October 12, 2008

Jack Cashill's strange notion that Bill Ayers wrote "Dreams From My Father."

This Andy McCarthy post convinced me to read Jack Cashill's (long) argument that maybe Bill Ayers wrote "Dreams From My Father." I'd noticed Cashill's piece the other day, but rejected the notion out of hand. I mean, of course, there's a good chance that Obama had a ghostwriter -- effusion about "that rara avis, the politician who writes his own books" falls flat -- but why on earth would anyone imagine the ghostwriter was Ayers? It's Ayers-o-mania gone wild.

Cashill's first point is that "Dreams From My Father" is just too damned good to have been written by someone who had not previously demonstrated literary promise. (Cashill dishes up a college-era poem -- about apes! -- that Obama himself calls "very bad.") This, of course, only goes to the issue of whether Obama had a ghostwriter (or a strong editor).

I read "Dreams From My Father" -- that is, I listened to Obama read it -- and I didn't think it was so brilliantly written. It had a creative-writing-class feeling to it that often made me feel a little embarrassed for the novice writer. There were so many times when the leaves or the sky were expressing his feelings and so forth. It was good, but earnest.

So where does Ayers come in? Cashill says "Ayers had the means, the motive, the time, the place and the literary ability to jumpstart Obama's career." That is, Ayers was there at exactly the time when Obama had been failing to produce the manuscript he contracted to write. Again, that's not much.

The most interesting part of Cashill's analysis compares the literary style of "Dreams" and the Ayers memoir "Fugitive Days" and notes a lack of similarity between "Dreams" and Obama's second book "The Audacity of Hope."
Ayers and Obama have a good deal in common. In the way of background, both grew up in comfortable white households and have struggled to find an identity as righteous black men ever since. Just as Obama resisted "the pure and heady breeze of privilege" to which he was exposed as a child, Ayers too resisted "white skin privilege" or at least tried to....

Tellingly, Ayers, like Obama, began his career as a self-described "community organizer," Ayers in inner-city Cleveland, Obama in inner-city Chicago. In short, Ayers was fully capable of crawling inside Obama's head and relating in superior prose what the Dreams' author calls a "rage at the white world [that] needed no object."

Indeed, in Dreams, it is on the subject of black rage that Obama writes most eloquently. Phrases like "full of inarticulate resentments," "unruly maleness," "unadorned insistence on respect" and "withdrawal into a smaller and smaller coil of rage" lace the book.

In Fugitive Days, "rage" rules and in high style as well. Ayers tells of how his "rage got started" and how it evolved into an "uncontrollable rage -- fierce frenzy of fire and lava."
Listening to "Dreams," what I heard was the sound of elite education, the way professors present race and gender issues. I wondered -- prompted by Obama's own new foreword to his book -- why he didn't tell us much more about his mother and why the father who contributed almost nothing to his life got to be the central figure in the story. My theory was that Obama was echoing professors and determined to produce a book about race. As he highlighted everything that had to do with race, I never trusted him to be telling us what his life really felt like to him at the time. The most honest admission in the book, to my ear, was the confession that he spent a huge chunk of his formative years watching TV sitcoms with his (white) grandfather.

Cashill puts some stock in quantitative analysis:
The "Fugitive Days" excerpt scores a 54 on reading ease and a 12th grade reading level [in the Flesch Reading Ease Score]. The "Dreams'" excerpt scores a 54.8 on reading ease and a 12th grade reading level. Scores can range from 0 to 121, so hitting a nearly exact score matters.

A more reliable data-driven way to prove authorship goes under the rubric "cusum analysis" or QSUM. This analysis begins with the measurement of sentence length, a significant and telling variable. To compare the two books, I selected thirty-sentence sequences from Dreams and Fugitive Days, each of which relates the author's entry into the world of "community organizing."

"Fugitive Days" averaged 23.13 words a sentence. "Dreams" averaged 23.36 words a sentence. By contrast, the memoir section of [Cashill's own memoir] "Sucker Punch" averaged 15 words a sentence.

Interestingly, the 30-sentence sequence that I pulled from Obama's conventional political tract, Audacity of Hope, averages more than 29 words a sentence and clocks in with a 9th grade reading level, three levels below the earlier cited passages from "Dreams" and "Fugitive Days." The differential in the Audacity numbers should not surprise. By the time it was published in 2006, Obama was a public figure of some wealth, one who could afford editors and ghost writers.
When I first read that, I asked my son John (by IM):
do you think it's significant that Obama's first book is measured as written at the 12th grade level but his second book is at the 9th grade level?

I'm not suggesting that he got dumber or anything

it's about the issue of ghostwriting

I think if he wrote it all himself both books would be at the same level
John said:
maybe he had more desire to simplify the book that involved policy, and took more liberties with the more novel-like book.
Yes, that's the answer, of course. In "Dreams," Obama was trying to be literary, trying to impress elite readers with language, descriptions, and insight. And "Audacity" is trying to spell out policy for everyone.

I downloaded a Flesch Reading Ease Score calculator and put a lot of my blog text through it -- just my writing, no quoted stuff -- and then did a few my law review articles. The blog is written at the 9th grade level and all the articles were at the 11th grade level. The same person, writing for different purposes, writes at different grade levels.

The most interesting part of Cashill's analysis has to do with seafaring imagery. Ayers worked at sea for a time. "'I'd thought that when I signed on that I might write an American novel about a young man at sea,' says Ayers in his memoir, Fugitive Days, 'but I didn't have it in me.'" Though Ayers didn't write that seafaring novel, he brought a lot of seafaring imagery to Fugitive Days, Cashill shows. Then, oddly, there's a lot of seafaring imagery in "Dreams."
Ayers and Obama also speak often of waves and wind, Obama at least a dozen times on wind alone. "The wind wipes away my drowsiness, and I feel suddenly exposed," he writes in a typical passage. Both also make conspicuous use of the word "flutter."

