Obama The Dog-Eater

In order to deflect criticism over Mittens putting his dog Seamus on the top of his Chevy wagon during a family vacation, the right-wing has had some real fun over a passage in Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father.

Just last week the right-wing freak Bill Cunningham constructed a question for Mittens that feigned disgust over Mittens’ dog controversy but managed to get in a swipe at Obama:

Now it’s come out that Barack Hussein Obama, who was then Barry Soetoro, ate dogs. When he was in Indonesia, literally, he ate dogs. And I’m thinkin’ to myself that is this the level of the campaign we’re gonna have? … It hasn’t broken yet big time nationally about the President, when he was known as Barry Soetoro, eating dogs in Indonesia…

Get it? The President ate dogs! Wow!

As far as I can tell, the Obama-ate-dog story was pushed anew last week by The Daily Caller, a website founded by right-winger Tucker Carlson. The author of that piece cited the passage from Obama’s book and then confessed to his motivation:

Hey, whatever you have to tell yourself, libs. Say what you want about Romney, but at least he only put a dog on the roof of his car, not the roof of his mouth. And whenever you bring up the one, we’re going to bring up the other.

It’s no fun when we push back, is it? That’s why it’s so much fun.

Fun, fun, fun!

No doubt, if you have been paying attention to the right-wing hateosphere, you have heard all of the sarcastic comments and the attempt to portray Obama as a creepy dog-eater. Such a portrayal, it is hoped, will counter the concerns of dog-lovers, who find Romney’s ill-treatment of Seamus shameful and, more important, revealing.

But of course the story of Mittens and Seamus happened when Mittens was a grown man. And the story of Obama eating dog meat happened when Obama was young—really young. And we only know about it because in Dreams from My Father—first published in 1995!Obama was describing his life in Indonesia with his stepfather. Here is the passage quoted by The Daily Caller:

With Lolo, I learned how to eat small green chill peppers raw with dinner (plenty of rice), and, away from the dinner table, I was introduced to dog meat (tough), snake meat (tougher), and roasted grasshopper (crunchy). Like many Indonesians, Lolo followed a brand of Islam that could make room for the remnants of more ancient animist and Hindu faiths. He explained that a man took on the powers of whatever he ate: One day soon, he promised, he would bring home a piece of tiger meat for us to share.

For most Americans, that passage, standing on its own, doesn’t sound too appealing. But I am going to set it in its entire context, hoping against hope that a few Ugly-American Americans out there will appreciate Mr. Obama’s background and life experience and how valuable they might be as president of the world’s only superpower.

The passage came early in his book in a chapter titled, “Origins.” In that chapter he introduced Lolo Soetoro, whom his mother had met at the University of Hawaii. He described how his mother sat him down and told him “that Lolo had proposed and wanted us to move with him to a faraway place.” That place, of course, was Indonesia. Just after arriving there, the young Barry was introduced to the culture via a man killing a chicken in front of him. “The boy should know where his dinner is coming from,” Obama quoted his stepfather.

At some point, Barry got into a fight with an older boy down the road, who got the best of him, and the next day Lolo decided to teach Barry how to fight: “The first thing to remember is how to protect yourself,” Lolo said. It is here where I will begin the section that includes the passage about eating dog meat:

I raised my arms, throwing soft jabs at Lolo’s palm, glancing up at him every so often and realizing how familiar his face had become after our years together, as familiar as the earth on which we stood. It had taken me less than six months to learn Indonesia’s language, its customs, and its legends. I had survived chicken pox, measles, and the sting of my teachers’ bamboo switches. The children of farmers, servants, and low-level bureaucrats had become my best friends, and together we ran the streets morning and night, hustling odd jobs, catching crickets, battling swift kites with razor-sharp lines—the loser watched his kite soar off with the wind, and knew that somewhere other children had formed a long wobbly train, their heads toward the sky, waiting for their prize to land. With Lolo, I learned how to eat small green chill peppers raw with dinner (plenty of rice), and, away from the dinner table, I was introduced to dog meat (tough), snake meat (tougher), and roasted grasshopper (crunchy). Like many Indonesians, Lolo followed a brand of Islam that could make room for the remnants of more ancient animist and Hindu faiths. He explained that a man took on the powers of whatever he ate: One day soon, he promised, he would bring home a piece of tiger meat for us to share.

