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On Thursday, while in Cannes for the G-20 Summit, President Barack Obama casually said the following: “The last time I was in the South of France – or the first time, rather – was as a college student, and I’ve never forgotten the extraordinary hospitality of the French people and the extraordinary views that are available here.”
To Obama followers, this comes as news. In his 1995 memoir, “Dreams from My Father,” Obama gives the distinct impression that his first trip to Europe came in 1988 when he was a 26-year-old community organizer.
As told in “Dreams,” Obama spent eight weeks on this 1988 journey, an inexplicable luxury for a chronically broke young man. Europe was allegedly his first stop.
I say “allegedly” because most of the specifics sound like they were pulled from a Michelin Guide. The one exception is a sojourn to the Spanish boondocks that even Obama’s worshipful biographer David Remnick concedes is “not an especially convincing sequence.”
Its details, in fact, sound like they were pulled from the memory of Bill Ayers, the “neighbor” who – I argue in my book, “Deconstructing Obama” – more or less wrote “Dreams.”
After a couple of weeks wandering around Paris’ Luxembourg Garden and other tourist staples – no Cannes – Obama finds himself awaiting the night bus at “a roadside tavern about halfway between Madrid and Barcelona.” While waiting, he shoots pool at what might be the only pool table in any bar in Europe.
Need I mention that in Ayers’ memoir “Fugitive Days,” he tells us that he was a pool player who, during his merchant seaman days, frequented roughneck bars in this part of the world?
Whether he actually went to Europe or not, Obama realizes that this side trip was a “mistake.” Says Obama of the experience, “It wasn’t that Europe wasn’t beautiful; everything was just as I’d imagined it. It just wasn’t mine.”
Nowhere else in “Dreams” does Obama mention going to Europe and, even on this trip, he does not mention going to the South of France. In his 656-page review of Obama’s life, biographer Remnick makes no reference to any Obama trip to France at any time.
The one trip overseas that Obama did make while in college he does not even allude to in “Dreams” or in his 2006 book, “Audacity to Hope,” and that is his 1981 trip to Pakistan.
In fact, it was not until April 2008 at a San Francisco fundraiser that Obama casually let it be known that he had traveled to Pakistan at all.
When ABC’s Jake Tapper asked the Obama campaign staff about the trip, they described it as a casual stopover to visit friends on the tail end of a trip to visit his mother and sister in Indonesia.
In retrospect, this makes one wonder whether the Indonesian leg was real or contrived. Biographer Remnick sheds little light on it.
In “The Bridge,” Remnick tells how Obama first visits his friends Hamid and Chandoo in Pakistan during Ramadan “and then to Indonesia to see his mother and Maya,” a three-week trip in all. In 1981, Ramadan began on July 3 and ran for a lunar month.
In “A Singular Woman,” Janny Scott’s biography of Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, Scott has Obama circling the world in the opposite direction and in a different time frame.
Scott writes of summer 1981, “Barry spent July in Jakarta, then went to Pakistan to visit a friend from Occidental [College] on his way back to the United States.”
As confirmation, Scott includes a letter purportedly written in May 1981 to Dunham’s employers at the Ford Foundation: “I would like to use my educational travel for dependent children to have my son, Barry, come out to visit us.”
If Obama went to France as a college student, it was likely as a side-trip on the Ford Foundation dime. Why he went there or with whom is something inquiring minds might want to know.
There is another wrinkle. Two weeks before the Pakistani admission, someone had improperly accessed Obama’s passport on three occasions. The CNN lead suggests a major story in the making:
“The CEO of a company whose employee is accused of improperly looking at the passport files of presidential candidates is a consultant to the Barack Obama campaign, a source said Saturday.” That consultant was John Brennan, a former CIA operative then advising Obama.
The story predictably went nowhere despite the fact that Obama would later appoint Brennan deputy national security adviser.
The most benign explanation is that Team Obama was doing oppositional research on its own candidate – and likely the other candidates as well – and that Obama outed himself on a questionable trip to a Muslim country before the real opposition did.
There are explanations far less benign, which raises the ultimate in absurd questions: Three years into the Obama presidency, how is it that we know more about Herman Cain?