Documents obtained by WND indicate the Kenyan government investigated the possibility that President Obama was born in the East African nation.
Two letters purportedly written by Kenya’s immigration secretary during the 2008 U.S. presidential election campaign stated that officials in Nairobi could not find evidence Obama was born in Kenya. But the official said the government had “information” that relevant birth records may have been removed or were missing.
Emmanuel Kisombe, the permanent secretary in the Ministry for Immigration and Registration of Persons, wrote a letter in July 2008 in reply to a letter from the U.S. ambassador in Nairobi that raised the possibility with Kenyan officials that Obama was born in their country.
Kisombe wrote another letter on the issue, this time to Kenya’s Criminal Investigation Department, a few days before the Nov. 4 presidential election in the U.S.
Kisombe, 56, has been in public service since 1979, according to his bio. He became principal administrative secretary in the Office of the President in 2004 and was appointed permanent secretary for Immigration and Registration of Persons on Dec. 7, 2005.
His Oct. 22, 2008, letter to Simon Karanja Gatiba, director of the Criminal Investigation Department, indicated an investigation into the possibility Obama was born in Kenya was instigated at the level of the Kenyan Cabinet.
Kisombe wrote to Gatiba:
We have instructions from the Head of Civil Service and Secretary to the Cabinet carrying out directions of the Cabinet sub-committee on Security and Foreign Relations to investigate and report on efficacy of reports that Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic Party aspirant in the United States could be Kenyan-born.
Kisombe said the Kenyan government investigation was prompted by “numerous intelligence reports that [Obama] might have been born in Mombasa at the Lady Grigg Maternity Wing of the Coast Provincial Hospital.”
Kisombe noted that the Kenyan government’s inability to find Obama birth records was not conclusive, because “the information we in the ministry have is that some documents have been removed by unknown persons at unknown dates or are missing from birth registry records thus denting the prospects of uncovering the facts of this matter.”
This tampering, if confirmed, constitutes a serious offense that is punishable by law and it behooves your office to track down the culprits and bring them to justice. My officers have been instructed to fully cooperate as the Kenya Police Criminal Investigation Department performs this task.
Here is the entirety of the Kisombe letter:
According to the letter’s second page, copies were to be distributed to the following government offices:
A July 4, 2008, letter by Kisombe to U.S. Amb. Michael Ranneberger in Nairobi, marked “Confidential,” was a response to an inquiry from the U.S. regarding the possibility that Obama had birth records in Kenya.
Kisombe replied that there were no records to indicate Obama was born in “the geographic confines of what is now known as the Republic of Kenya.”
However, the Kenyan official said he could not say whether any documents or files “from the births registry at the Coast Provincial General Hospital are missing or tampered with.”
Ranneberger, who was appointed to the Kenya post by President Bush in 2006, has been reassigned to Washington and reportedly is flying back to the U.S. today.
Ranneberger made many friends across Kenya but ran afoul of some politicians who accused him of meddling in Kenyan politics as he pressed for reforms. In cables released by Wikileaks late last year, he accused President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Raila Odinga of impeding reform, prompting a member of Parliament to file a censure motion against him.
President Obama has nominated retired Air Force Major Gen. Scott Gration, his current envoy to Sudan and one of his top military advisers, to replace Ranneberger.
The text of Kisombe’s letter to Ranneberger reads, in part:
Dear Ambassador Ranneberger,
RE: BIRTH RECORDS FOR SENATOR BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA.
Your letter of July 1, 2008 refers. I wish to confirm that there are neither records nor evidence held by my ministry or any departments thereunder that suggest that Senator Barack Hussein Obama was born within the geographical confines of what is now known as the Republic of Kenya. Further I am unable to confirm if any files from the births registry at the Coast Provincial General Hospital are missing or tampered with.
The letter’s page 1:
The letter’s page 2:
Kisombe did not reply to a WND request for comment, and Ranneberger was not immediately available because he is in the process of returning to the U.S.
