Saturday, February 9, 2008

Is Barack Obama Oprah's newest James Frey?

In 2005 Oprah promoted James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces. You may recall, this memoir took a great deal of license with the truth:

Police reports, court records, interviews with law enforcement personnel, and other sources have put the lie to many key sections of Frey's book. The 36-year-old author, these documents and interviews show, wholly fabricated or wildly embellished details of his purported criminal career, jail terms, and status as an outlaw "wanted in three states."

Fast forward to the race to the Presidency, where Oprah has chosen to promote another writer, this time the author of the 1995 book, Dreams From My Father. There seem to be some similarities between Obama's tendency to embellish his rakishness and the liberties taken by shamed author, James Frey.

In a New York Times story entitled, Friends Say Drugs Played Only Bit Part for Obama, we are told:

Mr. Obama’s account of his younger self and drugs, though, significantly differs from the recollections of others who do not recall his drug use. That could suggest he was so private about his usage that few people were aware of it, that the memories of those who knew him decades ago are fuzzy or rosier out of a desire to protect him, or that he added some writerly touches in his memoir to make the challenges he overcame seem more dramatic.

In more than three dozen interviews, friends, classmates and mentors from his high school and Occidental recalled Mr. Obama as being grounded, motivated and poised, someone who did not appear to be grappling with any drug problems and seemed to dabble only with marijuana.

This particularly dramatic paragraph caught my eye as it was very Manchild in the Promised Land:

Mr. Obama describes a scene in that period where, in the meat freezer of a deli, he watched someone named Micky — “my potential initiator” — pull out “the needle and the tubing,” apparently to shoot up heroin. Alarmed, Mr. Obama wrote that he imagined how an air bubble could kill him. Neither Mr. Kakugawa or the others interviewed for this article who knew Mr. Obama at Punahou recalled hearing that story from him.

Who are we to believe? I myself am wary of people who change their names and identities, like this witness to Barry's college days who was Kim but is now Amiekoleh:

While he would sometimes attend parties held by black students and Latinos, Amiekoleh Usafi, a classmate who also spoke at the rally, recalled seeing him at parties put together by the political and artistic set.

Ms. Usafi, whose name at Occidental was Kim Kimbrew, said the most she saw Mr. Obama indulging in were cigarettes and beer.

Time will tell whether any of this apparent tendency to embellish becomes subject to any meaningful scrutiny. I tend to doubt it as his supporters seem very content to believe in an illusion and would resist any and all attempts to bring this man back to Earth.

Clearly, this New York Times story does add to the aura of unreality which surrounds the candidate who runs with the theme, "The Audacity of Hope". However, lest one offend the easily offended, it is probably ill advised to have the audacity to challenge the carefully constructed biography of the man who would be President, and in any case, Hillary Clinton is hardly in a position to challenge him in that regard.

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