By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Obama’s Kenyan-Boston connection

The Boston Globe and the Boston Herald are scrambling to catch up with a story that Barack Obama’s Kenyan aunt Zeituni Onyango may be living in Boston. Who broke it? The Times of London, believe it or not.

I’m already hearing that the local media fell down on the job by not having this story first. No doubt Globe editor Marty Baron and Herald editor Kevin Convey are wishing they’d found it. But this strikes me as the ultimate example of Donald Rumsfeld’s unknown unknowns. You can picture the typical news meeting:

Editor: Marie, you check in with the cops. There were three similar robberies last night in three different parts of the city.

Marie: OK.

Editor: Ed, see if City Hall has acted on our FOIA request yet for those payroll records.

Ed: Sure.

Editor: And all of you — if Obama’s got any Kenyan relatives living in Boston, make sure we have that first.

All: Right! Let’s go!

Obviously the Times was acting on a tip. The connection may be British rather than American. I’m eager to find out how the Times got this story, but I’m virtually certain it wasn’t because local journalists were asleep at the switch.

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  1. alkali

    I don’t particularly fault the Boston media for not picking up on it, but apparently the first of Obama’s memoirs mentions that certain of his father’s relatives moved from Africa to Boston, so in a sense the lead was in plain sight all the time.

  2. Mark

    Can I be the guy that questions why this story is important in the first place?Who cares if he has an aunt in Boston?Maybe the Boston papers didn’t find out about it sooner because it wasn’t worth knowing.

  3. Dan Kennedy

    Well, Mark, who cares about anything, right? If you don’t think this is interesting, then I’d say you just don’t like what most people recognize as news. I’m not saying the story goes anywhere. It doesn’t have to.

  4. An Astute Observer

    Newspapers will send reporters to VietNam trying to locate old generals to ask them about McCain’s detention, but the local papers won’t even bother with this?Is it not suprising? The Liberal media has been busy worshipping at the altar of Obama…and avoiding anything negative as a “non-story”.But they’lll run for days with the story of Palin’s wardrobe.

  5. mike_b1

    I’d say $150,000 of what was once public money is at least as significant as a $400 haircut paid with private funds, which we heard about for a good 12 months. So much for your “Liberal media.”

  6. An Astute Observer

    It’s not public money a far as I know, it’s money donated to the campain.Second, The haircut was simply ‘funny’. (Who knows how you can spend that much on a haircut?)Funny, as opposed to the “outrage” at Sarah palin’s wardrobe budget. (which isn’t that much, if you’ve ever been involved with a woman shopping for clothes.) 😉

  7. mike_b1

    As I said, “was once public money.” As in, money that belonged to the public, who in all likelihood didn’t pony it up hoping it would turn into what passes for fashion on Ms. Palin.And if the GOP can spend $150,000 on clothes for Gov. Moose Shit, imagine what it would spend on everything else.Oh wait, I don’t have to. I just have to look at the budgets Bush sent to Congress and then later signed to know that no item was too expensive for the guy who apparently thinks the “red pen” was a gift from his commie buddy Putin.

  8. An Astute Observer

    >>money that belonged to the public, who in all likelihood didn't pony it up hoping it would turn into what passes for fashion on Ms. Palin.<<I think they gave money to do whatever it takes to elect John McCain. And a new wardrobe would be considered an acceptable expense. Esp with the conditiuon that she not own it, and it goes to charity afterwards.But, she doesn't have to substantiate it to you, you didn't give the money….and you would never vote for her…so who cares what you think. You're partisan.The media isn't supposed to be.

  9. Stella

    The Times is Murdoch’s shining star, much more than a newspaper. This is the kind of information often held in abeyance, often never used in print. Look for follow up this Sunday in NY Post.

  10. mike_b1

    not so astute: Yeah, I’m sure that’s what people had in mind when they donated the funds. It explains why they were so mad when they found out what it went to.

  11. Dan Kennedy

    I haven’t heard anyone who’s angry about the $150,000 for Palin’s wardrobe. It seems to me that everyone thinks it’s funny. Gross hypocrisy is always funny.And anyone who’s been following this knows Palin isn’t to blame. The campaign did this, and then, once it became clear that Palin was a drag on the ticket, the McCainiacs leaked it.The media’s treatment of Palin has been mild compared to what McCain staffers are doing, as they desperately look for someone to blame.

  12. mike_b1

    What do you mean, Dan? Not so astute is mad about it. He’s mad because it became the story. He should be grateful, however, because it wiped Palin’s nonsensical ultra-religious, science-bashing, education-sliming blabberspeak off the headlines for a few days.

  13. mike_b1

    Besides, we expect Palin to manage the country when she can’t even manage her closet? Or those in charge of it? That doesn’t bode well.

  14. Dan Kennedy

    Mike: What I meant was … there are conservatives who are angry that liberals are angry about Palin’s wardrobe. Except that liberals aren’t angry — they’re laughing.Conservatives, however, seemed genuinely angry over Bill Clinton’s haircut, John Edwards’ haircut, and John Kerry’s extremely disturbing preference for Swiss cheese on his hoagy. Go figure.

  15. Dot Lane

    $150,000 on clothes while the economy melts down doesn’t help McCain win and there were several furious GOP large donors who argued they didn’t donate money to buy clothes for Sarah Palin, who certainly should be able to buy her own wardrobe. Furthermore, it became a news story because of the potential legal and tax issues raised by the purchases–these clothes are a gift to Palin, not a uniform required for her job. As such, she will probably have to pay income taxes on them and take a deduction when (and if) she actually donates them to charity. I’m not holding my breath for that day. And while Sarah Palin may get away with her small time grifting in Alaska, when it comes onto the national stage, it’s going to get a lot of play Just think though: if the $150,000 hadn’t been spent on clothes, it could have been spent on buying the Michelle Obama tape from AIP or the Obama cavorts with terrorists tape from the L.A. Times. Choices, choices.

  16. Mark

    Our politics are so divided.These are all non-issues. Sorry Dan, they just are.

  17. Dan Kennedy

    Mark: Obama’s aunt is not an issue. It’s a story. Kind of an intriguing one, too.

  18. mike_b1

    Newsweek’s Nov. 3 issue reports that since Wardrobegate broke, a top party fundraiser has been bombarded with calls from “furious” (the fundraiser’s words) donors. “This has damaged everybody’s credibility,”the fundraiser said.So yeah, the GOP is outraged, and they have every right to be: Lousy candidates, lousy strategy, lousy tactics. They’ve spent hundreds of millions on nada.

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