National Review: Ayers Wrote Obama's Dreams from My Father

National Review: Ayers Wrote Obama's Dreams from My Father


Check out this delightfully nonsensical bit of jealousy…

There has been speculation about this which I’ve ignored, no doubt because there are enough policy reasons to oppose Barack Obama and I don’t want to feed into what sounds, at first blush, like Vince Fosteresque paranoia.

But I’ve finally read Jack Cashill’s lengthy analysis in The American Thinker. It is thorough, thoughtful, and alarming — particularly his deconstruction of the text in Obama’s memoir and comparison to the themes, sophistication and signature phraseology of Bill Ayers’ memoir.

There is nothing in Obama’s scant paper trail prior to 1995 that would suggest something as stylish and penetrating as, at times, Dreams from My Father is. And when Obama speaks extemporaneously, one doesn’t hear the same voice one encounters in the book.

Now maybe Obama has a backlog of writing fom Columbia or Harvard that signal great literary promise, but he not only hasn’t shared it, he’s assiduously hidden traces of it. And, to be sure, writing is different from speaking — in fairness, some of Obama’s off-the-cuff bumbling when he speaks is certainly due to the rigors of the campaign which would cause even the most gifted communicator to faulter from time to time. But it’s not unreasonable to expect more similarity between Obama the writer and Obama the orator.

Two immediate, glaring problems with McCarthy’s logic here.

First, extemporaneous speaking is live and off the cuff. Writing (well, at least good writing) is overly considered and slavishly revised. Why he doesn’t appreciate the obvious distinction is beyond me. But maybe he just writes everything once and never looks back. I guess that would explain his post.

Second, there is this other form of speaking that politicians do all the time. And it’s quite a bit like writing. It’s called “the political speech” and the good ones are, you guessed it, overly considered and slavishly revised. Again, why McCarthy chooses to highlight extemporaneous speaking and ignores the flowery prose that speechifying brings with it is not only odd, it also smacks of intellectual dishonesty. I mean, McCarthy’s no dummy and he hasn’t been living in a cave for the past 4 years. He knows what one of Obama’s key strengths is. And it appears as if he’s purposefully ignoring it.

So then, what about that analysis from Jack Cashill moved McCarthy so much that he simply had to write a post about it?

Here’s how The American Thinker article starts out:

Prior to 1990, when Barack Obama contracted to write Dreams From My Father, he had written very close to nothing. Then, five years later, this untested 33 year-old produced what Time Magazine has called — with a straight face — “the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician.”

The public is asked to believe Obama wrote Dreams From My Father on his own, almost as though he were some sort of literary idiot savant. I do not buy this canard for a minute, not at all. Writing is as much a craft as, say, golf. To put this in perspective, imagine if a friend played a few rounds in the high 90s and then a few years later, without further practice, made the PGA Tour. It doesn’t happen.

Gee, how can you argue with a hypothesis as iron clad as that? “The American Thinker” indeed.

Again, this all sounds like a big fit of jealousy (masked as a conspiracy theory) that tries once again. to tie Obama to the notion of terrorism in the form of Bill Ayers.

No wonder William F. Buckley‘s son is backing Obama.

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  • bubbles

    Pics or it didn’t happen.

  • CaptainUltimate

    I swear to God this election is a theater of the absurd

  • Alan Stewart Carl

    The literary world is full of brilliantly written first novels and memoirs by writers who previously had published nothing. I’m sure Obama did have help — from an editor, just like every writer who is lucky enough to find a publishing house that cares. The conservative attack on Obama is surprisingly unfocused. They’re usualy so much better at this.

  • Polimom

    I filed this one under the Tin Foil Hat tag. Madness.

  • Rob in Denver

    I read the thing twice through this afternoon because I found it so funny…

  • Jim S

    The American Thinker is anything but thinking.

  • Jim S

    And Alan is right about brilliant first novels. What was that bit of relation to non-fiction writing that Obama had? Oh, yeah. The Harvard Law Review.

  • Jasmine

    What’s next, Sarah Palin wrote “The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing”? And if you believe that, then there’s a bridge (to nowhere) I think you’d be interested in.

    Thanks for the laugh.