Barack Obama’s Work in Progress
Over the past few years, we’ve gotten to know our president as a lot of different things: campaigner, lawyer, father, basketballer. But what if Obama’s first and truest calling—his desire to write—explains more about him than anything else? Robert Draper recounts the untold story of the first man since Teddy Roosevelt to serve as author in chief
the author shows up at the bookstore just before seven in the evening. He is a lanky young fellow, with shirtsleeves rolled up and no tie. The store’s two owners greet him with the usual congratulations. One of them has in fact read the book all the way through. The other has not: He found it too long, especially all that stuff about the author’s time as a community organizer in Chicago.
Their store, Eso Won Books, is the leading African-American book vendor in Los Angeles. The owners serve wine and cheese when famous writers such as Maya Angelou and Walter Mosley come by to read. Tonight they hand Barack Obama a glass of water and bring him to the back of the bookstore, where his audience awaits him. All nine of them. None of his former classmates from Occidental College have shown up. He is getting used to this. The reading at his neighborhood bookstore in Chicago—57th Street Books, a Hyde Park co-operative of which he was a member—drew at most thirty, including only one colleague from the University of Chicago, where he teaches constitutional law. The tiny gathering at his book-signing party in Chicago consisted largely of folks whom the hostess, Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s friend and one of the Chicago mayor’s top advisers, had personally begged to drop by. Here at Eso Won, Obama smiles modestly at the nine strangers and, wholly unaccustomed at this stage of his 34-year-old life to adoring crowds, says, “Why don’t we sit in a little circle?”
To the largely white crowd at the Hyde Park bookstore, Obama read a passage from his memoir, Dreams from My Father, about the white grandparents who had raised him; here, he reads aloud about his father, a Kenyan, whom he barely knew. He reads in a sonorous voice but does not indulge himself, instead closing the book after just a few paragraphs. He then talks for several minutes about his unusual upbringing in Hawaii and Indonesia before offering to take questions. A woman raises her hand.
Obama says to her, “Tell me your name and what you do.”
The woman thinks to herself: Jesus, who does this guy think he is?
There are lots of questions—about community empowerment, about civil rights, about writing—and Obama’s answers are expansive. He seems enthused, even humbled, by their interest. Harold Patton, a former stage manager for Ray Charles, hands Obama his scrapbook, which says authors i have known on the front. Obama adds his signature to the ranks of James Baldwin, Alex Haley, and Alice Walker.
Before heading back to Chicago, Obama does the only TV appearance of his modest book tour, a thirty-minute cable-access show in L.A. called Connie Martinson Talks Books. He sits in a chair in front of a copy of his book while Martinson pronounces his memoir “wonderful.” But she is at least as impressed with her guest’s articulate, engaging personality. At the conclusion of the interview, she leans over to the young man in the sport coat and slightly askew tie.
“You know, I’ve never said this to anyone,” she tells Obama, “but you would have a terrific career in politics.”
Obama thanks her for the compliment, not letting on that he’s been thinking the same thing himself. Five weeks later, he stands in a hotel conference room in Hyde Park, and before a crowd of 200—a gathering far greater than any he has seen on the promotional circuit—he announces his candidacy for the Illinois State Senate.
the author in barack obama never really left the room.
In the years since his ’04 Democratic-convention keynote speech opened Obama’s biography to mass consumption, we’ve picked through nearly every theme—the biraciality, the absent father, the community organizing, the deft navigation of the political minefield that is Chicago—as a way of explaining What Makes Obama Obama. Yet the president’s writing life has gotten surprisingly little notice. His talent with words is widely acknowledged, but that skill is often regarded as more instrumental than essential, a kind of handy tool for a politician, like George W. Bush’s facility for remembering names or Bill Clinton’s talent for spewing out worldly minutiae. But what if the knack is more like a calling? At least from early adulthood if not before, Barack Obama was clearly driven to write; to trace that continuing compulsion, from the days when he penned fiction and then memoir to his present speechcraft, is to recognize that writing is anything but a small part of Obama’s life. It’s basic to who he is.
“I think he sees the world through a writer’s eye,” says senior White House adviser and former Chicago journalist David Axelrod. “I’ve always appreciated about him his ability to participate in a scene and also reflect on it. I mean, I remember when we were meeting clandestinely with the guys who were vetting the vice presidential candidates. There was this courtly southern gentleman who was doing the vetting. The president said to me, ‘This whole scene’s right out of a Grisham novel.’
