We got a bunch of excited e-mails when this story broke an hour or so ago, my favorite of which was this (in its entirety):
why are you blacking out BRIETBART SCOOP of OBAMA KENYA PAMPHLET ???????
The terrible truth: Ed already had a few posts queued up and my shift hadn’t started yet so not until now could the “blackout” be lifted. I suspect that e-mail is typical, though, of the enthusiasm with which Birthers will greet this news, even though Joel Pollak’s perfectly clear in his piece that he accepts that O was born in Honolulu. Key bit:
[Obama’s then-agent Jay] Acton, who spoke to Breitbart News by telephone, confirmed precise details of the booklet and said that it cost the agency tens of thousands of dollars to produce.
He indicated that while “almost nobody” wrote his or her own biography, the non-athletes in the booklet, whom “the agents deal[t] with on a daily basis,” were “probably” approached to approve the text as presented…
The errant Obama biography in the Acton & Dystel booklet does not contradict the authenticity of Obama’s birth certificate. Moreover, several contemporaneous accounts of Obama’s background describe Obama as having been born in Hawaii.
The biography does, however, fit a pattern in which Obama–or the people representing and supporting him–manipulate his public persona.
The point, as Pollak explains, isn’t that the Kenya detail should be taken at face value but rather that it’s another case of Obama, who once famously described himself as a “blank slate” for voters, re-inventing his identity for professional gain. An author born in colonial Kenya sounds more worldly at first blush than one born in Honolulu, just as a law professor who’s 1/32 Cherokee sounds more in tune with the minority experience in America than a white woman from Oklahoma. Beyond that, though, this is a story about the media: I’d bet cash money that some reporter somewhere stumbled upon this booklet in years past and politely suppressed the info rather than do the journalist’s job of asking questions and finding out why the mistake in the booklet was made. The alternative, that the media was so uninterested in O’s background that they never checked his professional listings, is grimly possible, but I’m skeptical. I think this is a case where someone probably heard about the booklet and ignored it in order to play gatekeeper so that the Birthers couldn’t exploit the information. That’s what the press has come to when the subject is Obama’s background. (See also the point-and-sputter reaction online this morning at the unfathomable possibility of a Rev. Wright attack ad.) If you doubt that I’m right, sit back and watch the screeching to which Pollak and the Breitbart crew will now be subjected even though no one’s questioned their findings and they’ve dismissed repeatedly the beliefs of the Birthers who’ll make hay of this. The only “responsible” approach to this info, we’ll be told, is to suppress it.
As icing on the cake, here’s AB himself dismissing the Birthers on Joy Behar’s show last year. Click the image to watch and skip to 4:30. Exit question: Did Obama’s booklet bio really list him as “a financial journalist and editor for Business International Corporation”? I’d like to hear more about that career.
Update (Ed): Also, I have to stop writing at a certain point to prepare for my show. I did see this, but figured AP would have more time and write a more thorough post than I could at that point — and I was right. I did discuss the story on my show, with Kerry Picket of the Washington Times.
Update (Allahpundit): Miriam Goderich, who helped represent Obama at the same literary agency, issued this statement to Political Wire:
“You’re undoubtedly aware of the brouhaha stirred up by Breitbart about the erroneous statement in a client list Acton & Dystel published in 1991 (for circulation within the publishing industry only) that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. This was nothing more than a fact checking error by me — an agency assistant at the time. There was never any information given to us by Obama in any of his correspondence or other communications suggesting in any way that he was born in Kenya and not Hawaii. I hope you can communicate to your readers that this was a simple mistake and nothing more.”