A Very Brady Presidency, Redux

A Very Brady Presidency, Redux

We’re going to cheat a little bit today for a couple of reasons.

First, as longtime/regular readers may know, we kinda like the piece that we’re going to use to cheat.  Others have used the central metaphor of the piece since, but we were, to the best of our knowledge, the first to use it.  And it was/is/and ever shall be spot on.

Second, we want to make clear that sometimes, the news is only “news” if you haven’t been paying attention.

In case you missed it, late last week, Tablet magazine ran a fantastic story/interview by David Samuels, documenting the power, influence, and phoniness of Barack Obama.  The interview portion of the piece is with David Garrow, who, in 2017, wrote a biography of Obama titled Rising Star.  According to Samuels, the book was largely ignored at the time but shouldn’t have been, because it painted a picture of an exceptionally vain and attention-hungry man who wasn’t exactly who he said he was.  Samuels writes:

[T]he character Obama fashioned in Dreams had been defined—by Obama—as being beyond the reach of normal reportorial scrutiny. Indeed, Garrow’s biography of Obama’s early years is filled with such corrections of a historical record that Obama more or less invented himself. Based on years of careful record-searching and patient interviewing, Rising Star highlights a remarkable lack of curiosity on the part of mainstream reporters and institutions about a man who almost instantaneously was treated less like a politician and more like the idol of an inter-elite cult.

Yet when it came out six years ago, Rising Star was mostly ignored; as a result, its most scandalous and perhaps revelatory passages, such as Obama’s long letter to another girlfriend about his fantasies of having sex with men, read today, to people who are more familiar with the Obama myth than the historical record, like partisan bigotry. But David Garrow is hardly a hack whose work can or should be dismissed on partisan grounds. He is among the country’s most credible and celebrated civil rights historians—the author of The FBI and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bearing the Cross (which won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography) and one of the three historian-consultants who animated the monumental PBS documentary Eyes on the Prize, as well as the author of a landmark history of abortion rights, Liberty and Sexuality.

As we say, Samuels’ story is important as well as fascinating.  It is also quite long and detailed.  As always, we still recommend that you read the whole thing.

For us, the most interesting and important takeaways from the whole Obama story are that the guy is so vain and so desperate for attention that he is still, six-and-a-half years later, unable to let any of it go; and that so many people are surprised by the revelation that the public persona of Barack Obama was fabricated almost entirely out of whole cloth.  The first is important because it answers the question that we and countless others have had for more than two years: who is pulling the strings in the Biden administration, whose namesake is clearly incapable of doing so?  The second is important because it shows that people tend to hear only what they want to hear and accept only that information that comports with their worldview.

The truth of the matter is that Obama’s phoniness was revealed at least five years prior to the publication of Rising Star.  In 2012 – in the heat of Obama’s reelection campaign – Simon and Schuster published a book called Barack Obama: The Story, written by David Maraniss, who is also a well-respected author and Pulitzer Prize winner.  That book was devastating and clearly showed that the Barack Obama the public knew was a fictional character.  No one cared, however, and the guy was reelected handily.  David Garrow took on the task five years later and dug even further and found even greater falsehoods.  And still, no one cared.  We can only hope that now – after David Samuels has resurrected the subject and as Obama’s marionette prepares to run for the Fourth Obama term – people will finally pay attention.

In any case, the following, which we wrote more than eleven years ago, is very long but, we think, still relevant, especially in light of David Samuels’ important work:


Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life. This results not merely from Life’s imitative instinct, but from the fact that the self-conscious aim of Life is to find expression, and that Art offers it certain beautiful forms through which it may realize that energy…. The final revelation is that Lying, the telling of beautiful untrue things, is the proper aim of Art.

But of this I think I have spoken at sufficient length. And now let us go out on the terrace, where “droops the milk-white peacock like a ghost,” while the evening star “washes the dusk with silver.”

–Oscar Wilde, The Decay of Lying, 1891.


Greg: I’m going to be a big star!

Cindy: But a very small person.

–The Brady Bunch, “Adios Johnny Bravo,” September 14, 1973.


We will begin this week with a question. Suppose you are a record producer. Or want to be a record producer. You have a smokin’ hot girlfriend, and the two of you are “talent managers” in the swinging California music scene. You have a song you just know will be a monster hit. You have super-groovy offices that have everything a hip record mogul could want, except a gold record to hang on the wall. You have some recording equipment and a proto-version of “auto-tune,” which virtually guarantees that your “artist” will sound great, if a little robotic, singing your record. Best of all, you have this really “far out” rock-n’-roll outfit – sort of a matador jacket with rhinestones and sequins – that you’ve dropped a bundle of dough on and that is certain to make your new artist a smash with the target demographic group, which is to say teen-age girls. You’re ready, baby, ready to hit the big time.