  • Alan Stewart Carl

    Jim, did you just say I was right? 😉

  • kranky kritter

    Folks, the handwriting has been on the wall for about a week now that Obama is pulling away. RW partisans are sort of losing it, feverishly throwing out stuff like this, throwing tantrums, whipping up frothy brews of comforting angry boilerplate about socialism, class warfare, and well, the end of the world as they know it. This furious derangement is going to lead to more and more RW partisans suggesting that everyone who votes for Obama is either purely evil, completely insane, or both.

    It’s pretty comical. It will in a few weeks be matched by the comedy of orgiastic, messianic liberal celebrations expressing pure joy and 100% faith that Obama can just fix everything with a wave of his hand.

    It makes great theater, and I plan to keep enjoying it all. But both sides are way off. WAY off.

  • Jim S

    Absolutely. And there are other examples of “Where the hell did that come from?”. I always felt a bit sorry for John Brunner for having produced something as brilliant as “The Sheep Look Up” at such a young age. The pressure from that situation must have been crushing at times. I was just so shocked when he actually passed away the weekend of the WorldCon in Glasgow that I was attending. I really wanted a chance to meet him.

  • Alan Stewart Carl

    WorldCon, eh? Would you believe I was raised in that world? My first WorldCon corresponded with my first trip to Disney Land.

  • Jim S

    I’ve been attending SF cons since ’76. My second con was the WorldCon in KC that year. My wife and I were Midwest reps for Nolacon, the New Orleans bid and ran the Hugo Awards for them in ’88. We tallied the Hugo results for Orlando. We ran a bid for KC in 2000 but when they didn’t build a planned hotel and we lost another hotel in downtown KC we dropped the bid. We still do things for the local convention, ConQuesT and when we lived in Tulsa for five years we worked on a con named OKon.

  • Jeannybaby

    Whether or not he wrote anything before is a wonder…Don’t you wonder why everything pertaining to his school years is sealed? You would think Obama would want everyone to know how he became the man he wants us to believe him to be. Therefore qualifying him to be our next president? I’m having a hard time with that.

  • Augustine

    The problem is that Barack Obama does not even speak that well. Ever heard Bill Ayers speak? The man, while not tightly wrapped, does speak with authority. Obama, without the teleprompter, is not very eloquent at all. Other than “Dreams…” and “Audacity” which differ greatly in style, Obama hasn’t written anything which can be qualitatively attributed to his own authorship!

  • Agnostick
  • Rich Horton

    Uh, I know Chris Buckley. He used to come into my bookshop often to browse/chat whatever. He wasn’t his father. Of course he would support Obama…that’s his ideology. Has been for quite some time.

    As for Obama’s book. There are computer programs that can compare samples of writing and make an estimate at the likliehood they were written by the same author. (Saw it on History Detectives). This is easily solved by running them through that. It need not remain a matter of blind opinion.

  • Justin Gardner

    Uh, I know Chris Buckley

    Rich…are you saying that he’s lying? This is how his article starts out…

    Let me be the latest conservative/libertarian/whatever to leap onto the Barack Obama bandwagon.

    As far as the computer program, Cashill does run it through one of these and says they’re virtually identical when it comes to the reading level. Don’t know if that’s what you’re talking about or not. But I’d suggest you read the article.

    My point was simply that the article starts off with a ludicrous premise and so pretty much everything after that is called into question. However, somebody at the National Review actually calls it thoughtful, thorough, etc., and that’s what’s sad.

  • Rich Horton

    No, I’m not saying he’s lying, I’m saying he’s political drift has been over a decade in the making.

    Obviously, Buckley doesn’t like the neo-cons, but his stance against them is not made in the name of any of the other conservative stance (paleo or otherwise) that have ALWAYS disliked the Neocons. (The paleos suspect them of all being closet Leninists, and indeed there is a little bit of “export the revolution!” about them.) So what is Chris Buckley conservatism? Well, whatever it is it isn’t very conservative if he can find its embodiment in Barack Obama.

