Ten Things We Learn and Should Have Learned from Maraniss's Obama Book

Sometime the media makes a mistake and accidentally reveals too much. Take a gander at these truths we learn--and some we didn't--from David Maraniss's book, Barack Obama: The Story.

1. He told classmates he was an Indonesian prince. “His grandfather [Stanley] had told strangers that the boy was a descendant of ali ‘i, native Hawaiian royalty. In Obama’s later memoir, he recalled boasting at Punahou that his father was an African prince. Some classmates remembered it differently, that first he claimed his father was an Indonesian prince” (p. 268).

2. Far from the poverty that Obama describes in Dreams, Obama hobnobbed with rich Indonesians. “Barry’s new classmates [at Besuki School in Indonesia] included the sons and daughters of lawyers, bankers, doctors, members of Parliament, and government officials” (p. 235). While his home may have been modest, his education in Indonesia certainly wasn't. 

3. Everyone, including the now-Governor of Hawaii, acknowledges that Obama got into Punahou in large part because he was black and connected. Obama writes that he got in thanks to Gramps’ boss. “My first experience with affirmative action, it seems, had little to do with race,” Obama wrote in Dreams, p. 87). But Maraniss delivers a more detailed picture:

Based on his background alone the boy "never would have gotten into Punahou—not in a million years," said Neil Abercrombie [current governor of Hawaii, friend of Barack Obama Sr.]… But Barry made the select cut when more than nine out of ten applicants could not. He got in due to several converging factors, including the persistence of his mother, who was tireless at working the system, even from afar; his own winning performance during interviews with the admissions office; a need-based scholarship program that has begun targeting students of his potential and diverse background; and the influence of two wealthy alumni. [p. 265, emphasis added]

It would appear that race was a factor--at least a partial one.

4. Maraniss says ‘Pop,’ a poem that Obama wrote for Occidental’s literary magazine, was about Frank Marshall Davis. This revelation comes two years after Jack Cashill wrote about it (p. 382).

5. Maraniss’s description of Frank Marshall Davis is laughable. He writes of FMD: “already approaching seventy, a black journalist, poet, civil rights activist, political leftist, jazz expert, and self-described 'confirmed nonconformist' who wore a gold earning in his pierced right ear and had been under surveillance by the Honolulu bureau of the FBI because of his past associations with the Communist Party" (p. 270). In fact, thanks to Paul Kengor’s indispensable book, The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, we know that he was an unrepentant Marxist who continued to peddle his ideology well into his eighties.

6. Maraniss has contempt for those of us who want to vet the president even when his profession won’t, calling us “strange armies of ideological pseudohistorians” who “roam the biographical fields in search of stray ammunition” (p. xxiii).

7. Even when he was young, Obama knew the power of manipulation with words. In his English class at the prestigious Punahou School, the discussion turned to what people should most fear. “The answers included loneliness, death, hell, and war. Then Barry straightened up… ‘Words,’ he said. ‘Words are the power to be feared most... Whether directed personally or internationally, words can be weapons of destruction’” (p. 300).

8. How did Obama get into Columbia, anyways? Obama’s grade point average was a “B-plus” at Occidental. Maraniss gives no indication of whether that was a good or bad grade point average at that particular school. He doesn’t take up seriously the question of whether or not Obama got into Columbia without revealing his grades at all. Worse yet, he charges racism against those of us who ask for empirical evidence (i.e. his grades or test scores) that Obama is a genius.

9. The strange case of Obama’s admittance to Columbia. “He and Boerner [his room mate] and Kofi Manu, acting independently but aware of each other’s decisions, had filled out applications to transfer to Columbia in New York” (p. 385).  But Obama claims in Dreams that he applied through a “transfer program that Occidental had arranged with Columbia University.” Breitbart News has debunked the existence of such a transfer program. Why didn’t Maraniss explain?

10. Maraniss ignores the politics of the Black Students Organization, who were well known on campus for being radical. In fact, photographic evidence from Obama's time shows five members of the black students organization raising their fists in the famous gesture of black power: the raised fist in the air." This photo in and of itself wouldn't be so revealing, but together with Obama's later relationship with the controversial Reverend Jeremiah Wright, and the former terrorist Bill Ayers, it fits a pattern.


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