Dazed and Confused came out in 1993, the year Calvin Klein unveiled Kate Moss in a heroin chic ad campaign. Four years down the road President Clinton felt it necessary to weigh in on the trend, calling heroin chic deplorable:
[Y]ou do not need to glamorize addiction to sell clothes[…]
But do you need to romanticize addiction to sell books or become a mayor of Chicago? In 1995, Barack Obama came out with Dreams from My Father, a book despite the existence of which he was elected President of the United States. In that book, he claimed that American racism drove the teenage Barry to heavy drug use. He was confused, angry and tragic, and evidently his drug problem solved itself as soon as he moved to New York City.
The book alleges that Barry “spent the last two years of high school in a daze”, that he “drank heavily” and “tried drugs enthusiastically.” I find his confession hard to believe because, affirmative action or not, people who spend their high school years “in a daze” don’t get admitted into competitive colleges like Occidental where Obama went following his high school graduation. They might go to city colleges a few years down the road — not that there is anything wrong with the Junior College rout; that’s what I did to get my English up to speed.
Even less believable is Obama’s description his lifestyle at Occidental where, as Obama boasted in Dreams, his partying drove Latino maids to tears. His buddy alleged that they were up all weekend long, on one occasion they kept going for 40 hours:
When the maids show up Monday morning, we were all still sitting in the hallway, looking like zombies. Bottles everywhere. Cigarette butts. Newspapers.
Newspapers? Anyhow, after that monologue the maids wept. I’m not convinced that a poorly disciplined student described in the above paragraph would manage to transfer to Columbia his Junior year.
In 2007, the media tracked down Keith Kakugawa, a high school drinking buddy of Obama, on whom he based the Ray character. In Dreams, Ray and Barack are partners in crime, but the real life Kakugawa tells a different story:
“Barry and I drank,” he says. “Well, I drank and forced Barry to drink, let’s get that clear. ‘C’mon Barry you’re drinking, you’re drinking.’ You’d see Barry have one beer after I’d have seven.” Kakugawa speculates that Obama may have tried drugs after he left since he no longer had a close friend with whom he could talk candidly.
Or else it never happened. I suspect the extent of his partying is greatly exaggerated, and that Obama was always college bound, and his PhD mother had designs for him. He probably did fairly well in high school, but, affirmative action or not, didn’t get admitted to Ivy League schools. So it was decided that he should complete his lower division requirements at Occidental, and then try to transfer to the Ivies — not that there is anything wrong with that.
It had been independently verified that Obama was politically active at Occidental, but it appears that as soon as he moved to Columbia, he dropped off the political scene. I’m tempted to interpret his activism as an effort to prop up his essay, but I’m honestly not sure what it meant in the early 80s. When I was in junior college in the early 90s, I went to a few International club meetings where I met with some nice Germans who bragged about being able to buy beer in McDonald’s in Europe. I didn’t feel like I had to do any more then that, though. Perhaps Obama went into overdrive trying to secure a spot at the Ivy League. Maybe the key to interpreting Obama’s biography is to stop thinking that in his youth he was unusually ideological motivated; he was just climbing the pole.
As Roger Simon sees it, Obama’s Kenyan birth story is probably something he (and his family) invented to get him a college scholarship for African students. If the President went through that length to finance his education, he certainly knew all the ins and outs of getting into the top schools, and he was likely to stay sober enough to work towards his admission goals.
I have no problem voting for a candidate who had to overcome an addiction, in fact I voted for W, who did just that. I do, however, think that romanticizing drugs is evil, particularly if the person doing it never have a drug problem himself. Making it out to be the fault of his country is an evil too. Oh, Barack, rebel with a cause, almost driven to destruction by the racist Amerikkka, and then saved, miraculously, somehow, by who knows what — himself? Whatevah. The book is a cliche, and a racist one, and, I imagine, President Clinton is not pleased.
UPDATE; Bookworm Room discovered that in 1978, the year Obama was applying for colleges, SCOTUS ruled against the affirmative action, but American colleges were favoring African nationals in their admission process.