Not surprisingly, Ayers uses "ship" as a metaphor with some frequency. Early in the book he tells us that his mother is "the captain of her own ship," not a substantial one either but "a ragged thing with fatal leaks" launched into a "sea of carelessness."

Obama too finds himself "feeling like the first mate on a sinking ship." He also makes a metaphorical reference to "a tranquil sea." More intriguing is Obama's use of the word "ragged" as an adjective as in the highly poetic "ragged air" or "ragged laughter."

Both books use "storms" and "horizons" both as metaphor and as reality. Ayers writes poetically of an "unbounded horizon," and Obama writes of "boundless prairie storms" and poetic horizons-"violet horizon," "eastern horizon," "western horizon."

Ayers often speaks of "currents" and "pockets of calm" as does Obama, who uses both as nouns as in "a menacing calm" or "against the current" or "into the current." The metaphorical use of the word "tangled" might also derive from one's nautical adventures. Ayers writes of his "tangled love affairs" and Obama of his "tangled arguments."
Mere confirmation bias? Or is Cashill onto something?


The Emperor said...

Yes, and maybe Obama, not Bill Clinton, had (or did not have) sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky.

I can't believe you repeated this nonsense.

Joan said...

I want to know if Obama had a ghost writer, or writers, for his books. Whether or not Ayers had anything to do with them, the issue is significant, since so many people are putting so much weight behind Obama's intellect based on those books (hello, Christopher Buckley.)

And I don't think Dreams and Audacity are targetting different audiences. They're both mass-marketed, after all, aren't they? Comparing your blog entries to your law review articles is one thing, comparing two mass-marketed books is another. How about comparing your blog entries and your NYT editorials?

reds said...

Strange but I did remember there was an incident where... "Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign wants everyone to see a campaign speech made in 2006 by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick just before he won that office and a recent speech by Sen. Barack Obama. Found a reference to it here at this site:
Just remembered, that's all.

Gabe said...

This is definitely very interesting. I've done some research on the topic of ghost writing and the occasionally important instances like those having to do with Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. I believe it could be damaging to Obama, but not nearly so much as if it were John McCain or Sarah Palin who had done the same thing. The idea that Ayers might have written the book would be disregarded by the media and harped on by the pundits but would, inevitably, result in the same thing we have gotten so far.

The media proves over and over that they have the capacity to ignore almost anything if it does not suit the narrative.

rhhardin said...

There were so many times when the leaves or the sky were expressing his feelings and so forth.

I recommend Mike Barnicle, the columnist of the pathetic fallacy.

Meade said...

What I want to know is, how many times does the word "vortex" show up in the two memoirs?

Anonymous said...

We will never know if Ayers was a secret co-author of Dreams From My Father. If true neither man will confess. Obama has already proved that truth means whatever helps him win. If it became advantageous for him to claim Ayers helped him write the book soon after the back story would become known. At the moment the obverse is true.

By the way the Cashill article is persuasive but not conclusive.

George M. Spencer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
George M. Spencer said...

Here is an October 2006 article by former Random House Associate publisher Peter Osnos (and vice chairman on the Columbia Journalism Review) on Sen. Obama's two books.

He says Sen. Obama's first book is "(all Obama's)." He was the publisher of Obama's first book for which Obama was paid $40,000. It is theoretically possible that the publisher would not know if an author was using a ghost; typically the publisher would know because the author's editor would have helped the author find the ghost.

This, after Obama spent several years unsuccessfully trying to write the book for Simon & Schuster which, according to Osnos, cancelled Obama's contract. This would have been a painful experience for Obama, as he would have been required to return any part of the advance he had received, probably around $25,000.

It seems unknown whether Obama ever turned anything in the first time around or, if he did, whether he was merely unable to craft the work to S&S's satisfaction. Either way, if true, it's pretty darn embarrassing, especially since he's supposed to be such a whiz with words.

Given his status, it would seem more likely that he was unable to turn in anything, since it is common practice for politicians and other celebs to hire ghosts. Perhaps Obama's ego was such that he couldn't stomach the thought of hiring and ghost and sharing the advance.

(In all, Obama would have broken even on the first book. That's not so bad, considering that the book exists to promote his career, essentially serving as a loss leader.)

Osnos does not like Sen. Obama, as he appears to be friendly with Obama's first agent whom Sen. Obama eagerly threw under a large, speeding mass transit vehicle. One thing is clear about Sen. Obama—He collects people and remorselessly discards them when their usefulness to him is over.

In general, it is a little hard to believe that any active politician would be able to find the time to actually "write" two books. Lot of work. Very time consuming. If he did have a ghost, it is puzzling that no one has come forward, as doing so would be a big financial feather in that person's cap. The only reason not to come forward would be if it would be impolitic for the ghost to do so.

You can find Ayers' vitae at Cryptome. He is one prolific writer. Funny, though, how his resume is blank between 1968 and 1985....

KCFleming said...

Does not Forensic Linguistics use statistical and computational linguistic methods for determining authorship?

It can help determine "who wrote a particular text by comparing it to known writing samples of a suspect; sometimes also called forensic stylistics"

Forensic Linguistics
"Ted Kaczynski's manifesto. The ransom note for Jon Benét Ramsey. The anthrax letters threatening our government and media agencies. With the aid of forensic linguistics, the words criminals leave behind in their unsigned letters can be as distinctive as a signature or voice. Although the linguistic study of language is well established, this important analytical tool is something new for many jurors, judges, attorneys, and other forensic specialists dealing with both criminal and civil cases."

Not that a journalist might have access to these tools, though..

Anonymous said...

