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Top Obama Aides: Childhood in Muslim Nation Influenced His Worldview

TEL AVIV – Deep inside a lengthy New York Times Magazine article, President Obama’s top aides Ben Rhodes and Valerie Jarrett expounded on how President Obama’s early childhood years in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, helped shape the president’s worldview.

The details were contained in the Times’ profile of Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser titled, “The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru.” Jarrett is Obama’s senior adviser.

The Times cited Rhodes explaining:

Obama’s particular revulsion against a certain kind of global power politics is a product, Rhodes suggests, of his having been raised in Southeast Asia.

Continues the Times, quoting Rhodes:

“Indonesia was a place where your interaction at that time with power was very intimate, right?” Rhodes asks. “Tens or hundreds of thousands of people had just been killed. Power was not some abstract thing,” he muses. “When we sit in Washington and debate foreign policy, it’s like a Risk game, or it’s all about us, or the human beings disappear from the decisions. But he lived in a place where he was surrounded by people who had either perpetrated those acts — and by the way, may not have felt great about that — or else knew someone who was a victim. I don’t think there’s ever been an American president who had an experience like that at a young age of what power is.”

Later in the article, Jarrett, born in Iran, relates her first dinner conversation with Obama. She says the two bonded over growing up in “Muslim countries,” and how their childhoods there influenced their future attitudes toward America.

“The first conversation we had over dinner, when we first met, was about what it was like for both of us to live in countries that were predominantly Muslim countries at formative parts of our childhood and the perspective it gave us about the United States and how uniquely excellent it is,” she says. “We talked about what it was like to be children, and how we played with children who had totally different backgrounds than our own but you would find something in common.”

In October 1967, Obama at age six moved to Indonesia with his mother, who was joining her second husband, an Indonesian named Lolo Soetoro. Barack Obama lived in Indonesia until mid-1971, when he returned to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents.

I previously reported Obama was enrolled


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