Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Dreams" vs Reality: Who Wrote Obama's Memoir?

Joe Wilson's shout-out heard around the world of "You lie" during Obama's recent speech to the joint session of Congress was criticized far and wide. However, the criticism seemed to be leveled more at the setting of the comment rather than the substance. Democrats were outraged that a sitting President had been called out in the halls of Congress (obviously demonstrating total amnesia for their own behavior during eight years of George W. Bush's presidency). Joe Wilson may have picked the wrong venue, but he had it right: Barack Obama is a liar.

The word has been out on the street for some time now that Obama didn't write Dreams from My Father, his critically acclaimed memoir. So what's up that, and why should we care? As I wrote in another post somewhere, I am intrigued by metadata, particularly as it relates to literature. My favorite literary genre these days is the memoir. My most un-favorite person these days is Obama. So a synthesis of metadata, memoir, and Obama--that's quite a triple play.

According to Jack Cashill, a guy who has written for Fortune, The WSJ, The Washington Post, The Weekly Standard, etc., Obama needed "substantial help" to write his memoir, Dreams from My Father. As the author of Hoodwinked, a book about intellectual falsehood and fraud, Cashill seems well-qualified to investigate Obama’s memoir. Cashill tells us this: not only did Obama have a ghostwriter to help him with his memoir, his ghostwriter was none other than Obama’s good friend Bill Ayers. In his article of 9 Oct 2008, posted on American Thinker, Cashill calls this a working hypothesis, and he backs it up with biographical evidence from both Obama and Ayers, and also with internal evidence taken from Obama's memoir and also one written by Bill Ayers about his own life. Cashill spends considerable time detailing a comparison of the language of the books, to fascinating and convincing effect.

Obama not only has the thinnest of resumes "evah" for his position as POTUS, he also has, not coincidentally, the thinnest of paper trails leading up to his election. Cashill reminds us that searches for any sort of Obama writing turn up almost nothing. [I'm thinking I could Google my own name and find more in 5 minutes than ANYONE has been able to find on Obama yet, but I digress.] Someone has found a poem he published in a literary magazine when he was at Occidental College in 1981. The second Obama literary output sighting appears 10 years later, one unsigned student case comment in the Harvard Law Review [despite the fact that Obama was president of the Law Review--how the heck, with nothing much published in the  Harvard Law Review--did he manage to get elected president? That might be an interesting line of inquiry, making a comparison of Obama's work with what others on the Law Review have done--if this country actually had any working investigative journalists--although maybe a totally anonymous 20-year-old can do the research, why not?] And then there’s one more Obama writing sample, a 1990 essay titled “Why Organize?” that he contributed to a book called After Alinksy. Says Cashill: “This workmanlike and wonkish piece showed no hint of the promise of Dreams. . . .a B- paper in a freshman comp class.”

The same year that essay was published, somehow Obama, the somehow newly elected president of the Harvard Law Review, received a six-figure advance from a major publisher, Simon & Schuster, to write the memoir that would become Dreams of My Father. Cashill says that Obama dithered around, and being unable to produce a manuscript of any sort, S&S cancelled the contract. Not willing to give up, Obama’s enterprising agent found a second publisher, Random House, and Obama went off with a new advance of $40,000 to try again.

This is the money line, for me, from Cashill: "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." What "has" obviously happened to Obama, time and time again, happened this time as well--he was 'way over his head, this time in trying to produce a publishable memoir. Enter the ghostwriter.

Don’t misunderstand, it's perfectly regular for politicians or other public figures to hire ghostwriters to help them produce memoirs. John McCain gave credit to his ghostwriter for his memoir, Faith of My Fathers. Sarah Palin is getting help with her book, something that is certainly no secret. Big deal. But what is highly irregular, as Cashill points out is for unknown young Chicago lawyers to hire ghostwriters.