Never mind being conclusive, we live in a place and time where a significant number of people when asked by a popular politician "who are you goin' to believe, me or your lyin' eyes" will believe the politician.

The blogworld likes to pretend that traditional media is losing hegemony over the body politic. This election and the 2006 election prove this is not true.

I'm Full of Soup said...

It is generally agreed Obama left almost no written trail of his time in college, law school, private practice and the state legislature.

I bet Obama was storing up all those thoughts and ideas and words and they just gushed out into his two books. But I could be wrong.

UWS guy said...

I admit this is a very interesting post.

Althouse does sound like Art Bell Sometimes though.

Ann's penchant for conspiracy,
left her mind open most int'restly,
to that which most could not fathom,
to that which most could not see.

Ruminate on blog attacks,
(remember her post about some guy a while back?)
Query Obamananiacs,
Recent bloggingheads dot tee vee,
tin-foil hats QED.

Breezy minds ponder the ayer and his ire,
Was it that wind that blew Obama's sails?
His breathy tendrils move the younger's tiller,
Through Barack's hand he rails?
Tilting at windmills and chasing white whales.

Anonymous said...

The 1996 book Primary Colors was the subject of controversy over authorship.

Literary analysis showed the author to be journalist Joe Klein who previously denied it.

Anonymous said...

Easy problem to solve. Just put a camera in front of Bill Ayers and ask him if he was the ghostwriter.

What's that? Bill Ayers is camera shy these days? How can that be if he's just a guy in Obama's neighborhood? What's there to hide?

Peter Hoh said...

Until I get enough evidence to convince me otherwise, I'm putting out the theory that Bernardine Dohrn is the surrogate mother of Trig Palin.

Anonymous said...

UWS guy said...I admit this is a very interesting post.

Althouse does sound like Art Bell Sometimes though.

I've always wanted be General Johnson Jameson.

Here's a tape of a Phil Hendrie show discussion between Art Bell and the legendary General Johnson Jameson about the disappearance of Chandra Levy .

Anonymous said...

Original George writes "Osnos does not like Sen. Obama, as he appears to be friendly with Obama's first agent whom Sen. Obama eagerly threw under a large, speeding mass transit vehicle. One thing is clear about Sen. Obama—He collects people and remorselessly discards them when their usefulness to him is over."

During the Reagan years Nixon started the long process of his eventual limited rehabilitation. He gave a talk to some group or other whose name escapes me. The talk was shown on C-Span which is where I saw it. During the talk Nixon made the most ironic statement I have ever heard from a prominent politician. He related a belief of Churchill's which is essentially "to be a good politician you have to be a good butcher". This coming from the man who decided to protect the Watergate burglars to his historical shame instead of, you know, chopping them up into little bloody pieces (metaphorically). Or as current parlance has it "throwing them under the bus".

George writes "One thing is clear about Sen. Obama—He collects people and remorselessly discards them when their usefulness to him is over." as a criticism when in actuality it is probably a great strength for a successful politician.

Christy said...

Believable but inconsequential.

Headless Blogger said...

Did Cashill do a "pie" count?


Literary idiot savant or idiot? We report, you decide.

Chennaul said...

Anybody who thinks they are helping the McCain campaign with this-I'm looking at you-National Review or any other Conservative media is missing the mark by a mile.


I have to run but huge battles have been fought over the use of the word dumber just ask Ann Coulter.

EnigmatiCore said...

Could be.

And Trig could be Bristol's.

Kirby Olson said...

Frequency of the use of specific words is what's used now to figure out if a Shakespeare text is likely to be authentic.

It's probably too late to pin down authorship of these texts -- which have a very high literacy level, and show very tricky thinking -- he trots out assertion after assertion, only to unravel them to nothing by the books' ends.

He doesn't actually say anything at all in AUDACITY (I haven't read Dreams). He'll say he's against gay marriage, for instance, and then say, but he could be a bigot, and thus, wipes out what he's just said.

He never makes one serious point.

Or rather, he makes one serious point after another, and then says, but I could be wrong. It's as if he doesn't really believe in anything.

I think if Ayers had written the book it would be a lot more dogmatic.

Ayers believed in something enough to kill people for his beliefs. I get the sense of Obama as a ghost ship of some sort, driven on whatever currents happen to be moving at the time.

MadisonMan said...

Well, when has Ayers taken a sabbatical? Writing takes time. If he's not on sabbatical, he likely will not have time to ghost-write.

Even if he has had a sabbatical, I am doubtful. Ayers does not strike me as the type of man to sit quietly in the background while others take credit for his work.

Faithful Progressive said...

And maybe Ayers is really an Arab, too, just like the Limbaughs claim...and maybe he really impregnated Obama's mother back in the Sixties. Could Ayers really BE Obama's father?

Stay tuned for more "evidence" later-- coming to you live next week from Mendota mental health hospital..


former law student said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
former law student said...

By his analytical techniques, Cashill proves that he himself was not Obama's ghostwriter, not that Ayers was.

Not every writer leaves a paper trail full of fits and starts, of course. Apart from a year in his early 20s as an unsuccessful journalist, for half his adult life Raymond Chandler worked as a bookkeeper and oil company executive, not an author. Not until he was 44, fired for alcoholism and absenteeism, did Chandler start writing fiction, moving swiftly from pulp stories to novels and screenplays.

Jen Bradford said...

The authorship question interests me less than how Obama could move so quickly from a vague desire to help "black folks at the grassroots" to feeling prepared to be President of the United States.

I'm a few years younger than Obama, and can easily imagine the scenes he describes in Dreams, but it's less easy to see where the desire for higher and higher office comes from. (I'd be curious to know what Corey Booker thinks about that power-hopping aspect of Obama's career - here's someone who chose his battleground and stuck it out.) There's a restlessness, a kind of peevishness, that bothers me. I'm still looking for signs of accomplishment apart from his own success as a politician.

