Americans have an abiding fascination with their presidents, especially with their foibles and secrets. Who lied? Who ordered illegal operations? Who had mistresses?
Thus was the country transfixed by Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky, and the tawdry drip-drip of their liaison. When newly declassified documents revealed hitherto unknown CIA connections to Lee Harvey Oswald, this made a media splash, with Tucker Carlson asking: "Did the CIA have a hand in the murder of John F. Kennedy?"
But that fascination dies when it comes to Barack Obama, the Left's quasi-sacred figure. About him, no curiosity, please, no gossip, and no hint of impropriety. When he falsely claimed in 1991 to have been born in Kenya, and not in Hawaii, blame fell on a sloppy literary agent. When Stanley Kurtz proved that Obama lied about not being a member of Chicago's socialist New Party and a candidate for it, the Obama P.R. machine smeared Kurtz and the story disappeared.
When clear evidence showed that Obama had lied about having been born and raised a Muslim, the researcher who made the case was reviled, his investigation scorned, and his argument vaporized.
I should know, as I was that researcher. I wrote five times on this topic in 2007-08, during Obama's first presidential campaign (three of those times in FrontPageMag.com) and then aggregated all this information, plus new details, in a long and (so far) definitive September 2012 article, "Obama's Muslim Childhood," serialized in the Washington Times.
All those writings emphasized that Obama was now a Christian. The first one began with:
"If I were a Muslim I would let you know," Barack Obama has said, and I believe him. In fact, he is a practicing Christian, a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ. He is not now a Muslim. But was he ever a Muslim or seen by others as a Muslim?
I answered in the affirmative and showed how contradictory evidence concerning Obama's religious background – from Obama's father and name, from years in Indonesia, from his family, and most of all from himself – conclusively points to his being born and raised a Muslim.
Throughout, I emphasized not the Islam issue but the character issue; if Obama lies about something so fundamental, how can he be trusted? His other lies, such as Kenyan birth and socialist party non-membership, confirm this problem.
Responses came fast and hard. Ben Rhodes' "echo chamber" nearly fainted at the impudence of my lèse majesté. Like Kurtz, I was slandered without the facts I presented ever addressed. Here's a small sampling of the deluge:
Ben Smith in Politico derided my analysis as "the template for a faux-legitimate assault on Obama's religion."
The Spectator called mine the "the worst article on the presidential election" and also deemed it "mad" and "despicable."
Martin Peretz in the New Republic said I had "simply gone bonkers ... and malicious."
Vice ran an article "Would You Care If Obama Were Muslim?" that responded to my carefully-crafted argument with "BLARGHA BLARGHA BLARGH REPEAL OBAMA BIN HUSSEIN'S GOVERNMENT TAKEOVER OF OUR JOBS."
The Atlantic published no less than three attacks on the article and me. Mark Ambinder rued "the false notion that Obama is or was ever Muslim." Andrew Sullivan dismissed my work as "toxins." Matthew Yglesias ridiculed my saying that I believe Obama is not now a Muslim with "I, for one, believe Daniel Pipes when he says he's not a child molester."
And so it went, howling with outrage at the very thought of Obama as a Muslim, mocking and taunting me with ad hominem attacks, speculating about my motives. So relentless was the onslaught, even the conservative press overwhelmingly shied away from the topic. The McCain and Romney campaigns both treated the topic like Kryptonite. The issue of Obama's lies had no impact on either presidential campaign, both of which – of course – Obama won.
I expect that, at some future time when Barack Obama loses his sacral quality, historians will take great interest in his childhood religious affiliation. They will wonder how, in the information-heavy, politically-riven, and celebrity-mad culture of early twenty-first century United States, so gigantic a biographical inconvenience could be successfully hidden and rendered taboo. They will study how, in a modern democratic society, a determined candidate can suppress even the most important and relevant information.
I look forward to the vindication.
Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum