« Beldar on WaPo on Houston | Main | Why didn't Obama publish anything in the law journal he edited? — [but see NOTE for important update] »

Monday, June 23, 2008

Beldar on WaPo on Obama's "scrupulous manag[ement] of his own biography"

In my last post, I wondered when the WaPo will get around to writing about Barack Obama with any genuine objectivity. An article in today's issue actually starts off promisingly:

In the opening weeks of the general-election campaign, Sen. Barack Obama has moved aggressively to shape his campaign and offered a clear road map for the kind of candidate he is likely to become in the months ahead: an ambitious gamer of the electoral map, a ruthless fundraiser and a scrupulous manager of his own biography in the face of persistent concerns about how he is perceived.

I actually think that's a helluva lede — especially the hint that there's something, well, interesting about what Obama has chosen to highlight, and what he's chosen to obscure, in his own biography.

The problem is: No follow-up. No examples, no meat to support the sizzle. Nothing to drive home to you the fact that: "Yes, indeed, this candidate has things about himself that he wants you to know, but also things he'd rather remain shrouded in mist."

Just go look, for example, at the biography on his campaign website. What's mostly missing that you'd expect to see on any résumé submitted as part of a job application?

It's dates.

There are only five years mentioned, despite the fact that he's 46 years old: 1961 (he was born); 1983 (graduated from Columbia); 1985 (moved to Chicago); 1991 (law degree from Harvard); and 2004 (elected to the U.S. Senate).

Like me, gentle readers, some of you have been in the position of making hiring decisions before. Some of you have a reasonable sense of when you're being snowed. And some of you would immediately look just at this list of years and say, "Well, for example, what the heck were you doin' between 1983 and 1985, young man, and why didn't you see fit to mention it on your résumé?"

Do you know? Here's one of two remaining serious candidates for the presidency. Do you, prospective voter, know enough about him to know what should have been filled in that blank?

I'm not suggesting that it's impossible to find out, if you're in the mood for internet sleuthing. Just like the fact of his smoking habit, it's out there somewhere, if you care to dig. Nor is it something that reflects particularly badly on the candidate, in my own opinion.

But then, my opinion isn't what Barack Obama is trying to shape. I don't see anything wrong with the fact that he went to work in New York in a very conventional job — if not actually, physically "on" Wall Street, then certainly in the business world that he now takes pains to establish that he's always flouted and defied. His deliberate omission of that fact, however, may be a story worth telling.

Unless you're a mainstream media journalist who gets a tingle up and down your leg when you listen to Barack Obama speak. Unless you're in the tank, even if you're in denial about being in the tank. In which case, you can tell yourself that you've done your job as a hard-hitting investigative journalist by merely hinting, instead of actually delivering. "He manages his biography!" you can shout. (Then shut up about the details he's left out, okay? Let's not disrupt "the narrative.")

John Kerry also wanted to scrupulously manage his own biography. In his version, he was a spectacular war hero who volunteered for and served two full tours in heavy combat in Vietnam, and all of the men who served with him loved him and, indeed, held him in awe. But thanks to a few individuals who knew otherwise, including many of those who served with him and absolutely did not hold him in awe, at least some voters took a closer look, and found that it wasn't necessarily so, or at least not in the same way that the candidate claimed.

Yay for the internet! And thank the Lord there are still over four months until the election. The subject of Barack Obama's biography, and what in it he'd rather you not focus upon, will be, in case you haven't already figured it out, a recurring theme on BeldarBlog until November.

Posted by Beldar at 07:04 AM in 2008 Election, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Beldar on WaPo on Obama's "scrupulous manag[ement] of his own biography" and sent a trackback ping are listed here:


(1) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Jun 23, 2008 9:00:21 AM | Permalink

Dear Mr. Dyer: In snoring away, the press is not doing Obama any favors. He is not being toughened up, and with his huge sense of entitlement, he could use it. As you say, in the age of blogging, it will be a good deal harder for the results of digging to be hidden. Ignored, yes, but again, in the age of the internet, the ignoring will be harder to do. See, e.g. Michelle Obama's senior thesis at Princeton, which I am sure she would just as soon leave gathering dust on Princeton's shelves.