You only have one, teensy, weensy little problem: you have no singer for your song, no “artist,” no dude to wow the chicks. So what do you do?

Well, if the year is 1973, and your name is Buddy Berkman, then you send your girlfriend, Tami Cutler, out to scout some of the local talent. And when she stumbles upon a strange, funky, six-person singing-dancing act made up of three brothers and three sisters, she directs them – or one of them, at least – to your talent agency, “Big Hit Management Company.” And the next thing you know, the oldest brother, a happenin’ dude with a sweet perm, is in your office, laying down your track, wearing his new suit. Oh, and one more thing, you’ve taken his square name, Greg Brady, and traded it in for something much cooler, much more in keeping with his new, hip persona: Johnny Bravo!

Later, when Greg/Johnny hears the “auto-tuned” playback of him singing and complains that “that’s not what I sound like!” you say, “so what? Did you think that any of this was real?” “Real,” you tell him, doesn’t matter. Sure, that’s not his “real” voice. But that’s not really his song. And his new name? Johnny Bravo? Come on! That’s not real either. Johnny Bravo doesn’t exist. He’s a fake, a concoction. Someone created out of whole cloth. Your new superstar-in-waiting gets a little confused and wonders what is going on, at which point you remind him of the chicks, the glory, and the power. And when he asks, “why me?” you tell him simply, “Because you fit the suit, man.”

Now, on the off chance that you didn’t grow up with the benefits of cable television and syndicated Sherwood-Shwartz-shows, the above hypothetical is actually the plot of the premier show of the fifth and final season of “The Brady Bunch.” The episode, titled “Adios, Johnny Bravo,” ends when Greg/Johnny gives back the suit (which he fits so well!) to Buddy and Tami, and says “adios” to his newly created persona. He then heads home to tell mom, dad, Marcia, Peter, and the rest what a sap he’s been and how he just couldn’t be part of that “made up” world where people just do and say whatever they want, regardless of what might technically constitute “reality.” It just doesn’t feel right to him.

Would that America’s current President had half the integrity as ol’ Greg Brady.

As most of you know, that president, Barack Obama, first burst onto the national political scene with the publication in 1995 of his memoir, the much-heralded and oft-praised Dreams from My Father. As some of you may also know, that memoir is the subject of a new book, Barack Obama: The Story, written by David Maraniss, a best-selling author, a Pulitzer-Prizewinning journalist, and an associate editor at The Washington Post. Maraniss, who is considered one of the country’s pre-eminent biographers and who is an admitted fan of President Obama’s, has called Dreams a work of “literature,” which to the less-discerning linguist means that it is “creative writing,” wholly invented, an imaginary tale. Ben Smith, formerly of Politico, currently employed by BuzzFeed, and almost always sympathetic to Obama and to the Left more generally, nonetheless noted 38 distinct and outright lies in Dreams, all documented by Maraniss. Conn Carroll, a senior editorial writer for the Washington Examiner, described Marinass’s “findings” this way:

President Obama was born in Hawaii and is an American citizen. That much is true. But as the reviews of David Maraniss’ new book, Barack Obama: The Story, come in, it appears that almost everything else in Obama’s supposed autobiography, Dreams from My Father, is complete fiction.

It is, we think, important to note here, that when these reviewers say that Obama’s memoir is “fictional” or that it is filled with “lies,” they’re not talking about unimportant, inconsequential lies of the little, white variety. They’re talking about whoppers. And, more to the point, they’re talking about critically important whoppers. Consider, for example, the following, from Ben Smith. And as you do, remember that Smith is writing as an Obama admirer:

That the core narrative of Dreams could have survived this long into Obama’s public life is the product in part of an inadvertent conspiracy between the president and his enemies. His memoir evokes an angry, misspent youth; a deep and lifelong obsession with race; foreign and strongly Muslim heritage; and roots in the 20th Century’s self-consciously leftist anti-colonial struggle . . . Maraniss’s deep and entertaining biography will serve as a corrective both to Obama’s mythmaking and his enemies’.  Maraniss fi nds that Obama’s young life was basically conventional, his personal struggles prosaic and later exaggerated. He finds that race, central to Obama’s later thought and included in the subtitle of his memoir, wasn’t a central factor in his Hawaii youth or the existential struggles of his young adulthood. And he concludes that attempts, which Obama encouraged in his memoir, to view him through the prism of race “can lead to a misinterpretation” of the sense of “outsiderness” that Maraniss puts at the core of Obama’s identity and ambition. . .“The character creations and rearrangements of the book are not merely a matter of style, devices of compression, but are also substantive,” Maraniss responds in his own introduction. The book belongs in the category of “literature and memoir, not history and autobiography,” he writes, and “the themes of the book control character and chronology.” . . .In Dreams, for instance, Obama writes of a friend named “Regina,” is a symbol of the authentic African-American experience that Obama hungers for (and which he would later find in Michelle Robinson). Maraniss discovers, however, that Regina was based on a student leader at Occidental College, Caroline Boss, who was white. Regina was the name of her working-class Swiss grandmother, who also seems to make a cameo in Dreams . . .

