Obama's truthiness
The truth must be bent to show that it’s somebody else’s fault.

White House/Pete Souza

President Barack Obama participates in an interview with Robin Roberts of ABC's Good Morning America, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, May 9, 2012.

Article Highlights

  • “Obama was supposed to be different. He was a 'lightworker,' an ocean tamer and cynicism slayer.” @JonahNRO

    Tweet This

  • “When things go wrong for the young Barack, the truth must be bent to show that it’s somebody else’s fault.” @JonahNRO

    Tweet This

  • Michelle Obama once said that the nomination of her husband was the first time in her adult life she was proud of America.

    Tweet This

It’s becoming increasingly clear that President Obama is not burdened with too heavy a commitment to honesty.

This is hardly a shock about any politician, but revelations of dishonesty hurt some more than others. Announce that Bill Clinton has been speaking falsely, and it hits the ears with as much force as the news that birds fly, fish swim, and dogs lick their own nether regions. 

But Obama was supposed to be different. He was a “lightworker,” an ocean tamer, and cynicism slayer. In short, he was supposed to be too good to be true — and it turns out he was.

That’s one obvious conclusion to be drawn from the all-too-delayed vetting of the president’s biography, most notably in David Maraniss’s aptly titled new book, Barack Obama: The Story, but also at news outlets such as National Review Online and Big Journalism.

Obama has been less than honest about many things. Some of his biggest distortions should be the subject of sustained soul searching on the part of the media. For instance, as New York Times reporter Janny Scott first reported over a year ago, Obama lied about his cancer-stricken mother being denied coverage for her preexisting condition. Yes, he was close to the Reverend Jeremiah Wright and former terrorist Bill Ayers. Yes, he was a member of the socialist New Party (as my National Review colleague Stanley Kurtz has documented).

In the spirit of charity, some of the lies can be chalked up, at least in part, to fanciful family narratives. Obama claims his maternal grandfather fought in Patton’s army and liberated Nazi death camps. He says his paternal grandfather was tortured by the British imperialists in Kenya. He’s claimed his Indonesian step-grandfather was killed by the Dutch while fighting for independence. None of that is true.

What I find more interesting are the lies Obama tells not so much about himself, but about society. In Dreams from My Father, Obama tells readers that he struggled with racism and racial alienation all his life. He wasn’t a starter on his high-school basketball team because he played “black” while his coach coached “white.” He confabulated a black friend in high school who, like himself, was shunned for racial reasons. He wrote of a “big fight” with a white ex-girlfriend who, after seeing a racially charged play, “started talking about why black people were so angry all the time.”

As Maraniss methodically shows, these and other tales of racial woe were false. His coach didn’t start him because he wasn’t good enough to start. His friend in high school was half-Japanese, not black, and neither of them was racially ostracized. The girlfriend, Genevieve Cook, never saw the play and never said anything of the sort. And so on.

The Barack Obama who wrote Dreams from My Father probably never dreamed of becoming president of the United States. That man was a product of campus culture — at Harvard, Columbia, and the University of Chicago — and his vignettes of racial struggle were in some respects the coin of his realm. Later, when he entered the national political scene, he discovered this currency was accepted by much of the mainstream media as well.

No doubt Obama experienced racial animosity in his life, but not enough to fill a memoir with true examples. No doubt life had been unfair to him, but not so unfair as to keep him from Harvard, the Senate, or the White House. He has lived a charmed life in almost every regard, but the truth is not as compelling as the legend.

The lies, the self-made myths, and the whole gestalt of the Obama story as told by Obama and his fans boil down to a man who has struggled with adversity and proven himself better than the society that spawned him. In effect, we don’t deserve Barack Obama. Perhaps this helps explain why Michelle Obama once said that the impending nomination of her husband was the first time in her adult life she was proud of America.

One pattern holds from beginning to end of the tale: When things go wrong for the young Barack, the truth must be bent to show that it’s somebody else’s fault. Young Barry Obama had the right stuff as a basketball player but was denied by the smallness of his coach’s vision. Older Barack Obama, likewise, has the right stuff, but voters, or the Republicans, or maybe the Europeans, are too small to recognize his greatness. The truth of the matter has nothing to do with it.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Jonah
Goldberg

What's new on AEI

AEI Election Watch 2014: What will happen and why it matters
image A nation divided by marriage
image Teaching reform
image Socialist party pushing $20 minimum wage defends $13-an-hour job listing
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 27
    MON
  • 28
    TUE
  • 29
    WED
  • 30
    THU
  • 31
    FRI
Monday, October 27, 2014 | 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
State income taxes and the Supreme Court: Maryland Comptroller v. Wynne

Please join AEI for a panel discussion exploring these and other questions about this crucial case.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 | 9:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
For richer, for poorer: How family structures economic success in America

Join Lerman, Wilcox, and a group of distinguished scholars and commentators for the release of Lerman and Wilcox’s report, which examines the relationships among and policy implications of marriage, family structure, and economic success in America.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 | 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
The 7 deadly virtues: 18 conservative writers on why the virtuous life is funny as hell

Please join AEI for a book forum moderated by Last and featuring five of these leading conservative voices. By the time the forum is over, attendees may be on their way to discovering an entirely different — and better — moral universe.

Thursday, October 30, 2014 | 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
A nuclear deal with Iran? Weighing the possibilities

Join us, as experts discuss their predictions for whether the United States will strike a nuclear deal with Iran ahead of the November 24 deadline, and the repercussions of the possible outcomes.

Thursday, October 30, 2014 | 5:00 p.m. – 6:15 p.m.
The forgotten depression — 1921: The crash that cured itself

Please join Author James Grant and AEI senior economists for a discussion about Grant's book, "The Forgotten Depression: 1921: The Crash That Cured Itself" (Simon & Schuster, 2014).

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.