PrestoPundit

A NY TIMES PUFF PIECE

Posted by PrestoPundit on 05/18/2008

on Barack Obama as a man of letters.

His memoir is, as one publisher put it, “the single most vetted
book in American politics right now.” Written at a time when Mr. Obama
says he was thinking less about a career in politics than about simply
writing a good book, it leaves an impression of candidness and
authenticity that gives it much of its power. Reporters have questioned
Mr. Obama’s use of fictional techniques like composite characters, but
some editors and critics say that is common in memoirs.

“The book is so literary,” said Arnold Rampersad, a professor of English at Stanford University who teaches autobiography and is the author of a recent biography of Ralph Ellison.
“It is so full of clever tricks — inventions for literary effect — that
I was taken aback, even astonished. But make no mistake, these are
simply the tricks that art trades in, and out of these tricks is
supposed to come our realization of truth.”

In a telephone
interview on Friday, Mr. Obama said he would not be surprised if some
people had gotten involved in his campaign “because they feel they know
me through my books.” But he said he was not even thinking about
political consequences when he wrote the memoir.

Obama’s brother-on-law tells a different story — in 1992 when Obama began writing Dreams From My Father he was already making plans for the U.S. Senate:

“He said, ‘I think I’d like to teach at some point in time, and maybe
run for public office,'” recalls Robinson, who assumed Obama meant he’d
like to run for city alderman. “He said no — at some point he’d like
to run for the U.S. Senate. And then he said, ‘Possibly even run for
president at some point.’

You’d have to be a reporter for the NY Times not to get it that Obama was thinking all along how the writing of his memoir fit into as part of his platform for higher office.  His drug use and alcohol use was too extensive and too widely known to hide — it was part of documented public record in his own yearbook and was known to a wide group of people.   But drug use, including the use of cocaine, hadn’t stopped Democrat politicians in the past.  Al Gore is documented to have been a huge pot head.  Bill Clinton is documented to have been a coke user.  These things were fairly widely known in the 1990s while Obama was writing his book — and Obama graduated high school at the extreme peak of the pot and powder coke wave, not at its baby step beginnings like Gore and Clinton.  “Kids” who hadn’t used pot and coke were a minority in 1979.   So I don’t buy it that Obama was greatly worried about his “experimentation” with drugs in high school and college.  Especially since drug use and other moral lapses have been major political problems for mostly for folks running as Republicans in Red states, and not so much for Democrats running in Blue states.

But the truth here matters to the NY Times about as much as it usually does to Mr. Obama.

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