The Heartland Never 'Overrated' Obama
Some years back, before I abandoned my senses and became a conspiracy theorist, I used to contribute the occasional article to the Weekly Standard.
Launched in 1995 by Rupert Murdoch, and edited ever since by William Kristol and Fred Barnes, the Weekly Standard is arguably America's best-written and most influential conservative publication.
The cover story of the October 10 issue -- "Overrated" by Naomi Emery -- testifies to the publication's quality. It is a thoughtful analysis of Barack Obama's rise and decline and was widely distributed on the internet.
Like so many of her peers in the respectable conservative media, however, Emery has a blind spot. She still fails to see Obama for the intellectual lightweight he is. That failure led to his being overrated, and consequently elected, in the first place -- and, if uncorrected, it could lead to his reelection.
In assessing how the media initially misjudged Obama, Emery writes, "His record was thin -- all he had done well was speak and write (about himself, as it happened) -- but that hardly mattered in the light of emotional resonance."
In fact, Obama's presumed ability to write well mattered a great deal. His 1995 memoir, Dreams from My Father, galvanized the literati, conservative as well as liberal, and convinced them that Obama deserved their respect.
"I've read Obama's books, and they are first-rate," wrote the National Review's Christopher Buckley, son of William, in endorsing Obama weeks before the election. "He is that rara avis, the politician who writes his own books. Imagine."
These glowing reviews, left and right, resonated. "There is no underestimating the importance of Dreams from My Father in the political rise of Barack Obama," New Yorker editor David Remnick would confirm in his exhaustive look at Obama's life and career, The Bridge.
In the fall of 2008, pre-election, I tried to alert the conservative establishment to the fact that Obama did not write nearly well enough to compose Dreams without major help. Although the evidence was substantial, not a single print publication bit. Here is a typical response, this one from Weekly Standard literary editor Philip Terzian:
An interesting piece, but I'm rather oversubscribed at the moment, the length is considerable, and cutting would not do it justice. (Also, we had a long, rather critical, piece on Obama's ouevre not too long ago.) So permit me to decline with thanks for allowing me take a look.
In my 2011 book, Deconstructing Obama, I make the all but inarguable case that Bill Ayers was the primary craftsman behind Dreams. Even the most skeptical of those who have looked at the evidence agree that, at the very least, Obama had help. (The skeptics hate to admit I was right about Ayers. It just "sounds" too conspiratorial.)
The editors of the Weekly Standard, the American Spectator, National Review, the Washington Times, and Human Events have all declined to review my book. By ignoring the evidence, however, these editors put themselves in the awkward position of knowing less about Obama than much of the audience they presume to enlighten.
In an August Weekly Standard cover story this year, for instance, the otherwise estimable Andrew Ferguson casually described Obama as a "prose stylist of distinction." I wrote an article in response, but it obviously had no impact on Emery, who repeated the error.
Even those rare editors who acknowledge the evidence have shied from sharing it with their audience. In September, the smart and once-fearless American Spectator ran a cover story on the Ayers-Obama relationship written by publisher Al Regnery. The piece, "They're All in This Together," remained oddly silent on one salient issue.
Readers noticed. "It is a long, well documented article," observed Red Phillips in the Ether Zone, "but it fails to mention even in passing the explosive allegation that Ayers might have ghost-written Obama's memoir."
A correspondent of mine wrote Regnery, asking why the oversight. "I did not include the Ayers ghostwriting issue in my piece," Regnery responded in a handwritten note, "because I just had to limit the number of things covered."
Phillips, however, believes that the allegation "was intentionally not mentioned." He asked why:
Was the evidence examined and found wanting? (If that is the case, why not say that since the allegation is already out there and well known?) Or was it not mentioned so as to avoid any association with anything that might be considered conspiratorial?
Whatever its wellspring, this editorial anxiety has obscured the citizenry's knowledge not just of Obama's literary skills, but of his life story. As I show in my book, and as others have shown before me, Obama has manufactured much of his own history, particularly its first two years.
The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes still hasn't gotten the memo. In the same issue as "Overrated," for instance, Barnes writes "Obama's father, a Kenyan student, left the family when Obama was a toddler."
This is a critical error. If Barnes had been mining the available data, he would have known that the story Obama told at the 2004 Democratic Convention about his parents' "improbable love" and their "abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation" was pure concoction, an extension of the multicultural fairy tale he first spun in Dreams.
Obama's father did not leave when he was a "toddler." He likely never saw the boy. Obama's parents never lived together. By the time Obama was a month old, he was living with his mother in Seattle thousands of miles from his father in Hawaii. There was no happy little Obama family. Obama fabricated that family in Dreams and built his 2008 campaign around the fabrication.
Where the fabrications begin and end, America has no way of knowing. The media, ours included, have chosen not to look. Their reluctance to do so has generated a massive distrust in Obama's very legitimacy, one that "respectable" conservatives in the media have chosen not to sniff out, but to sniff at.
I wish there were some profound explanation for their willful blindness, but I have found none. As best as I can fathom, it derives from equal parts snobbery and timidity. The Ivy-educated Obama is one of them. I am not. I went to grad school at Purdue. (So did Herman Cain, and, partly as a result, our media do not take him as seriously as they have Obama.) I live in Kansas City. I edit a regional business magazine. If someone like me discovers something, how could it possibly be true? If a Beltway editor endorses it, might not he too be dubbed a conspiracy theorist?
But we were not the ones who overrated Obama. In my part of the world, McCain won the 2008 election in a landslide. In Kansas alone, some 33 counties gave Obama less than 25 percent of the vote. In Stevens County, he got less than 15 percent. This was not because the people of Stevens County lack literary sensibility. Indeed, they named their county seat after French author Victor Hugo.
Now perhaps if the Weekly Standard honchos moved their offices to Hugoton, Kansas (population 3,904), they just might lose their awe of Obama. In my experience, you can learn a lot more about the world at a Kansas barbecue than you can at a Georgetown cocktail party.