By Bob Cesca: Oh to be President Obama and President Obama’s publisher. 17 years after the president’s autobiography Dreams From My Father was published and climbed to number one on the New York Times bestseller list, it appears to be enjoying a re-birth — almost as if people are just now learning that the book exists.
I’m sure they are.
You might recall how it was suddenly a newsflash for the Republicans to learn that President Obama tried some dog meat when he was a boy living in Indonesia. He wrote in Dreams From My Father that the meat was “tough.” Not surprising given that, while dogs are beloved companions in the U.S., dog meat is commonly eaten in that part of the world. Gross but true. It’s not like the president went around taking evil vampiric bites out of random dogs. His stepfather gave him some of the meat to eat, and, when you’re a kid, you eat what your parents tell you to eat.
This was a major story for a couple of days almost as if the revelation was brand new — or, worse, the president ate dogs last Tuesday. He didn’t, and it wasn’t. All of it was in the president’s 1995 autobiography.
But yesterday, it happened again. Another shocking and brand new revelation about the president.
Drudge carried the following block at the top of his site all day Wednesday:
Drudge’s links go to this item at Politico, with the headline: “Obama: ‘New York girlfriend’ was composite.”
David Maraniss, the president’s biographer, posted an excerpt of his work on the Vanity Fair website and (cutting to the chase) noted that a women the president dated, named “Genevieve” (and obviously before meeting the First Lady) was actually a composite character based on several girlfriends. There was also an incident involving an argument between the president and Genevieve following an African American comedy show in New York that didn’t specifically happen with Genevieve.
For anyone who’s surpassed an eighth grade education, the creation of composite events and characters, of course, is a commonly known literary technique in both non-fiction and fiction.
But the way it was presented was classic conspiracy-mongering. The president, it’s implied, lied about Genevieve in his book and we’re only finding out about it now. What else did he lie about?! WHAT?! Perhaps his religion? Perhaps his birth certificate? Sharia! Muslims! Communists!!!
As of 1 a.m. eastern time Thursday morning, Drudge still had these misleading headlines posted in the same spot, and late Wednesday he even added a classic photograph of the president while he was in college.
Here’s the catch.
Sometime after the Politico item was posted on Wednesday, the reporter Dylan Byers, added this:
UPDATE: In the reissue of “Dreams from My Father,” Obama writes in the introduction that “some of the characters that appear are composites of people I’ve known.”
So the apparent revelation about the existence of composite character in the book isn’t a revelation at all. The president made it perfectly clear in the reissue — but wait — it was only in the reissue. Which means, based on the UPDATE, perhaps he was attempting to lie in the initial printings of the book. Obviously it was part of his life-long scam to replace the Constitution with both Sharia Law and (conflictingly) the Christian teachings of Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Somehow.
But wait. There’s more. Byers added one more addition to his Politico story:
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this blog post stated that Obama had acknowledged using composite characters in the reissue. In fact, Obama acknowledged the use of composite characters in the first edition of the book.
So the composite character technique was noted in every edition of the book. Ever. Meaning, this whole thing isn’t news. Unless today is May 3, 1995.
I suppose for some people, it’d be totally rad if everything from 1995 was still relevant today. The Republicans and Newt Gingrich would still be investigating Whitewater and deciding whether to press charges against Hillary Clinton for obviously assassinating Vince Foster. Hootie and the Blowfish would still be popular. VHS tapes continue to rule the home video market while something called the “DVD” is only a dream. Marcel the Monkey would still be flinging poop at the cast of Friends. And the first African American editor of the Harvard Law Review will have just now released an autobiography called Dreams From My Father, in which he admits to eating dog meat and dating a composite woman named Genevieve. Stop the presses!
Maybe if the far-right had taken a look at what the president wrote in 1995, they’d answer their own conspiratorial questions about “the real Obama.” But I don’t think they care about the truth. Clearly Drudge was only interested in the original non-story rather than the clarifications that followed because, once again, a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. So, sadly, Drudge and his cohorts win.