What do we know about President Obama?

Our allies in NATO like and respect President Obama. I don’t believe Putin likes him. And I am pretty sure that Achmadinejad is afraid of him. He killed bin Laden and Awlaki (I know he didn’t pull the trigger), led NATO to help the insurgents bring down Gadafi, led the international sanctions against Iran, pulled troops out of Iraq, is carefully watching the situation in Syria. He saved the American auto industry – and in so doing saved the midwest from Depression.

He says “I have Israel’s back, but don’t take my word for it, look at what I’ve done.” His support for Israel at the UN and managing our response to the “Arab Spring” are good for the Americans, Europeans, Israelis, many Arabs, and many Persians, but not for Assad, Achmadinejad, and the Mullahs, or Putin. That’s good enough for me.

That’s not to say I like everything he’s done. There are aspects of his health care, tax, energy, and environmental policies I would like to change.
But you asked “what do we know?”

He was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961.

He was raised by his mom and her parents, who were from Kansas.

He went to elementary school in Indonesia, where his mom was living w her 2nd husband.

He went to high school in Hawaii. Played basketball. Went by the nickname “Barry.”

His mom and her parents were middle class. His mom was lower middle class in terms of money, income, wealth. On occasions his meals were paid for w food stamps.

This is conjecture but he probably was quiet, introspective and thoughtful. Obama the man is introspective and thoughtful. Most boys are quiet, and Obama was a black kid w a white mom and white grandparents in Indonesia and Hawaii.

I don’t know what it was like – I grew up Jewish in Staten Island at a time when there was one Jewish family per square mile – one family out of about 500 families – that’s 0.2% – and had my share of “incidents” involving religion and bigotry. There were some colorful people in my neighborhood, but except for one kid with a Native American grandparent, there were no “people of color.” None in my elementary school or Junior high. I was the only Jewish kid in in my class, I think my grade, until 4th grade. Then it was me and a very cute Jewish girl named Laurie. But I digress.

In the south he would have been a scandal. In Indonesia he was a paradox – a black kid w a white mom and Indonesian step-father. Privileged as an American, and yet conscious of it. In Hawaii there are 4 groups: Whites, Chinese, Japanese, and Hawaiians. A black kid w a white mom in the 1960’s would have been his own category, especially with a half-Indonesian kid-sister. And divorce was uncommon and scandalous back in the 60’s.  

My wife – who’s from Eastern Europe – asks why we say he’s Black because his mom was white. But she doesn’t really understand race in America. A black friend of mine says I don’t understand race in America from a black person’s perspective, and, lawyer that he is, he makes a cogent argument, based on facts.

What else do we know?

Obama graduated Columbia University, then Harvard Law, and didn’t go to either as a legacy kid. Ergo, he must be pretty smart and capable of hard work.

He went to Chicago trying to help poor people.  Met and married Michelle. He lost one or two elections early on. Got elected to the State Legislature, then the US Senate, then the Presidency.  

As we saw in the 2012 White House Press Correspondant’s Dinner, he is able to laugh at himself. That evening he grinned ruefully when Seth Meyers said “I don’t know who among the Republicans can beat you, but I do know who could beat you – the Barack Obama of 2008. Remember him?” And Obama himself, after issuing the order authorizing the mission that killed Osama bin Laden, and before knowing the results of the mission, before knowing whether it failed or succeeded, calmly and ironically saluted Donald Trump, saying “choosing whether to fire Gary Busey or Meatloaf- would keep me up at night.” 

As a leader, he seems to listen to people he has reason to believe are experts, and make intelligent and informed decisions based on the facts and insight. That, in my opinion, is exactly what we need in a President. The melanin content in his skin, and the texture of his hair are irrelevant to his ability to do his job.

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