BY JACK CASHILL – For reasons clear to no one just yet, Hawaii’s new Democrat governor, Neil Abercrombie, has gone public with his desire to silence the so-called “birthers” with proof of Barack Obama’s Hawaiian birth.
“Maybe I’m the only one in the country,” Abercrombie told the Los Angeles Times just before Christmas, “that could look you right in the eye right now and tell you, ‘I was here when that baby was born.'”
A few days later, Abercrombie clarified to Mark Niesse of the Associated Press that he didn’t exactly see Obama’s parents with their newborn son at the hospital, but that he “remembers seeing Obama as a child with his parents at social events.”
Although the major media have questioned why Abercrombie would raise an issue that, according to the Los Angeles Times, “most people see as resolved,” they take Abercrombie at his word as to what he knows about the young Obama family.
They shouldn’t. Abercrombie’s boasts about his relationship with the president’s presumed parents, Barack Obama, Sr. and Ann Dunham, have got to unnerve the president and his close advisors. They know something the media perversely choose not to know: Abercrombie is remembering a past that never happened.
A member of the House’s progressive caucus before his election as governor, Abercrombie has been talking excitedly about the relationship for years, playing John the Baptist to Obama’s Jesus.
“Little Barry, that’s what we called him,” Abercrombie told the Chicago Tribune while “recalling his days with Obama Sr. and his future wife, Ann Dunham, at the University of Hawaii.” If Obama were born on August 4, 1961, however, there could not have been many such days.
As is thoroughly documented, Ann and little Barry were in Seattle two weeks later, where she enrolled at the University of Washington. By the time she returned to Hawaii in late summer or fall 1962, Barack Sr. had left for Harvard for good.
Citing Abercrombie as source, a 2007 Hawaii TV news report claimed that Ann “became estranged from her husband, Barack Obama[,] Sr., after his departure for Harvard.” I don’t know about Hawaii, but in Missouri, if you flee your husband with baby in tow two weeks after his birth, that qualifies as “estrangement.”
According to divorce papers filed in 1964, Barack Sr. and Ann married in Wailuku, Maui on February 2, 1961. But one has to wonder whether it was a marriage in anything but name, or whether there was a marriage at all. Obama himself writes in Dreams, “In fact, how and when the marriage occurred remains a bit murky, a bill of particulars that I’ve never quite had the courage to explore.”
No one attended the wedding — not Abercrombie, not Ann’s parents.
In fact, no one in Barack Sr.’s clique seemed to know there was a relationship, let alone a wedding. Neil’s brother Hal never saw Ann and Barack Sr. together. Another clique member, Pake Zane, who had distinct memories of Barack Sr., could not recall Ann at all.
When Neil Abercrombie and Zane visited their friend in Nairobi in 1968, Barack Sr. shocked them by never once inquiring about his putative wife and 6-year-old son.
The 17-year-old Ann had met the 24 year-old Barack Sr. in Russian class at the University of Hawaii. Why they were studying Russian (in 1960, people like Lee Harvey Oswald studied Russian) is a question for another day. In Dreams, Ann provides only the sketchiest detail of their first date — Barack Sr. came an hour late and with friends — and nothing more.
A high school friend of Ann’s claims to have received a letter or two from Ann in which she spoke about Barack Sr., and there is no reason to doubt her. But beyond this, there is no evidence of a relationship, and the only evidence for the marriage are the divorce papers, which are real and have been posted online.
One reason people marry in a county other than their own — Maui County, for instance — is to keep the announcement of the marriage license out of the local paper. By claiming a Maui wedding, and perhaps even attaining a Maui license, the Dunhams could have assured the baby an identity without drawing attention to the relationship.
If Obama had, in fact, been born out of wedlock, or if his father had been someone other than Barack Sr., that would not have affected Obama’s eligibility for higher office, but it would have surely de-glamorized him. “Barry Dunham” does not exactly tease the imagination.
Whatever his contribution, Obama Sr. lent young Barry a name, an identity, and a romantic storyline. Obama’s mother and grandparents sustained this narrative throughout Obama’s childhood.
Barack Obama repeated this story in his memoir Dreams from My Father, and to good effect. When Obama hooked up with campaign guru David Axelrod in his 2004 race for the U.S. Senate, his story crystallized into a marketing strategy. In the retelling, little Barry is always two years old when Barack Sr. reluctantly leaves wife and son for Harvard. This is a lie.
Guided by Axelrod, Obama held off in his breakthrough keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic convention for all of 46 words — including “Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you so much” — before sharing his story with the world.
At the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver, Obama leaped into the story in the very first sentence. “Four years ago,” he began, “I stood before you and told you my story — of the brief union between a young man from Kenya and a young woman from Kansas who weren’t well-off or well-known, but shared a belief that in America, their son could achieve whatever he put his mind to.”
In between the two convention speeches, the story of Obama’s birth was told more often than that of anyone’s since Jesus. No one, of course, told it as convincingly as Obama himself, especially in his game-saving Philadelphia speech, immodestly titled “A More Perfect Union.”
In this speech, delivered to negate the baleful impact of the Jeremiah Wright videos, Obama attributed his faith in the American people to his “own American story.” He reminded those few registered voters who might somehow have forgotten that “I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas.” Although the proto-hippie Ann spent her formative teen years in Seattle, the storyline always places her in Kansas.
Obama and his operatives would invest enormous political capital in what sympathetic biographer David Remnick calls his “signature appeal: the use of the details of his own life as a reflection of a kind of multicultural ideal.” From the beginning, they worked hard to protect the investment and did what they had to do to keep the storytellers in line.
Abercrombie may not have gotten the memo. Although the president was likely born in the United States, he may not have been born in Hawaii, he may not have been born in August 1961, he may not have been the son of Barack Sr., or he may have simply been listed as “white” on his birth certificate.
The truth is that the storied little family never lived together. Any fact that blew the storyline could have derailed Obama’s candidacy before it got going. Expect the Abercrombie fuss to just sort of fade away.
Jack Cashill’s new book, Deconstructing Obama, is now out. See more at his web site JackCashill.com