Romantic Obama

This may come as a blow, but it would seem that Barack "too cool to be President" Obama thinks pretty highly of himself, or at least he did in his early twenties, as chronicled with cringe-worthy closeness in David Maraniss' new biography of the President, now excerpted on the Vanity Fair website. Specifically, the future POTUS wrote some seriously lame love letters in the days before Michelle came along, when even he has admitted he was "too serious for my own good." 

Thanks to a couple of obliging ex-girlfriends, we now have hard evidence, consisting of diary entries and love letters chronicling a pretentious courtship that revolved around heady discussions of "choice:" in one missive Obama defined it as "a convenient shorthand for the way my past resolves itself. Not just my past, but the past of my ancestors, the planet, the universe." Ouch. 

He also shared his exhaustive thoughts on T.S. Eliot to then-girlfriend Alex McNear. Read this only if you're prepared to face the verbose, progressive-and-high-minded-yet-shockingly inconsiderate (and likely ill-groomed) boyfriend that haunts the most nightmarish corners of your undergraduate memories:

"I haven't read 'The Waste Land' for a year, and I never did bother to check all the footnotes. But I will hazard these statements - Eliot contains the same ecstatic vision which runs from Münzer to Yeats. However, he retains a grounding in the social reality/order of his time. Facing what he perceives as a choice between ecstatic chaos and lifeless mechanistic order, he accedes to maintaining a separation of asexual purity and brutal sexual reality. And he wears a stoical face before this. Read his essay on Tradition and the Individual Talent, as well as Four Quartets, when he’s less concerned with depicting moribund Europe, to catch a sense of what I speak. Remember how I said there’s a certain kind of conservatism which I respect more than bourgeois liberalism — Eliot is of this type. Of course, the dichotomy he maintains is reactionary, but it’s due to a deep fatalism, not ignorance. (Counter him with Yeats or Pound, who, arising from the same milieu, opted to support Hitler and Mussolini.) And this fatalism is born out of the relation between fertility and death, which I touched on in my last letter — life feeds on itself. A fatalism I share with the western tradition at times. You seem surprised at Eliot’s irreconcilable ambivalence; don’t you share this ambivalence yourself, Alex?"

If Obama's thoughts on "fertility and death" aren't sufficiently erotic, Genevieve Cook, another of his exes, released old diary entries recalling how "on Sundays Obama would lounge around, drinking coffee and solving the New York Times crossword puzzle, bare-chested, wearing a blue and white sarong." 

No word yet on whether or not Obama has retained the crossword-and-sarong routine during his residency in the White House, but either way the entire piece is worth a read, if vaguely unsettling.

Image by Dave Herr.

Commentarium (12 Comments)

May 02 12 - 10:33pm

As a women dealing with men in their early 20s, I think it's about time we examine our society's men in their twenties instead of giving them a pass with "boys will be boys" and telling our young women to be patient until the men "mature" in their 30s. I'm not saying this isn't potentially a sleazy way to cash in on our country's curiosity towards President Obama right on top of election time (it is an obvious sleazy move, as far as I can see), but I do think we as a culture should stop giving young men the secret nod of approval to be pompous and empathy-less douchebags until the time comes for them to slow down. <-not saying that Obama actually ever was those two things, even if I read the book quoted here, I wasn't there when the events transpired.

Just my two, slightly-relavent, cents

May 03 12 - 11:02am

As a man in his 30s I couldn't agree more. I believe women, especially women in their 20s, should reject men in ther 20s en masse and set their sights on men of more mature vintage. We are far less douchey. (heheh)

May 03 12 - 5:23pm

Agreed. I wish someone told me this before I started dating my ex.. He's 22, so I thought that meant he was mature. What a laugh. Currently dating a 30-year-old and I couldn't be happier. Men around my age are too content staying children through their twenties, so I shifted my sights and I'm never looking back.

May 08 12 - 8:48am
JC o' Bklyn

OK, what's wrong with a 22 year old man, who wants to be a 22 year old man? After 4 years of college, especially if that young man dedicated to his studies, don't you think, after he completes college, he should go and enjoy himself, S?

May 03 12 - 6:34am

I'm neither for nor against Obama, but when he gets flak for writing in grandiose terms about choice, his ancestors and the planet, why is he so off the mark? Isn't he currently the 'Leader of the Free World'? Would false modesty and pretending not to have will to power better befit a commander-in-chief of perhaps the most powerful nation currently on this planet? He's now a character in history, is he not?

Secondly, the young-man-equals-douche-bag stereotype is more unsettling than off-the-cuff confidences from letters and diary entries that were never meant for publication in the first place. (For the record: I'm male, but no longer in my twenties.) Why is Obama 'shockingly inconsiderate' and 'ill-groomed' in the above letter? I, for one, simply learnt something about TS Eliot. As for being high-falootin', did you read what the girlfriends were quoted as saying?

Not that there's anything wrong with a bit of pomp. It all goes with ambition. Simply because others don't take your life seriously, doesn't mean you shouldn't. It's your relationship/career/existence, not a frivolous piece of gossip on the Internet. Surely it would be worse if Obama and his lovers were all coolly indifferent, evasively ironic or falsely self-deprecating in their higly personal communications and diary entries?

The snarky comments about the sarong are better left unmentioned, except to say that it's precisely these kinds of insecure hipster asides that remind you never to write anything down that anybody else may later use against you. And think twice before dressing comfortably for breakfast with your most intimate partner, in the privacy of your own home.

Surely there must be something more relevant to write about a head of state?

May 03 12 - 6:01pm

Agreed, on every point. I don't think a modest person has ever dedicated their life to becoming President.

May 03 12 - 11:20am

The only things Obama's comments about The Waste Land show is that he actually paid attention in class and had the capacity to take the subject deeper. And she was on the same level he was, so I'm sure she understood exactly what he was saying. It's a shame that the Nerve writer so blithely dismisses his still-developing erudition as "pretentious".

May 03 12 - 12:06pm

How exactly is this inconsiderate or ill-groomed? Moreover, as someone up the thread wrote, this sounds like he really gave some thought to what Eliot was writing and connected that to his own perceptions. Is that really pretentious? Or is the complaint generalized: that anyone reading and writing about Eliot (or other major 20th Century poets) is by definition pretentious? That sounds like plebian snobbery to me. Look, I think Eliot was pretentious -- and tedious -- and I was never able to stomach him enough to read very much. I don't think that somehow makes me "better" than Obama in this respect; indeed, I tip my hat to him for being able to find much more in Eliot than I ever did.

May 03 12 - 1:11pm

I don't like Obama at all, but I find his former girlfriends giving out their journals and his letters to them to be in bad taste. Whether he was a dick or an angel of a boyfriend in his 20's is less relevant than whether his birth certifcate was long form or short form.

May 03 12 - 4:51pm

I am just so relieved to learn that the U.S. has a president who has something to say about T.S. Eliot. Whether you like him or not (T.S. that is...) Of his predecessors, anybody have and old class notes to share? G.W.? Bill? Jimmy? Ronmy? Dick? Didn't think so! (Maybe George I has something secreted away...just no old girlfriends to tell us about it).
And the blue and white sarong in the morning? I can SO relate to that...he just earned a lot of cred in my eyes and in my heart.

May 04 12 - 11:04am

Bill Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar, and they don't give those out because your Daddy or Granddaddy was a Senator. Carter got an engineering degree from the Naval Academy. I suspect I wouldn't even be able to understand some of his class notes because I don't have the math for it.

May 03 12 - 5:05pm
Rex Merritt

Imagine that. Before he became President of the United States, Barack Obama was a human being. Can the same be said about his opponent?