David Maraniss’ “Barack Obama: The Story” Pokes Worrisome Holes in President Obama’s Personal Narrative

David Maraniss' "Barack Obama: The Story" Pokes Worrisome Holes in President Obama's Personal Narrative

COMMENTARY:  The White House has a few reasons to be worried about David Maraniss’ new book, “Barack Obama: The Story,” and yes, Michelle Obama is one of those reasons, but that’s for a separate discussion. It seems odd, but not surprising from a publicity and sales perspective, that the book would be released June 19, ahead of the presidential election in November. I guess, David Maraniss is President Obama’s David, in the story of David vs. Goliath.  The fallout has started and we have now learned that Obama fabricated the story of his girlfriends in his memoir. You know, he said the girlfriend was a composite of all his girlfriends. Huh? In other words, the book seems to refute the self-portrait he skillfully wove for himself in 1995 with “Dreams of My Father.” I am taking a position that many in the black community would not dare take or even question Obama’s motives, but I believe this book is an eye-opener into the very essence of this man, who won us all over with the slogan, “change you can believe in.”

David Maraniss is a very credible source, having won a Pulitzer Prize (for his biography on Bill Clinton) and has a long and storied journalism career. You see, Maraniss, a former Washington Post reporter,  isn’t a Matt Drudge or Andrew Breitbart (legacy) looking the break the next scandal, but a biographer who aims to capture the essence of those whose lives he delves into, for insight and understanding of those subjects. He isn’t a hack looking for his 15 minutes of fame. On that basis, he can’t be dismissed. He shouldn’t.  The president is concerned about the backlash that could come from this book, so much so that he granted David Maraniss a 90-minute interview in the Oval Office. Yeah, he wanted to have his side of the story articulated to the nth degree. President Obama comes across as a control freak and this book would take him out of his comfort zone because he can’t control what is written and how it is received.

David Maraniss said, “I have done extensive research for all of his years leading up the White House and intend to write another volume, but not for many years — after more documents open up and the story of his presidency settles somewhat. I want to write for history, not for the moment.” Therein lies the problem the book will create for President Obama. He doesn’t want to be nailed down and that will take him off his message and force him to recenter himself.

I will be the first to admit, I drank the Obama Kool-Aid during the 2008 presidential campaign. I had initially supported Hillary Clinton because of what she represented to me and the familiarity with the Clinton legacy. But after the Iowa caucus, I started to take a second look at then-candidate Barack Obama. He masterfully weaved a fantasy that many believed in and hoped that their children could aspire to be just like him, from rags to riches. A story of defying the odds in a country that had such a horrific history of racial injustice and discrimination — first the Native American Indians and then blacks.

When former president Bill Clinton referred to his stance on the war as a fairy tale, it enraged many blacks because they thought he was being slighted because of his race.  Bill Clinton’s exact words were “Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I’ve ever seen.”  That comment marked the end of the “love affair” between the Clintons and the black community. During the 2008 Democratic primary, senior advisers to Hillary Clinton complained that they weren’t running against Barack Obama the guy. His record, policies and  résumé was awfully  thin and the fact that he could sustain a respectable candidacy was mindboggling and a “fairy tale.” They said, “We’re not running against a real person,” one of them said at the time. “We are running against a story.”

President Obama and his team put together a tremendously successful political marketing campaign in 2008, and we all fell in love with him. Many weak at the knees when he graced any stage. Young women went nuts, like “Obama Girl.” On a serious note, he served as a metaphor that America had finally become a post-racial society in which a man of mixed race and socioeconomic standing could become our president.  While I don’t think America is in the post-racial era, I do think he unified this country after he won the election. Momentarily.

David Maraniss’ new book may not be a game changer for the presidential election in terms of votes because Mitt Romney is at a deficit with women, youth, black and Hispanic voters. But it may change the way people view Barack Obama, the person. I find it somewhat disturbing and disquieting that President Obama couldn’t bear to tell his story about his early years as it was, not to use a composite sketch of the woman in his life — Genevieve Cook. He applied “personal compression” to his personal and political narrative. Shouldn’t people be a little unnerved by that revelation? He couldn’t bring himself to talk about the women, Genevieve Cook, Alex McNear and any other woman he had a relationship with before Michelle Obama,  but to create a narrative about them as he saw fit. Well, what else has he compressed in his journey through life?

Genevieve Cook wrote in her dairy on March 9, 1984, she had “a sense of you [Barack] biding your time and drawing others’ cards out of their hands for careful inspection — without giving too much of your own way — played with a good poker face. … I feel that you carefully filter everything in your mind and heart — legitimate, admirable, really. … But there’s something also there of smoothed veneer, of guardedness … I’m still left with this feeling of … a bit of a wall — the veil.” Um, that’s what we are left with and that’s why this book is worrisome to the White House. What else is behind that veil Mr. President?

“Barack Obama: The Story” Explores His Internal Struggles About Race, Girlfriends Genevieve Cook and Alex McNear

"Barack Obama: The Story" Explores His Internal Struggles About Race, Girlfriends Genevieve Cook and Alex McNear (Via breitbart)

I’m sure Michelle Obama won’t be too pleased to hear that her husband’s former girlfriend has just popped on the radar. Do we really need to have this “extra stuff” befuddle the issues?  Vanity Fair excerpts Barack Obama: The Story by David Maraniss:

“When Barack Obama met Genevieve Cook in 1983 at a Christmas party in New York’s East Village, it was the start of his most serious romance yet. But as the 22-year-old Columbia grad began to shape his future, he was also struggling with his identity: American or international? Black or white? Drawing on conversations with both Cook and the president, David Maraniss, in an adaptation from his new Obama biography, has the untold story of the couple’s time together.”

