Video: Obama memoir full of hyperbole and fibs?

posted at 2:41 pm on June 18, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

How reliable was Dreams From My Father as a biography and historical narrative?  Barack Obama’s most recent biographer David Maraniss has discovered that Obama’s memoir was less a reliable historical account — and more of a carefully crafted didactic narrative intended to score political points.  BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith discussed the findings with a panel on CNN earlier today, but just how much should any of this surprise people?

Buzzfeed also has a list of nine tropes from Dreams that Maraniss debunked in his investigation — without which Obama’s life would have seemed … somewhat boring. “Nobody wants to buy that book,” Soledad O’Brien notes when Smith says that the truth of Obama’s wild youth is much more mundane than the book portrays, and that’s certainly part of the reason that exaggerations in biographies are more common than not.  Kitty Kelley made an entire career out of repeating the most outrageous rumors of celebrities and packaging them into hardbound editions.  Readers eat up controversy, not banality, and let’s face it: by this time, a revelation that a middle-aged person smoked a little choom in high school hardly rises above the banal any longer.  For a little-known aspiring politician (at the time of publication), book sales needed more than a haze of pot fumes and an overextended identity crisis.

Given the nature of biographies and especially autobiographies, we shouldn’t be surprised to find exaggerations and convenient telescoping of events, or even full-on fiction in order to score political points.  The better question is why the national media didn’t do in 2008 what Maraniss did in 2012 when the same little-known, little-experienced backbencher from Illinois decided he was ready for the Presidency.  While the media sent dozens of people to Wasilla to vet the GOP’s selection for Vice President and managed to dig up the fact that she had bought herself a used tanning bed, none of the national media outlets devoted any time to vet Obama at all, even to the extent of just checking on the stories Obama himself presented in Dreams.

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Given the nature of biographies and especially autobiographies, we shouldn’t be surprised to find exaggerations and convenient telescoping of events, or even full-on fiction in order to score political points

Speaking as a memoirist, that commonly-encountered assumption irritates me.

It’s true that a memoir is not a strictly objective recitation of facts. Minor details may occasionally be moved about for dramatic effect, and of course the point of view is the author’s. However, respectable examples of the genre (such as mine) pursue the truth, regardless of where the search may lead.

A lot of writers resent the less respectable examples, such as Three Cups of Tea, and of course Obama’s self-serving vehicles, because (a) they don’t necessarily have a whole lot in common with truth, and (b) because of their prominence, assumptions are made about the rest of us.

fatherspledge on June 18, 2012 at 4:47 PM

For comparison we might refer to the 2000 election when by the merest of coincidences three days before the election the story broke that Bush had received a DUI 25 years earlier. Oh the horror. Sad, but after the election some people actually admitted to changing their minds [?] about Bush because of it. You tell people what to think, plenty will think it. After all, it’s our media. Barf !

arand on June 18, 2012 at 4:53 PM

I am about 1/3 of the way through reading Radical-in-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism by Stanley Kurtz.
http://www.amazon.com/Radical-Chief-Barack-American-Socialism/dp/1439155089

Author Stanley Kurtz connects many dots and fills in gaps from Dreams From My Father to make a convincing case that President Obama is a true Socialist.

The book is chilling and very well researched.

I highly recommend that we all read Radical-in-Chief before the November election so we can explain to others why it is so important to vote President Obama out of office.

wren on June 18, 2012 at 4:58 PM

A lot of writers resent the less respectable examples, such as Three Cups of Tea, and of course Obama’s self-serving vehicles, because (a) they don’t necessarily have a whole lot in common with truth, and (b) because of their prominence, assumptions are made about the rest of us.

fatherspledge on June 18, 2012 at 4:47 PM

My thoughts too, on the acceptance of the prevalence of lies, and of their presumed efficacy. James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces” was in truth “A Million Little Lies”. Imagine a U.S. Grant memoir peppered with exaggerations, or “enhancements”, or composite characters. Artistry is a lie that tells the truth. The truth is a truth that tells the truth.

Paul-Cincy on June 18, 2012 at 5:05 PM

just how much should any of this surprise people?

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

The fact that it is a surprise to anyone is a disgraceful reflection on those who failed to inform themselves and the so-called journalists who did not merely fail to report the truth but actively and effectively suppressed the truth.

