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Obama's 'Auntie' and the Scandal of Liberal Hypocrisy

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

A recent television interview with President Obama’s beloved “Auntie” exposes the fraudulent nature of liberal claims to superior compassion for the poor and downtrodden.

Zeituni Onyango, half-sister of the president’s late father, Barack Obama, Sr., told WBZ-TV in Boston that she owes no apologies for taking $700 a month in welfare payments and occupying public housing during more than six years as an illegal immigrant in the United States. “This country is owned by Almighty God,” she insisted. “You people who preach Jesus Christ, Almighty God, and the rest of it, you are here to help people, help the poor, help other countries and help women.”

It’s not surprising that Ms. Onyango, who is 58 years old and walks with a cane, expects assistance from more fortunate members of this society; after all, the United States has established a worldwide reputation for prodigious generosity that’s reached even the remotest corners of her Kenyan homeland. But why would the incapacitated immigrant seem to prefer help from taxpaying strangers rather than securing assistance from the prominent and wealthy members of her own family?

President Obama met Ms. Onyango during his first trip to Kenya 22 years ago and writes of her in his book Dreams from My Father as “Aunti Zeituni,” fondly describing her as “a proud woman.” That pride, however, never stopped her from applying for public assistance shortly after her arrival in the United States. By the time she moved into a public housing project in South Boston in 2003, her beloved nephew was already a celebrity and a state senator. Even beyond their current accommodations in the White House, the Obamas reported income of $5,505,409 in 2009, with a net worth of at least $10,111,000. Despite this admirable success, there’s no indication that the president ever attempted to send support of any kind to one of his closest surviving relatives in the United States.

In fact, the flow of money between destitute auntie and millionaire nephew actually went the other way: she sent a contribution to support his 2008 presidential run, but the Obama campaign reportedly returned the money to avoid a scandal (undocumented immigrants are officially banned from donating money to political candidates in the United States).

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.

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