L.A. Times Obama-gasm: ‘Crisscrossed Cultural Divide’ As Child in Indonesia

-By Warner Todd Huston

Why is it every time I see a newspulper headline about Barack Obama I envision the editors in near orgasmic delight over the “multiculturalism” they perceive in Obama, or the “connection” he has with all the peoples of the world? Or the near hero worship of his “clean and articulate” abilities they wallow in, for that matter? And how come I get a corresponding feeling that all I am getting is delightful puffs of air but no substance when I’m done reading the piece that goes with the sweetness and honey that is the headline?

Today’s L.A. Times delightful puff of Obama-gasm comes to us courtesy of Paul Watson, Times Staff Writer and honey-drippingly titled “As a child, Obama crossed a cultural divide in Indonesia”.

What we have today from the L.A. Times is a piece gushing with how Obama must understand the needs of Christians and Muslims because he went to a Muslim Madrasa school as a child as well as a Catholic school.

JAKARTA, INDONESIA — As a boy in Indonesia, Barack Obama crisscrossed the religious divide. At the local primary school, he prayed in thanks to a Catholic saint. In the neighborhood mosque, he bowed to Allah.

Having a personal background in both Christianity and Islam might seem useful for an aspiring U.S. president in an age when Islamic nations and radical groups are key national security and foreign policy issues. But a connection with Islam is untrod territory for presidential politics.

The amusing thing from this piece, though, is the thin line they are trying to walk with their praise as the Times desperately tries not to harm Obama with their focus on his shadowy Muslim past. On the one hand the Times is saying how wonderful it is that Obama is in touch with both Christians and Muslims yet, on the other hand, they are constantly giving the Obama campaign all the room it needs in the piece to say that the candidate’s Muslim school background doesn’t have any impact at all and is not a factor for his viability for office.

Come on Times. Either it is GOOD that he went to a Muslim school when he was a child or it has nothing to do with anything. Which is it?

Here are the very next two paragraphs after the first two:

Obama’s campaign aides have emphasized his strong Christian beliefs and downplayed any Islamic connection. The candidate was raised “in a secular household in Indonesia by his stepfather and mother,” his chief spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said in a statement in January after false reports began circulating that Obama had attended a radical madrasa, or Koranic school, as a child.

“To be clear, Senator Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian who attends the United Church of Christ in Chicago,” Gibbs’ Jan. 24 statement said. In a statement to The Times on Wednesday, the campaign offered slightly different wording, saying: “Obama has never been a practicing Muslim.” The statement added that as a child, Obama had spent time in the neighborhood’s Islamic center.

This has the effect of making the Times’ piece quite schizophrenic as many page one paragraphs praising his being so able to “crisscross” the religious divide is followed by a paragraph by the campaign denying that it is meaningful and trying to distance the candidate from that very past.

After the denials and praise, though, we get paragraph after paragraph filled with Obama’s pets, an impromptu boxing lesson he received to defeat a bully, his school pals, his teachers and his school files that were eaten by bugs. A typical, uncritical puff piece at first glance.

We are reassured that his being considered a Muslim child in both the Muslim and Catholic schools was only because his father was a Muslim. That is then tempered by claims that he also went to Catholic school and was often “praying in a Catholic way” when it was required. The Times seems to be trying to straighten out via a campaign approved message the murky aspects of his childhood religions for those too lazy to read the candidate’s two books.

So we get:

In her statement, Obama’s sister, who was born after the family moved to Indonesia, said: “My father saw Islam as a way to connect with the community. He never went to prayer services except for big communal events. I am absolutely certain that my father did not go to services every Friday. He was not religious.”

Along with:

Like all pupils, Obama had to pray before and after each class, and cross himself in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Dharmawan said.

Just like his campaign staff schizophrenically trying to distance their candidate from his religious childhood yet claiming he now believes in a third way, his early life was seemingly split between Islam and Catholicism.

But, there is an underlying theme that the piece really reveals, and this might be the Times’ real message… unless they are just too stupid to see it.

Obama’s Father wasn’t religious. Obama went to both schools and didn’t particularly pay attention to any religion. So, perhaps the Times is trying to tell us that their favorite candidate isn’t really religious at all despite that he claims to be a serious Christian today.

So, the Times seems to be saying” “rest assured folks, Obama isn’t religious at all.” And for the generally atheistic MSM this would be a reassuring thing, I’m sure.

But, for a puff piece that is trying to make Obama look good yet ends up saying that he is a man without faith, could THAT be a good thing for a presidential candidate in the U.S. today?

I’d guess the L.A. Times would rather feel Obama is a man ambivalent about faith or entirely faithless. They’d rather accept a candidate who is able to fake a religion when necessary. They would rather imagine that Obama is a man that can be a Catholic for one audience, a Protestant for another, and a Muslim for a third. But wouldn’t that rather tend to make their candidate out to be an opportunist, a man who claims to believe in anything that will get him elected?

I wonder if they realize the mean swipe they just made at their candidate?

Still, the piece is aglow with Obama-gasms, whether or not the Times realized they just made their candidate out to be either confused, ambivalent or a liar about his religion.
Warner Todd Huston’s thoughtful commentary, sometimes irreverent often historically based, is featured on many websites such as newsbusters.org, townhall.com, men’snewsdaily.com and americandaily.com among many, many others. Additionally, he has been a guest on several radio programs to discuss his opinion editorials and current events. He has also written for several history magazines and appears in the new book “Americans on Politics, Policy and Pop Culture” which can be purchased on amazon.com. He is also the owner and operator of publiusforum.com. Feel free to contact him with any comments or questions : EMAIL Warner Todd Huston

Copyright Publius Forum 2001