Common Cause in Wisconsin said...

Jen Bradford says:

The authorship question interests me less than how Obama could move so quickly from a vague desire to help "black folks at the grassroots" to feeling prepared to be President of the United States.

And how exactly do you equate Obama's work as a community organizer (as detailed in his first book) with a "vague desire" to help "black folks at the grassroots"?

Sounds far from vague to me.

I'm a few years younger than Obama, and can easily imagine the scenes he describes in Dreams, but it's less easy to see where the desire for higher and higher office comes from.

I am one year younger than Obama, and -- having grown up in a struggling, blue collar neighborhood -- it's not at all hard to see where the desire for higher office comes from.

Wince said...

Somewhere I saw a publishing timeline of Bill Ayers' books meant to show a gap in his regular output when Dreams was written and published.

Has anyone else seen this?

Bill Harshaw said...

Re: "waves". That's almost conclusive proof, right there. Ayers spent some time on a ship. Obama spent all his life on solid land, far, far way from the ocean, and surfing, didn't he?

Jen Bradford said...

modika, I wasn't characterizing Obama, I was quoting him.

It's not that I can't understand wanting to be in a better position to help, I just don't understand the extent to which his energy has been directed toward advancing his political career. Maybe you could help me out by describing his other accomplishments as you see them.

Beth said...

Yes, bill, Hawaii is far from the ocean.

Balfegor said...

I haven't read the argument or the book, but I have a hard time imagining why or how Obama could have got a ghostwriter in 1995 for his story of Race and Inheritance. I mean, his entry into politics (1996) was entry as a state legislator, which is barely one step up from a complete nobody, in political terms. Would it really be worth finding a ghostwriter for? Who depends on a memoir to launch a state legislative career? You'd probably get more bang for your buck just going door to door for a year.

And why would Ayers, of all people, ghostwrite Obama's memoir? Recall that in 1995, Ayers >>> Obama -- Obama's an unknown, a toff from the Harvard Law Review who's decided to dabble in educational work and community organising or something, and Ayers is a prominent figure in Chicago Establishment. Why would the more powerful figure spend his precious time writing the less powerful figure's memoir for him? Doesn't this sort of thing usually go the other way?

KCFleming said...

Beth, I believe that was meant to be facetious.

reader_iam said...

Eh, I don't know: It's possible but strikes me as a stretch.

As for the timeline issue, I recall reading an something at least similar to what another commenter he referred to. But that break in Ayers' publications could just as easily be explained by:1) his working on a number of books which were published in quick succession a few years later; and 2) one of the most prosaic of life circumstances: His own two kids, born in '77 and '80, were entering their teen years, and he and his wife were also raising Chesa Boudin (also born in 1980), a boy who while he eventually went on to become a Rhodes Scholar an adult, was a deeply troubled kid with health, learning and emotional issues, one who no doubt required a great deal of attention.

Don't get me wrong: I'm no Ayers defender, not by the longest shot, and I'm perfectly willing and capable to believe all sorts of things in connection with him. But I also think that, most of the time, things can be explained more simply than through conspiracy theories.

George M. Spencer said...


I agree. There is a ruthlessness about all these folks that most of us do not possess.

The issue is who the leader chooses to stand by and who he chooses to discard.

Nixon and LBJ chose wrongly! Bush did when he stood by Rumsfeld. Clinton knew when to toss people overboard

We know McCain showed incredible loyalty to those with whom he was imprisoned and by extension to all Americans.

Do we know of incidents in Sen. Obama's life where he stood with subordinates in their time of need?

If the Osnos essay is to be believed, we do know that Sen. Obama failed to fulfill the terms of a substantial contract and thereby let down people whose livelihood and reputations depended on him. Lots of other politicians signed book deals in periods of great stress: Nixon after leaving office, Churchill during the Depression, Truman when left office and was broke--all came through under fire.


You make good points; however, a) from the git-go people around Obama knew he was destined for something great. For example, while it's not true that Blair Underwood based his "LA Law" character on Obama, Underwood did seek out Obama while he was at Harvard Law; and b) there are people out there who envision their future lives in 5, 10, and 20 year chunks and orchestrate a world around themselves to meet those long-term goals. So, yes, it would be worthwhile for the young Obama to find a ghostwriter, presuming he foresaw a grand career for himself. What's more, a $125K book deal 20 years ago was a lot of money for a total unknown, plenty to hire a ghost with.

reader_iam said...

Via the New Yorker, here are Two Barack Obama poems, originally published in poetry journal in 1981, and here is a New Yorker article in which Harold Bloom (!) comments on Barack's writing relative to that poetry.

Perhaps a couple of people, including Althouse, might find those links of interest.

Ann Althouse said...

bill harshaw said..."Re: "waves". That's almost conclusive proof, right there. Ayers spent some time on a ship. Obama spent all his life on solid land, far, far way from the ocean, and surfing, didn't he?"

beth said "Yes, bill, Hawaii is far from the ocean."

In Bill's defense, I'm sure he meant to be sarcastic.

In Cashill's defense, read his article!

"In Obama's defense, he did grow up in Hawaii. Still, the short Hawaii stretch of his memoir is largely silent on the island's natural appeal. Sucker Punch again offers a useful control. It makes no reference at all, metaphorical or otherwise, to ships, seas, oceans, calms, storms, wind, waves, horizons, panoramas, or to things howling, fluttering, knotted, ragged, tangled, or murky. None. And yet I have spent a good chunk of every summer of my life at the ocean."

Yes, you know there is a bizarre lack of a sense of place about Hawaii.

George M. Spencer said...