Do you have any bits of Obama's biography or lack thereof, that you'd like to highlight for us? I would like to know a bit more about his first book deal, where he was treated with astounding generosity for a never-published-outside-of-student-journals author:

a) lands a contract for a book on "race relations in America," which a 28 year old freshly minted Harvard Law grad with an undergraduate degree in political science from Columbia, two years next door to Wall Street and three years community organizing does not appear to be spectacularly qualified to write,
b) changes his mind and writes a memoir instead,
c) misses the deadline to submit it,
d) no matter, gets a better deal ($40,000 advance for a first time author---see a) above) from another house.

Remarkable. The tyro authors I have met all think they will get the same terms. With no exceptions up to now, they find the publishing world is quite different, and where are the library's books on self-publishing? No self-publishing for BO.

May I suggest a post to you, that you have special qualifications to write? BO always roars about being the first black president of Harvard's Law Review. You've mentioned that such a feat likely had some politicking involved, so you aren't excessively impressed. But what's with becoming president and never publishing a line in the REVIEW? If I remember correctly, you worked on the TEXAS LAW REVIEW in your own Law School days. Do you, like me, find this lack of publication by a president mighty unusual?

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(2) capitano made the following comment | Jun 23, 2008 9:16:00 AM | Permalink

No doubt you are prepared for the inevitable charges that you are "swiftboating" Obama and/or that your biographical critique is based in racism.

Swiftboating: a fundamentally accurate eyewitness account which calls into question the self-serving biography of the candidate favored by the mainstream media.

Example: Here is a source for a more accurate history of Obama's connection with the Ayers family. Since the linked articles quote people with first-hand knowledge and is at odds with Obama's statements it's ...swiftboating.

Racism: Unwillingness to overlook Obama's poor judgment, questionable associates, woeful ignorance of basic economics and world history, and reckless foreign policy statements in order to pave the way for the first black President.

Wear the swiftboating label with pride; ignore the other attacks. Good luck with your project.

(3) Carol Herman made the following comment | Jun 23, 2008 4:51:51 PM | Permalink

One old man. And, one pretty decent looking black guy, are both vying for presidential votes, for this coming November election.

And, ya know what?

I don't know what to make of it.

Back in 1952, when the GOP was really, really desperate. And, had been out of power in American politics for decades; they came up with "I LIKE IKE" ... and they ran with it.

While back in those days, the democrats, close to their intellectual roots, ran Adeli Stevenson.

Say what you will. Both men had full resumes. And, yes. Ike stole the show.

Too bad for the GOP, so long out of power ... especially on their foolish 1948 moves ... where they went with the loser, Dewey ... They got to discover sides of Ike that were just perverse!

First of all, who was Richard Nixon? And, why did Richard Nixon become presidential timber? Or even vice-presidential timber. Beats me.

While Ike opened up the Executive Cabinet to include even more FEDERAL CHAIRS. And, there ya go ...

Just like the monstrous Anthony Kennedy (among the Supreme-O's), you get snookered by your own team.

How do you keep doing this?

What would be nice?

Let Obama run. Stop the snide remarks.

You think your snide remarks tore John Kerry down? Nope. He did it to himself.

When you can't dance. And, you can't run. You're gonna trip over your own two feet.

And, you might be somewhat better off, now, if you spent some time evaluating your losses. The DC crowd is still driving around in liberal limosines ...

And, instead of getting comfortable ... why not call on your skills to debate as if it mattered?

The best lawyers should never lose sight of their own lapels.

They should never become so lacksidaisical that their gifts become useless.

Sort'a like Jack Benny. Once the world expects to see a show, what's the big idea of not wanting to deliver one?

You've already crapped out in Congress.

What's ahead, a spitting contest? Gee. Seems like too many American voters are being asked to get mad. And, cast your votes, insanely.

There isn't even one Adeli Stevenson in this pool.

And, yes. We are a nation run by the slobs we elect.

Just as eventually all "dem laws" end up in the hands of jurors. Watch out!

(4) narciso made the following comment | Jun 24, 2008 12:02:42 AM | Permalink

Ah, Carol, one liberated Europe, headed Columbia U, the other was a minor functionary of the Daley machine. One believed in confronting the enemy of the time, one believed in accomodation. The parallels are there, but they are not helpful to the "Prince of Hyde Park". That other comment was haiku, right.

The comments to this entry are closed.