Posted Monday, Nov. 29, 2010, at 4:14 PM
The Truth About Hillary author Ed Klein and occassional GOP troublemaker John LeBoutillier have decided, for some reason, to torpedo whatever reputations they have left with a cheeky novel titled The Obama Identity which repackages conspiracy theories about the president as mysteries investigated by a man named "Higgy" Higginbothem. It's extremely weird for two reasons. One: Based on interviews it seems like LeBoutillier actually believes the conspiracy theories. Two: The book takes debunked conspiracy theories and reframes, recasts and rewrites them for the sake of drama.
Take one case I know very well. In the novel, Higgy visits Kenya before Obama in 2004, during the candidate's shoe-in U.S. Senate bid. He visits the home of "Obama's grandmother" and discovers -- shock! -- that she admits her grandson is Kenyan but fiendish translators are trying to cover it up.
The mention of Obama's birth reminded me why I had come all this way. So I decided to jump right in.
"Malik, can you please ask your grandmother if it is true that her grandson was born in Mombasa?"
It seemed like Malk had been down this road before. He sighed as he began the translation, and it was clear that Grandma Obama understood what the question was even before he was finished. Her one-word answer came back fast.
"What does ndiyo mean?" I asked.
"It means 'yes' in Swahili," Malik said.
I was caught up short. This was the very answer I'd wanted.
"Mailk, is your grandmother saying, 'yes,' he was born here in Kenya? Is that what she is saying?"
She answered before the translation. "Ndiyo," she repeated. I suspected she understood English more than she let on.
Suddenly Malik stood up and leaned closer to his grandmother. They began a quick back-and-forth. Abubakar listened.
"He is telling her that she can't say Barack was born here in Kenya, because then he can't be president," Abubakar whispered into my ear. "But she says, she doesn't care, because Allah will make him president anyway."
This is a fictionalized version of a
muddled 2008 phone call
that an anabaptist bishop, Ron McRae, made to Kenya. He claimed to have spoken to and record Sarah Obama, the president's step-grandmother, at a party with a translator helping answer questions about where Barack Obama was born. But after he asked one question and got an affirmative response, he asked for more details and the translator, having misunderstood the first question, explained that Barack was not born in Kenya.
MCRAE: I would like to see his birthplace when I come to Kenya in December. Was she present was he born in Kenya?
TRANSLATOR: Yes, she says yes she was, she was present when Obama was born.
MCRAE: Okay, when I come in December, I would like to come by the hospital where he was born. Can you tell me where he was born? Was he born in Mombasa.
MALIK: Oh, yeah. No, Obama wasn't born in Mombasa. He was born in America.
MCRAE: Whereabouts was he born? I thought he was born in Kenya.
MALIK: He was born in America, not in Mombasa.
MCRAE: Okay. Do you know whereabouts he was born?
MCRAE: Do you know where he was born? I thought he was born in Kenya. I was going to go by and see where he was born.
MALIK: Hawaii. She says he was born in Hawaii, in the state of Hawaii, where his father was also learning, there.
wrote about this at the time
, and I'm genuinely surprised to see it resurrected as fiction with totally different wording and timing -- 2004 instead of 2008, the interviewer in the room instead of on the phone, the questions clearly worded instead of worded to trap the woman into giving a wrong answer.