Politico's attempt to clean up after yesterday's botched Drudge-bait* is a thoughtful, odd, meditation on the political impact of David Maraniss's new Obama bio. "This is a dangerous book for Obama," they write, "and White House staffers have been fretting about it in a low-grade way for a long, long time — in part because it could redefine the self-portrait Obama skillfully created for himself in 1995 with Dreams from My Father."
The oddity is in the assignation of roles -- whose job was it to create a true portrait of Obama? From 2004, when Obama was winning a U.S. Senate race in his state, dogged local reporters like Lynn Sweet noodled about how weird Obama's bio was -- facts mushed up with musings and lessons from un-named or composite characters. But after Obama became a star, the rawness of Dreams got lost. There was no great desire, by most political reporters, to dig into the thousands of words Obama had written about "the almost mathematical precision with which America's race and class problems joined." There was no great desire to dogpile on the first credible black presidential candidate by presenting his decade-old autobiography as a source of controversy.
"The media have drawn a curtain of admiring incomprehension in front of Obama's own exquisitely written autobiography," wrote the conservative author Steve Sailer in 2009. "Because few have taken the trouble to appreciate Obama on his own terms, the politician functions as our natonal blank slate upon which we sketch out our social fantasies."
Obama's been president for three years now, and the rules have changed.
To understand Dreams, rather than to be just lulled by it, you have to cynically put yourself into Obama's state of mind about his ambitions as of 1995: