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  • Writer's pictureMarc Johnson


I Thought the Guy Was a Kenyan

The problem with some people is that when they aren’t drunk, they’re sober.”

– William Butler Yeats

When Barack Obama stood before a crowd estimated at 50,000 last night in Dublin, he introduced himself to the adoring Irish crowd as: “Barack Obama, of the Moneygall O’Bamas. I am here to find the apostrophe that we lost along the way. Tá áthas orm bheith in Éirinn.”

Obama has proven again, as John McCain’s campaign attempted, unsuccessfully, to use against him in 2008, that he is the “biggest celebrity in the world.” True enough, but the Irish have long proven they love the American president, whomever he happens to be.

Just behind the main entrance to the building that houses the Irish Dial, is a lovely room festooned with photos of the American presidents who have visited Ireland. John Kennedy, of course, and Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and now the distant son of Moneygall.

I love Ireland – the people, the landscape, the literature, the history, well some of the history, anyway. But most of all, as I have enjoyed the coverage of Obama and Michelle sipping a Guinness in a pub in Moneygall, I like the notion that everyone has some of the Irish in them.

It can’t hurt the president’s standing with Irish-American and Catholic voters that he was welcomed like a rock star – the Kenyan Bono? – in the old sod. While the stout sipping photo op got most of the play, the best photo I saw was of Obama hoisting high a darling, red haired Irish lass of maybe three or four. She displayed classic smiling Irish eyes as the black/white/Irish/Indonesian/Kenyan/Christian/Muslim president beamed back at her.

These pictures, the lost apostrophe in Obama and the obvious respect and affection an American president commands in a country hard pressed to recover from its disastrous real estate implosion and still hardened by religious troubles, must be hard to swallow for the birther crowd. Some folks – Jerome Corsi for instance – have made an industry of advancing the line that Obama just “isn’t one of us.”

Trouble is, for most of the world, Obama is one of them. Just ask the crowd in Dublin or that adorable Irish redhead. Here’s a bet: you’ll see those pictures again; during the campaign, in a commercial.

The Irish Times summed up the president’s visit, coming as it did on the heels of the visit of the Queen of England, with this: “Obama’s eloquence, self-deprecating humour, and patent empathy turned what otherwise might have been seen as pro forma diplomatic expressions of goodwill and shameless stroking of the national ego, into something heartwarming and inspiring.”

Any self-respecting, world-wide celebrity should hope for such reviews.

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