WaPo reports on Obama-Selma-Kennedy birth myth

posted at 11:17 am on March 30, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

On Wednesday, I did the math that most of the mainstream media couldn’t do in March 2007. I asked how Barack Obama could have told a Selma audience that the 1965 March on Selma resulted in his conception when he was born in 1961. I also challenged Obama’s assertion that the Kennedy administration could have been responsible for his father’s arrival in America when his conception predated Kennedy’s oath of office. The Washington Post’s Michael Dobbs delves deeper into the Kennedy myth of fingerprints on Obama’s birth, and finds little basis in fact for it:

Addressing civil rights activists in Selma, Ala., a year ago, Sen. Barack Obama traced his “very existence” to the generosity of the Kennedy family, which he said paid for his Kenyan father to travel to America on a student scholarship and thus meet his Kansan mother.

The Camelot connection has become part of the mythology surrounding Obama’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. After Caroline Kennedy endorsed his candidacy in January, Newsweek commentator Jonathan Alter reported that she had been struck by the extraordinary way in which “history replays itself” and by how “two generations of two families — separated by distance, culture and wealth — can intersect in strange and wonderful ways.”

It is a touching story — but the key details are either untrue or grossly oversimplified.

Contrary to Obama’s claims in speeches in January at American University and in Selma last year, the Kennedy family did not provide the funding for a September 1959 airlift of 81 Kenyan students to the United States that included Obama’s father. According to historical records and interviews with participants, the Kennedys were first approached for support for the program nearly a year later, in July 1960. The family responded with a $100,000 donation, most of which went to pay for a second airlift in September 1960.

In the speech, Obama made specific reference to the airlift as a White House program, a product of the Kennedy administration. He said:

It worried folks in the White House who said, “You know, we’re battling Communism. How are we going to win hearts and minds all across the world? If right here in our own country, John, we’re not observing the ideals set fort in our Constitution, we might be accused of being hypocrites.” So the Kennedy’s decided we’re going to do an air lift.

This gets history wrong on several counts. First, the timing is incorrect, as I noted. The airlifts started before Kennedy took office. It never had official sanction as a government program, but only private support from the Kennedy Foundation — and only after Obama Sr. had arrived in Hawaii for his studies. The Kennedys didn’t create the idea of the airlift, either; it began with eventual Kenyan political martyr Tom Mboya.

Why the deception? Obama’s speech had two purposes: to increase his authenticity as a black politician by tying himself to Selma and the general civil-rights movement, and to assume the mantle of Kennedy’s Camelot. Both are essentially falsehoods. Selma had nothing to do with his conception or his formative years; by the time the march occured, his father had already left the family and returned to Kenya (1963). The Kennedy administration has nothing at all to do with his existence, as I pointed out by doing the math that shows that Obama would have had to have been almost three months premature to have been conceived even on JFK’s inauguration.

This exposes Obama as a politician who plays fast and loose with his life story to transform himself into whatever his audience wants to see. For those who want to see a post-racial candidate, he downplays race as an issue. When in Chicago, he hangs out with radicals like Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers, and Bernadette Dohrn for authenticity. For Democrats wanting a return to JFK, he ties himself to the Kennedys in a false and strangely sexual manner. And for those who want a candidate with civil-rights movement credentials, he offers the same kind of connection to a famous march that obviously had nothing to do with his birth.

In other words, Barack Obama is a phony. Had the media that covered his speech in Selma in March 2007 thought to do the math, Democrats could have figured this out nine months before the first primary contests. Now they’re stuck with him — unless the superdelegates want to hand the nomination to the Tuzla Dash candidate instead.


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