If one had to name Barack Obama’s chief accomplishments in public life, his two books would outweigh anything he has done in politics. The New York Times had a fascinating article, The Story of Obama, Written by Obama, on the front page of Sunday’s paper. The piece points out that Obama’s attraction to the masses is driven not by what he has accomplished in the real world (especially in the Senate), but by his ability to tell a tale — his own. Unspoken by the NYT is that this phenomena does have its place in history – it is the very definition of “cult of personality”.
Senator Obama understands as well as any politician the power of a well-told story. He has risen in politics less on his track record than on his telling of his life story – a tale he has packaged into two hugely successful books that have helped make him a mega-best-selling, two-time Grammy-winning millionaire front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination at age 46. According to his publisher, there are more than three million copies of his books in print – and two more books on the way.The story of Mr. Obama’s life as an author tells as much about him as some of the stories he has recounted in his books. It possesses at times the same charmed quality sometimes ascribed to his political ascent – an impression of ease, if not exactly effortlessness, that obscures a more complex amalgam of drive, ambition, timing and the ability to recognize an opportunity and to do what it takes to seize it.
“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.”
The two worked mostly by telephone and by manuscripts sent by Federal Express between New York and Chicago. Mr. Obama, an inveterate journal writer who had published poems in a college literary magazine but had never attempted a book, struggled to finish. His half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, said he eventually retreated to Bali for several months with his wife, Michelle, “to find a peaceful sanctuary where there were no phones.”
In the introduction, Mr. Obama acknowledged his use of pseudonyms, composite characters, approximated dialogue and events out of chronological order. He was writing at a time well before a recent series of publishing scandals involving fabrication in memoirs. “He was trying to be careful of people’s feelings,” said Deborah Baker, the editor on the first paperback edition of the book. “The fact is, it all had a sort of larger truth going on that you couldn’t make up.”
“Barack is worth millions now,” Mr. Osnos said. “It’s almost all based on these two books, two books not based on a job of prodigious research or risking one’s life as a reporter in Iraq. He has written about himself. Being able to take your own life story and turn it into this incredibly lucrative franchise, it’s a stunning fact.”
The National Press Club in Washington will today release the names of as many as 32,000 American Scientists who reject not only Kyoto-style greenhouse gas limits, but the very premise of manmade global warming itself.
“How many scientists does it take to establish that a consensus does not exist on global warming?”
“We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December, 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.
There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”
[If Iran] “tried to pose a serious threat to us they wouldn’t . . . they wouldn’t stand a chance.”
Barack Obama needs to issue a rule book for exactly what criticism opponents are allowed to make.
Rule 1 Don’t criticize family no matter who they are or what they do.
Although his wife Michelle is an active member of his campaign and a virulent critic of other candidates, she must not be made an issue in the election. “The GOP, should I be the nominee, can say whatever they want to say about me, my track record,” Obama said. “If they think that they’re going to try to make Michelle an issue in this campaign, they should be careful because that I find unacceptable, the notion that you start attacking my wife or my family.” To criticize Michelle is not part of the normal political fray, but a violation of the sanctity of family. Michelle Obama has immunity from condemnation and free reign to denigrate the country and Obama’s opponents.
Rule 2 Don’t criticize any policy that the candidate might have even if he is not mentioned by name.
The opposition must not challenge Obama’s plan to meet face-to-face with state sponsors of terror, even if the challenge does not mention the Senator by name. A Democratic firestorm broke out when President Bush told an Israeli Knesset audience that negotiating with Iran’s President, who has repeatedly committed himself to the destruction of Israel, is the false comfort of appeasement. Obama, whose policy is just that sort of false comfort, attacked the speech as “a false political attack” launched on foreign soil. Although Democrats have been critical of the U.S. on foreign soil (Obama’s recently dismissed foreign policy advisor Samantha Power is just the first that comes to mind.), partisan politics past our shores is not protocol.
Rule 3 Don’t imply that Obama’s stunning rise to power was the result of anything less than divine intervention.
As Bill Clinton discovered, referring to Obama’s unprecedented rise from an undistinguished state senator, with a short stop in the U.S. Senate, to candidate for the most powerful position in the world was “a fairytale.” Of course, Clinton did not imply that Obama conjured magical powers, but that unusual circumstances were in play. The “fairytale” remark was distorted and regurgitated as a play of the “race card.” There is no more damning or frightening epithet than to be called a racist.
Rule 4 Don’t examine any of Obama’s anti-American, racist, terrorist, or criminal associates.
It’s out of bounds to criticize a public member of his campaign in a key foreign policy position. Criticism of Obama’s associations with Reverend Wright, domestic terrorist Bill Ayers and indicted influence peddler Tony Resko are characterized as “witch hunt” and “guilt by association.” The critic is stained by association with two of America’s darkest periods in history: the hysterical unfairness of America’s Salem Trials and Joe McCarthy’s prosecution of Americans for their “suspected” associations with Communists.
So let’s clarify the rules for the general election so that Republicans are not labeled as destroyers of families, indecent purveyors of false attacks, racists, or McCarthyites. Don’t make negative mention of Obama’s wife, his policies, his inexperience, or his associations.
What’s left? The GOP had better contact the Obama campaign to issue a list of permissible topics.
By Ed Lasky
“Obama is the only major candidate who supports tough, direct, presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions.”
“having made Iranian talks without precondition: his major foreign policy goal, Obama is left with little leverage to extract concessions, and little choice to move forward”
Ed Lasky is news editor of American Thinker.