BY: Matthew Continetti – May 11, 2012 5:00 am
The presidential race recently took a turn for the humorous when the Obama campaign revealed its latest ridiculous microsite: ‘The Life of Julia.’ Visitors were treated to a web-based slideshow that follows an imaginary woman—Julia—as she benefits from Obama’s unsustainable government largesse throughout her nonexistent life. This revealing and creepy fictional illustration of dependency soon became the butt of well-deserved ridicule, especially since its debut coincided with a reminder that Obama’s girlfriend in his first memoir was a “composite.”
As funny as the ‘Julia’ parodies and imaginary girlfriend jokes may have been, however, they skirted a larger issue: President Obama is a composite, too, and his carefully crafted political identity is coming apart.
The incumbent has been given more leeway and control over his life story than any other president in memory. Most of the details of his early life come directly from his own pen. The media did not scrutinize him. His pre-political years and associations were given nowhere near the attention that media outlets have paid to those of Sarah Palin or Mitt Romney. Only now, with the impending arrival of David Maraniss’ biography, will Obama’s early life be the subject of fair-minded but scrupulous inquiry.
Not until three and a half years into his presidency will readers discover that, according to his college friends and acquaintances, Obama made a decision in early adulthood to identify as “American” and not Kenyan and “black” and not white or biracial. Talk about presidential firsts: One friend told Maraniss that Obama was “the most deliberate person I ever met in terms of constructing his own identity.” The objective, said the friend, was political power. Obama’s autobiography should be viewed as part of this composite-building project.