Recent reviews of David Maraniss’ Barack Obama: The Story have some interesting nuggets:
The job at Business International wasn’t exactly like running Bain Capital—Mr. Obama was paid an $18,000 salary to help to write and edit newsletters for American companies doing business overseas—but it was a private-sector job. And the young Barack Obama hated it.
As he wrote in his memoir, “Dreams From My Father” (1995): “Sometimes, coming out of an interview with Japanese financiers or German bond traders, I would catch my reflection in the elevator doors—see myself in a suit and tie, a briefcase in my hand—and for a split second I would imagine myself as a captain of industry, barking out orders, closing the deal, before I remembered who it was that I wanted to be and felt pangs of guilt for my lack of resolve.”
Consider Mr. Obama’s own description of his time working at Business International and those meetings with “Japanese financiers” and “German bond traders” and that reflection in the elevator mirrors of himself wearing a suit and tie.
In reality, Mr. Maraniss finds out, Mr. Obama worked out of a tiny office barely large enough to fit a desk, dressed casually and didn’t have meetings with financiers or bond traders. “The part about seeing his reflection in the elevator doors?” recalled one supervisor. “There were not reflections there. . . . He was not in this high, talk-to-Swiss-bankers kind of role. He was in the back rooms checking things on the phone.”
In the memoir, Mr. Obama’s experience at Business International, mentioned only briefly, is used as a device to portray a great temptation—he is almost seduced by the allure of a business career that would have forced him to sell his soul. The reality discovered by Mr. Maraniss is less dramatic but reveals Mr. Obama’s state of mind. He was an efficient worker and an aloof colleague. Unlike many of his young co-workers, he never arrived at work late—and never stayed late. He did what the job required, “no more and no less.” When one co-worker, knowing that Mr. Obama was a runner, suggested that they jog together after work, Mr. Obama declined, saying: “I don’t jog, I run.” It appears that he was simply biding time in a world he did not like. In a letter found by Mr. Maraniss, Mr. Obama’s mother wrote a friend: “He calls it working for the enemy because some of the reports are written for commercial firms that want to invest in [Third World] countries.”
Quite a revelation, I thought, of almost delusional thinking on Obama’s part. I can’t quite remember where that pose in the photo comes from, as young Barry apes the cool of some one he admired. Can anyone jog my memory?