I love the linked piece. Cashill is so bizarre, Obama's poetry is so jejune, and McHenry's an elegant writer.
But let's get back to the babies. I'm fascinated by the notion that all the babies of the world would somehow have a secret alliance. How would they communicate? What are their nationalistic goals? Could someone please write a screenplay?
ADDED: Here's what the Maraniss bio of Obama says about that poem "Pop":
The assumption then, and decades later, when the poem resurfaced and became an artifact for condescending literary criticism of a politician, was that “Pop” was about his grandfather Stan Dunham. There were aspects of the figure depicted in the poem that fit Stan: he smoked, drank, watched television, told jokes, and sometimes seemed small in the eyes of his grandson. But the essence of the work points in another direction, toward Frank Marshall Davis, the old black poet of Honolulu. Obama had visited Davis the previous summer for the first time in several years, after the traumatic bus stop discussion with his grandparents, so Davis’s visage was fresh in his mind. He found Davis a colorful figure and liked to write about him, as his memoir later revealed. Also, he called his grandfather Gramps, not Pop, by no means a conclusive hint, but one of many signs. Pop, or Pops, was a nickname more commonly used in the black community for older men. It was a jazz and pool hall nickname. The younger hippies who lived around Davis and acquaintances in the bars on Smith Street often called him Pop or Pops. At the time Obama wrote this, Stan was sixty-two, while Davis was a generation older, seventy-six, more of a Pops. In one stanza Obama listened as Pop told the young man that he was naïve and failed to understand the world because he had not suffered enough. In another Pop “recited an old poem he wrote before his mother died.” Stan would say many things to his hapa grandson, but not that his life was too easy. He was careless in other ways but always mindful of what Barry, with his darker skin, had to endure. Stan told people he wrote poetry, but he rarely did. He could recite a few limericks, but not his own poetry, and he was only eight when his mother committed suicide. In the scene in Dreams from My Father where Obama visited Frank after the bus stop incident, he was wearing reading glasses and drinking whiskey and sitting in an overstuffed chair....If you actually want to read the poem, it's here.
“Pop” reveals more about the poet than the subject, or composite subjects. Obama the poet, like the memoirist, shows a keen awareness of otherness and life’s duality. He looks at Pop and sees something that repels him and attracts him, that he wants to run away from yet knows he must embrace. Pop makes himself small by what he says; Obama shrinks in his physical presence. The same stain on their pants, smelling the same smell, blood rushing from one face to the other. Looking in his own mirror first and then in the reflection of Pop’s glasses, he realizes that the old man, who bores him and twitches unhappily in his stuffed chair with his whiskey and his cigarette ashes, nonetheless knows all that he knows. Black or white, black and white, Stan or Frank, Stan and Frank— the same in the end.