Ed Driscoll

Dreams of My Composites

“Why it matters that Obama dated a composite and ate a dog,” as explored by Tim Stanley in the London Telegraph:

There was a brief media firestorm yesterday when Vanity Fair broke the news that Obama’s famous “New York girlfriend” was a fiction. She appears in his 1995 memoir, Dreams From My Father, described in some detail by her appearance, voice and mannerisms. But a new biography of Obama – with an excerpt published in Vanity Fair – “reveals” that she was actually an amalgam of several different women. Politico immediately ran with “Obama: ‘New York girlfriend’ was composite” and Drudge headlined with “Obama Admits Fabricating Girlfriend in a Memoir.” Coming hot on the heels of the news that the Pres once ate a dog, his weirdo factor seems to have hit the roof.

Actually, it turns out that Obama always said that his New York squeeze was a fake. Within a couple of hours of the story breaking, journalists pointed out that at the beginning of Dreams From My Father it reads, “For the sake of compression, some of the characters that appear are composites of people, I’ve known, and some events appear out of precise chronology.” Politico was forced to print a humiliating correction and David Graham of The Atlantic went in for the kill: “Politico has served as an unwitting pawn in a game conservative spinmeisters are playing to redefine Obama between now and November … It’s much the same as the flap over Obama eating dog, in which a different piece of Dreams From My Father, in which he describes eating canine meat as a boy in Indonesia, was rediscovered. While conservative activists and journalists present these stories while claiming that Obama wasn’t properly vetted four years ago, what’s actually happening is they’re reintroducing facts to the record, this time with a far more negative spin.”

Wow, they move fast at the Atlantic — on Sunday morning, Garance Franke-Ruta tweeted “My favorite DC/world disconnect at #WHCD dinner lst nite was when frmr politico now in NY asked why Obama kept talking about eating dogs.” Now another Atlantic scribe is claiming that everybody knows this stuff, it’s all old news — move along, these aren’t the dogs you were looking for. Why are we discussing the president’s past, anyhow?

But to answer the other half of his complaint, given how many members of the Politico were on the JournoList in 2008, that self-described “non-official campaign” to elect Obama, it’s a little late for anybody there to worry now about being used as pawns.

Fortunately, the Telegraph’s Stanley isn’t buying the spin from the American left:

I’m not sure. What stands out from the composite story isn’t that Obama amalgamated characters, it’s that the press hadn’t noticed until now. As with the dog story, this confirms the suspicion that the mainstream media gave Obama a free pass in 2008 and declined to check too deeply into his background. Even The Atlantic’s Graham admits that he’s never read Dreams From My Father, and neither, it would seem, has anyone else in the press corps. They have the excuse that the book is incredibly narcissistic and boring, but otherwise isn’t this exactly the sort of character assessment/assassination that should have happened four years ago?

Not at all. The American legacy media in general (and the Atlantic in particular, what with Michael Kelly sadly deceased and Mark Steyn traded in 2007 for Andrew Sullivan and draft choices to be named later) serves as a de facto extension of the DNC. Near the start of 2008, Democrats very quickly coalesced around the least experienced candidate to be their nominee, a man who described himself cheerfully as “a blank screen.”

Here’s a flashback to Real Clear Politics at the end of 2006, where Froma Harrop wrote that “Obama Scores as Exotic Who Says Nothing:”

What Obama really thinks should be done about health care and the terrorist threat remain secrets that his book does not unlock. His two years in the Senate certainly haven’t revealed any bold policy ideas.

This leave-them-guessing strategy slips out in the book’s prologue. “I serve as a blank screen,” Obama writes, “on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.” He notifies readers that “my treatment of the issues is often partial and incomplete.” It takes some doing for a politician to write a 364-page book, his second volume, and skate past all controversy.

Obama does seem to have an impressive resume and polish. And it’s not his fault that a mania for some new political face intrudes on every presidential election season. But one does wish, for the sake of democracy, that we could skip the crush and give less glamorous contenders who actually say something more of a hearing.

Any time now, fellas. A year later, the press had been given their marching orders, their job was to keep bad news about their man out  of circulation, keep him as a self described political chameleon — even at the expense of their reputations, even at the expense of selling newspapers or bolstering their TV ratings.

Back to the London Telegraph for Stanley conclusion:

That’s the significance of the canine and composite revelations – both of them, aside from their delightful “dish” factors, not really revelations at all. That we are only discussing them this late into Obama’s career suggests that the vetting that should have happened four years ago was unforgivably neglected. But, hey, it’s never too late to start.

I agree — but as we’ve seen, the MSM having vacated their job long ago, that’s largely the job of new media, not old.

Update: “Barack Obama, Sarong Man for America.”