Last month on Tablet, David Samuels interviewed David Garrow, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Garrow is also the author of the massive Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama, released in 2017. The interview, headlined “The Obama Factor,” attracted widespread attention, mostly for Obama’s fantasies about making love to men. The true bombshells in the interview, with fallout extending to this day, escaped notice by establishment media and politicians.
As Garrow revealed, the Dreams author wrote to Alex McNear, his girlfriend at Occidental College, “about how he repeatedly fantasizes about making love to men.” That was bound to create a stir, and other girlfriends spotted something odd about the rising star. For example, Genevieve Cook, a Swarthmore grad of Australian parentage, thought he was “not very imaginative sexually,” and sent him this poem:
You masquerade, you pompous jive, you act,
but clothes don’t make the man,
and I know you just coverin’ a whole lot of pain and confusion
You think you got it taken care of,
But I’m tellin’ you bro, you don’t
You masquerade, you pompous jive, you act
In the marathon interview, Garrow and Samuels show more interest in the rising star’s literary pretentions. Barack Obama is the author of Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, published in 1995. In this book, the Kenyan Barack Obama comes to the University of Hawaii, marries American student Ann Dunham, and “bequeaths his name” to their American child before vanishing from his life. The Kenyan then becomes a nameless “old man,” even to his relatives. Here is what Garrow said about the Dreams book in Rising Star:
Dreams from My Father was not a memoir or an autobiography; it was instead, in multitudinous ways, without any question a work of historical fiction. It featured many true-to-life figures and a bevy of accurately described events that indeed had occurred, but it employed the techniques and literary license of a novel, and its most important composite character was the narrator himself.
“He wants people to believe his story,” Garrow told Samuels. “For me to conclude that Dreams from My Father was historical fiction—oh God, did that infuriate him.”
Samuels, who also writes for Harper’s, the Atlantic and New York Times Magazine, countered that “the pose of being a writer is actually one that he prefers in many ways to being a politician.”
“Oh God, yes. Yes, yes, yes,” said Garrow, “He doesn’t want the writerliness challenged. It’s my story and I’m sticking to it. The book [Dreams] is so fictionalized.”
The former Barry Soetoro was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961. In all his documents from 1958 to 1964, housed at the Harlem-based Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York, the Kenyan Barack Obama makes not a single mention of an American wife and Hawaiian-born son. This archive escapes Garrow’s notice in Rising Star, and so do sections of Dreams similar to I Dreamed of Africa (1991) and African Nights (1994) by Italian author Kuki Gallmann, a longtime resident of Kenya.
In African Nights, Gallmann and company “camped in the area of Narok, one of the main centers of the proud Maasai tribe.” In Dreams from My Father, the American travels to Narok, “a small trading town where we stopped for gas and lunch.”
In African Nights and Gallman’s I Dreamed of Africa (1991) the reader finds “the ink-black of Arap Langat” and “the ink-black darkness” where fish are approaching. Under a slate sky lies the “ink-black turmoil of the ocean.” Dreams of My Father speaks of “ink-black stairwells” and “tall ink-black Luos and short brown Kikuyus.” In Kenya, men “dive into inky-black waters.” And so on, with other passages too similar to be accidental.
In his 2008 re-reading of Dreams from My Father, Samuels discovered a passage with strong similarities to the famous fight scene in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.
“Right, right, right,” says Garrow, who also noted that Dreams “completely omits women. I’ve always thought that there’d eventually be a feminist critique of Obama because his mother and all the girlfriends—they’re not there. They don’t exist.”
The composite character devotes more than 2,000 words to a happy-drunk black poet known only as “Frank.” In Rising Star, Garrow identifies “Frank” as Frank Marshall Davis, a Communist pornographer living in Hawaii.
As Garrow prepared to interview Obama, the president’s lawyer Bob Bauer told him, “Whatever you do, don’t ask him about his father.” It seems that Garrow did just that.
