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Ron Radosh

Poor David Maraniss. The best-selling biographer of the just published Barack Obama: The Story is not only crying all the way to the bank, but also shedding crocodile tears that his new biography is giving the Right ammunition against the president. Yesterday, Maraniss told CNN’s Soledad O’Brien the following on Starting Point:

I’m not writing it as a fact-checker. I’m writing it as an historian. Other people for ideological reasons are pouncing on that part of what my book is, but in fact I’m trying to tell the truth.

A memoir is far different from rigorous factual biography. It’s not as though I’m trying to say, aha, I got you, at each point, I’m just trying to present the way I really found it, which in many cases was different from what he presented.

Let me pause to parse the above paragraph from the distinguished journalist and historian. Here is my translation of what Maraniss is actually saying:

My book has been taken up by Obama’s enemies just because I told the truth. Give the president a break. He was writing a memoir, and everyone knows a memoir is different from the truth, since Obama is the first post-modern president. His memoir was his truth — even though it wasn’t true, it was to him. I didn’t mean to show he lied — pardon me — unintentionally fabricated his own story. I only sought to show the truth was different than he said it was.

Get it now? If you don’t, Maraniss also said on the program that Obama sought to write it through the “prism of race.” He went on to note that the “right-wing” is “cherry-picking” negative things in the book, which “is almost why I didn’t want to write it.” As he went on, he got deeper into the problem:

He wrote it when he wasn’t running for president, and had no thought that people like me would come along and tell the real story.

So what is the real story? Fortunately, Buzzfeed has given us a good summary. The Maraniss bio, Ben Smith tells us, “is the first sustained challenge to Obama’s control over his own story, a firm and occasionally brutal debunking of Obama’s bestselling 1995 memoir Dreams from My Father.” And this is important because I and so many others can tell you about how many people voted for and supported Obama for president precisely because of what he related in his own memoir.

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