Jack Cashill is an Emmy-award winning independent writer and producer with a Ph.D. in American Studies from Purdue. His latest book is the blockbuster "Deconstructing Obama."More ↓Less ↑
To understand the way the media work – or don’t work – imagine a stream of data bubbling up from the right side of the blogosphere and bearing down on New York City and the nation’s capital.
The Clintons could and did. In 1997, the White House labeled this flow the “Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce” and issued a wildly paranoid 332-page report detailing its imagined hydrodynamics.
Since then liberal anxiety has only intensified. On “Meet the Press” in late 2009, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times described this widening stream as “an open sewer of untreated, unfiltered information.”
Happily for our progressive friends, custodians like Friedman have done a masterful job of maintaining the levees on the stream’s left bank.
Not since Matt Drudge sent the Monica story washing over the levees in 1998 has the left bank been exposed to a truly damaging splash of truth.
The levee maintenance work of Friedman and pals is open to see and even logical. The residents of the left bank desperately need protection from the obvious.
What makes much less sense are the efforts of media conservatives to protect the right bank from the truth.
Sensible or not, conservative pundit George Will labored mightily this past week to plug the hole that New York radio host Steve Malzberg forced open when he questioned candidate Mike Huckabee on Barack Obama’s background.
According to Will, Huckabee should have answered Malzberg, “I’ve seen paranoia, goodbye.” That simple: honest probing reduced to “paranoia,” hole plugged, reputations spared, 2012 loss assured.
Back at the White House, the Obamas could sleep easier, but just a little bit. Truth be told, they have not slept soundly since Barack decided to run for the U.S. Senate in 2004.
Chicago Tribune reporter and Obama biographer David Mendell first sensed this unease during Obama’s 2004 campaign for the U.S. Senate.
When Mendell approached Team Obama about interviewing the candidate’s friends and family in Hawaii, he was stunned by the resistance.
Given that the Tribune had endorsed Obama even in his ill-fated campaign for Congress, Mendell writes, “Turning down the Tribune’s request for family interviews would not seem a wise decision at this point in the Senate campaign.”
Mendell’s next sentence demands attention: “However, Obama’s aides must have been wary about what I would turn up.”
Obama finally agreed to assist Mendell on the condition that an Obama press aide track his reporting and “monitor the content of [his] interviews.”
The interview that seems to have worried Obama most was the one with his maternal grandmother, Madelyn Dunham.
Eighty-two at the time, Dunham struck Mendell as “cautious and protective.” She called the interview off after half an hour, grabbed Mendell’s arm and told him, “Be kind to my grandson.” After this, she stopped talking altogether.
On the Hawaii front, Obama had to worry too about what Mendell would learn about poet, pornographer and card-carrying member of the CPUSA, Frank Marshall Davis.
That relationship between Obama and Davis is succinctly illustrated in the poem “Pop,” which was published under the 19-year-old Obama’s name in a 1981 edition of an Occidental College literary journal.
Instinctively protective of Obama, reviewers to a person decided that the “Pop” of the poem had to be Obama’s mother’s father, Stanley Dunham, the man Obama called “Gramps.”
Not a one of them asked the most basic question: Why would Obama name a poem about the man he called “Gramps” “Pop”?
Rebecca Mead, writing in the New Yorker, unhesitatingly describes the poem as a “loving if slightly jaded portrait of Obama’s maternal grandfather.”
Obama biographer David Remnick makes the same point, “‘Pop,’” he says as though a given, “clearly reflects Obama’s relationship with his grandfather Stanley Dunham.”
More oblivious still is British poet Ian McMillan. “There’s a humanity in the poem,” he writes in the Guardian, “a sense of family values and shared cultural concerns that give us a hint of the Democrat to come.”
Family values? What family? Roman Polanski’s? The “Pop” of the poem is a drunken poet who is plying the underage Obama with alcohol and quite possibly sex.
At one point, Pop “recites an old poem/ He wrote before his mother died.” Dunham’s mother committed suicide when he was 8. Five minutes of research would have established that he could not have been “Pop.”
Another hour or two of research would have established that “Pop” was not only about Davis, but that it was also almost assuredly written by Davis.
Davis’ mother died when he was 20 and had already established himself at Kansas State as a poet of promise.
Research into Obama’s New York life has been, if any thing, more feckless. In October 2007, the New York Times approached Obama, expecting him, then an underdog, to welcome the chance to share his experience with its eager readers.
“Yet,” said the Times, “[Obama] declined repeated requests to talk about his New York years, release his Columbia transcript or identify even a single fellow student, co-worker, roommate or friend from those years.”
Incredibly, given its self-designation as paper of record, the Times chose to leave these years unrecorded. The Obama faithful were thus assured that no unwanted truths would splash over their levee.
As to the Chicago years, the reporting is positively Orwellian. In February 2008, Ben Smith of “Politico” reported as fact the Obama camp’s claim that the Obama-Ayers relationship went no deeper than the happenstance that their children “attend the same school.”
Upon learning that Ayers’ youngest child was 23 when Obama’s oldest child started kindergarten, Smith added a comically circuitous “update,” but the media shied from chasing the story or even chiding Team Obama.
In his definitive 2010 biography, David Remick dismisses as “preposterous” the notion that Ayers and Obama “were ever close friends or shared political ideas.”
Yet in 1995 alone, Bill Ayers had Obama appointed chair of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, launched Obama’s state Senate campaign from his house, and largely wrote his memoir, “Dreams from My Father.”
So yes, Mr. Will, it is fair to ask some basic questions. Given your visibility, had you done so when it mattered, Barack Obama would not be president today.
Note: The Book-TV presentation of Jack Cashill’s new book, “Deconstructing Obama,” will air this Saturday at 7 p.m. Eastern and this Sunday at 10 a.m. Eastern on C-SPAN 2.