Andersen’s claims came out after Remnick’s manuscript was being printed, sparing Remnick from having to comment on them. What is important though is how Remnick dealt with Cashill’s claims. He could, of course, have simply ignored them — especially since he acknowledges that few outside of the right took them seriously. But because Limbaugh endorsed them, Remnick could not resist using his pages to score another blast at Obama’s conservative opponents.
Since so many people had a sense of Obama from his own writings, Remnick argues, any challenge to his authorship “possessed a diabolical potency for those who wished him ill.” (This is certainly so. Friends of mine told me that they supported him from the get go because they had read Dreams From my Father.) Remnick writes: “It suggested that the man poised to become the first African-American President, one celebrated for his language and his eloquence, could not possibly be such a good writer.”
So what, precisely, does Remnick do to put an end to what he considers the dangerous and false claims made by Cashill? First, he calls him “a latter-day Derrida” who has penned a deconstructionist style attack on Obama. Next, he says his attempts “might well have remained a mere twinkling in the Web’s farthest lunatic orbit had not … more powerful voices hoped to give his theory wider currency.” This would be referring to Limbaugh, who used his radio show “to take up the Ayers-as-author theory.” Limbaugh said “there’s no evidence that [Obama] has any kind of writing talent.”
Readers of Remnick’s book will not have had the chance to read Cashill’s article, from which Limbaugh reached that judgement. It is based on the fact that as editor of Harvard Law Review, Obama obtained the position without ever having published anything in the journal. Nor had anyone ever seen examples of prior writing. Moreover, Cashill noted that a long period existed between Obama’s first contract, voided because he failed to turn in an acceptable manuscript, and a new contract which concluded with the now famous and acclaimed memoir.
In Monday, in a blog he posted, Cashill writes:
In late 1994, Obama finally submitted his manuscript for publication. Remnick expects the faithful to believe that a mediocre student who had nothing in print save for the occasional “muddled” essay, who blew a huge contract after more than two futile years, who wrote no legal articles, and who turned in bloated drafts when he did start writing, somehow found the time and inspiration during an absurdly busy period of his life to write what Time magazine would call “the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician.”
Now the above certainly does not prove that Obama did not write his own memoir. It does, however, raise valid issues about how he was able to so quickly develop such a strong literary voice for which there was no prior evidence. After all, how many years did John F. Kennedy’s defenders swear he wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning book Profiles in Courage, which we now know was ghosted by Ted Sorensen? For political reasons, his supporters had good cause to worry that Kennedy’s political future could have come to a halt had the truth been learned at the time.