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In the wake of a Vanity Fair piece on President Obama's old girlfriends, Politico has recovered another scandal pulled from the pages of Obama's decades-old autobiography, but much like the Indonesian dog-eating affair, it's a new spin on a piece of info we've known about for a long, long time. On Wednesday, Politico's Dylan Byers writes:
... Obama has now told biographer David Maraniss that the 'New York girlfriend' was actually a composite character, based off of multiple girlfriends he had both in New York City and in Chicago ... Though Dreams From My Father is an autobiography, and hence non-fiction, Obama makes no mention of this "compression," nor is their any note by the publisher, Broadway Books. In fact, Obama only acknowledged the "compression" after Maraniss learned that Cook had no recollection of some of the events at which Obama said she was present.
The implication, obviously, is that the President was, up until this moment, dishonest about the contents of his book. It's also led to lots of snarking about "composites" of ex-girlfriends on Twitter
. But read the introduction
to Dreams from My Father
and you'll find this little admission:
For the sake of compression, some of the characters that appear are composites of people I've known, and some events appear out of precise chronology.
Byers has since added a correction to the bottom of his story to note this.) Whether or not Obama admitted to it in the introduction, Byers is totally fair to question whether Obama should have taken that kind of license in misrepresenting his experiences, and people have certainly done so before today
. (Side note: If you had dated a guy who went on to become president, wouldn't you be so miffed if he reduced you to a "composite" in his autobiography? Ouch!) Our Twitter feed reveals
that we'll be having this conversation again this week, and that's fine, but let's just acknowledge that we've had it before.
This reminds us of last month's tizzy
when conservative outlets picked up on Obama's admission that he ate dog meat while in Indonesia, as revealed in Dreams From my Father
. It was an old bit of biographical detail that had new meaning given the "Romney dog on roof
" story. But did we learn anything that millions of readers hadn't already passed over? No. A lot of political commentary these days is based on knowing which archives to search and what to look for so we can find old information that carries new meaning. Someone could probably re-read Dreams From my Father
once a week and find something "scandalous" to re-report. But we're certainly not going to volunteer.
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is an associate digital editor at Boston Magazine
and a former staff writer for The Atlantic Wire.