“I also have to say, one of the great thrills is to watch him work on a speech. It’s not just the content—he’s very focused on that—but more than anyone I’ve ever worked with, he’s focused on the rhythm of the words. Like, he’ll invert words. He’ll say, ‘I need a one-beat word here.’ There’s no question who the best writer in the [speech-writing] group is.”
Axelrod, of course, is expected to extol his boss’s virtues, literary or otherwise. But Obama’s subordinates are not the only ones who view him this way. Recently, I had lunch with one of the nation’s leading conservative journalists. He had spent time with the president, and although he could find little to admire about the man ideologically, he also observed that there was simply no contest between Obama and George W. Bush when it came to the thoughtful evocation of images and ideas.
“He’s like us,” he said. “He’s a writer.”
That this journalist of the right would feel a kinship with the Democratic president suggests that the media’s affection for Obama may have less to do with ideology than is commonly supposed. As readers of Dreams from My Father are aware, Obama’s personal story is a good one. And as the writer of that story, Obama is more attuned to the power of narrative and is more in control of it than any president in recent memory. Yet this same attention to narrative can also seem the source of Obama’s psychological and political shortcomings; they are the writer’s classic failings. The story that obsesses him is his own story: He tells it over and over, stamping it into the larger American narrative and often conflating the two, a feat of authorial arrogance that’s simultaneously an outsider’s plaintive quest for belonging. In the telling, he shades and edits as a writer does, employing straw-man characters (those who would rather do nothing than fix the economy; the villainous Bush administration) to set a backdrop for his own heroic odyssey. Most perilously, Obama believes more strongly in the magic of words, especially his own, than perhaps any of his recent predecessors. His default option is to give a speech, and he’s maybe too prolific at doing so, since a disproportion of words to deeds is what ultimately undermines a politician.
But to the Obama White House, words are deeds. This belief that the president can swoop down and save the day with a game-changing speech has become a cornerstone of the administration’s political strategy. Such was the case with Obama’s September 9 nationally televised address on health care, which followed a full month of the White House struggling to find the votes it needed while histrionic opponents backed reform into a corner. The president’s speech, spangled with appealing rhetoric (“When facts and reason are thrown overboard and only timidity passes for wisdom…we lose something essential about ourselves”), won the night’s snap polls, but it hasn’t yet brought him a single vote on the Hill. In the view of former Bush chief speechwriter and ardent Obama critic Marc Thiessen, that’s because public support for Obama’s plan is not where the president needs it to be, and “there’s no speech that can overcome that.” And even those who disagree with Thiessen’s assessment might want to consider his own experience with shaping public opinion through words alone: “In my time at the White House, we scheduled a series of speeches to bolster support for the mission in Iraq. When the situation on the ground in Iraq was improving, the speeches moved public opinion. But when the situation on the ground was deteriorating, it didn’t matter what we said—they barely moved the dial.”
Still, there’s no doubt that this White House is willing to bet a lot on the president’s gift for words. And in doing so, Obama is seeking the kind of intimate bond with the public not seen in the world since 1989, when the Czechs elected a playwright, Václav Havel, to be their president. As the Oval Office’s resident author, he would be in rarefied company.
“The only president who ever made a living as a writer was Teddy Roosevelt,” says historian and presidential biographer Douglas Brinkley. “Since then, we haven’t had anybody like that. JFK got the writer’s aura with Profiles in Courage, but we now know that was written by Ted Sorensen. Tony Dolan wrote most of Reagan’s speeches. But I think Obama’s in a league with TR. He created his political reputation through the written word.”
Sitting in his seat, a seat broad and broken
In, sprinkled with ashes,
Pop switches channels, takes another
Shot of Seagrams, neat, and asks
What to do with me, a green young man
Who fails to consider the
Flim and flam of the world…
—“Pop,” by Barack Obama, Occidental College literary magazine, Feast, spring 1982
At 22, Obama graduates college and enters the real world. The first job he lands, in 1983, is not the one of legend, the formative yes-we-can mission of community organizing. Rather, it’s a gig editing and writing business publications. His supervisor figures him for a frustrated novelist.
