O: The Novel: The Final, Irritating Mystery

Please, I’m sorry, bear with me for a second before we go ahead and finish remaindering O: The Obama Novel About Obama . The novel itself, as a manufactured topic of political discussion, can be safely dispensed with . Bait, fish, gulp . Hose down the fish guts.

No, the really remarkable work of anonymous media-political fiction here, in the end, was the Mark Halperin blog item that identified the secret author of the novel. Without wasting hundreds of pages of paper, Halperin was able to concoct a text every bit as coy, annoying, and dishonest as O itself.

It is a definitive piece of Washington journalism. How do we know that the McCain speechwriter identified by Halperin really is the author of the novel? It is “confirmed by sources.” Not even sources with an adjective—just “sources.”

Last week, the author’s identity had been so carefully hidden, even from people at the publishing house, that it was all but impossible for anyone to have firsthand knowledge of it. Now there are multiple sources who somehow know it anyway. Edifying.

Halperin does give other reasons why his candidate is the author, but most of them—at face value—are only reasons why this person is not not the author. (E.g. “The descriptions…given of the author matched [him].”)

Then comes the clincher:

There is a story early in the book based on a real-life tale that would have been known only to a McCain campaign insider such as [the author].

OK! But…if the real-life incident was only known to McCain campaign insiders,

how does Mark Halperin know about it

? Doesn’t the fact that Halperin knows about it demonstrate that the incident is not, in fact, known only to McCain campaign insiders? It is actually known to—or capable of being made known to—Washington political reporters.

But not to the public! This is where Halperin really wins the cycle. Somewhere, in this whole misbegotten

O: The Novel

business, there is a piece of juicy news or gossip about the McCain campaign—an item apparently dramatic or strange enough that no author could have accidentally invented a parallel version of it.

Would you like to know what it is? Tough. Halperin and his Sources aren’t there to tell you something interesting about politics that you may not have known. They’re there to advance the story line about the marketing of a message-product. Sharing information with the public would ruin the whole game.