Smerconish’s take on ‘Barack Obama: The Story’

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By Michael Smerconish
Follow @smerconish 

Let me finish tonight with this.

I just finished reading Pulitzer Prize winning author David Maraniss’ new book, Barack Obama: The Story. When I recently interviewed him, he told me that he spent nearly four years researching and writing the book, during which time he logged 50,000 miles, conducted close to 400 interviews, and searched libraries on three continents. The result is a 600-plus page biography that ends with Obama’s acceptance to the Harvard Law School — meaning, there is much of the story he didn’t yet tell. 

While Maraniss told me that his goal was not to vet the President’s own memoir, many readers will be tempted to focus on the contradictions between The Story and Dreams from My Father. The bigger story is what Maraniss’ revelations say about what others missed or did not seek to find.         

Time and again, where mere contentions have become the stuff of internet lore, Maraniss uncovers never before revealed information, including the case of the President’s birth. 

Not long after Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, delivered the future president, Maraniss writes that an obstetrician-gynecologist named Rodney T. West dined with a friend who asked, “Well, Dr. West, tell me something interesting that happened to you this week?” 

West was a colleague of David A. Sinclair, who delivered Barack Obama. In response to the question, he responded, “Stanley had a baby. Now that’s something to write about.” 

Writes Maraniss:

“He went on to explain that Stanley in this instance was a young woman, of course — no miracle birth. Stanley was white. The baby was black. The father was an African with an interesting name too.”  

The friend at lunch was Barbara Czurles, then a journalist at the Star-Bulletin, who shared the funny story in a letter she sent to her own father.  

We never heard that during the birther debate. In the polarized world in which we live, many will no doubt parse the many vignettes and re-affirm their admiration or antipathy toward the President. Some will say it confirms a lack of vetting in 2008, but the takeaway on which all should agree is that the volume of coverage of our modern political debate should not be mistaken for quality.

If the two were synonymous, Maraniss would not have had so much to write about, with a second volume in the works. We are all paying a price for eviscerated newsrooms. 

Barack Obama and Hardball Let Me Finish

Smerconish's take on 'Barack Obama: The Story'

Updated