The charge of socialism is closer to the mark. Obama as President has presided over the largest expansion of state power in American history. To an unprecedented degree, he has extended the tentacles of the federal government into banking, mortgage lending, finance, healthcare, insurance, automobiles, and energy. In Britain and the rest of Europe, such aggressive intervention is customary, but in America it is an anomaly. While Europeans debate ways to trim the bloated welfare state, Obama continues to make America's welfare state even more bloated. Consequently, America has become the world's largest debtor, and Obama threatens to stick the bill to the richest Americans, a group that he says is not paying its "fair share".
None of this amounts to strict socialism — Obama isn't threatening state confiscation of private property — but it does represent a movement towards European-style socialism. Even so, the charge of socialism, while it may account for aspects of Obama's domestic policy, cannot account for his foreign policy. Even Obama's own backers have noted that he doesn't seem to share the traditional socialist preoccupations with the poor and with social equality. Obama rarely speaks of either subject with passion. Something else seems to be going on here.
A good way to understand the American president is to ask a simple question: what is Obama's dream? Fortunately, we don't have to speculate about this because Obama himself provides a vital clue. Obama's autobiography is entitled Dreams from My Father. So there it is: according to Obama, his dreams come from his father. It is not Dreams of My Father. Obama isn't writing about his father's dreams. He is writing about the dreams he received from his father.
This isn't just a matter of a book title. Obama's book is chock-full of admissions that Obama derived his aspirations, his values, his very identity from Obama père. Although his father was gone for most of his life, Obama writes that "even in his absence his strong image had given me some bulwark on which to grow up, an image to live up to, or to disappoint". Obama writes: "It was into my father's image, the black man, son of Africa, that I'd packed all the attributes I sought in myself." Others who know Obama confirm this account. Obama's grandmother Sarah Obama told Newsweek: "I look at him and I see all the same things. This son has taken everything from his father. The son is realising everything the father wanted."
So who was Barack Obama Sr and what did he want? As a man, the senior Obama was deeply strange. He was a polygamist who had four wives and eight known children. He looked after none of them, and was accused by one of his sons, Mark, of being a wife-beater and an abusive father. He was also a chronic alcoholic who was known at Harvard as "Double Double" because he liked to order a double Scotch and tell the waiter, as soon as it arrived, "Another double." Since he regularly drove while intoxicated, he was involved in multiple accidents. In one, he killed a man; in another, he injured himself so badly that both his legs had to be amputated and replaced by iron rods. Eventually, he became drunk in a bar in Nairobi and drove into a tree, killing himself.
Not much of a role model for a son. But young Obama didn't know about his father's misdoings, because a romantic image of his father had been cultivated in his mind by his mother, Ann. She revered her husband even though he abandoned her. When Obama complained about his absentee father she chastised her son, informing him that Obama Sr was a great man, a champion of African liberation.
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