General Theory Explains Obama Book Catalogue, Hawaii Birth Certificate, and Cherokee Elizabeth Warren
Breitbart.com is getting new
mileage out of its discovery of a 1991 literary catalogue which
claims that then-aspiring author Barack Obama was born
Literary agent Miriam Goderich took responsibility for the
birthplace error in a statement that Nick Gillespie recently called
as definitive can be.”
But the Breitbart folks have now revealed a new facet of the
story: that author bios sent out by Jane Dystel’s literary agency
(now the Dystel Goderich agency) are written and submitted by
the authors themselves.
Writer Steve Boman recounts his own experience with the agency
during the nineties:
In my dealings with Dystel, I found her exceptionally thorough
and very professional. She had a template she wanted non-fiction
writers to follow, and my writing partner and I followed her
All material she used in our proposals came directly from me and
my writing partner. She edited our rough-draft proposals and gave
us feedback, but the final versions were all ours. Our final
versions, bio included, were then simply photo-copied, by us, and
distributed to potential publishers. This was back in the
pre-Google days, recall.
I was asked to write the bio in the third person…
Several years later, my writing partner and I returned to Dystel
with what we thought was a better proposal… I have pulled that
proposal out of my files, and it is sitting on my desk as I write
That second proposal logged in at 59 pages, including original
art and writing samples. My bio for that proposal was five
The policy appears not to have changed. From the submission
requirements at Dystel’s website:
Finally, there should be a more formal narrative
Bio of the author.
This is followed by links that serve as Support Material—reviews
of previous books, recent articles by and about you from national
publications, a schedule of speaking appearances, any national
media appearances, etc.
Now this is all less definitive than Goderich’s statement. (And
who wouldn’t take the word of an agent when there’s
documentation to the contrary?) But it does show that what I always
thought was Andrew Breitbart’s particular genius – the ability to
string a story along by releasing bits of new information that
contradict the subjects’ denials – appears to live on at the
company he founded.
Does this mean America must head
back down the murky corridors of the birthers? Maybe not. I
believe we can reconcile Obama’s legitimate Hawaiian birth
certificate with the Kenyan-birth claims that, we now know, precede
birtherism by nearly two decades. And as it happens, the Democratic
Party has recently given us the example we need.
Thanks to Elizabeth Warren’s heated Senate campaign against
Republican Scott Brown, we now know to a pretty fair certainty that
the Harvard law professor
falsely claimed her family history included membership in the
Cherokee Nation. It also appears that Warren used this fake
affiliation to further her career.
Warren’s fictional Cherokee history and Obama’s imagined Kenyan
birth share a common point: Neither Warren nor Obama could know the
absolute truth about events that took place when they were
respectively not alive and newborn. But all children are
susceptible to family scuttlebutt. Both Warren and Obama are
exceptionally opportunistic people for whom “Close enough for
government work” is a permanent way of life.
So here’s my theory: Obama was born in Hawaii, but at some point
in his life he considered it expedient to claim he was born in
Kenya. In other words, the myth of the Kenyan birth was invented by
Barack Obama himself.
Maybe (as I suspect was the case for Warren) he was merely
making vague reference to stories he’d heard as a child and did not
know for sure that the claim was false. Maybe he believed that a
foreign birth would confer some extra prestige or exoticism on an
up-and-coming community organizer and prose writer. In any event,
the only narrative that makes sense of all the elements is this
one: Obama himself actively or passively originated the story that
he was born in Kenya.