The scramble to dig up any piece of salacious dirt, gossip, or innuendo about President Obama before he was President Obama is never ending. The latest in the long train of purported tell-all exposes on Obama is no different. Due out in June, Barack Obama: The Story is a story, but like the others that have taken a whack at Obama, hardly amounts to much. The book treads the same well worn path as the other Obama exposes. It cobbles together dozens of interviews with supposed intimates of Obama, always with the hope of uncovering some unflattering nugget of sex, drugs, violence, duplicity, scheming and connivance that will show the "real" Obama. This supposedly will demolish the standard narrative of the pre-White House Obama as an energetic, conscientious, cerebral, hard working, clean living, young man who constantly assessed and reassessed where he wanted to be and go in life.
The book reveals that Obama had several girlfriends, including a live-in white girlfriend, that he liked to wear a sarong around the house, and, with a strong hint, that he ultimately rejected her because she was white. But the real find supposedly is that Obama has been near-Machiavellian in masterfully parlaying his clean cut All-American image into a Teflon-like presidency, and a likeability factor that's virtually unassailable. The Story fails to lay low the soul searching, but positive, story that Obama told about his rise, and that has been confirmed by most others that were close to him. His positive image has withstood the most intense, relentless effort to assail the character, the reputation of a sitting president whose personal conduct in office has been beyond reproach in modern times. It's also understood that popular and likeable public figures also have human failing and foibles. Every public figure has that element sewn into the fabric of their rise to fame. And that includes Obama.
But that's really not the point of the avalanche of supposed tell-all books on Obama. The point is to tantalize the public and belittle the administration. The timing of the Barack Obama: The Story is no accident. It comes as the 2012 presidential campaign kicks into high gear, and this virtually guarantees that the long parade of anti-Obama blogs, web sites and right wing hit jocks will have a field day running with the gossipy bits from the book, such as, courtesy of one of his girlfriends, that he "played with a good poker face." The implication is that Obama is calculating, even duplicitous and always masks his true aim which supposedly is to do anything to advance himself.
News editors, TV executives and publishers insist that the alleged foibles and peccadilloes of celebrities, even those that wear the mantle of the presidency, are fair game for exposure. They are public figures and there is no such thing as privacy when that's the case. This is of course, pure bunkum. Their only interest is how high ratings can be shoved upward, and how many newspapers and books can be sold in mining journalistic muck. It's no different with Barack Obama: The Story.
News gathering is a business and it's certainly well established that sensational news, manufactured or otherwise, sells more than any other news. The rash of books on presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and most recently Nixon, that purport to tell all about their days before they sat behind the desk in the Oval Office are guaranteed to be big hits and will almost always translate into jingling cash registers at book stores and in online sales. By contrast, a book about the inside debates and deliberations in a White House over a job or health care bill or a foreign policy issue is guaranteed to draw snores from the public and gather dust on bookstore shelves.
In a book that purports to tell all about the real pre-President Obama, the author and the publisher can have it both ways. They smugly climb up on their high horse and claim that the public has a right to know about a president's inner life and then turn the table and claim that the public wants to know this stuff anyway and couldn't give a hoot about substantive public policy issues.
Some are trying hard to make the case that the president is anxious about the book coming out in the midst of his re-election drive; anxious, supposedly, because it could wound his image, be latched on by the GOP to assail his personal character, and, worse, taint him with some voters. He need not worry. This won't be the last book to corral a legion of inside sources to spin a juicy tangle of rumor, gossip, and exaggerations to sell a book. The public is jaded enough now to expect that. There's no story in the Barack Obama: The Story that will change that enough to harm a president.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour heard weekly on the nationally network broadcast Hutchinson Newsmaker Network.