Alex Massie

The Kenyan Connection

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I guess this isn't too much of a surprise. But here's Rush Limbaugh talking about Barack Obama's ancestors, yesterday:

LIMBAUGH: These polls on how one-third of blue-collar white Democrats won't vote for Obama because he's black, and -- but he's not black. Do you know he has not one shred of African-American blood? He doesn't have any African -- that's why when they asked whether he was authentic, whether he's down for the struggle. He's Arab. You know, he's from Africa. He's from Arab parts of Africa. He's not -- his father was -- he's not African-American. The last thing that he is is African-American. I guess that's splitting hairs, I don't -- it's just all these little things, everything seems upside-down today in this country.

Now, it's true that Obama is probably helped - in some constitutencies - by the fact that he's not a product of the ghetto or, for that matter, the civil rights movement. On the one hand, this makes him a less threatening figure; on the other it absolves whites of the need to feel guilty whenever they think about the candidate. Obama's lack of baggage is one of his great strengths.

Equally, one can't help but feel that one reason he was drawn to Trinity United and the Reverend Jeremiah Wright was that Obama, an outsider in more ways than one, needed to use unimpeachably authentically African-American institutions such as Trinity as a kind of reference and calling card to the communities he was working in. Also: the church helped him put down roots for pretty much the first time in his life. Remember too that before he won in Iowa, the question was whether Obama was actually black enough to win support from African-Americans. Black voters in South Carolina only swung behind Obama - abandoning Hillary Clinton - once he proved the seriousness of his candidacy by successfully persuading white folks in Iowa to vote for him. He was no longer a gimmick or high-brow campaign but the real thing.

(That's why one of my favoured - if fevered - hypotheticals runs like this: suppose Hillary Clinton had skipped Iowa and suppose John Edwards had won the Iowa caucuses? Neither of these were outlandish possibilities. What happens? No Barack Obama, that's for sure. I assume Hillary would still have won New Hampshire so South Carolina would have still been the key state, but as an Edwards vs Clinton battle this time. All this proves nothing, of course, except as a reminder that the line between success and failure is very thin indeed. Also that everything always looks inevitable in hindsight but it wasn't at the time and, in fact, never was.)

Anyway, that's all some way from the vile rubbish being peddled by Limbaugh here. But there you have it.

[Hat-tip: Mr Yglesias]

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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