Every scandal that severely damages a politician starts with a lie. Watergate wasn’t about a break-in; it was about President Nixon’s lies. Monicagate wasn’t about sex; it was about President Clinton’s perjury. Even the left’s favored slogans about the Iraq War were based on that premise: “Bush Lied, Soldiers Died.”
But the Oval Office has never seen a prevaricator quite like President Obama.
President Obama has forged his entire political career around his ability to be whatever others want him to be. As Obama himself put it in his second autobiography, The Audacity of Hope, “I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their views.” But Obama isn’t just a blank screen: he is a Magic Mirror.
That’s why Obama has routinely puffed up and bulked out his autobiography, pandering to different audiences based on political necessity. While other politicians may craft their messages to appeal to diverse groups, Obama crafts himself. Many politicians flip-flop; Obama is the only politician who flip-flops on his own biography.
Hence the importance of the fact that Obama’s literary agency when he was trying to sell a book stated he was “born in Kenya” – and that Obama allowed that biography to go uncorrected for 16 years, until after he launched his campaign for the presidency.
In his early life, it helped Obama to lie about himself in terms of race. He admits to it in Dreams From My Father: “I ceased to advertise my mother’s race at the age of twelve or thirteen, when I began to suspect that by doing so I was ingratiating myself to whites.”
As he entered college, it helped Obama to craft himself as an exotic international, as David Maraniss reported in Vanity Fair. So he did.
In his post-college career, it helped Obama to portray himself as a racial radical, someone who could be comfortable in the pews of Jeremiah Wright and the company of Derrick Bell, but wouldn’t be comfortable with a white composite girlfriend he created in Dreams From My Father. And so he became that man.
It also helped him to be seen as a class warrior, the kind of fellow who had given up a burgeoning Wall Street career to fight for the poverty-stricken underclass – which is why, in Dreams From My Father, he neglects to mention that the Wall Street firm for which he worked, Business International Group, was essentially a tiny sweatshop, that he never climbed the food chain, and that he remained a low-level worker for the brief period of time he was there.
As his career progressed, it benefited Obama to portray himself as a moderate. That’s when he crafted his life into a story of a unified America rather than a divided America. In his earlier period, in Dreams, Obama indicted American society for “the tragedy” of his “mixed blood, the divided soul, the ghostly image of the tragic mulatto trapped between two worlds.” In his later period, by the time he was running for president, he’d claim that his racial background was an embodiment of America’s dedication to racial equality.