Barack Obama, The Story — an extraordinarily detailed look at President Obama's early life by The Washington Post's David Maraniss — hit bookstores this week, and conservative critics say it's full of evidence that Obama fabricated important parts of his best-selling 1995 memoir, Dreams From My Father. Perhaps most notably, it seems Obama was less than honest about the death of his step-grandfather. (The president's claim that his relative was killed while fighting Dutch troops in Indonesia "was a concocted myth," Maraniss says. In reality, he died hanging drapes.) But while Obama certainly took liberties with the facts, Maraniss, who has already made plenty of headlines thanks to leaked passages about Obama's old girlfriends and stoner high-school friends, argues that there is nothing "venal" about Obama's memoir. Was Obama just employing creative license, or do the discrepancies call his honesty into question?
Maraniss has exposed Obama as a liar: Obama peddled his book "as autobiography, not literature," says Paul Mirengoff at Power Line. And let's face it: He lied. It doesn't matter if, as Maraniss says, the future president didn't trample the facts for personal gain. If Obama is willing to tell a whopper as big as the tall tale about his step-grandfather, I bet he'd be willing to say anything "in the name of racial politics."
"Who is Barack Obama and why has he been saying those untrue things about himself?"
Back off. These exaggerations are no big deal: The GOP says the embellishments Maraniss uncovered are definitive proof that Obama's memoir is a "load of you-know-what," says Jeremy Stahl at Slate. But the truth is, "these exaggerations are kind of boring." No matter which side you fall on, it "seems unlikely that anyone is going to be able to make political hay out of the hyperbole of a 17-year-old memoir when the American people's personal views of Obama are already so well-established."
"The hidden GOP talking points in Obama: The Story"
Actually, this could really hurt Obama: In the early '90s, Obama was considering a career as an author, says Michael D. Shear in The New York Times. Maraniss reckons that the young Obama probably just talked up his alienation and spiced up "mundane" details to give his personal story broader meaning. But like it or not, Obama's memoir has become the foundation of his political biography, and his critics will mine it for every damning word they can find. That's "the potential downside for politicians who document their lives as a way of introducing themselves to the American public."
"New book raises questions about Obama's memoir"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The U.S. Marines are developing laser weapons. Here's why.
- 3 horrific inaccuracies in Homeland's depiction of Islamabad
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Gamergate has backfired spectacularly on its nincompoop perpetrators
- Paul Krugman, Amazon, and the left's backwards view of book-industry titans
- Why the Supreme Court is allowing Texas to hold an unconstitutional election
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- Ban PowerPoint!
- How 1,000-year lifespans could remake the economy
Subscribe to the Week