Thursday, May 17, 2012

Re-Birther: Obama Once Claimed To Have Been Born In Kenya

This is not a Birther blog. The Free Will Official Stance on Birtherism has long been as follows:
1. Birth certificate or not, if your grandparents lived in the state you say you were born in, and there were birth announcements in the newspapers, and your mother was a US citizen (and born in Kansas, no less), then you are a US citizen as far as I'm concerned.
2. The "natural birth" requirement just might be the most anachronistic provision in the Constitution. American ideals are so widespread that immigrants arriving in the US today have a better grasp of what makes this country great than an alleged American like Van Jones ranting about "the System."
and, most important:
3. The times are too grave, and the imperative to remove Obama from office so salient, that we literally have no time to goof around interpreting birth certificates.
Everyone thought the issue was finally put to rest when Obama released the hallowed "long form" showing that he was born in Hawaii. But, the Breitbart site - also not a Birther hub - has dug up promotional materials for Obama's first book which describe the young man as .... "born in Kenya, raised in Indonesia."

Breitbart News has obtained a promotional booklet produced in 1991 by Barack Obama's then-literary agency, Acton & Dystel, which touts Obama as "born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii."  
The booklet, which was distributed to "business colleagues" in the publishing industry, includes a brief biography of Obama among the biographies of eighty-nine other authors represented by Acton & Dystel.  
It also promotes Obama's anticipated first book, Journeys in Black and White--which Obama abandoned, later publishing Dreams from My Father instead.

Now, this a third party writing the bio, but realistically I think we can all assume that the source for the "born in Kenya" line was Obama. (Plus, Breitbart managed to talk with one of Obama's former agents who said his practice was to have authors review & approve their bios). Does this mean he was born in Kenya? I don't think so. In fact, I will continue to cling bitterly to my close-minded, vast right-wing conspiracy belief that Obama was born in Hawaii and leave it at that. But, what this does mean is that Obama has long shaded the truth about his origins, presenting himself as more exotic or less exotic, depending on what the circumstances warrant. Breitbart gets this, too. 

Obama has been known frequently to fictionalize aspects of his own life. During his 2008 campaign, for instance, Obama claimed that his dying mother had fought with insurance companies over coverage for her cancer treatments.  
That turned out to be untrue, but Obama has repeated the story--which even the Washington Post called "misleading"--in a campaign video for the 2012 election. 
The Acton & Dystel biography could also reflect how Obama was seen by his associates, or transitions in his own identity. He is said, for instance, to have cultivated an "international" identity until well into his adulthood. 
Regardless of the reason for Obama's odd biography, the Acton & Dystel booklet raises new questions as part of ongoing efforts to understand Barack Obama--who, despite four years in office remains a mystery to many Americans, thanks to the mainstream media.

Like the parallel case of Elizabeth Warren, Obama probably got a lot of personal and professional mileage out of his self-professed exotic biography. Obama's was exotic enough without going whole-hog on claiming Kenya as his birthplace, but Obama was canny enough to know that in the academic and cultural circles he aspired to travel, "born in Kenya" would outrank "born in Hawaii to a Kenyan father and white-bread American mother." Not a earth-shaking issue, certainly not something to lose the presidency over, but it doesn't say much for his character. (or about the intellects of his supporters, whether 20 years ago or today).

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