Alex Massie

Department of Roots

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I meant to blog about this earlier, but Toby Harnden's Telegraph magazine piece on Obama in Hawaii is well worth reading. There is, for example, this:

In late January, on his campaign plane as we flew from Kansas after the El Dorado visit, I asked the senator about the wanderlust in his family that he had chosen to reject. ‘Part of me settling in Chicago and marrying Michelle was a conscious decision to root myself,’ he told me. ‘There’s a glamour, there’s a romance to that kind of life and there’s a part of that still in me. But there’s a curse to it as well. You need a frame for the canvas, because too much freedom’s not freedom.’ He laughed and added, ‘I’m waxing too poetic here.’

In this one way the two candidates are rather similar. John McCain also moved around a lot as a child, thanks to his father's position in the US Navy. Like Obama, he's a restless, rootless character who, for many years, had no real home or place he felt comfortable in. McCain's real family was the navy and he has rooted himself in that family and in the lessons he learnt from it ever since, but has there been a Presidential election in recent memory between two candidates more flimsily anchored in their home states?

Reagan was a Californian (by inclination if not birth), George HW Bush the last of the successful New England patricians (Houston residence be damned), Clinton a poor boy from Arkansas... Heck, one of the reasons Bush won in 2000 was that he seemed  more plausible as a Texan than Al Gore did as a Tennesean.

Still, there's a whiff, and perhaps only a whiff, of Scott Fitgerald about Obama's lines about rootlessness.

PS: If you want to know how John McCain ended up an Arizona Congressman, I reccomend Noam Scheiber's article here.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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