William F. B. O'Reilly is a consultant to Republicans.
It's a terrible question to think about your own president, much less to ask it aloud, but more and more I find myself wondering, who really is Barack Obama?
Last Thursday, the White House acknowledged that Onyango Obama, the president's troubled uncle from Massachusetts, a man the president never met according to administration statements, actually had a relationship with the president. Barack Obama lived with his uncle for three weeks as a student at Harvard University and they were in touch by telephone for some years afterward.
As a standalone story this would be curious and awkward -- denying knowledge of an uncle, even if he is in the country unlawfully, is wince inducing -- but this inconsistency comes on top of so many others that have contributed to a disquieting pattern.
Last year we learned that Obama's depiction of his paternal grandfather in "Dreams of My Father" is unlikely to have occurred. In his bestselling book, the president claimed that Hussein Onyango Obama was imprisoned and tortured by the British for helping a Kenyan insurgent group known as the Mau Mau rebels. His dying mother's fights with health insurers for denial of coverage were refuted by a New York Times report. And then there was his "composite" girlfriend who shared profound moments in Obama's life that no one else remembers. Former Weather Underground bomber Bill Ayres, who was an Obama political supporter in his early days, became, in the words of the president, "a guy who lives in my neighborhood."
For years, Obama's literary agents, Dystel & Goderich, claimed he was Kenyan born on its website biography of him, when it has been proved that he was born in Hawaii. As late as April 2007, that bio read:
"Barack Obama is the junior Democratic senator from Illinois and was the dynamic keynote speaker at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. He was also the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. He was born in Kenya to an American anthropologist and a Kenyan finance minister and was raised in Indonesia, Hawaii, and Chicago."
The White House has had dubious answers for all of these inconsistencies. The latest is that President Obama was never asked directly whether he knew his uncle, which seems as preposterous as the explanation that he never read his own literary bio.
I vividly remember learning three distinct rules from a nanny while walking home from a store as a 6- or 7-year-old: Never point at anyone; never refer to someone as "he" or "she" in his or her presence, and never call someone a "liar." It's an ugly word. I took that advice to heart, particularly the third piece, and I have tried my best to follow it in the ensuing years. But I'm having real trouble coming up with a softer characterization for the emerging portrait of our 45th President.
Obama is not the first president to fudge or omit parts of his biography. Ronald Reagan preferred not to harp on his first marriage; George W. Bush tap danced around his drinking and drug-use history. Bill Clinton, "the man from Hope" (Arkansas), was actually raised in the next town over. But in golf and presidential history, that's called a gimme. In Obama's celebrated life story, the inconsistencies seem more like five irons away from the truth.
I can live with the falsehoods made about Obamacare. Even Benghazi seems to me a typical political coverup. It's the mistruths about core biographical information that alarm me. It keeps me wondering, I'm ashamed to admit, "Who really is this guy in the White House?"
Lots of Americans should be shaken by this latest revelation.
William F. B. O'Reilly is a columnist and a Republican political consultant.