Two years later, he’s in Chicago, stepping out into a world where King marched, where a black man, Harold Washington, is mayor for the first time, and where public housing has been left to rot in the sunny Reagan era. As the 24-year-old director of the Developing Communities Project, he frequents the Jazz Showcase, the museums, the bookstores, and the Hyde Park Hair Salon, where Muhammad Ali used to go. But his ambitions are focused, according to the man who hired him as an organizer, Jerry Kellman: “When he came to Chicago, he had two dreams. The one was working for social change. The other was that he would write fiction. His aspiration was to write a novel. We talked about it at great length.”
Kellman recalls something else, too—namely, that his young subordinate struggled early on at organizing because “his analytical side kept him from intimacy with these folks. But what he had going for him, once he began to unpack it, was story. I mean, community organizing is all about narrative at every level. Politics is also about narrative. How do we understand ourselves? Through stories.”
The organizers keep journals so they can file weekly reports of their interactions with the inner-city community. But Obama also maintains a second journal, one of “personal recollections and things like that,” according to one of his friends and co-workers, Johnnie Owens. It’s good material, this world he inhabits of crumbling tenements. He shows Kellman and another co-worker, Mike Kruglik, two short stories he has written. Both stories are about a minister of a storefront church in the inner city. Reading them, Kellman thinks, Hmm. Really strong on character. Still struggling with dialogue. Kruglik wonders, Man, all this evocative description of the landscape and deterioration on the South Side in wintertime, the gray sky.… Am I sure Barack actually wrote these?
The material is irresistible—and Obama’s not the only one who thinks so. Less than two years after he departs Chicago for Harvard Law, his peers elect him president of the Law Review, the first African-American to hold such an honor…and, well, now there’s a story! A New York Times reporter hoofs it up to Cambridge, and his article, published February 6, 1990, is the first to describe the meanderings of the biracial Hawaiian who was now declaring Chicago his home. Among those taking note are several book publishers and a young woman named Jane Dystel, who works in the Flatiron district with renowned literary agent Jay Acton, whose clients include James Baldwin, Tip O’Neill, and Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega. Acton says to Dystel, The guy could be another Baldwin—maybe we could get another Fire Next Time out of him. Dystel contacts Obama: There’s a book in all this. Obama has thought about writing a novel but never a memoir. Still, he has student loans, so why not? Dystel helps him fashion a book proposal, she submits it to multiple publishers—and on November 28, 1990, the Simon & Schuster imprint Poseidon Press issues a six-figure contract to 29-year-old Barack Obama for a book tentatively titled Journeys in Black and White.
The newly anointed author doesn’t start writing right away. He takes his law degree back to Chicago, where everyone wants a piece of the first African-American editor of the Harvard Law Review. Obama has his pick of law firms and winds up selecting Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland but informs them that he’s not ready to start just yet because he wants to work on the 1992 voter-registration drive, plus he’s got a book to write. He says the same thing to the faculty-appointments chair of the University of Chicago Law School, Doug Baird, who, hoping to keep Obama on the hook, offers him an office on the sixth floor of the law school to use for writing. And so Obama spends the years 1991 and 1992 at his desk with a view onto the once lovely neighborhood of Woodlawn, devastated by the 1968 riots following King’s assassination, grinding away on the manuscript that he originally described to Baird as “a book about voting rights” but which, a month into writing, he tells Baird has morphed into autobiography.…
“I just can’t get it down on paper,” he confesses to Valerie Jarrett in 1992. “I’d much rather hang out with Michelle than focus on this.” It occurs to Jarrett, seeing her talented friend struggle to come to terms with his father and his racial identity and his Larger Purpose, that this is the first time Barack Obama has ever undertaken anything that tests his limits. He seeks refuge at a friend’s place in Wisconsin, but homesickness for his soon-to-be bride soon lures him back to Chicago. Meanwhile, his editors at Poseidon are hounding him for copy. His due date is June 15, 1992. By the spring, Obama is starting to spit out the pages, but there’s no way he’s going to come close to meeting the deadline. It passes. On October 3, he marries Michelle.
Seventeen days later, Poseidon terminates his contract for failing to meet his deadline.
