An Old Claim Arises Once More: Did Barack Obama Write 'Dreams From My Father'?
Those who were skeptical of Barack Obama’s bona fides before the campaign, particularly the nature of his apparent relationship (or non-relationship, if you believe Obama) with Bill Ayers, will be stunned by Jack Cashill’s new revelation. Remember Cashill? He is a Ph.D. in American Studies from Purdue University and a blogger at American Thinker, one of the multitudes of conservative websites.
In October 2008, Cashill penned a much discussed blog, in which he suggested the possibility that Bill Ayers actually was the ghost writer for Barack Obama’s powerful memoir, Dreams From My Father. His claim was so reminiscent of the discussion before Bill Clinton’s first campaign about who wrote the novel Primary Colors, which bore only the name “Anonymous.” Some suspected Joe Klein, the political journalist. Klein vehmently denied the allegation. Then, he was forced to admit authorship when a literary detective compared phrases in Klein’s writings and those in the novel for New York magazine, and Klein was forced to hold a press conference admitting that he indeed was the author.
In this case, Barack Obama did not pull a Klein, especially since, as Cashill wrote, “no reviewer of note has so much as questioned Obama's role in the writing.” That left him, a rather unknown figure, isolated in trying to make the case. And as he also acknowledged, his arguments, although many found them compelling, could not be proved to everyone’s satisfaction. As he put it: “Shy of a confession by those involved, I will not be able to prove conclusively that Obama did not write this book. As shall be seen, however, there are only two real possibilities: one is that Obama experienced a near miraculous turnaround in his literary abilities; the second is that he had major editorial help, up to and including a ghostwriter.”
And so his effort became just another one of those apparent conspiracy theories so prevalent in the ranks of both the left and the right. Then at the end of June 2009, Cashill returned to his original article. This time, he wrote yet another blog, reporting about many who sent him more material that they thought would corroborate his original suspicions about authorship of Obama’s first memoir. Two contributors whom Cashill does not name, he writes, made a contribution that “should dispel the doubts of all but the willfully blind that Ayers played a substantial role, likely the primary role, in the writing of Dreams.” Again, the two contributors and Cashill played literary detective, offering more examples of strange similarities in the metaphors used in both Ayers’ Fugitive Days and in Obama’s Dreams. One of them found 759 striking similarities. Cashill found one of his contributor’s analysis to be “systematic, comprehensive, and utterly, totally, damning.” You can read his article and judge for yourself.
And now, Cashill picked up the new bestseller about Obama and his wife, Christopher Andersen’s Barack and Michelle:Portrait of an American Marriage. What he found simply threw him for a loop because, I suspect, it was the last thing Cashill expected to find. Andersen writes in his book that after Obama finally got a new contract to write a book, Michelle Obama suggested that her husband get advice “from his friend and Hyde Park neighbor Bill Ayers.”
Obama had not as yet written anything. But he had taped interviews with family members. Andersen writes: “These oral histories, along with a partial manuscript and a truckload of notes, were given to Ayers.” Look over those words. A man Obama said before the campaign -- after conservative pundits continually raised the issue that he was friends with an “unrepentent terrorist” -- that he knew only in passing as someone in the neighborhood. He was simply an acquaintance -- not someone he had any real friendship or relationship with. Yet Obama evidently gave Ayers his notes, tapes, and the small amount that he had already written.
On the latter point, Andersen also writes, quoting a Hyde Park neighbor of Obama: “Everyone knew they were friends and that they worked on various projects together. It was no secret. Why would it be? People liked them both.” Why should it be secret? We know the answer to that. Obama was denying this relationship, as well as suggesting it was not true they worked on projects together. Everything that was ferreted out at the time that proved this was hardly likely was simply ignored by the MSM.
Finally, Christopher Andersen concludes: “In the end, Ayers's contribution to Barack's Dreams From My Father would be significant -- so much so that the book's language, oddly specific references, literary devices, and themes would bear a jarring similarity to Ayers's own writing.”
Let me make the point as sharply as possible. A book about the relationship of the first couple, their history together, and their road to the presidency makes the point in passing that is precisely the same as that made by Jack Cashill. Most reviewers, and readers, will probably read this in passing and go on. As far as I know, no reviewers to date seemed to have noticed this. All they seem to have noticed is the one quote from Michelle Obama to her husband when he was considering whether to put Hillary Clinton on the ticket: "Do you really want Bill and Hillary just down the hall from you in the White House?" And since the reviews of the book have not been particularly good, it might disappear from the public’s notice fairly soon.
Now Andersen gives no sources or names; the Obamas did not cooperate with him. Skeptics will argue that we have no way of knowing whether his claims can be verified, and we have no way of knowing the veracity of those he interviewed. Who, for example, was the Hyde Park neighbor he spoke with? Some might even argue that he reached his conclusion after reading Cashill’s original blog, without citing it. Andersen faces the same credibility problem Bob Woodward faces, since he is often charged with making outrageous charges in some of his books without offering any proof that conversations he could not have been privy to took place. But Woodward’s use of such a technique never has hurt his reputation. After all, he is Bob Woodward. Reviewers of Andersen’s book have had no compunction in labeling much of what he writes as pure “gossip.”
In the meantime, Cashill promises us more is coming. I, for one, look forward to reading what he comes up with.