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Obama Sits in Elijah’s Chair

Also had an early reverence for Eliot, is exactly who we thought he is

Marc Tracy
May 02, 2012
President Obama Monday.(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Obama Monday.(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

In case you were wondering from whom President Obama draws many of his top New York City-area donors, a new Times Magazine piece arrives appended with a list of all the attendees at a top shelf March 1 fundraiser in the Flatiron District. Most of those names speak for themselves (although in addition to the usual Jews in finance, Nick Confessore reports that a concerted effort was made to recruit new Turkish-American fundraisers—not clear if that’s out of some larger political motive, or just because they tend to vote Democratic, some have a lot of money, and all are new to the high-flying donor process).

But in case the names aren’t clear enough, there’s also this:

At some past events, the president’s team would arrange for an empty chair to be at each table—“the Elijah chair,” as some donors call it—so that Obama would have a place to sit.

Meanwhile, the other big Obama story today is an excerpt from David Maraniss’ forthcoming biography that focuses on Obama’s time as a pretentious Columbia undergrad (which is redundant). “Remember how I said there’s a certain kind of conservatism which I respect more than bourgeois liberalism—Eliot is of this type,” he mansplains explains to a girlfriend. Eliot’s conservatism led him to write anti-Semitic poetry. Uh-oh. Fortunately, Obama acquits himself, continuing: “Of course, the dichotomy he maintains is reactionary, but it’s due to a deep fatalism, not ignorance. (Counter him with Yeats or Pound, who, arising from the same milieu, opted to support Hitler and Mussolini.)”

Relatedly, we found this picture of Obama from the period during which he was writing such letters to young women. Note the resemblance to Tim Matheson.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.