And suddenly Barack Obama’s story becomes a familiar one—that of the author who took a significant book advance but failed to deliver and is now thoroughly, mercilessly forgotten. (Even to this day. “I don’t recall a blessed thing,” says Elaine Pfefferblit, the Poseidon editor who acquired Obama’s book. Says the former editorial director at Poseidon, Ann Patty, who killed a book that now has more than 3 million copies in print, “Did it ever come in? Did we ever read it? I’m sure if I read and rejected it, I’d remember. I remember paying him!”) But Obama’s literary career is lifted from the shoals by the enterprising Dystel, who resells the book to Times Books for a far smaller advance—$40,000, according to his new editor, Henry Ferris—which Obama uses to fulfill his outstanding financial obligation to Poseidon.
Now he’s got to produce. But how? He floats the idea to Jarrett: He’ll go to Bali. “What do you think Michelle’s gonna say when I tell her I’ve gotta go?” he asks her nervously. What Michelle says is, Uh, didn’t we just get married? She certainly can’t come along—she’s got a job and they’re broke and just back from their honeymoon… Fine, Barack. Whatever. As the first lady now says, “He needed to go and get it done so that we could move on with our lives.”
In early 1993, Obama returns to Indonesia, the land of his childhood. And there he reenacts a common artistic ritual, albeit one that remains largely an unknown part of his biography, until now: He sequesters himself in a rental cottage on the crescent of Bali’s Sanur Beach, where for a month he is a lone figure pacing on the white sand and hammering on his laptop, as unknown as he will ever be.
The July 1995 publication of Dreams from My Father is unremarkable. Beyond the dozen favorable reviews and the 10,000 or so copies sold, all that remains among the staff of Times Books are threadbare memories: of a skinny guy in chinos dropping by the office, of a deep and pleasant voice on the phone, of the vaguest sense of satisfaction with the book. For the author’s part, he is unbothered by the meager bookstore appearances, the lack of so much as a single NPR interview, the obscurity of the midlist memoirist. After defeating the writer’s block and rustling through hard questions of identity, he’s quite pleased with the whole experience. This, at least, is what he conveys to a new friend, best-selling fiction author and fellow Chicagoan Scott Turow, who now says, “He had enjoyed writing the book a great deal more than maybe he had expected to.”
Obama had in fact been so taken with it, says Turow, that “this is my gloss, but it does make me wonder what would’ve happened had [then incumbent state senator] Alice Palmer decided not to give up that seat. For even after he was elected and I would talk to him when he was in Springfield, he still had some doubts about whether being an elected official was what he wanted to do. We would talk about books. He would ask me what I was writing. And my gut was that it was more than a sort of generalized yearning—that he’d been thinking for some time since Dreams about what he would like to write, and even if it was no more than making a few notes, he was actively pursuing something.… A writer’s life still beckoned to him.”
sometime in 2002, the young state senator pays a daytime visit to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. The artistic director, Barbara Gaines, is happy to show the politician around. Watching the carpenters erect the set, he asks Gaines which play is about to be performed. “Julius Caesar,” she tells him.
At first, Obama doesn’t say anything. Then, in a very soft voice, he begins to recite some twenty lines from the play. As he does so, he places his hand on his heart, as if stricken by the words’ transcendent beauty.
The director is agog. She has never heard an elected official quote Shakespeare in such a way. Later, she tells a co-worker, “I just had the most amazing experience. I met the first politician to have the soul of a poet.” (The first, she means, since Abe Lincoln, who quoted lines from Macbeth less than a week before his assassination: I think our country sinks beneath the yoke…)
When he is done, she murmurs, “Where did you learn that?”
He smiles. “From great professors,” he says. (Obama read all of Shakespeare’s tragedies during a short span of time in college and reread several while in Springfield.)
Two years later, she invites him to another of the theater’s productions, The Merry Wives of Windsor. But its premiere is September 2004, and Barack Obama can’t make it because he’s much in demand after having recently delivered the keynote address to the Democratic convention—the largest audience of his life. By then a book editor named Rachel Klayman has discovered that the rights to the long-forgotten memoir from which Obama’s speech was partially cribbed belong to her publishing house, Crown Books, an imprint of Random House. Moving with a swiftness almost unheard of in the annals of publishing, Crown crashes a print run of 50,000 paperback copies. And one month and two days after the keynote address, Dreams from My Father enters the New York Times best-seller list.
