Ms. Onyango blames neither her nephew nor herself for the situation that led to her receipt of more than $100,000 in accumulated benefits from a society to which she never contributed gainful employment or significant tax payments. In her Boston TV interview (September 21st), she shamelessly sneered at the dysfunctional system that kept her alive with sustenance and shelter for seven years. “I don’t mind,” she said. “You can take that house. I can be on the streets with homeless people. I didn’t ask for it. They gave it to me. Ask your system. I didn’t create it or vote for it. Go and ask your system.”
The timid White House press corps never asked either “the system,” or the idealistic chief executive who has pledged to devote even more taxpayer resources to “compassionate” programs for the poor. The story of Zeituni Onyango provoked a flurry of coverage in the last days of the 2008 campaign but after that received scant coverage in national media.
Of course, Obama hardly counts as the first president with relatives capable of embarrassing him: Jimmy Carter’s brother Billy drew scandalous headlines as a beer-swilling bigot and later a lobbyist for Libya while Bill Clinton’s half-brother Roger served jail time for cocaine abuse. Neil Bush, younger brother of George W., served as a director of a collapsed savings-and-loan in Colorado and later went through a lurid divorce featuring evidence of repeated resorts to high-priced call girls.
No other president, however, has been able to boast a blood-relative who defied immigration law for the better part of a decade (a judge finally granted Onyango legal asylum in May of this year), and claimed long-term public assistance, including government funded medical care. The most startling aspect of the situation involves the president’s failure to express regret or embarrassment over the undeniable fact that his ardently admired “Aunti Zeituni” got more help from the taxpayers of Massachusetts than she did from her own family.
No one can contradict Ms. Onyango’s claim that religious believers in the United States face a special and sacred obligation to “help the poor,” but Christian and Jewish notions of charity emphasize personal involvement in the process—giving directly to the less fortunate and helping them to overcome their difficulties, rather than relying on costly governmental bureaucracies to do the job.
In contradiction to these authentic American traditions, both Zeituni Onyango and her illustrious nephew seem to prefer a faceless system that delivers aid as a matter of entitlement and ministers to the incapacitated and the alien with the impersonal distribution of other people’s money.