“Barack Obama devoted dozens of hours to reading the first ten chapters of this manuscript,” Garrow says on page 1084 of Rising Star, and had “remaining disagreements – some strong indeed – with multiple characterizations and interpretations” in the massive book.
The rising star would “forcefully reject the Davis hypothesis,” Garrow wrote, and “Davis’ Communist background plus his kinky exploits made him politically radioactive.” That is why Barry needed the “historical fiction” of Dreams from My Father, the story about the Kenyan foreign student.
He wants you to “believe” his story, Garrow explained, and that recalls the man the New York Times proclaimed “Obama’s narrator.”
In Believer: My Forty Years in Politics, published in 2015, former journalist David Axelrod says, “I felt more comfortable, and proficient at, telling stories.” The composite character had no record of publication, but David Axelrod contends that “Barack was an exceptional writer” and Dreams from My Father “a powerful and poignant work.”
According to Obama’s narrator, “what animated The Audacity of Hope were stories written with the narrative skill of a gifted novelist.” Obama “approached every encounter as a participant and an observer. He processed the world around him with a writer’s eye, sizing up the characters and the plot, filing them away even as he fully engaged in the scene.” Like Eve Rand in Being There, Axelrod reveals himself to himself, and he is drenched and purged.
Obama’s narrator fails to note that “Frank” disappeared from the audio version of Dreams and fails to show up in The Audacity of Hope. The Stalinist Davis, who died in 1987, is also missing from A Promised Land, released in November of 2020, with only a single mention of Dreams from My Father.
As this writer noted in Barack ‘em Up: A Literary Investigation, that book should have been outed as a roman à clef in 1995. The composite character rode the historical fiction all the way to the White House, aiming to fundamentally transform the United States of America. Samuels and Garrow, neither of the political right, are troubled by the results.
“I’ve always thought that the whole Obamacare thing was, in large part, a fraud.” And as for Obama, “he’s not normal—as in not a normal politician or a normal human being.” A normal politician or human being might not put time back on the clock for Cuba’s Stalinist regime.
“I also found the Cuba thing deeply puzzling and offensive,” Garrow told Samuels. “It’s a fucking dictatorship that imprisons all sorts of truly progressive, creative people.” And the Pulitzer Prize winner wasn’t done.
“I do find the Iran deal offensive and puzzling,” Garrow said. “I mean, it’s an explicitly antisemitic state.” As Samuels notes, Obama is “fixated on Iran after the Iran deal failed.” The easy explanation is that “Joe Biden is not running that part of his administration. Obama is. He doesn’t even have to pick up the phone because all of his people are already inside the White House.”
The composite character is again leading from behind, and doing his best to get Iran a good deal. The rising star always had a soft spot for tyrannical regimes that hate the United States, and Samuels is also disturbed by the Dreams novel.
“There was something about this fictional character that he created actually becoming president,” Samuels contends, “that helped precipitate the disaster that we are living through now.” Nothing fake about that disaster, and Samuels wasn’t done.
“So how do you talk all this foundation-land, community-organizer shit and then preside over the transformation of the country into a Gilded Age oligarchy?” An oligarchy it is indeed, but far surpassing anything in U.S. history.
The disaster we are living through now features a jihad of junkthought, white coat supremacy, transgender madness, and woke censorship on every hand. Protesting parents and pro-life activists become domestic terrorists. It’s a veritable revolution against reality, with no end in sight. With Joe Biden in obvious decline, some see Michelle Obama gearing up for a run in 2024.
Back in 2008, Christopher Hitchens said Michelle’s college thesis couldn’t be read “because it wasn’t written in any known language.” About half way through Becoming (2018) Michelle introduces David Axelrod who would “lead the messaging for Barack.” If anyone thought the believer also had a hand in Michelle’s The Light We Carry (2022) it would be hard to blame them.
With the composite character in the White House, the people got Frank. If Michelle makes it, the people will get the composite character all over again. As Trump likes to say, we’ll have to see what happens.