Ah, the ultimate embarrassment...your moldering undergraduate poetry ripped from long-forgotten chthonic realms, exhumed for all the world to see....

reader_iam said...


Ralph L said...

Why did Ayers choose Obama to be chairman of the Annenberg Challenge board? He was certainly being groomed by Chicago bigwigs at the time the book was finished.

Anonymous said...

Balgefor wrote "And why would Ayers, of all people, ghostwrite Obama's memoir? Recall that in 1995, Ayers >>> Obama -- Obama's an unknown,...and Ayers is a prominent figure in Chicago Establishment. Why would the more powerful figure spend his precious time writing the less powerful figure's memoir for him? Doesn't this sort of thing usually go the other way?"

Assuming that was a serious question, I think the obvious answer is that Ayers was already about as high as he was ever going to go. There was no limit on how high Obama, with the right sort of guidance and help, might rise. And he had the one thing that Ayers could only dream of--African blood. They had a partnership. Has Obama ditched Ayers? Probably, but who knows?

I found the Cashill article pretty convincing. I suppose another explanation for so much similarity would be imitation, but that would seem less likely. Why can't someone use the same technique that identified Joe Klein as the author of Primary Colors to take a look at the question of authorship?

Balfegor said...

Assuming that was a serious question, I think the obvious answer is that Ayers was already about as high as he was ever going to go. There was no limit on how high Obama, with the right sort of guidance and help, might rise. And he had the one thing that Ayers could only dream of--African blood. They had a partnership.

It was a serious question, and I don't find the answer entirely convincing. I can see how Ayers might look out for Obama. They'd worked together on the Annenberg Challenge in Chicago, after all. But sitting down and doing the grunt work of slogging through the draft-work for a 400 page memoir? That's not something a mentor does for his mentee. That's underling's work. The furthest I could find credible is Ayers lending Obama his ghostwriter or copy-editor or something.

Unknown said...

I think Ayers might have been smart enough to see that this guy could be the first African-American President. To be instrumental (in such a personal way) in building up his image and résumé, while trying to keep him pointed in the right "progressive" (dare he hope, anti-imperialist?) direction might be reason enough for Ayers to take on the "historical task." Not to mention possible future rewards.

George M. Spencer said...

Ralph--Obama says that Ayers did not pick him and had nothing to do with the selection process.

For another opinion, go here.

It would seem logical that the guy who got the grant money would have a say in who his co-CEO would be and that he would want a guy who either a) was a true believer; or b) was someone he could manipulate; or more likely... c) both.

onscrn--The ultimate test of whether Obama wrote the books is...what else has he written? People who love to write are like any other kind of artist. You can't keep them away from paintbrushes. You can't keep them away from guitars. Instead of walking, they dance. If Obama is such a powerfully gifted writer, you'd think words would be pouring out of him like a mountain stream. Instead he apparently only erupted twice.

Balfegor--We know that Ayers has no ghostwriter because he's wildly prolific. See his vitae at cryptome. Ayers is also ridiculously obsessed with guilt over being white. For him, it could have been the ultimate in cool...pretending to be a black author. Plus, the moolah. And revolutionary zeal.

(PS...If you look up Ayers book "Fugitive Days" on Amazon, you can read an extended excerpt. He's a good writer. And he's nuts, too. By page 12, he's talking about making pipe bombs. As a child.)

Kansas City said...

I know Cashill very casually from a few business events in Kansas City. He is a very bright, engaging and inquisitive person. I happened to see him at a non-political event on Friday and, while his article is cautious in not claiming Ayers was the author, he personally believes it to be true. He recognizes that like with many aspects of Obama's early life, the MSM will not touch the issue and it will be very hard to find a witness. Personally, it seems likely to me that Ayers (or someone) helped Obama write at least some of the book.

UWS guy said...



Beth said...

pogo - yes, I missed the irony. Pre-coffee (I slept late today!) Sorry, bill.

Daryl said...

Didn't Obama once refer to Bill Ayers as an ENGLISH professor?

He must have made that mistake because Ayers' ghostwrote his book!

former law student said...

curiousgeorge's post raises the question: Why is a law professor like Steve Diamond posting on noquarterusa, home of the notorious Michelle-Obama-said-Whitey-I've-got-it-on-tape fantasy?

BREAKING NEWS: Michelle’s Whitey Problem

By Larry Johnson Author: Larry Johnson Name: Larry Johnson
Email: larry_johnson@earthlink.net
Site: http://NoQuarterUSA.net
About: Larry C. Johnson is CEO and co-founder of BERG Associates, LLC, an international business-consulting firm with expertise combating terrorism and investigating money laundering. [remainder of larry johnson's amazing CV omitted]... From 1989 until October 1993, Larry Johnson served as a Deputy Director in the U.S. State Department’s Office of Counter Terrorism. ... From 1985 through September 1989 Mr. Johnson worked for the Central Intelligence Agency... He has a M.S. degree in Community Development from the University of Missouri (1978), where he also received his B.S. degree in Sociology, graduating Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1976.See Authors Posts (823) on May 31, 2008 at 7:59 PM in Breaking News, Michelle Obama, Race, Race Card

[COMMENTS in this thread are now closed, but may continue to be read. Go to second thread to comment.]

New and dramatic developments. This is a heads up. I’ll post the news Monday morning by 0900 hours. Now I know why people who have seen the videotape say it is stunning. Barack’s headaches are only starting.

The ultimate test of whether Obama wrote the books is...what else has he written? People who love to write are like any other kind of artist... If Obama is such a powerfully gifted writer, you'd think words would be pouring out of him like a mountain stream. Instead he apparently only erupted twice.

People generally only write when they have something to say. Having written his memoirs once, Obama perhaps realized he needed to accumulate some more life experience before going back to the autobiographical well.

