by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Jonah Goldberg devotes his latest column to the “doubters and haters” who oppose President Obama. His starting point is a recent essay from Obama biographer David Maraniss, who points to racists and conspiracy nuts as the source of opposition to the 44th president.
[L]et me add two culprits to Maraniss’s list: The first is Barack Obama. The second is the journalistic establishment that worked so hard to get him elected.
As Maraniss demonstrates quite effectively in his book, Barack Obama: The Story, Obama’s identity has long been a cultivated political project. Much of the poetic license — to use a kind phrase — Obama deploys to tell his own story is plausible only to those eager to take him at his word.
Maraniss couldn’t authenticate Obama’s tales of racial hardship as a young man. His grandfather being tortured by the British, the bigotry of his high-school basketball coach? Untrue.
Moreover, Obama’s explanations about the aspects of his past that have managed to become controversies have always seemed insufficient to people not disposed to root for him. Bill Ayers — a former domestic terrorist — was “just a guy living in my neighborhood.” Obama’s word that he wasn’t a member of the radical New Party was enough for the press corps to stop digging for evidence that he was (as reported by my National Review Online colleague Stanley Kurtz). Jeremiah Wright? Only right-wing crazies care about him.
Even Obama’s more recent embellishments about, for instance, being outspent and outgunned in his previous political races strike many people as the sorts of fibs that would create journalistic frenzies if uttered by a Republican.
And then there’s the huge divergence between the president Obama said he would be and the president he’s actually been. In 2008, Obama insisted that he was a unifier, a pragmatist, and a non-ideologue. You don’t have to be a birther or a secret-Muslim conspiracy theorist to feel like that was all a big con job. That’s politics and not deceit (a subtle distinction!), but dismay at how Obama has governed doesn’t amount to racial panic either. And blame for the widespread feeling that we were sold a bill of goods by a cheering press does, in fact, belong to the press.