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 Book Review: Barack Obama: The Story by David Maraniss 

By Dr. Eugene Stovall
November 24, 2013 Oakland, California



Illinois’ 13th State Senate District is a safe, 80% Democratic District. In 1994, Senator Alice Palmer announces her intention to run for the United States House of Representatives leaving her13th district senate seat vacant. In 1995 Barack Obama files for the open senate seat. All the other Democratic challengers are disqualified from running against him., Chicago’s Democratic Party allows Barack Obama to run, unopposed, in their 1996 primary for Illinois’ 13th State Senate seat. This is Obama’s first attempt at winning a political election. In the fall of 1996, Obama becomes the Illinois State Senator from Hyde Park by winning the general election with an 80% vote in the 80% Democratic district. From this state senate seat, Obama is handled into the United States Senate and into the Presidency. In his book, David Maraniss, a Washington Post reporter hints at the identity of Barack Obama’s handlers.

“What’s the name of your organization?”

“Developing Communities Project,” Obama replied.

“Developing Communities ….” His brow knit. “I think I remember some white man coming around talking about some Developing something or other. Funny-looking guy. Jewish name. You connected to the Catholics?”

Obama acknowledged his organization’s [Catholic] connections. Sampson continued on his roll, which Obama later depicted like this: : “Listen … what’s your name? Obama? Listen Obama, you may mean well. I’m sure you do. But the last thing we need is to join with a bunch of white money and Catholic churches and Jewish organizers to solve our problems. They’re not interested in us. Shoot, the Archdiocese in this city is run by stone cold racists. Always has been. White folks come in thinking they know what’s best for us, hiring a bunch of high-talkin’ college-educated black folks like yourself who don’t know no better, and all they want to do is take over.”

Barack Obama: The Story by David Maraniss Page 528

In this passage, David Maraniss’ describes Barack Obama’s interaction with a black Chicagoan. But Sampson’s objections, notwithstanding, Chicago laid out the red carpet for Barack Hussein Obama II. But if I was expecting that David Maraniss, a two time Pulitzer Prize winning author and a three time runner up for the same coveted award, was going to describe Obama’s rise to power in a riveting, can’t-put-it-down book that would be both revealing and entertaining, I was to be completely disappointed. Maraniss fills his biography of America’s ‘first’ black president with uninteresting unknown and unimportant characters and linking them to a number of who cares events in a way that makes this book tedious, in the extreme. It is almost as if he doesn’t want anyone to read it. Doubtless this book will be attempted by few blacks and completed by even fewer. Barack Obama: His Story will not win a Pulitzer, unless, like everything else in America, the competition is rigged.

Yet, if one digs deeply enough, one becomes impressed with the diligence with which Maraniss corrects and fills in the gaps left by Barack Obama’s autobiography, Dreams From My Father ___ a work that even Obama, himself, admits is filled with oversights, half truths and outright deceptions. To this end, Maraniss goes to great lengths to provide the identities of  Obama’s characters who are composites of several different real people as well as characters who are entirely fictional. Furthermore Maraniss painstakingly deconstructs the myth that Obama has carefully constructed that he is an intelligent, but angry black man, motivated by a sense of racial identity to serving community interests as an organizer as a disciple of Saul Alinskey. As a passionate advocate for the rights of the poor and dispossessed, Alinsky, a Jewish radical, sought to empowered politically and economically weak communities. Alinsky is famous for his Chicago organizations, Back of the Yards and The Woodlands. Maraniss goes into depth about how Obama was recruited by the Jewish executive director of the Developing Communities Project, another Alinsky project, which was funded by the Catholic Church. In subtext, Maraniss explains how the Jews take power away from the Catholics and the vaunted Daley machine,  by electing Obama’s former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s first Jewish mayor. The result is that Chicago’s Jewish community takes control over Chicago’s $8.7 billion dollar budget.

What is really intriguing about Maraniss study is that Barack Obama is introduced to Chicago’s South Side almost exclusivel through black preachers. Maraniss describes how Obama, the outsider, offers black preachers, the dominant players in Chicago’s black community, a piece of the action, in return for access. The black preachers, with few exceptions, willingly accept Obama’s offer. According to Maraniss, none of the preachers vet Obama. They don’t care whether or not what Obama is peddling ___ whether he will benefit Chicago’s black community or not. Neither are the preachers concerned with Obama’s complex and intimate ties to the East-West Center, the multi-million dollar CIA operation run from the University of Hawaii, the headquarters for all US covert operations in Asia. 