Even more damning is how many people will remain ignorant of the truth, because this story still isn’t going anywhere in the Flying Monkey Media, and too many people don’t bother to go any further for information.

novaculus on June 18, 2012 at 5:15 PM

Please beware of Bensmithing. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened.

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Journalism/2012/06/07/Art-Bensmithing-Obama-New-Party

3flynns.com on June 18, 2012 at 5:16 PM

James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces” was in truth “A Million Little Lies”.

In Frey’s case, my understanding is that he started out writing a novel, but his publisher told him to call it a memoir. He deferred to their judgment (figuring they were the experts on what would sell) and got hung out to dry when exposed.

There’s no question that something has to be interesting for people to read it. But if fact has to be twisted out of shape before it’s interesting, the word for what you now have is fiction.

fatherspledge on June 18, 2012 at 5:22 PM

Why didn’t Hillary investigate and put this info out?
Hillary is not as politcally saavy as they try to make her out to be.

And McCain – why didn’t he dig up this info?
(Because he was a lousy Presidential candidate.)

albill on June 18, 2012 at 5:26 PM

How reliable was Dreams From My Father as a biography and historical narrative?

Hey! Being “real” but fake is part of the Democratic experience. Just ask Joey “my Dad wasn’t really blue collar” Biden and Fauxahontas Warren.

GarandFan on June 18, 2012 at 5:49 PM

Can you imagine if Mitt Romney had a bio at a publishers site for, oh, 8 or 9 years which contained false info? The leftie media would be burning up the presses night and day. And if the publisher said, “Oops my bad,” can’t you just hear Romney being peppered by accusatory questions? You didn’t read your bio? Did the publisher just make up that false info…I mean if you didn’t give it to them, how did they come up with it? You never noticed that glaring error in 8 whole years? How come it was changed at the point you began running for election? Weren’t you using a lie to take advantage in this or that way?

How long do you think it will be before the leftie media makes public the same type of information regarding Romney that Obama paid lawyers to go into court and suppress?

limmo on June 18, 2012 at 5:57 PM

Wow, more breaking news today? I can’t take it. So what I heard was that the Obamabots-zombies-zealots-fawners-buttkissers all bought his shpiel and voted for him bcuz of what they read in Dreams from My Father and now it turns out, none of them actually read it? Duh! Just go read Jack Cashill’s Deconstructing Obama which was totally ignored in 2008 but it’s worth the read if you want a perspective on Obama, his lies and his fake autobiography.

stukinIL4now on June 18, 2012 at 6:11 PM

Why didn’t Hillary investigate and put this info out?
Hillary is not as politcally saavy as they try to make her out to be.

And McCain – why didn’t he dig up this info?
(Because he was a lousy Presidential candidate.)

albill on June 18, 2012 at 5:26 PM

No doubt the ‘fearless Clinton Machine’ was grossly oversold.

slickwillie2001 on June 18, 2012 at 6:43 PM

Her chief researcher was Judd Legum, currently with Think Regress.

narciso on June 18, 2012 at 7:27 PM

Barry Soetoro / Barack Obama is a COMPLETELY manufactured character designed to destroy our way of life and achieve an ultra radical agenda. From birth, his mother and a series of backers, mentors and enablers created this persona. His whole life and documentation are fudged and falsified with the execption of being born in Hawaii(no, I’m not a birther). Ayers penned the book/s to further this agenda. Who else and WHY would anyone have TWO autobiographies before he age of 50??? OBVIOUSLY agenda-driven. Barry/Barack Obama Soetoro IS the biggest and deepest and broadest conspiracy in the history of the world.

bob77 on June 18, 2012 at 4:27 PM

This far and no farther, eh?

cptacek on June 18, 2012 at 8:43 PM

I’ve read The Amateur and Where’s the BC.

A whole lot of reporters are gonna look like fools when his jig is up.

esnap on June 18, 2012 at 11:18 PM

Everything about this man is a lie and he adds more lies every day.

PJ Emeritus on June 19, 2012 at 10:49 AM

Experience continually reteaches me the fact that if a person will lie to you once, he’ll lie to you again, particularly when it will benefit him.

dahni on June 19, 2012 at 12:49 PM

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