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SF Chron columnist: Obama’s the first “Asian-American” president

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By Michelle Malkin  •  July 30, 2008 06:43 PM

File under “What the…?” A San Francisco Chronicle columnist, Jeff Yang, muses that Barack Obama may be the “first Asian-American” president. Why? Because he lived in Hawaii and Indonesia, has relatives who are Asian-American, and has Asian-American staffers.

This guy makes Toni Morrison look sane:

…reading Obama’s absorbing 1995 memoir “Dreams from My Father,” it strikes me that the tropes that surround and define Obama can just as easily be read as those of another community entirely. Which raises the question: Could it be that our true first black president might also be our first Asian American president?

He was born and raised in Hawaii, the only majority-Asian state in the union; he spent four formative years in Jakarta, the home of his Indonesian stepfather Lolo Soetoro, where he attended local schools and learned passable Bahasa Indonesia. The family with whom he’s closest — half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng and her Chinese Canadian husband, Konrad Ng — are Asian American. So, too, are the most senior members of his congressional team — his Senate chief of staff Pete Rouse, whose mother is Japanese American, and his legislative director Chris Lu, whose parents hail from China.

Evidence for Obama’s affinity with the Asian American experience runs true even as one delves deeper into his history. “A lot of aspects of the senator’s story will be recognizable to many Asian Americans,” says Lu, a Harvard Law School classmate of the senator’s who joined the team in 2005. “He talks about feeling like somewhat of an outsider; about coming to terms with his self-identity; about figuring out how to reconcile the values from his unique heritage with those of larger U.S. society. These are tensions and conflicts that play out in the lives of all children of immigrants.”

If all that proximity to Asian-Americans makes Obama the first “Asian-American” president, then I’m a liberal black blogger! After all, I’ve lived and worked on the Left Coast in Los Angeles and Seattle and then in D.C./Baltimore over the past 15 years, and have been mistaken more than once for black.

Question: By the Yang ethnicity standard, would this make John McCain the first Vietnamese-Bangladeshi-American president because of the time he spent in Vietnam and his adopted Bangladeshi-American daughter?

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