This is because Maraniss writes that the very next morning — New Year’s Day, 1981 — Obama and his Pakistani friends all drove back to Los Angeles. Curiously, Maraniss does not indicate if there were one or only two vehicles involved, saying only that Obama joined Chandoo, Siddiqi, and at least two other individuals for the drive back to Los Angeles. This implies, perhaps, that Obama left his car in the San Francisco area or that the two cars returned to Los Angeles somewhat simultaneously as a tight NASCAR team. Given the great distance between Los Angeles and San Francisco, I think most readers will find it highly implausible that anyone would drive to San Francisco for a one-night party and then drive all the way back to Los Angeles the very next day. In comparison to Maraniss’s account, I think that my report that Obama and Chandoo were traveling together makes a lot more sense. To Maraniss’s credit, however, I do vaguely remember that Obama and Chandoo left after our debate concluded so they could meet up with some other people in the Bay area — perhaps this is how Obama first encountered Siddiqi.
In my mind, it is hard to know for sure what happened here. On the one hand, my best theory is that the last thing Maraniss wanted to do was to verify that young Obama was in the San Francisco area over Christmas break 1980.
Since my take on young Obama’s ideological extremism has been published elsewhere, I suspect it pained Maraniss to give it any credence at all. Given Siddiqi’s comments, however, there was no way Maraniss could pretend Obama was in Pasadena over Christmas break without having Siddiqi and Obama sharing the same bed. Maraniss, a life-long pragmatic centrist, thus sought to lessen the damage to Obama’s reputation by separating Obama and Chandoo as travelling companions. Through this device Maraniss probably sought to give Obama a greater opportunity to avoid confronting my testimony — even as Maraniss confirmed one of my story’s most important and most telling details.
On the other hand, maybe Maraniss just made a mistake.