Corsi openly admits his "goal is to defeat Obama," which seems to mean it should be read as a polemic, but Corsi calls his book "investigative" and denies that he set out to write "a political book." And his editor — Mary Matalin — calls it "a piece of scholarship."
Though books are generally viewed as loftier than journalism, NYT journalists Rutenberg and Bosman look down on books like this. It seems especially galling to them that books gain prominence via the NYT bestseller list (or as they say in the NYT "best-seller list"):
[B]ooks like “Unfit for Command,” which remained for some 12 weeks on the Times best-seller list, and, now, “The Obama Nation,” have become an effective and favored delivery system for political attacks.Ha ha. Books are a "delivery system for attacks." The pen is mightier than the sword, and the book — look out! — is a veritable missile.
There have been anti-Clinton (both Bill and Hillary) and anti-Bush books too numerous to name. The sensational findings in these books, true or dubious, can quickly come to dominate the larger political discussion in the news media, especially on cable television and the less readily detectible confines of talk radio and partisan Web sites.Imagine! A book is able to get out in front of the usually nimble "delivery system" of the newspaper. And isn't it annoying that book authors get into the media and say things that require fact-checking? Who are these people? Who let them in? How dare they impose extensive labor on journalists!
Fact-checking the books can require extensive labor and time from independent journalists, whose work often trails behind the media echo chamber.
This is a long set-up for showing us the results of the imposed fact-checking task that Rutenberg and Bosman apparently find so irksome. Let's have it:
... Mr. Corsi writes that Mr. Obama had “yet to answer” whether he “stopped using marijuana and cocaine completely in college, or whether his drug usage extended to his law school days or beyond.” “How about in the U.S. Senate?” Mr. Corsi asks.So the statement that he hasn't answered is wrong, and Corsi's point should have been that Obama once used drugs, and we might want to be suspicious of the assertion that he stopped when he says he did. In saying this, Corsi reminds me of those Bush antagonists who speculate that he still drinks or that he is somehow dogged by the "dry drunk" effects of not drinking. Let's see if all the bloggers can be non-hypocritical. Treat Obama exactly the way you've been treating Bush on the substance-use issue.
But Mr. Obama, who admitted to occasional marijuana and cocaine use in his high school and early college years, wrote in his memoir that he had “stopped getting high” when he moved to New York in the early 1980s. And in 2003 The State Journal-Register of Springfield, Ill., quoted him responding to a question of his drug use by saying, “I haven’t done anything since I was 20 years old.”
In an interview, Mr. Corsi said “self-reporting, by people who have used drugs, as to when they stopped is inherently unreliable.”
In exploring Mr. Obama’s denials that he had been present for the more incendiary sermons of his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., Mr. Corsi cites a report on the conservative Web site NewsMax.com that Mr. Obama had attended a sermon on July 22, 2007, in which Mr. Wright blamed “the ‘white arrogance’ of America’s Caucasian majority for the world’s suffering, especially the oppression of blacks.”So Corsi is faulted for citing a report that the campaign disputes and — perhaps, I can't tell — not also stating that the fact is in dispute. (I need to look at the book, which I don't have at hand.)
Mr. Obama, however, was giving a speech in Florida that afternoon, and his campaign reported he had not attended Mr. Wright’s church that day.
William Kristol, a columnist for The New York Times, had cited the same report in a column, and issued a correction. “There is a dispute about the date, and Kristol chose to side with Obama,” Mr. Corsi said. “We can nitpick the date to death,” he added, saying his “fundamental point” was Mr. Obama’s close association with someone ascribing to “black liberation theology.”
Mr. Corsi described most of the critiques of his book as “nitpicking,” like a contradiction of his claim that Mr. Obama had failed to dedicate his book “Dreams of My Father” to his family; Mr. Obama dedicated the book to several family members, in the introduction.And that's the third and last of the picked nits Rutenberg and Bosman report. Are there more? Why isn't this article more of a fact-check by the NYT? It can't be enough that Media Matters is fact-checking the book. I'm inclined to assume the NYT didn't find any more mistakes or they'd have told us about them. That looks pretty good for Corsi. He is such a huge target. He destroyed Kerry and his book on Obama is #1!
Mr. Obama’s campaign has yet to weigh in heavily on Mr. Corsi’s accusations. It appears to face the classic decision between the risk of publicizing the book’s claims by addressing them and the risk of letting them sink into the public debate with no response.But the Obama campaign made a big deal about how they were not going to let themselves be "Swift Boated." The "Fight the Smears" web site was supposed to jump on everything right away. Now, they're weaseling about not wanting to draw attention to the book? That's a complete contradiction.... which has to make us think that they don't have answers to the charges.
ADDED: If you want to buy the book, buy it by clicking here, and you'll support this blog (without paying any extra).
MORE: Roger Kimball has a post titled "NY Times tries to torpedo anti-Obama book; succeeds in spreading its message."