Ghostbuster

There has been ample sound and fury lately about Barack Obama’s association with the former Weatherman William Ayers. From the Right we hear that they were, and are, unrepentant comrades-in-arms, and that their working nowadays within “the system” is merely a deception to mask their shared and undiminished ardor for its destruction. From the Left we hear that Mr. Obama has no more in common with, or personal connection to, Mr. Ayers than he has with Yogi Berra.

The plot may, however, have thickened. A commenter over at The Gypsy Scholar has posted a link to a lively little item in the online journal American Thinker that makes the provocative assertion that Mr. Obama’s acclaimed 1995 memoir, Dreams From My Father, was written, not by Mr. Obama, but by William Ayers himself.

The article bases its case on two premises. The first is that Barack Obama was simply too young and inexperienced a writer to have created such a well-written book ex nihilo. We read:

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.

And yet, given the biases of the literary establishment, no reviewer of note has so much as questioned Obama’s role in the writing, then or now. As the New York Times gushed, Obama was “that rare politician who can write . . . and write movingly and genuinely about himself.” These accolades matter all the more because Obama has built his political persona around his presumably superior intellect, Dreams being exhibit A.

The argument rests also upon a comparison between Dreams From My Father and Mr. Ayers’ own memoir, Fugitive Days. The article’s author, Jack Cashill, points out what he sees as telling similiarities of style, metaphor and sentence structure between the two books — particularly the use of nautical and maritime imagery, which Mr Cashill accounts for as being due to Mr. Ayers’ having spent some time after college as a merchant seaman.

If Mr. Cashill’s allegations are true, they will, if nothing else, tarnish Mr. Obama’s halo, and give support to those who think that he has a hidden radical agenda. Having read neither of these books myself, I hardly know what to say about it all.

Read the article here.

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2 Comments

  1. chris g says

    “I picture the street coming alive, awakening from the fury of winter, stirred from the chilly spring night by cold glimmers of sunlight angling through the city.”

    “Night now fell in midafternoon, especially when the snowstorms rolled in, boundless prairie storms that set the sky close to the ground, the city lights reflected against the clouds.”

    Similar!?! Really? I guess they don’t ever compare pop music lyrics.

    Posted October 13, 2008 at 1:17 am | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Actually, Chris, looking past the specific content, I can see how an editor, or someone analyzing these texts, might easily see them as plausibly the product of the same mind. The sentences have a similar structure, and both draw on the same imagery: the juxtaposition of city and sky and weather, and the play of light.

    In particular there is the same sort of literary style in evidence here.

    Posted October 13, 2008 at 10:05 am | Permalink