Dr. Jerome Corsi first caught national attention with Unfit For Command in 2004. Writing with John O’Neill, Dr. Corsi questioned John Kerry’s claims about his time in Vietnam and argued that he was, as the title suggests, unfit to lead the country. The book’s impact on the election outcome is debatable—certainly the title will come up whenever someone researches the origins of the term “swiftboating,” since O’Neill’s group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and the controversy that their charges caused are directly responsible for the word entering our lexicon—but what is undeniable is that Kerry lost. Now, four years later, Dr. Corsi has returned with The Obama Nation, a book which seeks to match Unfit’s feat, if not surpass it.
Judging from the book’s reception—its rise to the top of the New York Times Bestseller list notwithstanding—Dr. Corsi has certainly brought something to the media’s attention. Time, Politico, The New Republic, the Washington Post, and both the New York and the Los Angeles Times all savagely attacked it; Time’s Joe Klein was particularly creative with anecdotes about his mother and declarations that the book was “trash” and “poisonous crap.” The Obama campaign itself issued a forty-one page document, “Unfit for Publication,” in an attempt to rebut the book’s “rehashed lies.” “Brought to you by the Bush/Cheney Attack Machine” the cover proclaims (the phrase’s lack of an exclamation point is a distinct disappointment), leading one to wonder why such a powerful machine would bother to include someone who is, according to the first page of the report, “a discredited, fringe bigot” with “bizarre, conspiratorial” views. Given the attacks which fly furiously during every election cycle, and since the book was already taking quite a bit of heat, the Obama campaign’s response suggests that there is something about, or in, The Obama Nation worth personally replying to.
Rather than proclaiming his views on the front cover, as “Unfit for Publication” does, Dr. Corsi waits until the Preface before admitting to his “fundamental opposition to Obama’s presidential candidacy.” The title is no mere pun: Concerned by Obama’s “pattern of voting on the far left on a wide range of policy issues”—a pattern established, one assumes, by the comparatively few times Obama has not voted Present—and a life virtually unvetted in comparison to other candidates, Dr. Corsi is convinced that “Obama’s radical leftist politics, driven by the cult of personality he has intentionally manufactured, would be an abomination . . . After an Obama presidency, we would be a militarily weakened and economically diminished nation.” And so, after giving a brief biography of himself and explicitly denying any connections to the McCain campaign and the Republican Party, he sets out to prove it within 364 pages.
He begins with an examination of the book that introduced Obama to the world at large, Dreams From My Father. “Obama openly admits he is offering a psychological autobiography, not a chronological one. The dialogue is an ‘approximation’ . . . the characters are ‘composites’ . . . ‘events appear out of precise chronology.’” Dreams “reflects Obama’s inner perception of his personal past . . . what we are told by Obama outright is that much of the autobiography is not factually true, at least not as written.” In his own words, Barack Obama is an unreliable narrator, and as anyone who has read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd knows, unreliable narrators give readers interested in cold, hard facts nothing but headaches. Working from this conclusion, Dr. Corsi proceeds to positively eviscerate Dreams From My Father. What emerges from these chapters is not the impression of a man who, upon hearing of the death of a father he only met once, went on a quest which took him deep into his past and around the world before he finally came to terms with the events of his life, but a portrait of a mixed-race man who grew up around the world, felt abandoned by both of his parents, and never had any solid ground upon which to base his identity, at least until he came across the radical racial writings of Franz Fanon, of radical Saul Alinsky, Frank Marshall Davis—a Communist mentor, and the acceptance of a mantle of race and inheritance which was not, technically, completely his. “Where does Obama’s racial angst come from?” Dr. Corsi asks after exploring a section of Dreams where Obama goes on at length about black rage and powerlessness. “Obama is not a descendant of a slave, he did not grow up in an urban ghetto in an impoverished family, he was not unjustly prosecuted for some crime he did not commit. Where is the social injustice he has suffered? . . . What Obama had experienced to this point in his life was not intense racial injustice, but the abandonment of his father, followed by the abandonment of his mother . . . Yes, Obama was mixed-race, but what had he suffered from being born to an African father and a white mother? Beyond a confused identity, Obama never suffered poverty and he ended up the Harvard-educated son of a Harvard-educated father.” It is true that we “do not know who he is and cannot ‘guess at my troubled heart,’” but “As Obama further admits, only at his father’s grave as an adult did he understand how much of his life he had spent trying to rewrite stories of his past, plug up holes in the narrative, and accommodate unwelcome details,” and Dreams From My Father seems to be a project in doing just that, while airbrushing out those pesky unwelcome details.
But while Dr. Corsi does an excellent job in questioning Obama’s own account of his life, the next two sections of his book are somewhat less convincing, if not less compelling. He covers Obama’s immersion into the murky world of Chicago politics, the many curious associations (a rogue’s gallery which includes, but certainly is not limited to, Tony Rezko, Bill Ayers, and the Reverend Jeremiah Wright), and the presidential campaign masterminded by David Axelrod. The level of documentation remains just as extensive, but as he moves from Obama’s past to Obama’s present and future, his bias begins to overtake his scholarship, and questions which were entirely reasonable to ask when looking at Dreams From My Father begin to require more and more speculation, as there are no clear answers. He does admit that “None of us can look into [Obama’s] heart or read his soul . . .the best evidence we have to judge by is first, the record of what Obama has done, and second, what he has said about what he has done.” But that doesn’t stop him from asking questions such as “If Obama takes pains to hide his smoking from us, what else does he take pains to hide?” and “Has Obama the politician made a hypocrite out of Obama the community organizer?” “Or,” Dr. Corsi speculates, “was Obama always the same person, when he first came to Chicago as a community organizer and now that he is running for president? A politician who first and foremost is interested in his own political and financial advancement, regardless of the moral consequences?”
John Hendershot is a freelance writer and a former Messiah College student.