How I Confronted Obama Biographer David Maraniss
I pushed the envelope of citizen-journalism a little further this week by introducing myself to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Maraniss. According to Maraniss, his research for Barack Obama: The Story took him to Hawaii, Indonesia, and Kenya. Unfortunately, he did not have the time to Google search me or review any of the five books, multiple blog posts, YouTube videos, or hundreds of websites that feature my take on young Obama's ideological extremism.
Ironically, Maraniss got awfully close to confirming the details of my 1980 Christmas break debate with young Obama -- a debate that reveals just how radical Obama was as a college student. Maraniss reports that young Obama was in the San Francisco area at precisely the time when I indicated I first met and debated him. Maraniss, in fact, talked at length with my college-era Marxist girlfriend, Caroline Boss, at whose home the debate took place. Maraniss goes so far as to report that Caroline was part of the composite character "Regina" in Dreams from My Father.
I managed to converse with Maraniss during his recent visit to my alma mater, Occidental College, on October 29, 2012. My wife Tricia and I arrived at Occidental's Thorne Hall early and picked out seats near the front. I learned that Maraniss sees young Obama as a largely apolitical figure generally interested more in personal growth than in raw political power. In Maraniss's view, young Obama was largely untouched by the radicalism of either my ex-girlfriend or his Pakistani roommate, Hassan Chandoo -- the older student who admitted to his youthful Marxism in David Remnick's The Bridge. Maraniss sees no evidence that young Obama was interested in pursuing elected office. For Maraniss, Obama's lust for power kicks in only just prior to Obama's application to Harvard Law School. Maraniss's portrait of young Obama, of course, is absolutely inconsistent with my face-to-face observation that young Obama was 100% committed to preparing for a Communist revolution in the United States and was actively grooming himself to play a leadership role in that highly anticipated potentially violent conflict.
Maraniss called for questions, and I stood up. Speaking into a microphone, I dropped my well-rehearsed bombshell before an audience of about 200 listeners: "Mr. Maraniss, my name is John Drew. I'm a former professor and a former Marxist." This opening line got a laugh.
"For several years now," I continued, "I have been very public about my time with Barack Obama at Occidental, where he and I and my girlfriend were all fellow Marxists. A number of conservative authors have asked me about this and published my account in bestselling books. You've interviewed my girlfriend and others in our radical circles, but not me. I'd love to talk with you. Would you be open to that? I'm not looking to sell my story or for increased name recognition. I just want to share the truth."
Maraniss's response was curt. "Of course," he said. "I'm open to talk with anyone." He shut up and immediately moved on to the next question. Nevertheless, I could see that I was on his mind, since Maraniss mentioned me by name two more times during his question-and-answer session. The good news is that he was nice enough to assert that he was not sure of my motivations. The bad news is that he seemed quite certain that everyone else who repeats, or depends on, my testimony -- including Jack Cashill, Paul Kengor, Stanley Kurtz, and the editors of American Thinker -- is largely motivated by intractable racism.
While we failed to record video of the question-and-answer session, Tricia did capture my face-to-face encounter with Maraniss later on as he autographed copies of his book. (Transcript at end of article.)
Crouched by the book table, I asked: "How did you find out Caroline was Regina?"
"Didn't hear it from the president," he said.
Maraniss seemed to be a bit of a perfectionist when it came to signing our dog-eared copy of Barack Obama: The Story. He graciously wrote: "To John and Tricia, All the Best, David Maraniss."
I asked: "Do you want to stay in touch?"
"Yeah," he said. "I'll give you my e-mail address."
I asked: "Did you know I existed?"
"After the book came out," he said.
While I do not know yet if I have a new friend in the field of elite journalism, I think the fact that Maraniss says he never knew about my debate with young Obama until after his book came out indicates that there is something broken in American culture. Apparently, I live in a country where ordinary citizens need to write, research, record -- and perhaps even stage --the news, a country where informants need to go out of their way to share the truth with the pre-eminent gatekeepers of the mainstream media.
John Drew: It's Drew...John and...John and Tricia Drew. How did you find out Caroline was Regina?
David Maraniss: Didn't hear it from the president. John and Tricia?
John Drew: John and Tricia.
Tricia Drew: T-R-I-C-I-A.
John Drew: I was shocked when I read that...because I...I knew it was...
Tricia Drew: Thank you, sir.
John Drew: Do you want to stay in touch?
David Maraniss: Yeah, I'll give you my e-mail address.
John Drew: I'm...I've written about six articles in American Thinker...Breitbart. Did you know I existed?
David Maraniss: After the book came out...American Thinker...Jack Cashill are not my favorite people. But, I...
Tricia: Thank you, we'll appreciate that time.
David Maraniss: What you're talking about and what he's talking about are two very different things. You're talking about your relationship which is, for you know, is fact-based -- as far as you're concerned. They're talking about conspiracy theories, which there's just...you know...there's no factual way to prove these things.
John Drew: If you read my article, you'll see I actually was...I think was the first person to confront his faith in a Communist revolution in the U.S. ...I swear as God is my witness...I think I changed his opinion...I'd place his political interest closer to Occidental.
David Maraniss: Thank you.