Nine years after his book’s publication, the lanky author is an overnight sensation. Dreams has become a rising national politician’s origin story. A few critics take exception to its composite characters, the arbitrary manner in which some but not all names were changed, the actual events compressed and rearranged for the sake of drama, and the elegant “remembered” dialogues from long ago that nonetheless go on for pages and pages. But for the most part, Obama is given a free pass. He has a greater truth to tell. And in this manner, the artistic gall of the writer and the artful calculation of the politician are indistinguishable—as Barack Obama, who by now thoroughly inhabits both worlds, proves better than anyone else.
“what story are we trying to tell?”
Obama invariably asks this question when huddled with his adviser David Axelrod and speechwriters Jon Favreau, Adam Frankel, Ben Rhodes, and Sarah Hurwitz. Speeches, he believes, too often become vehicles for slogans and applause lines. He sticks to his story, and that determination, rather than trying to shift with the news cycle, was a large part of what propelled him to victory last fall.
The world has changed since the days when Thomas Jefferson wrote all of his speeches and memos by hand. FDR brought in celebrity writers from the outside, like Pulitzer-winning author Archibald MacLeish and playwright Robert Sherwood, and since that time Sorensen, William Safire, Peggy Noonan, and Michael Gerson have achieved renown for their backstage penmanship. Still, if Barack Obama’s speeches are judged by history to be memorable, it will be because of the words and thoughts that were supplied by him. When Favreau first read Dreams from My Father, “I was like, I can’t believe this guy is a politician—honestly, I felt like I was reading The Color Purple,” he says. The memoir, bridging the deeply personal with historical antecedents and universal sentiments of struggle and longing, is “the Rosetta Stone of him,” says Rhodes. “In a sense, Audacity is the policy template and Dreams is the character template. And together that’s all you need as a speechwriter.”
Favreau began looting Dreams the moment Senator Obama hired him, in 2005, incorporating elements of it into commencement addresses and later the presidential campaign. Seemingly, every major Obama speech references his memoir: the African father and the Kansas mother and the grandparents serving during World War II; his early struggles as a community organizer (“One of the greatest things I’ve learned from him is that there’s no weakness in talking about failure,” says Favreau); and his travels through Indonesia and Kenya, which find their way into his foreign-policy addresses.
But the template only goes so far. When the subject isn’t policy but Obama’s personal values, says Frankel, “you just wouldn’t presume to write something for him. He has thoughts nobody can characterize.”
This was especially true last March 13, when the incendiary sermons of Obama’s pastor, Jeremiah Wright, blew up all over the cable networks. On that Thursday, Obama had spent the entire day and evening in the Senate. That Friday, after enduring a series of tough interviews, Obama informed Axelrod and campaign manager David Plouffe, “I want to do a speech on race.” And he added, “I want to make this speech no later than next Tuesday. I don’t think it can wait.” Axelrod and Plouffe tried to talk him into delaying it: He had a full day of campaigning on Saturday, a film shoot on Sunday, and then another hectic day campaigning in Pennsylvania on Monday. Obama was insistent. On the Saturday-morning campaign conference call, Favreau was told to get to work on a draft immediately. Favreau replied, “I’m not writing this until I talk to him.”
That evening, Saint Patrick’s Day, less than seventy-two hours before the speech would be delivered to a live audience, Favreau was sitting alone in an unfurnished group house in Chicago when the boss called. “I’m going to give you some stream of consciousness,” Obama told him. Then he spoke for about forty-five minutes, laying out his speech’s argumentative construction. Favreau thanked him, hung up, considered the enormity of the task and the looming deadline, and then decided he was “too freaked out by the whole thing” to write and went out with friends instead. On Sunday morning at seven, the speechwriter took his laptop to a coffee shop and worked there for thirteen hours. Obama received Favreau’s draft at eight that evening and wrote until three in the morning.
