The publication last week of an excerpt from a forthcoming Barack Obama biography sparked an especially frenzied response from conservative bloggers who view the president's distant personal past with an unhealthy fascination.
The book's new revelation about the identity of a girlfriend Obama had soon after he graduated college nearly 30 years ago, along with the other biographical nuggets, were deemed to be crucial pieces of information that had gone missing during the 2008 campaign season. Washington Examiner columnist Byron York bemoaned the fact that the Vanity Fair excerpt revealed "a portrait of Obama that might have enriched the voters' understanding of him in the 2008 campaign."
Indeed, for conservatives, previously unearthed details about Obama post-college girlfriend represented the latest piece of evidence that reporters hadn't done enough digging during the previous campaign. That they never grilled the candidate; that they ignored the Rev. Jeremiah Wright story! (Fact: They covered it. Exhaustively.)
But this time around, it's going to be different. Obama's (supposedly mysterious) life story is going to be fleshed out during the 2012 campaign.
Under the headline, "Re-Vetting Wars: Obama's Girlfriends Speak," American Thinker blogger Thomas Lifton noted "One of the foremost concerns of the Obama re-election effort is the promised re-vetting of Obama, playing off the widespread perception that the media utterly failed to investigate the reality beneath the highly manufactured identity peddled in 2008."
That vow to "vet" the president has become a mantra this year. Addressing CPAC this winter, Andrew Breitbart declared "[T]his election we're going to vet him," and specifically promised to "vet" Obama's "college days." (Days after Breitbart died in March, his site unveiled the "college days" vetting he had promised; it did not go well for Team Breitbart.)
That same month, Sean Hannity announced it was clear that Obama's "friends" in the press made sure "that his past remains un-vetted," while Hannity's angry guest Michelle Malkin reported it was time to "vet the prez."
The vetting obsession, however, doesn't spring from a natural affinity for fact checking. Instead, it's used to bolster the broader conservative argument that the real reason Obama won an electoral landslide victory in 2008 was because the press (purposefully) hid the truth about who Obama really is. And, by extension, if Obama wins re-election in November, the only reason will be because for his four years in office, the press (purposefully) hid the truth about who Obama really is.
The conspiracy theory serves as a convenient catchall excuse for why Obama succeeds electorally despite the conservative press' depiction of him as a monster determined to destroy the American economy and ruin our way of life. That's all accurate, the bloggers insists. It's just that the liberal media hasn't properly conveyed all the crucial information to voters.
The far right's vetting pledge isn't a new one, though. In fact, bloggers today are far too modest when they suggest Obama hasn't been vetted. They did it themselves! And oh what a memorable job they did. (The blogger and satirist known as Jon Swift did a masterful job in 2008 of detailing the attempted vetting.)
Here's a look back at some of the shocking revelations and allegations conservatives made four years about Obama's life, and some of the sites that initially trumpeted them:
- While attending Columbia University in the early 1980's during the South African divestiture movement, Obama was involved in violent protests, including domestic terrorist bombings, that erupted when a South African rugby team toured America. (Just One Minute, Ace of Spades).
- Obama had an affair with a young female staffer who was promptly exiled to a Caribbean country by an angry Michelle Obama after she discovered the blossoming relationship. (Ace of Spades, JammieWearingFool, Say Anything, Confederate Yankee)
- Obama once had gay sex in the back of a limousine. (WorldNetDaily, Jawa Report)
- Obama's deeply personal memoir, Dreams from My Father, was actually ghost-written by Bill Ayers, the former '60's radical-turned-college professor who Obama met in Chicago in the 1990's. (National Review Online, American Thinker, Ace of Spades, Powerline, Flopping Aces, Ann Althouse.)
- Malcolm X is Obama's father. (Atlas Shrugs)
- Obama was not born in the United States, and therefore not eligible to be President. The birth certificate his campaign posted online to debunk that story was actually a forgery; he really born in Kenya. (Right Wing News, Atlas Shrugs, National Review Online, to name just a few.)
And don't forget about the right-wing attempts to "vet" the 2008 campaign and to report out the blockbuster stories the timid mainstream press refused to touch:
- When Obama went to visit his ailing grandmother in Hawaii weeks before Election Day, he was really traveling there in order to deal with the controversy surrounding his birth certificate. (Jerome Corsi)
- Michelle Obama did a campaign interview with something called African Press International where she condemned "American white racists" who were bringing up issues of Obama's citizenship. (Stop the ACLU, Newsbusters, Jim Treacher, Gateway Pundit, Town Hall)
You get the idea.
The point is, right-wing bloggers can whine all they want about Obama not being vetted, but they had their chance to do it in 2008. These same bloggers blew it though, by trafficking in some of the most absurd, un-thinking conspiracy theories imaginable.
Expect this year to be more of the same.
Crossposted at County Fair, a Media Matters blog.