Throughout his presidential campaign, Barack Obama has argued that playing kickball in Indonesia as an eight-year-old gave him “insight into how these folks think.” This past week, however, Obama’s bid to sell his childhood experiences as foreign policy experience took a new turn. On two occasions, Obama suggested that his domestically-spent childhood years also contributed to his understanding of certain key foreign policy challenges that he would confront as president.
The first–and better publicized–instance of this inane childhood-as-presidential-experience argument occurred during his speech at Wednesday’s AIPAC policy conference. Obama credited his Jewish summer camp counselor with educating him on Israel:
You know I first became familiar with the story of Israel when I was 11 years-old. I had a camp counselor who was an American Jew but had lived in Israel for a time and he told me stories of this extraordinary land and I learned of the long journey and steady determination of the Jewish people to preserve–preserve their identity through faith, family, and culture.
Allow me to inject my own childhood experiences as a summer camper in refuting this absurd claim: unless Obama’s camp counselor was Dennis Ross, the true influence of this counselor was likely limited to sports and girls. (No word yet on whether this camp counselor would be on Obama’s national security council.)
The second instance of Obama using his domestic childhood experiences to falsify foreign policy insights occurred in a U.S. News & World Report article on his Hawaii upbringing. In an exclusive interview, Obama bizarrely claimed that his youth in Honolulu informed his outlook on Asian economies:
My years in Hawaii make me more attuned to certain issues–the environment being a good example. … And the same would be true for my appreciation of Asian culture and the importance of the Pacific Rim. Obviously, as somebody who grew up in that area, you know, I’m particularly attuned to the rise of Asian economies and what that may mean for the United States.
It is simply impossible to know what Obama means by this–especially considering that his foreign policy webpage is entirely silent on the Asian economy, and that he has rarely spoken of Asia at all on the campaign trail.
Thus far, the mainstream media has declined to call Obama out on his unseemly embellishments regarding his childhood influences. This is probably great news for any New Yorker considering a future run at the presidency. After all, as virtually every nationality and culture is amply represented within the five boroughs, New York City high school graduates–following Obama’s reasoning–can claim impossibly deep foreign policy chops.