Jonah Goldberg
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It's becoming increasingly clear that President Obama is not burdened with too heavy a commitment to honesty.

This is hardly a shock about any politician, but revelations of dishonesty hurt some more than others. Announce that Bill Clinton has been speaking falsely, and it hits the ears with as much force as the news that birds fly, fish swim and dogs lick their own nether regions.

But Obama was supposed to be different. He was a "lightworker," an ocean tamer and cynicism slayer. In short, he was supposed to be too good to be true -- and it turns out he was.

That's one obvious conclusion to be drawn from the all-too-delayed vetting of the president's biography, most notably in David Maraniss' aptly titled new book, "Barack Obama: The Story," but also at news outlets such as National Review Online and Big Journalism.

Obama has been less than honest about many things. Some of his biggest distortions should be the subject of sustained soul searching on the part of the media. For instance, as New York Times reporter Janny Scott first reported over a year ago, Obama lied about his cancer-stricken mother being denied coverage for her pre-existing condition. Yes, he was close to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and former terrorist Bill Ayers. Yes, he was a member of the socialist New Party (as my National Review colleague Stanley Kurtz has documented).

In the spirit of charity, some of the lies can be chalked up, at least in part, to fanciful family narratives. Obama claims his maternal grandfather fought in Patton's army and liberated Nazi death camps. He says his paternal grandfather was tortured by the British imperialists in Kenya. He's claimed his Indonesian stepgrandfather was killed by the Dutch while fighting for independence. None of that is true.

What I find more interesting are the lies Obama tells not so much about himself, but about society. In "Dreams from My Father," Obama tells readers that he struggled with racism and racial alienation all his life. He wasn't a starter on his high school basketball team because he played "black" while his coach coached "white." He confabulated a black friend in high school who, like himself, was shunned for racial reasons. He wrote of a "big fight" with a white ex-girlfriend who, after seeing a racially charged play, "started talking about why black people were so angry all the time."

As Maraniss methodically shows, these and other tales of racial woe were false. His coach didn't start him because he wasn't good enough to start. His friend in high school was half-Japanese, not black, and neither of them were racially ostracized. The girlfriend, Genevieve Cook, never saw the play and never said anything of the sort. And so on.

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Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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