The Los Angeles Times looks at a story from Barack Obama’s memoir… and concludes it stretches the importance of his role in a fight over asbestos, and ignores the contributions of others.
And while most memoirs place their authors at the center of events, critics of “Dreams From My Father” say it is unfair in omitting the others who were responsible for the successes of the asbestos campaign, an event that Obama portrays as central to his maturation as a political leader. For example, [Hazel Johnson, a longtime Altgeld resident who worked with Obama] is not mentioned, and no character in the book appears to resemble her, even though she was already a prominent Altgeld activist and her presence in the anti-asbestos effort is confirmed by interviews and news accounts at the time.
An Obama spokesman said that the memoir was never intended to be a complete account of Altgeld or an attempt to portray Obama as a hero, but merely the recollections of one activist. Published in 1994 and re-released in 2004, the book primarily tracks Obama’s journey to racial identity as the child of a black, Kenyan father and a white mother from Kansas.
“This is making a mountain out of flat land,” said Robert Gibbs, the Obama spokesman, referring to inquiries from The Times. “The book isn’t a history of social efforts to help the area. It was about what he was involved in.”
This quote makes Obama look… well, like a typical glory-hogging politician:
Today, Johnson, now 72, is particularly disturbed that Obama’s memoir portrayed the tenants as meek and confused, highlighting one parent who was illiterate. Johnson had been quoted on many occasions in the press by the time she met Obama. She had persuaded city officials to request the tests that found hazardous materials in local drinking water.I concur with Glenn. If you go into the election wanting to like this guy because he seems so affable and modest, then examples of “I took the initiative in creating the Internet/I was the inspiration for Love Story” ego-run-amok exaggerations are pretty disappointing.
“Why would he paint us as so pathetic?” asked Cheryl Johnson, Hazel’s daughter, who now runs the Altgeld group her mother founded. “Isn’t a memoir supposed to be accurate?”
“There’s no way that you could have done anything out there without knowing that this little old lady had been in Altgeld forever,” said Jones, who was working for the city health department at the time.