By Jason Linkins, 04/29/11 11:40 AM ET
Here’s a clever thing the the U.K.’s Daily Mail did in response to the release of President Barack Obama’s long-form birth certificate: a brief little item on how Obama’s father was a “slippery character.” Says the Daily Mail, “With a father like this, it is little wonder President Obama did not want to release his full birth certificate” — well, o-kay! (Naturally, this story was picked up this morning by Fox Nation.)
Gathered in this brief are a range of things attesting to the senior Obama’s youthful shadiness, including a whiff of polygamy and the fact that his University of Hawaii student advisor noted that he was chasing a lot of tail at college and “cautioned him about his playboy ways.” It’s implied that the former charge was briefly considered “as a grounds to deny him a visa extension;” the latter basically describes almost every man you ever met at college.
But here’s where they go off the rails:
Obama senior married Stanley Ann Dunham, a white student from Kansas, not only when he was said to have already been married to a woman in Kenya, but at a time when interracial marriages were still illegal in many parts of the U.S.
According to the Daily Mail, this is part of “new, rather more interesting side” of Obama’s life that has just “emerged.” But the implication that Obama was delaying the release of his birth certificate in order to keep the world from finding out about his father’s polygamist past is quite daft. This was already widely known. Here is Nicholas Kristof’s column from December 4, 2008:
Obama’s late grandfather is said to have been the first person in the area to wear Western clothes rather than just a loincloth. For a time he converted to Christianity and adopted the family name Johnson.Later he converted to Islam, taking four wives. Obama’s father, who apparently converted to Catholicism while attending a Roman Catholic school, was also polygamous in keeping with local custom, taking an informal Kenyan wife who preceded Obama’s mother but remained a consort, according to accounts by local people and the senator himself.
Of course, what’s even more amusing is the implication that part of what makes Obama’s father a “slippery character” is that he married a white woman, in open defiance of old laws forbidding interracial marriage that are now generally held to be embarrassingly racist.
Ironically, the aforementioned Kristof piece basically predicted that articles like this one from the Daily Mail would circulate, forever:
Frankly, I worry that enemies of Obama will seize upon details like his grandfather’s Islamic faith or his father’s polygamy to portray him as an alien or a threat to American values. But snobbishness and paranoia ill-become a nation of immigrants, where one of our truest values is to judge people by their own merits, not their pedigrees. If we call ourselves a land of opportunity, then Obama’s heritage doesn’t threaten American values but showcases them.