For the past few years, much of the conservative echo chamber has thrived on exploring what they see as Barack Obama's mysterious, ominous past. The most prominent examples of this fixation have been the durable birth-certificate conspiracy and the increasingly exotic allegations that Barack Obama Sr. is not Obama's father (suggested "real" fathers have included Malcolm X and, as recently as last week, Frank Marshall Davis).
In a newly-released Vanity Fair piece adapted from his upcoming Obama biography, journalist David Maraniss details two of Obama's romantic relationships during his early 20s, complete with interviews of his ex-girlfriends. The article seemingly puts to rest conspiracies promoted by conservative big wigs about why none of Obama's exes have ever come forward. Rush Limbaugh asked this very question last year, citing "one of these email things" he had been sent.
In Dreams From My Father, Obama wrote about a romantic relationship he had with a woman in New York. The lack of a name (and the fact that no one had come forward to claim the mantle) led some creative conspiracy theorists to doubt her existence. Her presence in the book was one of the main pieces of "evidence" in WND columnist Jack Cashill's much-mocked theory that Bill Ayers is the true author of Dreams.
Cashill wrote in a 2010 WND column:
I was not the only one to have noticed Obama's curious silence on this issue. One correspondent of mine made a compelling case that Obama's mystery woman was drawn fully from the memory of Bill Ayers and based on the great love of Ayers's life, the late Diana Oughton.
Ayers was obsessed with Oughton who died in 1970 in a Greenwich Village bomb-factory blast. In "Fugitive Days," his 2001 memoir, he fixes on her in ways that had to discomfit the Weatherwoman he eventually settled for.
Physically, the woman of Obama's memory with her "dark hair, and specks of green in her eyes" evokes images of Oughton. As her FBI files attest, copies of which my correspondent sent me, Oughton had brown hair and green eyes.
Today, in the mad dash to make news of the Maraniss excerpt, Politico's Dylan Byers put up a misguided piece implying Obama had misled readers of his memoir by not explaining that the "New York girlfriend" in Dreams is actually a composite of Genevieve Cook -- one of the women Maraniss interviewed for his book and the focus of the Vanity Fair excerpt -- and another girlfriend from his early twenties.
Slate's David Weigel, who labeled Byers' post "one of the most ill-informed pieces of Drudge bait to come down the transom in a while," noted that Dreams actually opens with a disclaimer from Obama explaining that "[f]or the sake of compression, some of the characters that appear are composites of people I've known." (Byers has since updated his post to include this fact.)
Despite Obama's use of composite characters in Dreams not being anything new, conservatives are running with the Byers piece undoubtedly because it fits nicely into the "Obama is a liar hiding something about his weird past" theme they've been hammering for years.
It quickly hit the top of Drudge:
And is also being featured on Fox Nation (which dropped their pejorative "Left-Wing Politico" label to promote it):
Inevitably, the story found its way to Limbaugh. Earlier today on his show, Limbaugh told listeners that Byers "has uncovered an interesting fact" about Dreams From My Father and read from the Byers post. Limbaugh chastised Obama because he would "only admit" that characters in the book had been composites "after people have tried to find them." (Again, this is utterly false.)