Monday, July 06, 2009
TigerHawk's post this morning and the link to Andy McCarthy's piece over at NRO, and the link there to Barack Obama's 1983 Sundial article "Breaking the War Mentality" should focus a bit of attention on the publication itself, in addition to the fact that apparently no major news organization either discovered or discussed it last year.
I am acquainted with people who attended Columbia University around the time that the Sundial article was published, and it was considered to be a pretty poor publication, particularly by those involved with the Spectator (the daily student newspaper), some of whom referred to it as the "Scumvial," in the wonderful spirit of intra-collegiate competition. It was an arts and opinion journal that was supposed to publish monthly, but in actuality had a rather irregular publication pattern -- it sounds as if the editors would get around to putting it to bed whenever the dime bags ran dry.
Now, as regular readers of this blog are aware, I know something about poor writing and editing, since I do a fair amount of it myself. Also, I would not want to be held accountable for anything I wrote in college over a quarter of a century ago (or, for that matter, even last month right here). That said, the thing that impressed me was that the quality of the writing in the article was remarkably mediocre, even by the standards of student journalism. As to the editing (presumably not Barack Obama's job for his own piece), it was apparently non-existent. I knew a number of Daily Princetonian staffers of the same vintage, and their unedited feature writing was levels above the Sundial piece. I thought that the concluding three or four paragraphs of "Mentality" were particularly weak -- the violation of what we now refer to as Godwin's Law, and the characterization of Europe as a "powderkeg waiting to go off" in 1983 are prime examples of poor writing and no editing. *(SEE UPDATE BELOW)
It is a good thing for Barack Obama that attending law school must have improved his writing skills, so that he could pen "Dreams for my Father" a dozen years after his Sundial piece, and have Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison refer to him as "a writer in my high esteem" and the book "quite extraordinary." His next book, "The Audacity of Hope," published in 2006, was hugely successful and secured his family's financial situation.
UPDATE: Oops, as the first Anon commenter notes, the last few paragraphs I cited in the Sundial as being particularly poor are part of the continuation of a different article, presumably by another author. My bad; I regret the error. Things I would have changed or edited that are part of the main piece? Second and third paragraphs,
"The more sensitive among us struggle to extrapolate experiences of war from our everyday experience...We know that wars have occured, will occur, are occurring, but bringing such experience down into our hearts, and taking continual, tangible steps to prevent war becomes a difficult task...These groups, visualizing the possibilities of destruction and grasping the tendencies of distorted national priorities, are throwing their weight into shifting America off the dead-end track.""The more sensitive among us" -- please. That's surely fodder for those who now perceive President Obama as somewhat arrogant. "Down into our hearts" -- and this is before meeting Oprah -- might be taking advocacy journalism to a new level beyond maudlin. "Dead-end track" is the wrong characterization of America in 1983, as the economy was taking off in a big way, and the Cold War was six years away from a bloodless ending (OK, I just used hindsight).
I thought that the concluding three or four paragraphs of "Mentality" were particularly weak -- the violation of what we now refer to as Godwin's Law, and the characterization of Europe as a "powderkeg waiting to go off" in 1983 are prime examples of poor writing and no editing.
The final three paragraphs in the pdf are from a different article.
Many months after the election -- with all that's going on -- and you and TH are going after leads about what NYT is writing today about what Obama wrote in college over 20 years ago. You're chasing disinformation, one or two steps removed.
My college friends will tell you that my greatest accomplishment at that stage of life was to pervert what I learned from my part-time plumber dad into creating the world's best bong. Multi chamber, two-stage ... mostly PVC, gas line switch for the burner. We could argue whether I've done anyhting better since.
Clearly, Link, the dime bags never ran dry for you!
I was simply trying to make a basic observation about the quality of the journal that the piece appeared in, and the quality of the writing by the future president. I don't really care that he was apparently pro-Freeze in 1983 (though I would have disagreed with him then). It's what he does now in terms of Iran and the rest of the Middle East, and North Korea, and terrorism, that I care about.
It's what he does now in terms of Iran and the rest of the Middle East, and North Korea, and terrorism, that I care about.
Unfortunately, he gives me the impression of having learned little in 30 years, and my guess is what he does in the near future with regard to the above will be not too different from what he would have done when he was a college undergrad.
After all, he introduced a resolution into the Senate in Jan '07 to withdraw all combat troops by March '08 from Iraq, which would have decimated the Surge. This is the default Obama we have to deal with.
The only hope is that he drops some of that preternatural arrogance and follows the advice of wiser people.
There as been much thought and comparison indicating Obeyme did not write Dreams of my Father, but rather it was ghostwritten by none other than William Ayers. Liberals disdain these comparisons because they believe the story that Ayers and Obeyme 'barely' knew each other. Check American Thinker for more.