Besides, there are many counter examples to the above thesis. After Henry Roth published Call It Sleep in 1934, sixty years passed before his next novel came out. His writing drought was not as prolonged as his publishing drought, stretching only from the early 1940s, when he burned all his journals and manuscripts, to the late 1960s, when he started writing short stories.

Similarly, Obama might be writing, but not publishing, as with J.D. Salinger, who though still writing (according to Joyce Maynard), has not published any new material in 50 years.

Beth said...

In Cashill's defense, read his article!

Oh, but no. There are a million tinfoil hat theories out there, about both candidates. I'm not wasting my time on that.

George M. Spencer said...

And vide Ayers, Obama explained his relationship with another controversial professor, Rashid Khalidi, this way: "His kids went to the Lab School where my kids went as well." (About 4:20)

Khalidi held a fundraiser for Obama, donated money to him, and served as a spokesman for the terrorist PLO.

Isn't that the ultimate!

Blaming the existence of a damaging relationship on your children! Twice!


former law--

The issue is honesty.

All of us laypeople like to think that when a person writes a book that means he wrote every word just as we like to imagine that movie actors do all their stunts.

Ted Sorensen wrote JFK's 'Profiles in Courage.' NY Timesman Arthur Krock and Joe Kennedy's speechwriter wrote "While England Slept."

McCain's "written" a bunch of books. He's been open about his use of co-authors. So was Hillary Clinton.

The Kennedys fought like heck to create and protect the illusion that John Kennedy was a gifted, poetic writer. He wasn't. We need to base our voting decisions on non-fictional understandings of candidates, not the fictions they want us to believe.

Cedarford said...

Original George - And he's nuts, too. By page 12, he's talking about making pipe bombs. As a child.)

Sometimes, that is a good thing.

Gordon Moore, the guy that invented the integrated chip, of "Moore's Law" fame - started his scientific path with homemade dynamite as a kid. Back in his day, no cops or parents went after him - his Dad just warned him that if he blew himself up, it would be his own fault..so be careful.

My childhood friend, known as "The Chemist" started with model rockets and graduated to solid-fuel missiles modeled on the Soviet Katyushka. Naturally, to a 13-year old, every decent rocket deserves a decent warhead. His was a small fire extinguisher filled with flash powder. His career in childhood rocket artillery was cut short when a Katyushka knockoff went off-course and exploded and littered a neighborhood with debris. There were cops and lawyers as a friend cheesed him out...but no GITMO back then. When he didn't show up for junior year, many thought he was in jail, but he had gotten early admission to Cal Tech - partially through his "exploits".
He went out of his "boys & toys" phase and into academia, specializing in automated systems.

And surfing.

He is now living well off patent royalties. Not fabulously rich, but well, and for 15 years had a deal where the firm paid him to be on "creative hiatus" to surf. Then he took up golf.

Ayers wrote his book "Fugitive Days" in 2001, well after "Dreams of My Father" came out, so Obama did not crib off or be inspired by Ayer's work. But besides Ayers, he had many other accomplished Leftists in those days serving as mentors. I don't see Obama writing alone in a locked room and emerging with his Opus - but bouncing passages and chapters off a number of informal collaborators in his academia circles and Avner Mikva's and the Pritzker circles whick included many literary glitterati - for review & comment and ongoing style, format suggestions.

Beldar said...

One of Cashill's main points is that Obama hadn't written anything else of note before publishing "Dreams," which Cashill praises far more highly than you do, Prof. Althouse. And he referred to Obama's election as president of the Harvard Law Review as being more of a popularity contest than a literary achievement.

My reaction in reading that argument, however, was that Cashill may not have an accurate understanding of how very, very different the legal profession is from virtually all others, in that its most prestigious and highly refined professional journals are student-run and student-edited -- and that the editing typically is very detailed.

Even if Obama only wrote one casenote himself (and it was mashed down into a voiceless paste by the intense editing of other students to conform to the mold of that type of piece), by the end of his two years on the HLR, he'd almost certainly been responsible for editing or supervising the editing of many dozens of other student casenotes and faculty articles and book reviews -- none of it "litarary" writing as such, but all of it writing about ideas.

The year I spent as a law review editor -- far more than the previous year spent as a mere member, writing my own note -- had a profound effect on my writing forever after.

And I don't think I've ever met a law review editor who wasn't even more convinced than the average lawyer that he/she has a great novel somewhere inside, just waiting for the cue to spring forth.

You'll find no more fierce Obama critic than me, but I don't doubt that he was the principal author of "Dreams."

George M. Spencer said...

"Principal author!"

Beldar, I can hear Primat or Connie shouting those words.

Here's a funny article about ghosts.

If a celebrity's name is on the book, someone else wrote it.

I'll bet my self-reproducing protoids on it.

Ralph L said...

there are many counter examples to the above thesis.
Also, Margaret Mitchell, but her one novel was a really big one.
So was Hillary Clinton.
No, she didn't acknowledge a ghostwriter at all.

David said...

What horrid poems Obama wrote.

But many of us have written awful poems.

The difference is that Obama published his.

On the other hand, I consider this clear evidence that Obama has not been gunning for the Presidency since kindergarten. A real gunner would never have published this misbegotten self libel.

George M. Spencer said...

Re: Hillary. She acknowledged her co-authors in the credits of her chthonic memoirs; her "Village" book also had a ghost, and, yes, she did fail to keep that a secret.

Margaret Mitchell wrote another earlier novel. Of course, everyone knows that Harper Lee and Truman Capote are the real authors of Gone With the Wind.

Beth said...

Original George,

I'm sure it's Harper Lee, Truman Capote and the ghost of Christopher Marlowe.

AlphaLiberal said...

This guys sounds batshit.