“He felt no attachment to Columbia or to the first jobs he landed after graduation. But it would be a misreading to say that he was tamping down his ambitions during that period. Just the opposite, in fact. If anything, his sense of destiny deepened. He was conducting an intense debate with himself over his past, pres­ent, and future, an internal struggle that he shared with only a few close friends, including his girlfriends, Alex McNear and Genevieve Cook, who kept a lasting rec­ord, one in letters, the other in her journal.”

Here’s an excerpt that will piss Michelle Obama off for sure:

“In her diary Ms Cook writes: ‘The sexual warmth is definitely there – but the rest of it has sharp edges and I’m finding it all unsettling and finding myself wanting to withdraw from it all..

‘…his warmth can be deceptive. Though he speaks sweet words and can be open and trusting, there is also that coolness – and I begin to have an inkling of some things about him that could get to me’.”


Washington Post Columnist David Maraniss Says Meteoric Rise of President Obama Due in Part to Luck

Washington Post:  “As with any successful politician, luck is often evident in the President Obama biography, and we are seeing it again this year. He began his presidency with so many seemingly intractable problems that the most trenchant assessment of his dilemma came from the satirical Onion headline “Black Man Given Nation’s Worst Job.” Yet now, how lucky for him that the Republican candidates maul one another in their frenzy to replace him. How fortuitous that they keep veering further right, giving the president the opportunity to seize the middle and possibly win back the persuadable voters who will decide this election.”

Is It Time to Bring Back Bill Clinton to Rail Against Egomaniac Newt Gingrich?

Bill Clinton and Abel Herrero

Is It Time to Bring Back Bill Clinton to Rail Against Egomaniac Newt Gingrich?(Flickr)

Washington Post columnist David Maraniss seems to think the Democrats need to bring back Bill Clinton to rail against egomaniac Newt Gingrich. The Drudge Report is running with David Maraniss’ column, as well as an article saying ‘Conservatives should not be surprised by scandals that lie ahead’ and R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.’s column in the New York Sun, entitled William Jefferson Gingrich, saying Newt Gingrich is the conservative version of Bill Clinton. Yeah, I know both Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich are narcissists, but I would take Bill any day of the week. At least he has personality.

David Maraniss:  “If Republicans, in their fervor to rid the White House of Barack Obama, are yet again experiencing The Temptation of Newt, then Democrats have only one illogically rational response in this modern American political hall of mirrors. They should bring back Bill Clinton.”

Of course, the law prohibits the Comeback Kid from coming back to serve a third term, and Obama might not go for it, but only old-school twits would let any of that get in the way. The Constitution and its amendments are so 18th, 19th and 20th century. The notion of persuading good ol’ Joe Biden to step aside in favor of Hillary as vice president is not sufficiently grandiose when it comes to going after Gingrich. As the former speaker his ownself might declare, Democrats frankly must unequivocally and eloquently undertake fundamental change so extraordinarily revolutionary that America will not be the same again.


Gingrich and Clinton share a propensity to think they are the smartest person in the room. When they were in rooms together, in the mid-1990s, Clinton dominated. He knew Gingrich’s vocabulary, he understood how to outwonk him, and the result was that the president mesmerized and overwhelmed the otherwise-cocky House speaker. “I’ve got a problem, I get in those meetings and as a person I like the President,” Gingrich acknowledged during the era, when I was reporting on the “Republican revolution” with my colleague Michael Weisskopf. “I melt when I’m around him. After I get out, I need two hours to detoxify. My people are nervous about me going in there because of the way I deal with this.”

Very interesting. But to be honest, no matter what you think of Bill Clinton, the man knows how to rally crowds and get people energized. So, while Newt Gingrich is taking all the credit for balancing the budget, the fall of the Soviet Union and so on, Bill Clinton can be a formidable weapon to draw.

Here’s an excerpt from Emmett Tyrrell Jr.’s column:

Newt and Bill are 1960s generation narcissists, and they share the same problems: waywardness and deviancy. Newt, like Bill, has a proclivity for girl hopping. It is not as egregious as Bill’s, but then Newt is not as drop-dead beautiful. His public record is already besmeared with tawdry divorces, and there are private encounters with the fair sex that doubtless will come out.

If I have heard of some, you can be sure the Democrats have heard of more. Nancy Pelosi’s intimations are timely. Newt up against the Prophet Obama would be a painful thing to watch. He might be deft with one-liners but it would be futile. There are independent and other uncommitted voters to be cultivated in 2012 — all would be unmoved by Newt’s juggling of conservative shibboleths.


Conservatives should not be surprised by the scandals that lie ahead, if they stick with him. Those of us, who raised the question of character in 1992, were confronted by an indignant Bill Clinton, treating the topic as a low blow. To listen to him, character was the “c” word of American politics. It was reprehensible to mention it. By now we know. Character matters. Paul, Santorum, and Romney have it. Newt has Clinton’s character.