Dave Weigel writes in Slate:
Politico's attempt to clean up after yesterday's botched Drudge-bait* is a thoughtful, odd, meditation on the political impact of David Maraniss's new Obama bio. "This is a dangerous book for Obama," they write, "and White House staffers have been fretting about it in a low-grade way for a long, long time — in part because it could redefine the self-portrait Obama skillfully created for himself in 1995 with Dreams from My Father."
The oddity is in the assignation of roles — whose job was it to create a true portrait of Obama? From 2004, when Obama was winning a U.S. Senate race in his state, dogged local reporters like Lynn Sweet noodled about how weird Obama's bio was — facts mushed up with musings and lessons from un-named or composite characters. But after Obama became a star, the rawness of Dreams got lost. There was no great desire, by most political reporters, to dig into the thousands of words Obama had written about "the almost mathematical precision with which America's race and class problems joined." There was no great desire to dogpile on the first credible black presidential candidate by presenting his decade-old autobiography as a source of controversy.
"The media have drawn a curtain of admiring incomprehension in front of Obama's own exquisitely written autobiography," wrote the conservative author Steve Sailer in 2009. "Because few have taken the trouble to appreciate Obama on his own terms, the politician functions as our natonal blank slate upon which we sketch out our social fantasies."
Obama's been president for three years now, and the rules have changed.
I doubt that we'll see much in the way of people finally digging into Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. We're more years down the pike, plus the book is simply too difficult of a read. The prose style is pleasantly trance-inducing and unquotable, plus, it's pretty boring. For example, there are quite a few pages about Rev. Jeremiah Wright, but they are duller than Rev. Wright is in real life.
To understand Dreams, rather than to be just lulled by it, you have to cynically put yourself into Obama's state of mind about his ambitions as of 1995:
He wanted to prove he was black enough to be a black politician in Chicago, and he wanted to impress cultured white people in Hyde Park, but he didn't want to provide many quotes that could someday be used against him from any angle.
He largely succeeded on the last count. He likely succeeded somewhat on the second in terms of impressing a handful of rich people. (I wonder how many pages of Dreams billionairess Penny Pritzker made it through? Probably enough to become convinced that backing Obama would raise her social standing even higher). On the first goal, I can't imagine the book did him much good in his failed race against Bobby Rush in 2000.
As I pointed out in VDARE.com in 2008, most of the attacks on Obama's background (he's foreign-born, a Muslim, an Arab, the secret son of a Communist poet, etc.) are motivated by the urge to say, "It's not about race," when the whole Obama phenomenon really is about race. If he weren't part-black, he wouldn't be very interesting.