Last week the Supreme Court ruled that We the People have the constitutional right to claim that we have earned military honors or served our country in its Armed Forces, even if neither is true. In other words, the First Amendment protects the right to fabricate.
The high court ruled 6-3 on Thursday to toss out the conviction of Xavier Alvarez, a former California politician who lied about being a decorated military veteran. He had been charged under the 2006 Stolen Valor Act, which made it a crime to lie about receiving the Medal of Honor and other prestigious military recognitions. The decision invalidated the law, as the justices ruled Alvarez’s fabricated story was constitutionally protected speech.
Not all members of the military or military veterans condemn this ruling. One decorated hero, Jack Jacobs, explains:
“There are lots of things people do that revolt me, but I’m happy that I fought for this country, not to give them the right to do something stupid, but for the majority of the people to do the right thing,” said Jacobs, 66, who earned the Medal of Honor in 1969 for carrying several of his buddies to safety from a shelled rice field despite the shrapnel wounds in his head, the streaming blood clouding his vision.
“I’m a free speech guy,” he said.
He’s also a hero who “gets it.” Thank you for your service, Mr. Jacobs. We the People will never be able to honor people like you as much or as well as you deserve.
However, even if a person has the right to lie about having served, or having been awarded military honors, the ruling doesn’t protect him or her from the consequences that come from having fraudulently received something as a result of false claims. For example, there’s the case of Marine Sgt. David Budwah, who
was demoted to private and dishonorably discharged after pretending to be a wounded war hero to get free seats at rock concerts and sports events.
Which brings us back to the case of Xavier Alvarez, who sat on a board of directors for a municipal water district. One wonders if his false claims helped him to get that seat on the board. If so, can the municipality now charge him with fraud, in order to recoup the compensation and other benefits he received as a result?
Which then brings us to the case of Barack Hussein Obama II and the recent biography written by David Maraniss, Barack Obama: The Story. This book contains shocking revelations for those heretofore inclined to believe everything Obama says and writes (or has written for him). There were very few revelations, however, for those of us who have doubted the veracity of Obama’s memoir, Dreams from My Father, from the beginning.
Maraniss reveals that Obama’s book is full of fabrications (38 and counting). But then, Obama admitted as much in the beginning of the book, when it was originally published in 1995: timelines were messed with, conversations were made up, names were changed, and characters were morphed into “composites”. In their haste to annoint Obama the messiah of hope and change, the media failed to pay attention. As Jack Cashill wrote:
The respectable media, left and right, are finally opening themselves up to the possibility that the story Barack Obama told in his 1995 memoir Dreams from My Father has been, in large part, manufactured.
As a case in point, the Weekly Standard’s Andrew Ferguson has had to do some serious reevaluating of the man after reading David Maraniss’s … book, Barack Obama: The Story. Writes Ferguson ruefully,
“The writer who would later use the power of his life story to become a plausible public man was making it up, to an alarming extent.”
What Ferguson found particularly “dispiriting” was that the moments most likely to be “invented” were the most critical ones, the book’s racially-charged epiphanies, “those periodic aha! moments that carry the book and bring its author closer to self-discovery.”
Obama’s fabrications involve what could be called stolen victimhood. Examples abound in the book:
Obama wrote that his grandfather Hussein Onyango Obama was imprisoned and horribly tortured by white British colonialists. Except Onyango Obama wasn’t.
The young Obama, in Indonesia, was traumatized by reading a magazine article about a black man who tried to bleach his skin white. Except there was no such magazine article.
Obama was, to his shame, the only black employee at his first job after college. Except he wasn’t.
Obama and his second white girlfriend broke up because she couldn’t understand or relate to “black suffering,” actually crying because she could never be black herself. Except it didn’t happen, Genevieve Cook says.
Did he innoculate himself against allegations of fraud by that introduction to the first edition, where he admitted, in so many carefully parsed words, that he could be “just making things up,” to borrow a phrase from Sarah Palin?
Let’s compare Obama’s memoir to the situation of another author, who also wrote a book that was classified as a memoir.
James Christopher Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces, was outed by a website that found that he had exaggerated incidents in his book. As an example, he turned a 5-hour stay in jail into an 87-day stretch in the slammer. Like Obama, he also changed names and embellished events.
After being outed, Frey and his publisher did penance. Future editions of his book contained disclaimers by the author as well as the publisher. Mea culpas all around, as demanded by an outraged media. Frey was given a public tongue lashing by Oprah Winfrey on her TV show, because she had previously touted his book on her program–just as she had touted Obama’s memoir. Frey, however, was publicly shamed for deceiving her. Obama, her friend, was not.
