The Hidden GOP Talking Points in the New David Maraniss Book

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Reporting on Politics and Policy.
June 19 2012 5:36 PM

The Hidden GOP Talking Points in Obama: The Story

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Barack Obama gets a Nobel Peace prize in 2009for all of his accomplishments as U.S. president.

Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

The greatest personal revelations in David Maraniss’s Barack Obama: The Story, about Obama’s youthful drug use and romantic dalliances, have already been comprehensively excerpted.

The biggest substantive revelations with today’s book release seem to be the extent to which Obama embellished portions of Dreams from My Father. The GOP came out with a listing of all of these exaggerations today, calling the president’s memoir “a load of you-know-what.”

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But as Andrew Sullivan notes, even these exaggerations are kind of boring. It also seems unlikely that anyone is going to be able to make political hay out of the hyperbole of a 17-year-old memoir when the American people’s personal views of Obama are already so well-established.

There are plenty of minor stories from the book, however, that seem very much to confirm the biggest anti-Obama clichés. As a favor to conservative talking heads and GOP apparatchiks, I’ve collected these anecdotes. For convenience’s sake, I’ve stripped out as much context as possible to leave you with hopefully the purest evidence for your unadulterated talking points. You’re welcome!

Talking Point One: Obama wastes too much time doing thing X (playing golf, talking about sports, watching television, etc.):

In the White House, he said, he often watched the television show Mad Men

Talking Point Two: Obama hates stay-at-home moms, probably because his mom hated them too:

Whenever his mother heard Barry or his friends complaining about the lack of food in their fridge, he noted later, “she would pull me aside and let me know that she was a single mother going to school again and raising two kids, so that baking cookies wasn’t exactly at the top of her priority list….”

Talking Point Three: Obama is a "food stamp president" who loves the idea of getting something for nothing:

… Obama had concocted a desperate plan. Their lease was to expire on December 7, but rather than pick it up themselves (they were subletting), he suggested they let it run out, not pay the last month’s rent, and stay until they were evicted or found another place.

Talking Point Four: Obama is a class warrior:

In his memoir… he wrote that he felt disconnected from his mother and sister because they seemed so content staying at the Park Avenue apartment of one of Ann’s friends and enjoying typical bourgeois tourist activities...

And:

The fancy cars, the exquisitely outfitted people, the snooty airs, it all overwhelmed Obama… The polo and disco scene left Obama feeling dispirited… “Everything is bought and sold, with unconscious satisfaction. From discothèques to the Finals of the Southeast Asia Games polo match,” [Obama wrote].

Talking Point Five: Obama has a Kenyan anti-colonial worldview:

… He reported that his “mother and sister are doing well…. but the struggling seems out of her, and the colonial residue of her lifestyle—the servants, the shopping at the American supermarket, the office politics of the international agencies—throw up continual contradictions to the professed aims of her work.”

Talking Point Six: Obama is an Alinskyite radical:

[His bookshelf contained] Reveille for Radicals by Saul Alinsky.

Talking Point Seven: Obama is ambitious beyond his actual abilities:

According to Mahmood, young Barack also took very seriously the channeling of grand ambitions... By his account, they had known each other only a few months when Obama posed this question to him: “Do you think I will be president of the United States?”

Talking Point Eight: Obama is an insincere striver:

Obama said that he had been sending out “letters of inquiry” to various social service organizations in hopes of finding a job after graduation that June, and would be “making up a resume (no comment) soon. I’ve also written an article for the Sundial purely for calculated reasons of beefing up the thing.”

Talking Point Nine: Obama is an effete, pretentious pseudo-intellectual—see all of these letters to girlfriends and this:

Loretta: “We’d take him to lunch and we’d have sandwiches and burgers and he’d have a spinach salad.”

Talking Point Ten: Obama is a fake Christian:

“He is trying to make sense out of it, and the more successful he becomes the more pressure there is on him to find a church,” Love said… “I suggested to him that he should not join a church just simply to fulfill a requirement, that he had to get his relationship with God settled first…”

BONUS TALKING POINT (for liberal critics): Obama is too conciliatory, to the point that he’s a wimp:

This leads to the characteristic that was most problematic for Obama as an organizer, a tendency that would crop up again and again later in his career: his caution.

And from pastor Alvin Love:

“Barack did not agitate. No fist pounding. No raising of the voice…. Sometimes I wish he would pound his fist on the table.”

And from fellow community organizer Ernie Cortes:

“He never had an edge, what we call a bias toward action, a willingness to combat, to draw a line at some point.”

Jeremy Stahl is a Slate senior editor. You can follow him on Twitter.

 

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