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Who Is Barack Obama? The Question that Won’t Go Away

May 19th, 2012 - 4:46 am

So now Chris Matthews isn’t the only one experiencing a little thrill when he thinks about Barack (omit middle name) Obama. The recent revelation that from the early 1990s until the day before yesterday—or, to be more accurate, until Obama made his decision to run for president—a biographical pamphlet circulated by his literary agents described him as having been “born in Kenya” has been setting the world of Twitter atwitter.

What should we think about that? An agency spokesman who claims to have been responsible for the “born in Kenya” wheeze has publicly said that it was a mistake, a typographical error, a slip of the pen that just went “unchecked” for, um, sixteen-seventeen years. I can understand that. She meant to write “Hawaii” and wrote “Kenya” instead. Could happen to anyone. They look and sound enough alike, don’t they,  that no one noticed. You meant to write “there” and you wrote “their” instead. You meant to write “cup” and you wrote “floccinaucinihilipilification” instead. No one—no one at the literary agency, not the author himself—could be expected to notice. You understand that, right?

Well, maybe that is an unprofitable line of inquiry. However it happened, the take-away here is not that Obama was really born in Kenya.  As my friend Roger Simon points out in “The Mystery of the Kenyan Birth,” the noteworthy thing is that it is one more puff in the cloud of unknowing that surrounds the president.

It’s been pretty foggy in those precincts for some time.  During the 2008 campaign, many of us asked the question: “Who is Barack Obama?” It wasn’t a question that Obama’s official PR firms—The New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, etc.–were interested in, no sirree, but it was a question that some of us pajamas-wearing-bitter-enders asked ourselves when we weren’t snake handling or nuzzling our firearms.

It’s a question that has recurred as more and more pieces of the Obama jigsaw puzzle have worked their way loose and exposed little gaps or fissures in the story.  The most recent one concerned Ms. Composite, the girlfriend who didn’t exactly exist.  But there have been other revelations, or, rather, revelations of non-revelation. Turns out the book filed under “Autobiography” ought to have been filed under “Teen Fantasy,” “Mystery,” or some other rubric in the fiction section.

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