Will Obama’s memoirs ever be held to a similar standard? But, wait! He did include that warning, didn’t he? Even though nobody paid much attention to it except for those of us who have doubted his fable from the get go.
Frey admitted that he had literary reasons for his fabrications, as well: “I wanted the stories in the book to ebb and flow, to have dramatic arcs, to have the tension that all great stories require.” He also said memoirists had a right to draw upon their memories, in addition to documents, in creating their written works.
The Frey excuse, therefore, states that memory is constructive and imperfect and that “literary reasons” suffice to explain and excuse even deliberate untruths told in memoirs, especially if it makes for a great story.
Writer John Nolte quoted Maraniss himself, who said of Obama’s 38 fabrications (there are actually many more):
But it is important to say that it falls into the realm of literature and memoir, not history and autobiography, and should not be read as a rigorously factual account. … The character creations and rearrangements of the book are not merely a matter of style, devices of compression, but are also substantive. The themes of the book control character and chronology. Time and again the narrative accentuates characters drawn from black acquaintances who played lesser roles in his real life but could be used to advance a line of thought, while leaving out or distorting the actions of friends who happened to be white. Sometimes the composites are even more complex; there are a few instances where black figures in the book have characteristics and histories that Obama took from white friends. The racial scene in his family history that is most familiar to the public, the time when he overheard his grandparents in Hawaii argue because his grandmother was afraid of a black man at the bus stop, also happens to be among those he pulled out of its real chronology and fit into a place where it might have more literary resonance. Like many other riffs in the book, it explored the parameters and frustrations of his blackness.
The Frey excuse excuses all (for Obama but not necessarily for Frey). Obama was “just making things up” and presenting created characters and events to advance a narrative, all for the sake of literature, except that Obama and his supporters, in word and deed, certainly implied that the book was literal truth and not myth, despite that sneaky disclaimer that most interviewers and book reviewers neglected to mention, if they even noticed it. Obama’s book was never presented as, or categorized as, fiction.
Maraniss tries to excuse what appears to be an aggravating circumstance–Obama invented racial incidents in order to exaggerate the “frustrations of his blackness.”
This from a man who presented himself to voters as “post-racial”, as an everyman to whom all can relate because he is (allegedly) a product of both black and white worlds. He also wants us to believe that he is Asian by proxy, via the formative years that he spent in Indonesia. In fact, he went further, announcing to persons of South Asian descent that he actually is one of them:
Not only do I think I’m a desi , but I’m a desi. I’m a homeboy.
Did Obama make that claim to “advance a line of thought?” Was it a literary “device” or did he expect listeners to believe and accept it on faith (eschewing reason) as some sort of religious mystery like transubstantiation? Obama is, after all, a godlike being, at least in his own mind.
Now we learn that he has invented incidents and characters that serve to aggravate racial tensions. Incidents and characters meant to exacerbate grievances and divide us, rather than to unite us as one people.
Small matter to Obama, apparently, if his devices unfairly taint the reputations of his white characters (actually, shamelessly stereotypical caricatures) by “distorting” their words or actions.
Very little about these one-dimensional characters rings true. Why it took so many so long to notice is truly a mystery.
Obama’s tale about Madelyn Dunham’s fear of the black man at the bus stop is among the worst. A useful device that he employed during his “landmark” speech about race, an anecdote that left the impression that his white grandmother was a racist. In response, her friends and former co-workers rallied to her defense:
… several current and former Bank of Hawaii executives — some of whom were mentored by Dunham and knew her after she retired — said they were stunned by Obama’s comments about his grandmother.
“I was real surprised that he indicated that,” said Dennis Ching, who was a 23-year-old management trainee under Dunham beginning in 1966. “I never heard her say anything like that. I never heard her say anything negative about anything.”
In campaign speech after campaign speech, Obama repeated exaggerations from his book. For example: His mother and father enjoyed an “improbable love” and the three of them lived happily together for the first two years of his life, until his father chose education over family. In truth, his mother left her husband and moved to Seattle only weeks after Obama’s birth; she did not return to Hawaii until her husband (if they were indeed married) had left for Harvard.
Another example: Obama has often claimed that he was raised by a single mother who sometimes eked by on food stamps. In truth, his mother was married from 1961 to 1980, with perhaps a year between husbands (at most). It’s unclear where Obama was when his mother went to the University of Washington in the autumn of 1961, but at least one news story stated that the infant “namesake” remained in Hawaii with his grandparents, which makes far more sense.
