'Skeeterism' and Obama's Columbia Years

Can you believe it?

Even the (ahem) news outlets the Washington Post and the New York Times are questioning the veracity of Barack Obama's claim that he skeet-shoots "all the time."

Happily, the propagandists' hard-hitting, integrity-filled attempts to shift the political presentation of the gun debate have unwittingly opened the door to very serious scrutiny of a great deal of Mr. Obama's assertions pertaining to his own biography.

This is because the exact same standards the propagandists themselves have decided to use as justification for questioning Obama's claim that he skeet-shoots all the time can also be applied to generate very serious suspicion about plenty of other things that we are to suppose are true about Obama.

A Feb. 2 New York Times article is clearly suspicious of Obama's skeet claim, even though Obama has released a picture depicting himself skeet-shooting:

The skeet-shooting comment caught many off guard because it is not something the president has talked about. While other presidents have used the skeet shooting range at Camp David, database searches of Mr. Obama's speeches and interviews turned up no prior mention of participating. No friend or guest has come forward in recent days to publicly describe shooting with the president.

Upon release of the photo, the Washington Post remarked on February 2:

The White House released this photograph of the president at the Camp David skeet range on Aug. 4, 2012. We are pleased the White House has become more forthcoming about this matter, though it does not quite answer the questions concerning the president's "all the time" language. What do readers think?

Prior to the release of the photo, the Post had this to say:

But it is also curious that the White House refuses to provide any documentary evidence that he actually used the shooting range at Camp David, since he claims he uses it "all the time," or that a presidential friend has not come forward to confirm the president's comments.

We are now going to apply the above evidentiary standards to a consideration of the period in which Obama is said to have attended Columbia University -- in particular, to the spring 1982 time frame.

It turns out that there is no evidence -- documentary, testimonial, or otherwise -- that can show that Obama was attending classes at Columbia (or even in New York) in Spring 1982, even though there is evidence of his attendance with respect to every other semester he is said to have attended Columbia.

Mr. Obama's two autobiographies have no pictures, period.  However, David Remnick's biography of Mr. Obama contains many dated pictures (including, of course, pictures taken before and after Columbia -- for example, pictures of him at Harvard in 1990), but no dated pictures from the Columbia years.  Ditto David Mendell's biography.  The same is true of David Maraniss's recent biography of Mr. Obama, as well as of the Chicago Tribune's collection of 106 Obama pictures.

A Google search with the terms "Obama pictures Columbia" and variants discloses the same. 

With regard to the post-Columbia New York period, though, Mr. Maraniss does include a picture of Mr. Obama and Genevieve Cook dated as having been taken after Mr. Obama's graduation from Columbia (at p. 29 of the photographic plates).

In an article entitled "Recollections of Obama's Ex-Roommate," we get two more undated pictures of Obama the supposed Columbia attendee, but in addition, we get a picture of Mr. Obama together with Sohale Siddiqi dated fall of 1981.  The article also includes student directory addresses for the 1981-1982 as well as 1982-1983 school years. 

Would a Spring 1982 change of address have been reflected in the Columbia 1981-1982 directory (academic directories are released in fall and cover the whole academic year)?  The answer, almost certainly, is "no."

If not, Mr. Obama could easily have maintained, according to the student directory, a spring 1982 Columbia address even though his true address was nowhere to be found in New York in the spring of 1982.

In fact, we know that Obama departed his fall 1981 location, but nobody has said, and there is no documentary evidence at all, as to precisely where he went.  Obama's fall 1981 roommate, Phil Boerner, himself (whom Obama had known since his Occidental days) notes that "[a]fter that first semester, we had to move. Barack tried to find an apartment for both of us, but was only able to find a studio for himself."

Maraniss, at p. 442-3, notes on this issue something seemingly rather different:

Long before Thanksgiving, Obama had concocted a desperate plan.  Their lease was to expire on December 7, but rather than pick it up themselves (they were subletting), he suggested they let it run out, not pay the last month's rent, and stay until they were evicted or found another place.  "All of November we looked for another apartment, but to no avail," Boerner reported later in a letter to his grandmother.  When phone service was cut and the heat went off for good, Boerner fled to the house of family friends in Brooklyn Heights and Obama slept on the floor at a friend's place on the Upper East Side until he finished exams and escaped to Los Angeles.

So Mr. Obama's own mother (Ann) had a hand in arranging for the fall '81 apartment, and yet Mr. Obama, no more than four months later, had to concoct a "desparate plan" to arrange alternative living arrangements?   

There really is no evidence at all that shows where Obama moved right after his spell in Los Angeles.

To be very clear: we cannot directly and precisely locate Mr. Obama -- on the basis of either testimonial or documentary evidence (or any other kind) at Columbia (or even in New York) in the Spring of 1982, even if we can, giving him every benefit of the doubt, directly and precisely locate him at Columbia and therefore in New York on the basis of testimonial and documentary  evidence during every other time frame he says he was there.  

In addition to the complete absence of evidence on Mr. Obama's residential whereabouts in the spring of 1982 plus that fact that his roommate was unsure where Obama moved, we can say more about data other than residence that do tie Obama to Columbia with respect to every semester except the spring 1982 semester.

Maraniss's biography, of the three biographies of Mr. Obama I have read (not including the two autobiographies), does the most exploration of Mr. Obama's putative Columbia years.  It is quite fascinating to see that while Mr. Maraniss discusses Mr. Obama's fall 1983 course work, and his spring 1983 Sun Dial article, in some detail (at p.449-463), and even mentions a Spanish class Mr. Obama is supposed to have taken in the fall of 1981 with a Mr. Ron Sunshine (see p. 432-33), nowhere does Maraniss mention anything about any course work Mr. Obama is supposed to have taken in the spring of 1982!

In view of the preceding, the Washington Post and the New York Times should agree that it is reasonable to question whether in the Spring of 1982, Mr. Obama did not attend classes at Columbia, for exactly the same reasons they allow for the reasonable skepticism that Mr. Obama does not skeet-shoot "all the time."

Dr. Jason Kissner is associate professor of criminology at California State University, Fresno.  You can reach him at crimprof2010@hotmail.com.

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