Barack Obama’s forgotten “earliest poltical inspiration”

If one is ever going to embellish significantly on the truth, a eulogy is probably the place to do it. But the embellishment should pertain solely to the deceased, not the eulogizer.

In his eulogy for Sen. Daniel Inouye, President Obama spoke in some detail about his favorite subject — himself. In doing so Obama claimed that “Danny Inouye was perhaps my earliest political inspiration.” He explained that he learned how a democracy is supposed to work from watching Sen. Inouye cross-examine witnesses during the Senate Watergate hearings. Without that experience, Obama asserted, “I might never have considered a career in public service; I might not be standing here today.”

Inouye was impressive during the Watergate hearings, to be sure. John Ehrlichman, one of the targets, dubbed him “Senator Ain’t-no-way,” as in ain’t no way he’s not coming after you hard.

But, as Patrick Brennan points out, Obama has written two autobiographies. In them, collectively, he mentions the late Hawaii Senator only once. And in that one mention, Obama compares Inouye to former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens(!) as an example of the Senate’s collegial “dying breed.”

Inouye also received no mention in the two leading biographies of Obama — David Remnick’s and David Maraniss’. And Brennan found no referenes to Inouye in Obama’s publicly reported speeches.

In Dreams from My Father, Obama does mention, in passing, watching the Watergate hearings as a boy during a family trip. But he doesn’t suggest that these hearings marked the beginning of his political awareness or that they had any particular significance for him. The reference merely adds color: “We took Greyhound buses, mostly, and stayed at Howard Johnson’s, and watched the Watergate hearings every night before going to bed.”

No matter what the occasion, and no matter who is supposed to be the subject of praise, for Barack Obama the topic is always the same — Barack Obama. And when he discusses this topic, the truth is usually beside the point.

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