He hadn’t finished by Monday at 8 a.m., when he set the draft aside to spend the day barnstorming across Pennsylvania. At nine thirty that night, a little more than twelve hours before the speech was to be delivered, Obama returned to his hotel room to do more writing. At two in the morning, the various BlackBerrys of Axelrod, Favreau, Plouffe, and Jarrett sounded with a message from the candidate: Here it is. Favs, feel free to tweak the words. Everyone else, the content here is what I want to say. Axelrod stood in the dark reading the text: “The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made.… But what we know—what we have seen—is that America can change. That is the true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope—the audacity to hope—for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.”
He e-mailed Obama: This is why you should be president.
for most politicians, well-delivered speeches are the fruit of rehearsal. That’s not necessarily the case with Obama, who has given some of his best speeches without benefit of a run-through. One of these was the joint session of Congress speech delivered this past February—his first speech before the body. Chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, not yet accustomed to Obama’s methods, was apoplectic just before the speech, hollering, “No one gives that speech without a run-through!” (Observes Axelrod: “Rahm does yoga, but not Zen.”) Though his teleprompter is proof that Obama does not believe in truly winging it, he requires less rehearsal than most presidents because he’s deeply involved in shaping the words from their inception.
“I don’t think he sits down and stares at a blank page waiting for the muse to come and kiss him, you know,” says Axelrod. “But I also think he needs the deadline. It’s a motivator—it trains the mind.” This is Axelrod’s charitable way of saying that Obama does his writing at the eleventh hour, when his aides are on the verge of meltdown.
A major presidential address by Obama begins in the Oval Office, where he talks through the content with his writing team. Or rather, it begins sometime before then, since Obama—who even as a community organizer used to spend hours alone in a state of pure reflection—tends to martial his thoughts into infuriatingly coherent form while no one is around.
One Saturday morning this past May, for example, Obama summoned Ben Rhodes and national-security spokesperson Denis McDonough to discuss a speech he would be delivering in Cairo to the Muslim world. For an hour, Obama paced the Oval Office as he talked: “There are these tensions between the West and Islam. They’re rooted in colonialism.…I want a set piece where we talk about the contributions of Islam.” Islam and the West weren’t separate categories, he went on—and he knew this, because “I’ve lived in both worlds.” He listed a few commonalities—the desire for work and education, the love of family and God—and then said, “These things we share.” At one point he observed, “Suppressing ideas never makes them go away”—and recognizing that the line was a keeper, Obama made sure that Rhodes had it down verbatim. The same with, “I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality.” (McDonough and Rhodes tried to conceal their envy. They’d spent days meeting with experts inside and outside of government on how to handle the issue that their boss had now crystallized in a single sentence.)
Obama then left for Camp David, while Rhodes and McDonough crafted a version. Typically, Obama will respond to a first draft with a charitable “This is in the ballpark.” Not this time. Obama was annoyed by the draft’s tepidity. It had no mention of Iraq nor of September 11—hot-button issues in the Muslim world. The Holocaust had been referenced, but not Holocaust denial. Obama wanted to confront these head-on. And seeing that the writers had bundled the matters of women, religious freedom, and democracy into an amorphous passage about human rights, the president said, “No, let’s draw these out—they are different ideas.” He reminded the writers, “I’m not going to Cairo to not say certain things.” The speech would “say in public what people say in private. Israelis say, ‘Look, there needs to be a Palestinian state.’ The Muslims say, ‘Israel is not going away.’ So let’s start saying those things in public.”
Obama could tell that Rhodes was downcast. “Look,” said the president to his speechwriter, “there’s a David in there. It’s a rock, and you’ve gotta keep working at it.”
Rhodes produced a second draft. Then a third, then a fourth—the latter of which Obama marked up substantially in Riyadh after midnight, the night before the speech. He also added a crucial paragraph about democracy: “So no matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who would hold power.… Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.”
This last-minute revising meant that Obama would deliver the speech unrehearsed—and to a foreign audience deliberately consisting of not only democracy activists but also clerics and the Muslim Brotherhood. Would they heckle in Arabic? Would some walk out? When Obama greeted the Cairo University crowd with “Assalaamu alaykum,” an ear-splitting cheer went up and the speechwriters breathed a sigh of relief. And as the crowd continued to respond—aided by Arabic subtitles on the JumboTron, a lesson learned from the campaign speech in Berlin—Obama fed off of them as an athlete would, “totally leaning into it, [as if] he doesn’t want the speech to end,” recalls Rhodes.
