Remember the birther craze, based on the notion that Barack Obama was really born in Africa, and was therefore ineligible for the Presidency? Well, it’s back, baby — in mutant form.
Someone found an old agency promo booklet for Obama’s first, never-published book. The bio described him as “born in Kenya.”
As most non-insane articles that refer to Obama’s birthplace — including the first New York Times story on him, written in 1990 — say it’s Hawaii, you’d imagine normal people would find this just an amusing birther-ific coincidence.
But our subjects, the rightbloggers, are not like normal people. Their reaction has spawned afterbirtherism — in which Obama is attacked, not for pretending to be from America, but for pretending to be from Kenya.Old-school birtherism, which for a time had most Republicans believing the President was foreign born, was dampened somewhat by Obama’s public release of his birth certificate in April 2011 — though some of the brethren still couldn’t let it go, and the legend persists in birther redoubts nationwide, such as the Arizona Secretary of State’s office.
But last week Joel B. Pollak of Bretbart’s Big Government revealed agency press materials from 1991 that said Obama was “born in Kenya.”
“The errant Obama biography in the Acton & Dystel booklet does not contradict the authenticity of Obama’s birth certificate,” allowed Pollak. “…the biography does, however, fit a pattern in which Obama — or the people representing and supporting him –manipulate his public persona.”
And suddenly this brief, 21-year-old reference became the hottest subject in rightbloggerdom.
“So it looks like the main source of the idea that Barack Obama was born in Kenya was: Barack Obama?” asked Yes But However. “So the source of the confusion is Obama and his promoters themselves,” declared My Pet Jawa. “Oh what a tangled web we weave,” poeticized The Camp of the Saints. “HOLY CRAP!” observed The Right Scoop.
“So the lunatic theory that Barack Obama doesn’t meet the minimum eligibility requirements to be president of the United States was first advanced by Barack Obama’s official representative,” said Mark Steyn at National Review.
Clayton Cramer ran in with more proof: He’d found “a number of items that refer to Obama as born in Kenya,” he announced: “Press releases from the Kenyan government; Kenyan Parliamentary debates; [Kenyan] newspaper accounts from when he was assured of election to the U.S. Senate (and having an African-born U.S. Senator was a big deal) and after he was elected President.” That the Obama propaganda machine managed to get these stories planted in Africa just shows how wide the conspiracy spreads.
Some of the brethren simultaneously shook their fists at the derelict media, who had not previously uncovered this bombshell.
“One of the great oddnesses of the 2008 campaign was the code of omerta enforced by the the legacy media about anything having to do with Obama’s past,” claimed Roger Kimball. “Where was he born? Don’t know, don’t care.” And look at the result — America wound up electing a man who was actually born in Hawaii!
“I’d bet cash money,” said Allahpundit at Hot Air, “that some reporter somewhere stumbled upon this booklet in years past and politely suppressed the info rather than do the journalist’s job of asking questions and finding out why the mistake in the booklet was made.”
One might just as well ask why the conservative media, which despises Obama, couldn’t stir itself to find this important evidence any sooner than last week. Maybe they were too busy looking for people whose dogs had been eaten by Obama.
Eventually the assistant publicist who wrote the item in 1991 emerged to explain that she had made a “fact checking error.” Rightbloggers were dismissive. “Not good enough,” snorted The Right Sphere. “Who gave her the ‘fact’ she failed to check? There was no google or wikipedia back in 1991.” (Say, that reminds us — where did people get bullshit from before the internet?)
But Steve Boman of Breitbart’s Big Government had a better answer: “DYSTEL & GODERICH ASK WRITERS TO SUBMIT THEIR OWN BIOS.” As such an iron-clad system admits no errors, clearly the publicist was lying; maybe Obama has her kids tied up somewhere.
Also, Drew Zahn of WorldNetDaily learned via the Wayback Machine that the erroneous attribution remained among the agency’s active web files until 2007 — which he interpreted as “SHOCKER! OBAMA STILL ‘KENYAN-BORN’ IN 2007.”
Keep in mind that in 2007 Obama had been a U.S. Senator for two years, and was actively running for President — which office he would have been ineligible to assume if he were really a Kenyan, making the idea that he was purposely allowing himself to be portrayed that way even more absurd.
Yet Michael Laprarie of Wizbang found this story persuasive. “So for sixteen years he was comfortable with his former literary agent proudly showcasing his Kenyan ancestry, ” said Laprarie, “fudged by a false claim to native Kenyan birth, as part of their commitment to diversity.”
“We also now know that for sixteen years, [Obama’s] literary agent circulated a bio that said he was born in Kenya,” agreed John Hinderaker of Power Line. “That statement must have come from Obama himself; or, at a bare minimum, it certainly was known to him.”
“It apparently was an error Obama allowed his publicist to persist in for over a decade, right until after he was running for president,” said Israpundit.