As a child and young man, Obama enjoyed perks that most only dream about, such as world travel and an expensive education in elite schools. For the most part, he was raised by his grandparents, except for the four years that he lived with his mother and stepfather in Indonesia. While his mother may have separated from her second husband shortly after their daughter, Maya, was born, Obama was sent to Hawaii right about the same time, to live for the rest of his childhood with his grandparents. So, he was not raised by a single mother, nor did they live in poverty. Quite the contrary.
Obama was elected on the strength of this “compelling” life story, as told by Obama. A story that is now exposed as fabricated. If so many “facts” and stories, anecdotes and conversations, are simply made up in order to advance a false narrative, then how much truth is there in Obama’s book? Are “birthers” really as crazy as the media (and Maraniss) would have everyone believe?
Is it truly a “preposterous notion” to suspect that Obama is lying about his eligibility for the presidency, especially when he has not shown anyone a certified paper copy of his birth certificate, including any of the judges presiding over the hundreds of cases that challenge his eligibility?
Maraniss has written a hagiography that merely echoes Obama’s autohagiography. A variation on a theme by Obama.
After stating that Obama’s book cannot be read as “history,” Maraniss seems to believe that his own book, which repeats much of Obama’s book, is history. To supplement the narrative from Obama’s own stories, he includes specious anecdotes which are little more than gossip–conversations allegedly remembered verbatim, fifty years after the fact, with no secondary source to lend them any credibility.
Maraniss was blessed with a private visit with Obama, in the Oval Office, which he described:
When the interview started, he said, “You call my book fiction,” and I said, “No, Mr. President, in fact, I called it literature.” It had to do with the composites and chronology changes, which he talks about in the introduction to his memoir. In my book, I try to get the right story. That’s what he was defensive about, but as we went through them, there was never a case where he said, “No, that’s not the way it happened.”
This author was given an hour and a half interview in private, in the Oval Office, with Obama. Why Maraniss?
After all his research, how many new discrepancies did Maraniss find and report? Was his book intended to get the “right story” or to spin the stories that already were falling apart or being picked apart, piece by piece, by skeptics?
Maraniss states that he read (and it’s obvious that he drew upon) other mostly flattering biographies of Obama or members of his family–books such as those by Sally Jacobs, Janny Scott, and David Remnick. After being asked about the best selling book by Ed Klein, The Amateur, Maraniss responded tellingly:
I have not read it, nor do I ever intend to.
David Remnick himself has found an artful way to excuse Obama’s “artful shaping” of his false narrative–he paternalistically explains that this is what black people do, or at least, that’s the way I read it:
Remnick concluded that Author Obama wanted his life story to fit into a long tradition of African-American literature: a “narrative of ascent” discernible in early slave memoirs right up through contemporary classics like Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952) and The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965).
When in doubt, play the race card. Works every time to shut up most critics, but not those who truly are color blind. (We will cry b.s., regardless of your race, color, or creed, if what you write is b.s.)
Obama wanted his life story to fit this “narrative of ascent.” It didn’t fit, so he made it fit, and expected the whole world to believe it.
Because he’s Barack Obama and not James Frey, the media is just all right with that. Others are, too. One distinguished black professor has excused Obama with a rather amazing statement:
Gerald Early, a noted professor of English literature and African-American studies at Washington University in St. Louis, agreed. “It really doesn’t matter if he made up stuff,” Early told Fox News. “I mean, after all, it’s like you going to a psychiatrist and you make up stuff, and the psychiatrist can still psychoanalyze you because they’re your lies.”
It doesn’t matter if he made up stuff or told lies! Thus sayeth “noted professor” Gerald Early.
Somehow, it mattered that James Frey made things up. It mattered that Xavier Alvarez and David Budwah made things up. It mattered when the media thought that Senator Marco Rubio made something up (or “embellished“).
Yet it doesn’t matter that the president of the United States got elected based upon the narrative that he told in a memoir that is chock full of made up stuff!
Not only that, these “lies” may not even be his lies, if we accept Jack Cashill’s analysis that identifies Bill Ayers as the probable ghostwriter.
Sgt. Budwah was placed on trial, demoted, and ejected from the Marines; his Commander in Chief (the man who says he got Bin Laden) remains. Obama is held to a different standard than the troops he leads.
Free tickets to rock concerts and sporting events are chump change compared to netting millions from the sale of a book full of prevarications or to being handed the keys to the most powerful office in the world.
The Supreme Court has judged that a person has a constitutional right to fabricate. Did Obama defraud the voters in 2008 with his fabrications? Does he intend to try again in 2012?
In a word, yes. He always gets by with more than a little help from his friends. Will it work this time?