    Actually, by real standards, I’d say Buckley is about as conservative as Andy Sullivan, which is to say not-conservative at all…although in different way and for different reasons. (If one were to be completely uncharitable one might term it less principled and more bandwagonesque.) Indeed, in Buckley’s piece you link to and quote above you get trenchant criticism of the neocons, but not a single annunciation of a conservative theme as a better choice (and there are lots of other options.) That Buckley cannot bring one to mind says more about beliefs he actually holds today.

    As for the text analysis…no, what he uses is different. The work I saw was by David Hoover at NYU, which can be used for author attribution. (It creates a “fingerprint” based upon word choice and other usage characteristics. I’ve no idea how the QUSM program he mentions works…and I’m not sure I care.)

  • Rob in Denver

    Ann Althouse, incidentally, has a post up on the “Ayers wrote Dreams…” hoo-ha.

  • Winifred NYC

    I wonder if the late Wm. F. could even have aligned himself with this particular “conservative” slate; it’s difficult to recognize any conservative principles at play in this big-government, profligate-spending, foxes-guarding-the-henhouse loony-bin. Their pandering to the religious right has created a party that is the antithesis of intellectualism, (the jury is out on evolution, global warming is fiction, I can see Russia from my backyard, etc. ). Whatever else Wm. Buckley was, he was a brilliant man. His beloved party, unable to discuss the crises at hand that will actually effect all of our futures, are now laughably resorting to bizarre attempts at diversionary tactics. This one—“Ayers wrote Obama’s book”—is so out there that is should have the opposite of its intended effect on anyone who might still be undecided.The only people who will go for this canard are people who don’t do much critical thinking, to put it gently, and have made up their minds long ago.

  • Atan

    If you read the only available writing sample from Obama, a 1990 essay, it’s clear that he did not write Dreams. He did not merely have some “help” from an editor. Editors clean up writing, but they do not impose an overriding style and fill the writing with thematic metaphors. Certainly Obama contributed much of the content and ideas, but Dreams was substantially written by someone else.

    So, the question is, who wrote it. If you look at what was going on with Obama and Ayers at the time the book was written, Ayers is indeed an excellent candidate (means, motive, similarity and uniqueness of writing style, etc.). Perhaps it was someone else, but who? At this point, Ayers is a pretty good hypothesis.

    Even if it’s not Ayers, though, the revelation that Obama does not indeed have the literary skill displayed in Dreams is a major indictment of his character.

  • Judith M.

    Justin, I really think you’ve badly misrepresented Jack Cashill’s argument. The argument wasn’t that a person couldn’t write a good first novel. The argument was that a person doesn’t go from a mediocre writer to an superb writer without a great deal of effort. None of Obama’s writing prior to “Dreams From My Father” showed any literary promise. Further, “The Audacity of Hope” appears to have different authorship than “Dreams”.

    Meanwhile, you have Ayers extensive writing portfolio, which without question is much more similar to Dreams than “Dreams” is to “Audacity”. The length of sentences, imagery, philosophy (post modern), reading level, etc. are almost identical between “Fugitive Days” (Ayers memoir) and “Dreams” (Obama’s memoir).

    I highly recommend that people read Cashill’s ENTIRE article in American Thinker before discarding his thesis on the basis of two paragraphs that have been taken out of context. Cashill’s argument is a thorough and layered argument against Obama being the primary author of Dreams, but Obama could show it was false by showing even one thing he’d authored prior to Dreams, no matter how short, that showed any signs of the literary ability exhibited in that book.

  • Justin Gardner

    Okay folks…this is my last word on this.

    Since I make my living as a writer, I can tell you that the most important part of my job is being able to switch between many different voices given the situation. And as a writer, lecturer, etc., Cashill knows this.

    So there’s a reason why Dreams is a completely different style of writing than Audacity. Audacity was directed at a broader, political audience, while Dreams was a memoir. These are two VERY distinct forms of writing.

    And as far as going from 0 to 60 in his early writings to Dream, what Alan said. History is LITTERED with brilliant first novels. But yeah, you keep believing that Ayers wrote Dreams because he has vaguely similar word choices in his books.

    As for misrepresenting Cashill’s “argument”, he began with a ridiculous premise and then spends the entire rest of the article cherry picking his way through both books to make his point. It’s conspiratorial jealousy in its worst form, and Cashill should be ashamed of himself.