One must also note that these truths offset some of the mythologizing carried out by Dinesh D’Souza, whose book The Roots of Obama’s Rage is based on accepting what Maraniss has now exposed as false. As Smith writes, “Obama’s conservative critics [have] taken the self-portrait at face value, and sought to deepen it to portray him as a leftist and a foreigner.” Certainly, while Obama was a leftist, I think Smith is correct when he says that Obama did not have a “foreign and strongly Muslim heritage.” Nor did he have “roots in the 20th Century’s self-consciously leftist anti-colonial struggle.”
Finally, Maraniss shows that Obama’s father, Barack Obama Sr., “sheds whatever sympathy his intelligence and squandered promise should carry.” He was a domestic abuser who beat his wives, one of whom got a sexually transmitted disease because of an extramarital relationship he had. Nor was Obama and his mother abandoned by the father when they were in Hawaii in 1963. Maraniss writes that his mother left Hawaii a year earlier than Barack Sr., and most likely did so because of spousal abuse.
Obama’s own friend “Ray,” discussed in the president’s memoir, was not as Obama wrote “a symbol of young blackness,” but was a man “half-Japanese, half-Native American, and part black,” like Obama himself. Nor was he Obama’s close friend. And they had no trouble dating white girls, unlike the claim made by Obama in his memoir. As one friend told Maraniss: “Everything didn’t revolve around race.”
Then there is “the oft-told story of [Obama’s mother’s] dying because of the failure of her health insurance company to pay for her cancer treatment [which] was a flat out lie.” Ann Dunham’s cancer treatments were in fact paid by insurance, although she had a separate and unrelated conflict about disability coverage. During the 2008 campaign Obama said the following:
For my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they’re saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don’t have to pay her treatment, there’s something fundamentally wrong about that.
Obama, Jonathan S. Tobin notes, knew this to be false, since he handled her insurance matters with the company. Yet he and the campaign regularly referred to this falsehood even though a buried story in the New York Times by Janny Scott revealed the truth. It was also repeated in a film about Obama narrated by Tom Hanks. Tobin writes: “Not only has the president never apologized for lying to the American people about his mother’s plight, he rightly assumed that even though the truth was uncovered by the New York Times, neither that paper nor the rest of the mainstream media would follow up on it as they undoubtedly would had a Republican ever tried to sell the voters such a transparent whopper.”
So the question remains, as more we didn’t know about Barack Obama comes out: what difference if any will it make in causing voters to reevaluate what they know about the president? What will come from this new record of fabrications concerning his own life, and uttered to score a political point about the need for universal health care?
Now that David Maraniss has reluctantly opened the door, will the press and other investigators do their best to carry out the kind of vetting about Barack Obama that did not take place in 2008? Let us hope that Maraniss’ work is only the beginning.