CNN's Bill Schneider asserted that Sen. Barack Obama has made what "look like rookie mistakes" after airing a clip of a journalist noting that Obama's memoir "has composite characters, made-up dialogue, and he switched names of many of the characters in it. So, when you read it, you're not sure what's true and what's not." However, Obama acknowledged changes he made when he wrote the book -- more than 10 years ago.
On the March 28 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, senior political analyst Bill Schneider asserted that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) has made what "look like rookie mistakes" after airing a clip of Chicago Sun-Times Washington bureau chief Lynn Sweet noting that Obama's memoir, Dreams from My Father (Crown, July 1995), "has composite characters, made-up dialogue, and he switched names of many of the characters in it. So, when you read it, you're not sure what's true and what's not." Schneider, however, failed to explain how this qualifies as a "rookie mistake," given that Obama acknowledged in the book's introduction -- penned more than 10 years ago -- that he created composite characters, presented dialogue that "is necessarily an approximation of what was actually said or relayed to me," and changed the names of most of the "characters ... for the sake of their privacy."
Schneider's use of the term "rookie mistakes" echoed the headline on a March 27 article by Politico chief political correspondent Mike Allen: "Rookie Mistakes Plague Obama." As Media Matters for America documented, Allen's article stretched what Allen characterized as "trivial" inconsistencies into a 1,200-word article that was promoted on the Drudge Report, apparently an hour before the article was published on The Politico's website.
From Schneider's report on the 4 p.m. ET hour of the March 28 edition of The Situation Room:
SCHNEIDER: When an anti-Hillary Clinton ad turned up on YouTube, Obama told Larry King --
OBAMA [video clip]: It's not something that we had anything to do with or were aware of, and, frankly, given what it looks like, we don't have the technical capacity to create something like that.
SCHNEIDER: But the ad was made by a political operative working for a firm hired by the Obama campaign. And the technical requirements were not all that great.
Then there's Obama's memoir, Dreams from My Father.
SWEET: He has composite characters, made-up dialogue, and he switched names of many of the characters in it. So, when you read it, you're not sure what's true and what's not.
SCHNEIDER: These look like rookie mistakes. Could they become serious problems?
SWEET: If these incidents can be made into political attack ads -- again, it could be by groups for or against somebody, either in the -- either in the primary campaign or general -- then he's hurt.
SCHNEIDER: Right now, Obama is new, he's different, and he's got a strong anti-war record. So, people make allowances. Republicans may be a little jealous.
However, on Pages xvi-xvii of the introduction to Dreams (2006 paperback edition), Obama wrote:
Finally, there are the dangers inherent in any autobiographical work: the temptation to color events in ways favorable to the writer, the tendency to overestimate the interest one's experiences hold for others, selective lapses of memory. Such hazards are only magnified when the writer lacks the wisdom of age; the distance that can cure one of certain vanities. I can't say that I've avoided all, or any, of these hazards successfully. Although much of this book is based on contemporaneous journals or the oral histories of my family, the dialogue is necessarily an approximation of what was actually said or relayed to me. For the sake of compression, some of the characters that appear are composites of people I've known, and some events appear out of precise chronology. With the exception of my family and a handful of public figures, the names of most characters have been changed for the sake of their privacy.