On the front page of Thursday's Washington Post, reporter Eli Saslow took on the new anti-Obama books in a story headlined "New Books Aim to Unweave the Obama Narrative." For his part, Saslow writes as if it's his job to simply present the Obama narrative on the front page of the Post as news, like his gooey piece lamenting how Obama's radical black church was feeling "marginalized and vilified" over the Jeremiah Wright controversy. Saslow quickly reached the verdict that the book was widely disproved, and so was the Swift-boat veteran book from 2004:
Corsi's "The Obama Nation" lacks major revelations and has been dismissed by Obama's campaign as a series of lies from a serial liar. Parts of the book have also been disproved by the mainstream media. In 2004, Corsi co-wrote "Unfit for Command," in which Swift boat veterans criticized Sen. John F. Kerry's Vietnam War record. That book was also widely disproved.
Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, has started a Web site to help discredit these tactics on Obama's behalf.
But this kind of slash-and-burn judgment clearly disregards what the Washington Post itself reported in 2004 on the book as it emerged. In an August 22, 2004 story in the Post (that the networks tried to talk past, according to Brent Baker's Cyber Alert), reporter Michael Dobbs pronounced himself unsatisfied with either side's account of an alleged firefight and rescue of Jim Rassmann, a man who constantly made the rounds on Kerry's behalf saying Kerry saved his life throughout 2004:
"An investigation by The Washington Post into what happened that day suggests that both sides have withheld information from the public record and provided an incomplete, and sometimes inaccurate, picture of what took place. But although Kerry's accusers have succeeding in raising doubts about his war record, they have failed to come up with sufficient evidence to prove him a liar....The Post's research shows that both accounts contain significant flaws and factual errors."
Dobbs still tried to offer Kerry the benefit of all the doubts: "But although Kerry's accusers have succeeded in raising doubts about his war record, they have failed to come up with sufficient evidence to prove him a liar."
That's a little more nuanced a verdict than Saslow now denouncing it as being "widely disproved." But Saslow isn't done writing an editorial in the guise of a news story.
Then came the vast right-wing conspiracy section of the article, where it's suggested that an army of bulk-buyers and ideological goons are creating a best-seller outside the credible mainstream:
Corsi's book and the others like it have found their largest audience inside a conservative echo chamber, reinforcing the divide between supporters of Obama and those of his challenger, Republican Sen. John McCain. The anti-Obama narratives are the creation of conservative authors, pushed by conservative book clubs that buy in bulk to drive up sales and publicized by right-wing bloggers. Corsi said he attempts to expand beyond that audience by aggressively marketing to independent voters and those who supported the presidential bid of Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
It's always amusing when a newspaper like the WashPost or the New York Times – which could host a parlor game of "Find the Republican" among thousands of employees – suggesting someone else lives in an ideological "echo chamber."
Saslow also pressed the Obama narrative by suggesting that, gasp, these authors have an agenda. (When you're a Washington Post reporter, you can write an Iraq War book titled "Fiasco" and not be seen as having an agenda.) They didn't try to hide it:
Authors of the other anti-Obama books were similarly forthcoming about their motives. They wanted not just to analyze Obama but to debunk him, they wrote. In the introduction to "The Case Against Barack Obama," [David] Freddoso says he felt compelled by duty: "As it became clear that he was going to win the Democratic nomination for president, it seemed irresponsible to stand by as so many were offering admiration, piety, even worship to -- of all things -- a politician. Because the idea of Barack Obama as a reformer is a great lie."
That quote comes from the second page of the Freddoso book, so Saslow didn't have to read more than a few paragraphs. Saslow can't find the time to interview Freddoso, although he did talk to Corsi:
"The problem with running a campaign that's based on cult of personality is that cracks in the grandiose facade of Obama's life become very damaging," Corsi said in an interview. "That's where you can get a reader's attention and have substantial impact."
Wrapping it up, Saslow went to "literary experts" to assuage liberal worry-warts that readers of the new books won't be so gullible as to swallow them whole:
Readers of the new books are forced to differentiate on their own between bias and biography, between facts and fictionalizations, literary experts said. It is a task most readers have learned to manage. "Readers aren't as gullible as they used to be," said Tom Smith, a biography scholar at Pennsylvania State University at Abington. "One thing we've learned so far with biographies in the 21st century is that every book is going to be one person's take."
Even as Saslow wrote about attempts to "unweave Obama’s narrative," he doesn’t really explore how Obama’s autobiographies are also "one person’s take" that force readers to choose between "bias and biography." Just like with John Kerry, the liberal media usually sees two narratives: the dominant Democrat/media narrative, and the "widely disproved" conservative "echo chamber.
PS: The Post doesn't just tut-tut liberal-exposing books when they're written by conservatives.