After it was over, Rhodes and Valerie Jarrett were exulting backstage when the president sidled up.
“Ben did such a great job,” he said.
Abashedly, the speechwriter replied, “Well, actually, you did a lot of it.”
“Well, it’s a collaborative process,” said the president.
obama does his writing late at night, upstairs in the residence of the White House. His days are cut up into fifteen- or thirty-minute meetings; his West Wing office is invaded at all hours by harried aides. There in the residence, after he’s read to the girls, it’s quiet. He owes the publisher another book. But there’s no deadline this time. No subject specified. The publisher and the audience await him. And this time, there’ll be no long years of anonymous struggle, no anticipation of those first steps inside the bookstore, where rows of chairs are half full and bent into a modest arc: Tell me your name. And what you do.
robert draper is a gq correspondent.
Joel B. Pollak
May 17, 2012
Editor’s note: Breitbart.com has posted crucial information revealing that Obama has indeed violated the Constitution – Section 1 of Article Two – and his presidency is illegitimate. A booklet published by Obama’s literary agency states that Obama was “born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.”
The booklet underscores Michelle Obama’s 2008 claim that her husband considers Kenya his “home country,” a remark explained away as irrelevant by the establishment media.
Journalist Jerome Corsi discovered during a trip to Kenya that Obama’s birth certificate was “removed by unknown persons at unknown dates” and the missing birth registry records dimmed “the prospects of uncovering the facts of this matter,” according to Emmanuel Kisombe, the permanent secretary in the Ministry for Immigration and Registration of Persons in Kenya.
Breitbart.com’s senior management prefaces its post by stating that the late Andrew Breitbart did not believe the “birther” conspiracy and believed Obama was born in Hawaii.
This latest information, however, should finally put to rest the reservations of many who were afraid of the “birther” stigma created and amplified by Democrats and liberals to sideline a demonstrable truth – that Barack Obama, real name Barry Soetoro, is not “a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States” and as such is illegitimate and must be removed from office immediately.
The following copy is from the Breitbart report:
Note from Senior Management:
Andrew Breitbart was never a “Birther,” and Breitbart News is a site that has never advocated the narrative of “Birtherism.” In fact, Andrew believed, as we do, that President Barack Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on August 4, 1961.
Yet Andrew also believed that the complicit mainstream media had refused to examine President Obama’s ideological past, or the carefully crafted persona he and his advisers had constructed for him.
It is for that reason that we launched “The Vetting,” an ongoing series in which we explore the ideological background of President Obama (and other presidential candidates)–not to re-litigate 2008, but because ideas and actions have consequences.
It is also in that spirit that we discovered, and now present, the booklet described below–one that includes a marketing pitch for a forthcoming book by a then-young, otherwise unknown former president of the Harvard Law Review.
It is evidence–not of the President’s foreign origin, but that Barack Obama’s public persona has perhaps been presented differently at different times.
Breitbart News has obtained a promotional booklet produced in 1991 by Barack Obama’s then-literary agency, Acton & Dystel, which touts Obama as “born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.”
The booklet, which was distributed to “business colleagues” in the publishing industry, includes a brief biography of Obama among the biographies of eighty-nine other authors represented by Acton & Dystel.
It also promotes Obama’s anticipated first book, Journeys in Black and White–which Obama abandoned, later publishing Dreams from My Father instead.
Obama’s biography in the booklet is as follows (image and text below):
Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, was born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii. The son of an American anthropologist and a Kenyan finance minister, he attended Columbia University and worked as a financial journalist and editor for Business International Corporation. He served as project coordinator in Harlem for the New York Public Interest Research Group, and was Executive Director of the Developing Communities Project in Chicago’s South Side. His commitment to social and racial issues will be evident in his first book, Journeys in Black and White.
The booklet, which is thirty-six pages long, is printed in blue ink (and, on the cover, silver/grey ink), using offset lithography. It purports to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of Acton & Dystel, which was founded in 1976.
Michelle Obama in 2008: Kenya is Obama’s “home country.”