That’s how things were, one long adventure, the bounty of a young boy’s life. In letters to my grandparents, I would faithfully record many of these events, confident that more civilizing packages of chocolate and peanut butter would surely follow. But not everything made its way into my letters; some things I found too difficult to explain. I didn’t tell Toot and Gramps about the face of the man who had come to our door one day with a gaping hole where his nose should have been: the whistling sound he made as he asked my mother for food. Nor did I mention the time that one of my friends told me in the middle of recess that his baby brother had died the night before of an evil spirit brought in by the wind—the terror that danced in my friend’s eyes for the briefest of moments before he let out a strange laugh and punched my arm and broke off into a breathless run. There was the empty look on the faces of farmers the year the rains never came, the stoop in their shoulders as they wandered barefoot through their barren, cracked fields, bending over every so often to crumble earth between their fingers; and their desperation the following year when the rains lasted for over a month, swelling the river and fields until the streets gushed with water and swept as high as my waist and families scrambled to rescue their goats and their hens even as chunks of their huts washed away.

The world was violent, I was learning, unpredictable and often cruel…

I realize that setting the passage about dog meat in its context sort of takes the “fun” out of it, but people should understand that we have a president who knows in his bones something much deeper about the world than Mitt Romney will ever know.

Huckabee, Hickabee

The field of potential Republican candidates for president is, to be kind, a pitiful lot, but some of them are just plain dumb.

Let’s look at Mike Huckabee, who led all comers in a new Winthrop University poll of Southern voters with almost 22%.

Huckabee, whose appeal is primarily among white evangelical voters, is set to undertake a book tour of the South next week, where his recent stupid statements on Barack Obama’s childhood will, no doubt, serve him well.

A few days ago, on a right-wing  whack job’s radio show,  Huckabee got caught up in the whack job’s invective about Obama’s birth certificate and managed to move the conversation down from there. For those who haven’t read the exchange between Huck and Steve Malzberg, here it is in all its colossal idiocy:

MALZBERG: Don’t you think it’s fair also to ask him, I know your stance on this. How come we don’t have a health record, we don’t have a college record, we don’t have a birth cer – why Mr. Obama did you spend millions of dollars in courts all over this country to defend against having to present a birth certificate. It’s one thing to say, I’ve — you’ve seen it, goodbye. But why go to court and send lawyers to defend against having to show it? Don’t you think we deserve to know more about this man?

HUCKABEE: I would love to know more. What I know is troubling enough. And one thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya, his view of the Brits, for example, very different than the average American. When he gave the bust back to the Brits –

MALZBERG: Of Winston Churchill.

HUCKABEE: The bust of Winston Churchill, a great insult to the British. But then if you think about it, his perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau Revolution in Kenya is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British were a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather.

Now, obviously Huckabee’s basic facts are all wrong: Obama didn’t grow up in Kenya.  And he therefore didn’t grow up with his father and grandfather there. In fact, he didn’t grow up with them at all, anywhere. He only met his father one time, and he spent most of his childhood in Hawaii, as everyone outside the South and the Republican Party knows.

And Huckabee’s attempt to subsequently explain his idiocy is even worse than the original statements, because he had ample time to think about the explanation.  A spokesman first said Huckabee simply “misspoke,” claiming Huckabee meant to say Obama grew up in Indonesia.  Now, you can go back to that conversation and substitute Indonesia and you will find this:

But then if you think about it, his perspective as growing up in Indonesia with an Indonesian father and grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau Revolution in Indonesia is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British were a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather.

You can see how dumb it was to say he misspoke and meant Indonesia. That turns Obama’s father and grandfather into Indonesians and moves the Mau Mau Revolution out of Kenya, which is kind of strange since that’s where it happened and since the Mau Mau anti-colonialists were most definitely Kenyans, unless they all forged their birth certificates, which is just as likely as Obama forging his.

But then to make it worse, Huckabee published a statement on his blog, not only reaffirming that he meant to say Indonesia instead of Kenya, but claiming that he always knew there was no issue with Obama’s birth certificate and then blaming the New York Times for sensationalizing the story!  He then compared Obama’s “57 states” gaffe to his Kenyan gaffe, as if they were somehow qualitatively the same.

Dumb, dumb, dumb.  But that’s what you get when you play in the sandbox with idiot birthers. 

Besides the obvious, my problem with all this, in terms of Huckabee’s qualifications to lead the country, is that even if he in fact believes there is no issue with Obama’s birthplace, why didn’t he tell Malzberg that?  Why did he allow himself to get caught up in the spirit of that wacky moment?  Why didn’t he have the guts to set him and his listeners straight? What kind of bleeping leader is that?

The truth is that Huckabee, like so many Republicans and so many Southerners, wants to keep alive the notion that Obama is “the other,” not one of “us,” not a real American.

It’s shameless, and it should disqualify Huckabee from doing anything outside his Fox “News” gig.  Unfortunately, though, for so many Republicans, it makes him more attractive.

[photo: Timothy Devine]
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