The preachers don’t investigate Obama’s mother Stanley Ann Dunham Obama-Soetoro or his father, Barack Hussein Obama, or their ties to the Ford Foundation, Peace Corps and USAID. Chicago’s black preachers ignore Lolo Soetoro who Obama’s mother met at the East-West Center. After marrying Obama’s mother, Lolo Soetoro, a colonel in the Indonesian Army was recalled back to Indonesia to assist in the CIA-inspired overthrow of the Indonesian president, Sukarno. Nor did the preachers know that prior to coming to Chicago, Obama lived with Genevieve Cook, whose father Michael J. Cook was a prominent Australian diplomat serving for a time as Australia’s ambassador to Vietnam and currently serving as the head of Australia’s equivalent of the CIA. Genevieve’s mother, Helen Ibbitson, came from a prominent Australian banking family and, after divorcing Cook, remarried Philip C. Jessup Jr., a top official in the International Nickel Company headquartered in Indonesia. Jessup played a key role in the installation of Suharto following the CIA’s overthrow of  President Sukarno.

According to Maraniss, “Phil Jessup and Helen had vast international connections in the higher circles of politics, business, and art. In the diary that George H. W. Bush kept during the fourteen months he was envoy to China, he noted on May 26, 1975, that he ‘went to lunch with Phil Jessup, Jr and his Australian wife, both from Indonesia.”

Furthermore Maraniss says that: “The Jessups were establishment Democrats with deep liberal connections. Phil’s father, Philip Carl Jessup Sr., had been a major figure in American postwar diplomacy. He had served as a technical advisor to the U.S. delegation at the creation of the United Nations, was ambassador-at-large under President Truman, was a close friend of Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, and later by appointment from President Kennedy, was a member of the International Court at the Hague.”

But none of this either known or concerned Chicago’s black preachers when approached by Barack Obama for access to Chicago’s black community. Even had they known the vast extent of Barack Obama’s international military and intelligence connections, they wouldn’t have known the implications of giving this ‘stranger’ access to their community. These black preachers’ only concern was about this stranger was whose congregation he would join. No preacher wanted a rival to enjoy the advantages that this well-connected outsider seemed to offer ___ advantages which would translate into fannies in the pews, more money in the collection plates and more access to Faith-Based Funding ___ the bribes that the government pays black preachers for keeping their mouths shut about the government’s destruction of the black community and the murder of its citizens. Concerns over Obama’s church membership was quickly resolved, according to Maraniss, when he joined Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ. Jeremiah Wright was a black preacher well connected to the military and intelligence communities and stood above the petty rivalries of Chicago’s black preachers. 

However Maranis indicates that one black Chicagoan seemed intelligent enough to suspect Obama’s true motivations. Johnnie Owens was a street-wise graduate of Chicago State where he majored in urban geography. Owens worked downtown in city government. Owens mistrusts Obama and Obama dislikes Owens. Nonetheless the African treats the American cordially. Apparently Obama has been instructed to hire Owens into the Developing Communities organization. The problem is that Johnnie Owens already has a job, a comfortable and secure job. Obama makes Owens an offer he can’t refuse, promising a higher salary than what his city job pays and a car allowance. Owens accepts. But instead of buying a ‘hoopdie’ like Obama’s car, Owens buys a brand new Nissan Sentra. Obama is upset; the future president of the United States feels upstaged by his  street savvy, well known assistant. From then on Obama never passes up an opportunity to needle Johnnie Owens about his new car, either privately or publicly. “This is the car I bought you,” Obama would say whenever the opportunity presented itself. Maraniss gives his reader a peek at Obama’s insecurity and pettiness showing Obama’s public face to be a carefully manufactured façade. The carefully groomed African ‘manchurian candidate’ becomes disheveled when he must compete with another black man. Barack Obama can he tolerate being around them. He has no problems with black preachers after all these preachers are not really men at all ___ they can be bought and sold like so many slaves. But Obama cannot deal with an authentic African-American male, a fact that Bobbie Rush demonstrates in a future run-in. 

David Maraniss’ study of the young Barack Obama takes place before he becomes a public figure is like a study of Pinocchio, the puppet who wanted to be a real boy. Despite the love that Geppetto lavishes on his creation, Pinocchio longs for the day when he can dance by himself and sing, There Are No Strings On Me. In this view, Obama is not searching for his African roots, nor even his white roots. Rather Obama searches for his own personal roots.  So that after playing all the roles written for him by his mother and grandparents, Obama yearns to cut his handlers’ strings by making his own decisions and becoming his own man. And so Obama has just recently gotten his wish. The former Nobel Peace Prize winner ___ an accolade Obama neither sought nor valued ____ shared with the rest of the world that, at long last, he has achieved his personal goal of self actualization by declaring: “I’m really good at killing people.” And so David Maraniss describes in his book, Barack Obama: His Story, how the career of a mass murderer began.


When Barack Obama first ran for president of the United States, he told black people that they should get over what he called ‘perceived injustices’. Here are example of these ‘perceived injustices’.

http://henriettavintondavis.wordpress.com/2008/08/01/black-women-who-were-lynched-in-america/