Before I begin the review of Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama by David J. Garrow, I feel the need to make a confession in the interest of full disclosure.
Barack Obama has been very inspirational to me personally.
He inspired me to help co-found the SoCal Tax Revolt Coalition. He inspired be to become an independent conservative blogger. He inspired me to re-register as “No Party Preference” in my home state of California.
So, why did I order this 7-pound book on Obama?
Aspects of the 2008 presidential campaign that were very perplexing were the nearly complete media silence on his past relationships and lack of details on his personal history in college and law school. Who, exactly, were the American people voting for? This quiescence is even more noticeable when comparing it to the media cacophony on the public and private life of the current President during the 2016 campaign season.
After reading the following snippet about Sheila Miyoshi Jager, now a professor at Oberlin College, I decided I had to take a look at Garrow’s work:
“In the winter of ‘86, when we visited my parents, he asked me to marry him,” she told Garrow. Her parents were opposed, less for any racial reasons (Obama came across to them like “a white, middle-class kid,” a close family friend said) than out of concern about Obama’s professional prospects, and because her mother thought Jager, two years Obama’s junior, was too young.“Not yet,” Sheila told Barack. But they stayed together. In early 1987, when Obama was 25, she sensed a change. “He became. . . so very ambitious” quite suddenly, she told Garrow. “I remember very clearly when this transformation happened, and I remember very specifically that by 1987, about a year into our relationship, he already had his sights on becoming president.”
Obama met her during his stint of community organizing in Chicago. He proposed to her multiple times, including after his graduation from Harvard Law School. They were involved during the same period as Obama began courting the woman who would become his wife.
Sheila Miyoshi Jager was astonished to discover that she had become a “non-person” in Obama’s autobiography, The Dreams of My Father. He made a composite “girlfriend”, composed of Jager and 2 other former relationships. This video explains the main premise of Rising Star:
[Obama] had indeed “willed himself into being” — as an African American man, as a loving father, and as a successful politician — eight years in the White House had revealed all too clearly that is easy to forget who you once were if you have never really known who you are.”
However, most people have complex romantic relationship that include some regrets. And most Legal Insurrection readers will not be terribly surprised that Obama offered a complete set of “alternative facts” about every phase of his life.
The goal of this review is to assess whether I can recommended spending $20-$30 for a version of this book.
My answer: It depends.
Rising Star is about 1500 pages long, 500 of those being detailed notes. Garrow, the author, is a Professor of Law and History at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. His book, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, won a Pulitzer Prize in Biography.
Obama’s biography is extremely well written. Garrow has done extensive research, the kind that should have been done in 2008, and details example after example of Obama’s fabrications. However, it is a daunting read, especially if you don’t particularly care for the main subject.
So, if you a political history buff and want an extraordinary reference on Obama, this would be money well spent.
Otherwise, I would suggest purchasing Garrow’s book on Martin Luther King, Jr. and then enjoy President Trump’s “reset” of the American Presidency.
I will end with Garrow’s conclusion about Obama after 1078 pages of biographical analysis: …“while the crucible of self-creation had produced an ironclad will, the vessel was hollow at its core.”DONATE
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