for example, is tendentious Obama explaining poetry to his young girlfriend:
Moments trip gently along over here. Snow caps the bushes in unexpected ways, birds shoot and spin like balls of sound. My feet hum over the dry walks. A storm smoothes [sic] the sky, impounding the city lights, returning to us a dull yellow glow. I run every other day at the small indoor track [at Columbia] which slants slightly upward like a plate; I stretch long and slow, twist and shake, the fatigue, the inertia finding home in different parts of the body. I check the time and growl—aargh!—and tumble onto the wheel. And bodies crowd and give off heat, some people are in front and you can hear the patter or plod of the steps behind. You look down to watch your feet, neat unified steps, and you throw back your arms and run after people, and run from them and with them, and sometimes someone will shadow your pace, step for step, and you can hear the person puffing, a different puff than yours, and on a good day they’ll come up alongside and thank you for a good run, for keeping a good pace, and you nod and keep going on your way, but you’re pretty pleased, and your stride gets lighter, the slumber slipping off behind you, into the wake of the past.
What a startling person Barack is—so strange to voice intimations of my own perceptions—have them heard, responded to so on the sleeve. A sadness, in a way, that we are both so questioning that original bliss is dissipated—but feels really good not to be faltering behind some façade—to not feel that doubt must be silenced and transmuted into distance.
Thursday, January 26
How is he so old already, at the age of 22? I have to recognize (despite play of wry and mocking smile on lips) that I find his thereness very threatening…. Distance, distance, distance, and wariness.
Saturday, February 25 The sexual warmth is definitely there—but the rest of it has sharp edges and I’m finding it all unsettling and finding myself wanting to withdraw from it all. I have to admit that I am feeling anger at him for some reason, multi-stranded reasons. His warmth can be deceptive. Tho he speaks sweet words and can be open and trusting, there is also that coolness—and I begin to have an inkling of some things about him that could get to me.
This girl had clearly seen too many Woody Allen movies.
Obama wrote about Genevieve in Dreams from My Father, although he didn’t mention her by name. He even inserted incidents into their past that weren’t there, as even he admitted, playing up their racial tensions. Perhaps the most entertaining portion of this excerpt is Genevieve recounting a race she ran with Obama; after she beat him, Obama “continued to feel a bit unsettled by it all weekend … I told him I didn’t feel that good about winning, and he promptly replied probably cos of feelings of guilt about beating a man.” War on women alert!
In the end, what we find out about Obama is what we already suspected: he was deeply narcissistic, pretentious, and in his own mind, an outsider to America. His relationship with Genevieve underscores all of that. Unfortunately, Obama doesn’t seem to have changed since those halcyon days in New York.