Andrew Ferguson’s much discussed review in the Weekly Standard of David Maraniss’ soon-to-be released book, “Barack Obama: The Story,” suggests that the Weekly Standard is almost ready to question Obama’s legitimacy.
And if the Weekly Standard does, can the National Review be far behind?
Skepticism comes slowly to the Beltway. In February 2007, Ferguson reviewed both “Dreams” and Obama’s 2006 follow-up, “The Audacity of Hope.” Although savvy enough not to gush, Ferguson wrote of “Dreams,” “I don’t think anyone who reads it could doubt that ‘Dreams from My Father’ is the work of a real writer.”
Ferguson added that if the book has problems, they “come from an excess of talent rather than its lack.” Nowhere in the review did he question Obama’s talent or the truthfulness of his characterizations. “He makes these characters breathe,” wrote Ferguson.
“Audacity,” Ferguson did concede, was “an infinitely weaker, duller book.” The weakness, he believed, derived from the dictates of campaigning and regretted only that “we have lost a writer and gained another politician.”
Apparently, in the five years after this review, Ferguson saw nothing that caused him to doubt Obama’s talent as a writer or the truth of his story. That is until he read an advanced copy of Maraniss’ book.
Although Ferguson cautions that “Maraniss is a big fan – big fan” of Obama, he finds enough in Maraniss’ otherwise generous account to see that the Obama storytelling he enthused about in his 2007 review was largely fraudulent.
Says a rueful Ferguson of Obama, “The writer who would later use the power of his life story to become a plausible public man was making it up, to an alarming extent.”
“What’s dispiriting,” adds Ferguson, “is that throughout ‘Dreams,’ the moments that Obama has invented are precisely the occasions of his epiphanies – precisely those periodic aha! moments that carry the book and bring its author closer to self-discovery. Without them not much is left.”
Not unreasonably, Ferguson has confidence in Maraniss. As a trusted fellow traveler in liberal America, the Pulizer Prize-winning reporter secured interviews with the president and numerous supporters who would not even open an email with a “wnd.com” address.
Ferguson, however, has too much confidence. Like most Beltway conservatives, he continues to work off a 20th-century media model in which allegedly mainstream reporters create news and conservatives comment upon it.
With the leftward drift of the mainstream, that model, always suspect, is now fully absurd. In elevating phenomena like the ridiculous Plamegate to the level of scandal and relegating real scandals like “Fast and Furious” to the back pages, the major media discredit anyone who takes them too seriously.
Ferguson among them. He takes liberal insiders like Maraniss and Obama biographer David Remnick, whom he favorably cites, much more seriously than he does conservative outliers like myself.
We at WND, however, never allowed ourselves to be duped. When I first picked up “Dreams” in 2008, Obama’s “excess of talent” left me not spellbound, but suspicious. WND shared my suspicions.
For the last five years, despite limited resources, we have been building a case against Obama’s credibility that Ferguson and his peers have fully ignored, if not actively mocked.
When I challenged the legitimacy of “Dreams,” for instance, Remnick implied that I was a racist and exiled me to “the Web’s farthest lunatic orbit.” From the Weekly Standard’s perspective, there I remain.
My exile derived in part from my claim that the “aha moments” in “Dreams” were largely fabricated. “These little racial melodramas,” I wrote in my 2011 book, “Deconstructing Obama,” “smack of willful contrivance.”
While Ferguson’s pals were comparing Obama the writer to Lincoln, I was comparing him to James Frey, whose equally fraudulent memoir, “A Million Little Pieces,” earned him a public flogging on the Oprah Winfrey show.
In his 2007 review, Ferguson missed the most consequential fiction in Obama’s life, the one around which he built his campaign – that of the charmed but doomed multicultural family.
“My parents shared not only an improbable love,” Obama told a rapt convention crowd in 2004, “they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation.” In fact, they did neither. The couple was never seen together, never lived together, and the mother split for Seattle with little Barry before he was a month old.
“The father left wife and son when Barack was 2,” wrote Ferguson in 2007. At the time, he had no reason to doubt this supposition. He does not correct himself in 2012.
Although the blogosphere had deconstructed the Obama origins story even before the 2008 election, Beltway conservatives ignored its findings.
Indeed, in 2010, conservative insider Dinesh D’Souza grounded his best-seller, “The Roots of Obama’s Rage” – as well as the forthcoming movie “2016” – in this transparent fiction.
As I pointed out last month, Maraniss made a total botch of Obama’s early years in a 10,000-word article he wrote on the eve of the 2008 election. If he corrected himself in his new book, Ferguson does not appear to have noticed.
Of course, the one fiction no Beltway journalist, left or right, has yet to broach publicly is that of Obama’s “excess of talent” as a writer.
Even after reading Maraniss, Ferguson still concedes Obama the authorship of “Dreams,” “an extremely good book,” and “Audacity,” “an extremely not-very-good book.”
Ferguson is too good a writer not to sense that each of these books had different authors, but he is too much a creature of the establishment to give credence to lunatic orbiters like myself.
That acknowledgment will come, but it will not come easily.