Meet the Obama Love Letter Truthers

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 18 2012 11:09 AM

Meet the Obama Love Letter Truthers

David Maraniss's upcoming Obama: The Story will present some problems for the president's skeptics and conspiracy theorists. Maraniss, who started profiling Obama for the Washington Post five years ago, dug up reams of new information about his subject and his ancestors. At the start of this month, Vanity Fair excerpted some chapters about Obama's college years, featuring love letters from the 21-year old future politician. They were tooth-achingly pretentious. But they were eloquent. They appeared to deep-six the theory that Obama was a simp whose famous works had been ghosted by Bill Ayers.

Or not. Jack Cashill, the author who's done the most to further that theory (convincing Andy McCarthy and intriguing the late Andrew Breitbart), looked at the Maraniss excepts and spotted a new conspiracy.

[W]riting longhand, presumably from memory, Obama has the wherewithal to put an umlaut over the “u” in Münzer. In college, I was an Honors English student and a Classics minor, not a political science major like Obama. I had not even heard of Münzer before reading this letter.
That Obama could embark upon a sophisticated, spontaneous discussion of T.S. Eliot – he claimed not to have read “The Waste Land” for a year and never bothered “to check all the footnotes” – should have alerted Maraniss.
Nowhere in “Dreams [from My Father]" is there any mention of T.S. Eliot, Münzer or Yeats.

In classic WND style, the column was spun off into a story about... the column Cashill had just written for WND. The next step, according to Cashill, was for Maraniss (a Pulitzer winner for his Bill Clinton reporting) to prove that the documents weren't faked. I asked Maraniss about the new Cashill theory.

"It is preposterous on its face," wrote Maraniss in an e-mail, "utterly made of whole cloth. It is not worth taking seriously, in my opinion, and fruitless in any case with people who want to believe what they want to believe, despite all facts and common sense to the contrary, but: Who could have concocted letters that would reveal such prosaic and intimate things as his work at the Fire Department, who he was staying with when he got back from Hawaii to New York, the precise addresses of his apartments, his observations in Singapore[?]"

Like he said, people believe what they want to believe. Over at TPM I see that Arizona's Secretary of State, unconvinced by the long-form and short-form Obama birth certificates released by Hawaii, wants a "certified" copy -- gold-embossed, I guess -- before he puts the commander-in-chief on the ballot.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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