Some of Maraniss’s most surprising debunking, though, comes in the area of family lore, where he disputes a long string of stories on three continents, though perhaps no more than most of us have picked up from garrulous grandparents and great uncles. And his corrections are, at times, a bit harsh. Obama grandfather “Stanley [Dunham]’s two defining stories were that he found his mother after her suicide and that he punched his principal and got expelled from El Dorado High. That second story seems to be in the same fictitious realm as the first,” Maraniss writes. As for Dunham’s tale of a 1935 car ride with Herbert Hoover, it’s a “preposterous . . .fabrication.”

As for a legacy of racism in his mother’s Kansas childhood, “Stanley was a teller of tales, and it appears that his grandson got these stories mostly from him,” Maraniss writes.

Across the ocean, the family story that Hussein Onyango, Obama’s paternal grandfather, had been whipped and tortured by the British is “unlikely”: “five people who had close connections to Hussein Onyango said they doubted the story or were certain that it did not happen,” Maraniss writes. The memory that the father of his Indonesian stepfather, Soewarno Martodihardjo, was killed by Dutch soldiers in the fight for independence is “a concocted myth in almost all respects.” In fact, Martodihardjo “fell off a chair at his home while trying to hang drapes, presumable suffering a heart attack.”

Most families exaggerate ancestors’ deeds. A more difficult category of correction comes in Maraniss’s treatment of Obama’s father and namesake. Barack Obama Sr., in this telling, quickly sheds whatever sympathy his intelligence and squandered promise should carry. He’s the son of a man, one relative told Maraniss, who is required to pay an extra dowry for one wife “because he was a bad person.”

He was also a domestic abuser.

“His father Hussein Onyango, was a man who hit women, and it turned out that Obama was no different,” Maraniss writes. “I thought he would kill me,” one ex-wife tells him; he also gave her sexually-transmitted diseases from extramarital relationships.

It’s in that context that Maraniss corrects a central element of Obama’s own biography, debunking a story that Obama’s mother may well have invented: That she and her son were abandoned in Hawaii in 1963.

Read that again, if you will, just to make sure you got it. Go ahead. We’ll wait here.

Done? Great!

Just about the only thing we’d want to correct or emphasize, which Smith misses, or, more likely, glosses over, is that this isn’t merely a “debunking” of the “core narrative” of Obama’s book. It is a debunking of the core narrative of Barack Obama, the man – as sold to the American public. The thoughtful, postracial politician, shaped by the experiences of his exotic Indonesian youth and his Hawaiian adolescence; the inquisitive Ivy League intellectual, informed by the diverse experiences of his white mother, his white grandparents, his colonially oppressed grandfather and his absentee yet misunderstood intellectual father; the brilliant, yet sensitive populist whose sense of self was forged through a black identity crisis and the realization of his responsibilities to those whose skin color he shares, despite his unique and inimitable background: NONE OF THESE EXIST in any real sense of the word. All of them were fabricated. All were created completely out of whole cloth. None has any foundations in reality at all. Which is to say that the American electorate voted in 2008 for a candidate who was simply “made up.”

Sometime in the early 1990s, when he signed the contract and received the advances for “his” “memoir,” a strange but happenin’ dude named Barry Soetoro walked into some groovy offices somewhere and emerged as Johnny Bravo . . . errr . . . Barack Obama! He wasn’t really singing, mind you. And it wasn’t really his song. But as a young, black man, erstwhile Muslim, son of an African post-colonialist and a white Socialist social scientist, graduate of an Ivy League law school, and dynamic community organizer, he sure as hell fit the suit, man! Indeed, nobody ever fit the suit better.

Adios, Johnny Bravo Barack Obama.

Stephen Soukup
Stephen Soukup
[email protected]

Steve Soukup is the Vice President and Publisher of The Political Forum, an “independent research provider” that delivers research and consulting services to the institutional investment community, with an emphasis on economic, social, political, and geopolitical events that are likely to have an impact on the financial markets in the United States and abroad.