Hey, Cedarford, I responded to your attacks over on the Palin Troopergate thread, a few down the page. Had a life over the weekend and couldn't reply promptly to your insults.

In short, you're wrong that the report found Palin did nothing illegal. The first finding says she violated the law.

Whether you're lying or simply ignorant is difficult to say.

this said...

Why is there "a good chance that Obama had a ghostwriter"? And why does effusion about Obama being that "rara avis" fall flat?

Because it's so hard to believe that a HLS magna/LR prez would be capable of doing his own writing?

This is unbelievably racist.

Jen Bradford said...

It took awhile, but I knew "this" would arrive. Different kind of racism: where any questions or concerns you would direct at any white candidate with a thin resume are suddenly "offensive".

NotWhoIUsedtoBe said...

Bunk! Without proof, it's just a story Cashill made up! We wouldn't be talking about it otherwise.

Ditto with ghostwriting speculation. Prove it.

Just because something makes a nice story and seems to have some confirming evidence doesn't mean it's true. Sarah Palin had her own baby, Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, 9/11 was the work of Al Qaeda, and Obama wrote his own books.

Anonymous said...

If Obama was the gifted sylist that Time Magazine and the New York Times says he was I'd like to see one thing he wrote that had ANY literary quality prior to "Dreams From My Father." His Occidental College poem (about apes stepping on figs in caves) wasn't just bad, it was astonishingly pathetic.There is no way Obama could have gone from the ape-fig poem to "Dreams" without having written something in between (something that showed even a hint of the literary aspirations of "Dreams").

Someone in a an earlier post here mentioned that it didn't matter if Obama didn't write "Dreams." It was inconsequential. Boy is that wishful thinking. If it turns out that Obama's best selling, much touted memoir of growing up black in America was written by a white domestic terrorist (whose organization would later go on to slaughter a black cop in a Brink's holdup), the election will be over. And it won't be Obamna who won. Can you get used to saying "Vice-President Palin"?

InterestedObserver said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
InterestedObserver said...

Yes, it is certainly "offensive" to allege that Obama didn't write his autobiography after he's said that he did and when there's no evidence to support a different conclusion other than the ramblings of a few conspiracy theorists on the Internet (including a rather bizarre law professor in Wisconsin). This "theory" would be offensive whether Obama was a white or black author - indeed he happens to be as white as he is black.

I personally don't believe that it's "racist" to discuss whether Obama had an unacknowledged ghost-writer for his first book - though the history and reality of racism in the United States, and the lack of any reasonable evidence to suggest that he's not the author, certainly doesn't preclude racism as a factor for some people. However, I admit this may be a "strange notion" for many to accept.

More importantly, to allege that Obama's allegedly "thin resume" raises questions about the authorship of his books is just stupid. Obama burst onto the national scene at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, when he gave a thrilling speech that clearly showed his command of the English language (though I guess his "pal," the America-hating domestic terrorist, William Ayers, could have also written that speech about America finding common ground between people of different races, classes, regions and political orientations).

Come to think of it, Ayers could also be responsible for writing Obama's widely praised speech on racial reconciliation given earlier this year in Philadelphia where he argued that Americans should unite behind a "common purpose." I guess it's all part of their Manchurian Project plan to destroy America.

Those two speeches alone, which he said he wrote himself, are solid evidence that he has the ability to have written a well-received autobiography. In addition, you have the fact that he graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he served as President of the Harvard Law Review, and I think that you have more than sufficient evidence to accept that he has the ability to have written his own life story.

As much, or more, than any racism, I think that what often motivates these despicable Internet rumors about Obama is petty jealousy and warped political ideology. Obama burst onto the national scene in 2004 and captured the national imagination like no other politician in a generation. Many just can't easily deal with that fact.

Indeed, what really gets to many people is the fact that Obama has run the single most brilliant campaign in the history of American presidential politics. He's a black man with an Arabic name, Muslim heritage and "thin resume," yet on the verge of being elected president. People can dismiss his success as some version of "affirmative action" but that's fine. Every president has his critics. Clinton had so many that he was labeled the "first black president" by Toni Morrison. I suspect that the actual first black president will have even more critics than Clinton.

Nevertheless, this long campaign has shown that Obama's likely to handle this criticism well. Think about this: The world economy is on the brink of catastrophe, yet despite numerous efforts to take him down in the primary and general elections, more Americans have decided to turn to a BLACK man rather than an older white man to get us out of this mess. If that's not a testament to Obama's brilliance as a person and a candidate and his potential to be a successful president I don't know what is.

So hate on anonymous Internet conspiracy nuts (and weird Obama "supporting" yet Obama conspiracy theory spreading law professors), but it's not likely that you can stop this man from saying the following before the world on January 20, 2009:

"I Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States..."

Deal. With. It.

George M. Spencer said...

"Doubts about the book's authorship surfaced early. In December 1957 syndicated columnist Drew Pearson, interviewed on TV by Mike Wallace, said, "Jack Kennedy is . . . the only man in history that I know who won a Pulitzer prize on a book which was ghostwritten for him." Outraged, Kennedy hired lawyer Clark Clifford, who collected the senator's handwritten notes and rounded up statements from people who said they'd seen him working on the book, then persuaded Wallace's bosses at ABC to read a retraction on the air."

It took another 23 years for a presumably unbiased scholar in 1980 who, upon going through Kennedy's dusty papers, concluded that he merely contributed notes to "Profiles in Courage." The book was the product of a committee and its "literary craftsmanship" "drama" "readability" and "flow" came from ghostlawyer Ted Sorensen.

Read more here

In 1980 I actually believed that Jimmy Carter was into Dylan. In 1988 I actually believed George Bush Sr. liked country music.

The surviving members of the Grateful Dead reunited in February to play an Obama benefit and will play again tonight on his behalf. Obama "is said to have Dead music on his iPod," according to Rolling Stone.