Maybe we’re missing the big picture here. Maybe Obama kept up the born-in-Kenya story until his Presidential campaign team polled it and found it was a loser in swing states, whereupon he abandoned it. That’s how devious he is!
“As for Obama, the vetting continues,” claimed Tim Stanley of the UK Telegraph, “and Republicans have yet more to play with – with the focus, sadly, once more on race.” (The affectation of regret for the racial component is doubly hilarious when you consider that Stanley is Pat Buchanan’s biographer.)
Having decided Obama was telling the world, via disused press materials, that he was foreign-born through most of his political career, rightbloggers had to figure out why he, or anyone in his position, would do such a thing.
The Wall Street Journal‘s James Taranto suggested, “one innocent possibility” — “innocent”! That’s how the pros do it, folks — “is that the young Obama himself was for a time under the misapprehension that he was born in Kenya.” Taranto also challenged the memory of the agency writer: “The statement that it was a ‘fact-checking error’ begs the question,” he said: “What was the source of the false information about his birthplace? (A 1990 New York Times story about Obama’s election to the law review could have been the source of the error about his father’s position, but it correctly identified his birthplace as Hawaii.)”
After Taranto thus cited the long and widespread understanding that Obama was not born in Kenya as proof that Obama was publicizing himself as born in Kenya, you’d think the less exalted members of the rightblogger community would have nothing left to offer. But some of them were spurred to creativity.
Melissa Clouthier channeled young Obama, interpreting him as a “hippie kid” whose father was “some Kenyan big wig” and his mom “a self-important sociologist.” “You are a mixed race kid on Hawaii in the sixties,” murmured Clouthier, presumably while gazing into a crystal ball or a public access cable camera, “which is not a big deal because everyone has Hawaiian blood and has mocha skin… You are relatively wealthy and end up at a prep school with other wealthy kids. You have to justify your existence.” Thus, naturally, “you lie,” said Clouthier. “….You pretend you’re part of the victim class.” (At the time of the press booklet, we remind readers, Obama had been president of the Harvard Law Review, and was about to become an Illinois State Senator.)
“How better to sound cool and exotic to Harvard’s professors (many of whom likely share the same punitive liberal worldview of America that Obama has marinated in much of his life) than to claim you weren’t born in America?” imagined Ed Driscoll.
“But why would he choose to do that?” mused Roger L. Simon. “Well, maybe for a grant, a subvention, a scholarship that was available uniquely to students from Africa or similar locales. Yes, I know that’s not ‘fair’…” (It’s also not ‘supported by any evidence.’)
“Have you ever noticed how some white Americans go all giddy around some pompous ass with a British accent?” said Rosslyn Smith at The American Thinker. “I suspect that in the late 1980s Obama saw that some Chicago blacks acted the same way around educated black African immigrants.”
Huh? “It was during this period,” Smith explained, “that those like Jesse Jackson were pushing to have the collective moniker ‘African American’ replace ‘black’ in polite circles, and all things genuinely African were golden. An African birth would be the in thing on Chicago’s South Side, where Obama was fashioning his political future.”
Maybe Smith was actually thinking about the 1970s, when “Roots” came out — or the 1960s, when people wore dashikis. Or maybe she just heard about some black people with African-sounding names, and absorbed it into her library of stereotypes.
Smith then told a story about a South African black guy whom Carol Moseley Braun hired as an advisor. Since he turned out to be no good, Smith decided he had only been hired because Braun is “one of those Chicago Blacks who went weak in the knees around a genuine African.”
Rightblogger world roiled with the story for days — yet, for the most part, regular newspapers and TV shows, even the wingnuttier ones, didn’t take it seriously. You may think that’s because the story is self-evidently ridiculous. But to Breitbart’s Ben Shapiro, it meant, “MEDIA WORKS TO SUPPRESS OBAMA ‘BORN IN KENYA’ BIO.” Other rightbloggers bitterly concurred.
“Obama Gets Pass on Kenya from Democrat-Media-Complex,” declared Donald Douglas of American Power. “The Obamas have long played up Barack’s Kenyan heritage, and obviously there’s more to the literary press release than the Democrat-Media-Complex is letting on.”
“The masthead of the papers should be changed to include the Obama Zero, as should the icons of the Big Three,” snarled Nova Town Hall. “Is this the final nail in the coffin of the big-media impartiality lie?”
“Fox, CNN, NBC, CBS, N.Y. Times missing in action,” cried WorldNetDaily. Gasp! Not Fox, too! “A Google search today of reports on the story found Fox News conspicuous in its absence,” WND said. They’re all in on it!
“Establishment media abroad seemed far more interested in the background of Obama than American reporters,” WND added.
Well of course they are — they think Americans are crazy, and this story appears to confirm it.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 20, 2012