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Ed Driscoll

Was Obama Himself the First Birther?

May 17th, 2012 - 1:02 pm

In case you haven’t seen it, here’s a screencap of the top of the Drudge Report as of the time of this post.  The link on the headline takes you to a post at Breitbart.com written by Joel B. Pollack and titled “The Vetting — Exclusive — Obama’s Literary Agent in 1991 Booklet: ‘Born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.’” The article itself begins with a “Note from Senior Management” that cautions the reader, “Andrew Breitbart was never a ‘Birther,’ and Breitbart News is a site that has never advocated the narrative of ‘Birtherism:’”

In fact, Andrew believed, as we do, that President Barack Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on August 4, 1961.

Yet Andrew also believed that the complicit mainstream media had refused to examine President Obama’s ideological past, or the carefully crafted persona he and his advisers had constructed for him.

It is for that reason that we launched “The Vetting,” an ongoing series in which we explore the ideological background of President Obama (and other presidential candidates)–not to re-litigate 2008, but because ideas and actions have consequences.

It is also in that spirit that we discovered, and now present, the booklet described below–one that includes a marketing pitch for a forthcoming book by a then-young, otherwise unknown former president of the Harvard Law Review.

It is evidence–not of the President’s foreign origin, but that Barack Obama’s public persona has perhaps been presented differently at different times.

The article goes on to note that “Breitbart News has obtained a promotional booklet produced in 1991 by Barack Obama’s then-literary agency, Acton & Dystel, which touts Obama as ‘born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.’”

Ace (who also reminds readers that he’s not a birther, either. For the record, neither are we) notes that Obama himself was likely the source of the copy in the screencap above, which is also presented in numerous other scans in the Brietbart.com article.

While it’s true that bios are often not written by the subject, the information in the bio must come from somewhere — and the obvious place to get such information is the subject himself.

I’ve been asked to write these myself — and in fact I owe someone one right now — and while they may be rewritten and edited, the guy asking you for the bio wants the basic information. He doesn’t want to go researching stuff which you can provide for him in 40 seconds.

So it seems very likely this came from Obama. Where else would Obama’s birthplace have come from? In 1991, Obama had not yet written his two (ahem) memoirs. He was not a famous man.

So, why did Obama say this?

Hey, it probably played well at the time, an early example of Jim Geraghty’s recurring theme that all of Obama’s statements have expiration dates on them. And so do Obama’s previous names, another way that he has altered the way he presented himself to the world at various times.

All of which dovetails into the question that Roger L. Simon asks at the Tatler: “Is Obama a Pathological Liar?”

We have always branded Bill Clinton a liar, at least about sex, and probably other things. But the amazing scoop by Breitbart.com today makes Obama one up on Bill. In all likelihood, the president will say that he never saw the information from his literary agents claiming he was born in Kenya. But as the author of 11 books, I can say that in EVERY instance that I have been published, I have seen such material in advance. It could be that Obama is the exception, but that is highly unlikely.

In other words, we have in the White House a man willing to bend his national identity for profit. Pretty cool! (He’s supposed to be cool, isn’t he? Well that’s as cool as it gets.)

Speaking of playing well during his college days, placing that 1991 bio into context also helps to explain what drives the Birthers, something that Mark Steyn discussed last year in his book After America:

With hindsight, this is what drove both the birthers and the countering cries of racism. Detractors and supporters alike were trying to explain something that was at first vaguely palpable and then became embarrassingly obvious: it’s not so much that he’s foreign to America, but that America is foreign to him. Outside the cloisters of Hyde Park and a few other enclaves, he doesn’t seem to get America. Not because he was born in Kenya or wherever, but because he’s the first president to be marinated his entire life in a post-modern, post-American cultural relativism. What’s worrying about Obama is not that he’s weird but that he’s so typical of much of the Eloi [Steyn's recurring H.G. Wells-inspired leitmotif in After America for the pampered elite -- Ed]; in that sense, his post-Americanness is all too American.

In both Chicago’s Ward Four, where the Obamas lived, and Ward Five, where they worked, 95 percent of electors voted Democrat in 2004. You would be hard put to find another constituency so committed to celebrating lack of diversity. Like most professional multiculturalists, Obama has passed his entire adulthood in a very narrow unicultural environment where your ideological worldview doesn’t depend on anything so tedious as actually viewing the world. The aforementioned Michael Ignatieff, who actually has viewed the world, gets close to the psychology in his response to criticisms of him for spending so much time abroad. Deploring such “provincialism,” he replied: “They say it makes me less of a Canadian. It makes me more of a Canadian.”

And how better to sound cool and exotic to Harvard’s professors (many of whom likely share the same punitive liberal worldview of America that Obama has marinated in much of his life) than to claim you weren’t born in America?

Related: At the Tatler, Myra Adams links to the Breitbart post and asks, “It is only May. Can you imagine what the October presidential campaign will look like?”

I hope for their sake that the Romney camp has.

Update: At Hot Air, Allahpundit adds:

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.

Read the whole thing. And then click back over to Breitbart.com, where Ben Shapiro notes, “Obama’s Lit Agency Used ‘Born in Kenya’ Bio Until 2007″:

According to archive.org, a website that caches websites on a regular basis, [AKA The Internet Archieve Wayback Machine -- Ed] the Dystel.com website – the official website for Dystel & Goderich, Obama’s literary agents – was using the Barack Obama “born in Kenya” language until April 2007, just two months after then-Senator Obama declared his campaign for the presidency.

Here’s a screencap we made of the Dystel.com client list that the Wayback machine captured in April of 2007 lest it disappears; we’ve scrolled down to the relevant entry; click to enlarge:

Shapiro writes that apparently, sometime later in April of 2007, Obama’s bio at Dystel was revised to state that he was born in Hawaii. Speaking of the Wayback Machine, a commenter at Hot Air links to a 2004 Associated Press article archived there from the Nairobi-Kenya Standard and notes, “This has been around for a long time. But most people assumed it was a one-off error: Kenyan-born Obama all set for US Senate.” Here’s its lede:

Kenyan-born US Senate hopeful, Barrack Obama, appeared set to take over the Illinois Senate seat after his main rival, Jack Ryan, dropped out of the race on Friday night amid a furor over lurid sex club allegations.

Snopes, the left-leaning veteran fact-checking Website has a 2009 article debunking this article; one can only imagine how crazy they’re going there today.

Similarly, Obama’s former literary agent has decided to do one last bit of damage control today for her old client:

Miriam Goderich issued the following 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.”

But one they kept making for 16 years. Still though, nice of Goderich to take the fall herself. As Mark Steyn likes to quip:

When the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan dumped some of his closest cabinet colleagues to extricate himself from a political crisis, the Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe responded: “Greater love hath no man than to lay down his friends for his life.”

And the wheels of the bus go ’round and ’round.

More: Vindication for Jack Cashill, who believes that Bill Ayers wrote Dreams From My Father? Roger adds his his video interview today with Cashill to discuss these latest revelations to his Tatler post:

YouTube Preview Image

Related: Jim Treacher squares the circle: “Obama wasn’t born in Kenya, except when he claims he was born in Kenya:”

Either Obama was born in Kenya or he wasn’t. I remain skeptical that he was. The question is, then: Why did he claim to be? What advantage did he think it gave him at the time?

Maybe Elizabeth Warren can tell us…

To coin a popular Blogospheric phrase, heh.

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