One definition of a pathological liar is someone who lies where the truth would serve just as well. When President Obama’s uncle, Onyango Obama, was arrested in 2011 for drunk driving, the truth — that Obama had stayed with his uncle years earlier for several weeks as a Harvard law student — would have served the president just fine. No potential Obama voter would have held it against him that an uncle he had stayed with two decades earlier was picked up for DUI.
Yet the White House went with a lie, claiming that Obama had never met his uncle.
Now that the lie has been exposed, thanks to testimony from “Uncle Omar” at his deportation hearing, the White House says it got its facts wrong. Why? Chiefly because it relied on Obama’s book Dreams From My Father, which contained no reference to uncle Omar.
How ridiculous is this? We are asked to believe that instead of checking with Obama, the only available person who could know the extent of his relationship with Omar, his flacks issued a denial based on book that doesn’t even purport to be autobiographically accurate.
Dreams From My Father does not, of course, provide a definitive list of Obama’s acquaintances. But more than this, Obama has said that the book uses pseudonyms and contains composite (or “compressed”) characters. Thus, it would make no sense to deny Uncle Omar’s existence based on his non-appearance in the book.
So what explains the denial? The most straightforward explanation is pathological lying — the impulse to deny, deny, deny whenever an embarrassing story, even an essentially innocuous one, appears. In this scenario, staff (perhaps at Obama’s direction; perhaps not) decided to deny that Obama had met Uncle Omar provided there was nothing in Obama’s book, or elsewhere in the record, that would show otherwise. Believing they could get away with the lie, they lied.
But Stanley Kurtz suggests a more sophisticated explanation. Stanley suspects, based on his experience with Team Obama’s responses to potentially embarrassing stories he has uncovered, that it is Obama’s policy not to have staff ask him about his past.
This policy enables Obama to avoid confirming embarrassing stories without having to lie. Staff can then deny, or at least not confirm, the story. If the story turns out to be true, Obama can blame his staff. Staff, while taking an obvious hit, can blame sloppy research and thus defend against accusations of lying.
Under either explanation — pathological lying or willful failure to learn the truth — we’re at a sad place. An administration that can’t be trusted accurately to provide basic biographical information about the president is an administration that can’t be trusted to provide accurate information about anything.
What we have in Barack Obama is not “the most transparent administration in history” but the most convoluted one. And we have this convoluted presidency not because Obama is our first dishonest chief executive but because he’s the first who had to conceal from the American people the essence of who he really is and what he really stands for.