People will believe anything.

Barry said...

This will probably get lost down here, but two plausible arguments about similarities between Obama's writing and Ayers are: (1) Obama read Ayers writing, possiblity recently adjacent to his writing Dreams, and (2) Obama and Ayers being in similar circle of thought and politics have read similar authors. While a writer strives for their natural and authentic voice, a novice writer is likely to (knowingly or unknowingly) adopt the affectations of recently- or oft-read authors. I'd like to see a comparison of of their works to authors they've read, or they were reading at the time they wrote these two books. I suspect similar connection could be drawn.

Bill Harshaw said...

Gee, I got described as committing "sarcasm", "irony" and being "facetious". Not being an English type, I don't know what I was (or am). I was just trying to point out that a surfer (if I recall, Obama went body surfing after the convention) might be more attuned to sea/water imagery than Dr. Ayers. Having said that, and having been disillusioned by Presidents before and remembering I don't know much, I'll not commit myself on the overall issue. (Still going to vote Obama, though.)

I remember the Profiles in Courage controversy, and the JFK presidency

Anonymous said...

"Those two speeches alone, which he said he wrote himself, are solid evidence that he has the ability to have written a well-received autobiography. In addition, you have the fact that he graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he served as President of the Harvard Law Review, and I think that you have more than sufficient evidence to accept that he has the ability to have written his own life story."

The fact that someone says he did something isn't proof he did anything. If you can show us something that Obama wrote between his ape-in-the-cave-eating-figs poem and "Dreams From Our Fathers" that shows ANY literary ability I'm sure we'd all love to read it.

One doesn't go out and write "War And Peace" right out of the box without having written at least a short story that shows hints of literary promise. All I'm asking is that you produce something (anything) that Obama wrote prior to "Dreams" that demonstrates all this supposed literary talent.

Josiah Rowe said...

The whole "Ayers wrote Dreams" claim reminds me of a bit from Tom Stoppard's play Arcadia. The speaker is a literary academic, addressing a mathematician:

"...One of my colleagues believed he had found an unattributed short story by D. H. Lawrence, and he analyzed it on his home computer, most interesting, perhaps you remember the paper? ... Well, by comparing sentence structures and so forth, this chap showed that there was a ninety percent chance that the story had indeed been written by the same person as Women in Love. To my inexpressible joy, one of your maths mob was able to show that on the same statistical basis there was a ninety percent chance that Lawrence also wrote the Just William books and much of the previous day's Brighton and Hove Argus."

Nano said...

Cashill’s argument isn’t even remotely convincing and is actually quite comical. Cashill is a Kansas City writer and conspiracy theorist (with small emphasis on theorist....since he’s actually just making things up). I have been watching Cashill for years. First of all he writes for Worldnutdaily which should tell you all you need to know about authenticity and journalistic standards. Worldnut is to the internet what Rush Limbaugh is to radio. Cashill’s modus operandi is to hop on the latest spin coming from the dins of Fox News or some other disreputable source and then try to whip it into a lather for the “black-helicopter” crowd. I’m surprised he was given this much space for his howling banter.

Cheryl said...

The MSM cannot be counted on to report the truth.
We're lucky to have journalists like Jack to give it to us straight up.

Nano said...

Cashill is strictly for the 'black helicopter crowd'. He also believes Ron Brown was murdered by the Clintons (hilarious!) So as you can see we are either dealing with an idiot, someone who is extremely delusional and un-stable or we are dealing with another 'Spinmeister hack' in the mode of O'Reilly, Beck, Hannity, etc. I prefer the latter since Mr. Cashill seems intent on conjuring up the most outrageous yarns possible. Unfortunately Mr. Cashill is the one who desperately needs a 'ghost writer' since his arguments aren't even remotely plausible. Mr. Cashills motives seem to be anything that would sway a reader/voter towards the republican party and against a women's right to choose since he is adamantly against choice for women.

AST said...

Surprise! Cashill is interviewed on the B-Cast on Breitbart TV today.

Cashill has a persuasive way of making his circumstantial case. I heard him on this before and I decided that, like the birther claims, I won't entirely dismiss it, but I won't waste any time on it either because, unlike the O'Keefe/Giles videos, there's not enough clear evidence to substantiate it. It's a theory, somewhat plausible, at least considering Obama's earlier life in Chicago and his meteoric rise in politics.

The main thing that makes it plausible to me is how disappointing his actual performance has been since he's been in office. I've felt for a long time that he's been lifted beyond the level of his competence. The comparisons to JFK, the swooning media, the support of the Kennedys, all made me feel that he is a figurehead for progressives following Alinsky's playbook.

dxturner said...


... but does it have legs?

AST said...

Apparently Christopher Anderson has just put out a book called Barack and Michelle Portrait of an American Marriage which pretty well confirms Cashill's claims. Andersen appeared on Sean Hannity's show and seemed somewhat surprised that Hannity was excited by that.

Link: http://browseinside.harpercollins.com/index.aspx?isbn13=9780061771965morsc

Anonymous said...

Yep, it has been confirmed that Bill Ayers wrote Dreams after Obama was unable to do more than gather some scraps of paper with bits of his story. Obama turned them over to Ayers to put together into a book form. Obama cannot really write.

T. S. Creighton said...

As an update, anyone who is interested can now read Deconstructing Obama by Jack Cashill which takes a significantly more in depth look at not only the writings of Obama, and any ghostwriters he may have used, but also the timeline of his early life that has been so contradictory and ill-investigated.
I think it would be good to remember that Cashill isn't some hack but the author of Hoodwinked which is about literary fraud which was well received until Mr. Cashill's personal politics came out, then the NY Times actually changed their review!