Not only is the mere fact of the ghostwriter irregular in Obama's case back in 1991 when he was a total unknown, if Cashill's double hypothesis is correct, then Obama is concealing both the fact that he did indeed have considerable help writing his memoir and also the identity of the person who helped him write it. Why? Well Obama had good reason, according to Cashill: "To admit that he needed a collaborator would have undercut his campaign for president, and to reveal the name of that collaborator would have ended it." Who, according to Cashill, helped Obama write that memoir? None other than Obama’s buddy, Bill Ayers.

So if politicians routinely hire ghost writers to help them write, why does it matter that Obama has done the same thing? Because Obama, if we remember [and how could we forget!], made considerable political hay during the campaign out of his superior intellect, and this memoir, hailed by Time magazine as “the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician,” was considered to be "Exhibit A." If he didn't write it, how then could he continue to be the smoothest, smartest, hippest cat ever? Obama the superstar! And Dreams the best ever memoir ever produced!

Well, his memoir was “produced,” all right. Cashill says he noticed when reading Obama's Dreams that the book "was much too well written. I had seen enough of Obama's interviews [this by July 2008] to know that he did not speak with anywhere near the verbal sophistication on display in Dreams." Cashill goes on to catalog the reasons why he believes Bill Ayers either wrote the memoir or strongly influenced the writing of Dreams, put together from his literary forensics research. Since Ayers had also written a memoir, the books could be compared, using literary forensic techniques, and I hope someday someone will make that study.

A 2008 online review from the Sunday Times calls the author a “born storyteller. . . . the authorial voice is always real. Obama is a born narrator, with a mastery of colour, scene and personality. . . . Rarely has that [American] identity found so vivid a portraitist.” Dreams from My Father is a well-written book. It was written by someone with considerable literary and wordsmithing talent and writing experience, none of which Obama has demonstrated anywhere else but this memoir. Nothing that Obama ever wrote—not that he ever wrote much of anything that anyone has found—can lead to the conclusion that it was Obama who was the “born narrator” of this memoir.

Born narrator or born liar? Here's a small example from the book, small but disturbing because it's entirely fabricated, Obama's story of his first job out of college:

Eventually a consulting house to multinational corporations agreed to hire me as a research assistant. Like a spy behind enemy lines, I arrived every day at my mid-Manhattan office and sat at my computer terminal, checking the Reuters machine that blinked bright emerald messages from across the globe. . . . I was the only black man in the company, ... Read Morea source of shame for me but a source of considerable pride for the company’s secretarial pool. They treated me like a son, those black ladies; they told me how they expected me to run the company one day. . . . The company promoted me to the position of financial writer. I had my own office, my own secretary. . . . Sometimes, coming out of an interview with Japanese financiers or German bond traders, I would catch my reflection in the elevator doors — see myself in a suit and tie, a briefcase in my hand — and for a split second I would imagine myself as a captain of industry, barking out orders, closing the deal. . .

According to the website Sweetness and Light this entire account is bunk. Obama did not work at “a consulting house to multinational corporations”; it was, a then-colleague of his has related, “a small company that published newsletters on international business.” He wasn’t the only black man in the company, and he didn’t have an office, have a secretary, wear a suit and tie on the job, or conduct “interviews” with “Japanese financiers or German bond traders” — he was a junior copyeditor.

Perhaps this example is a small thing, perhaps not so small, but what it shows is that Obama can't seem to help himself: lying comes naturally to him. The outcome of lying is to make other people stupid; the playing field for a committed serial liar and someone who tells the truth can never be level, the liar always has the upper hand. Additionally, I'm bothered that we've elected a man who seems to see himself as some kind of hero in a morality play, one who spins a fantasy of giving up promising corporate career to become a selfless avenger of the capitalist enemy, to work as a humble community organizer.

This is a man who speech is about saying the expedient thing, not the truthful thing. He is quite plainly a fraud, and most alarmingly, he has so much of the media, which is supposed to be the watchdog of government, firmly jammed in his hip pocket. However, there are signs that we are beginning to wake up to the truth.

Update: Cashill has posted a new article at the American Thinker, 24 Sep 2009: "Andersen Book Blows Ayers Cover on 'Dreams.'"

Update #2: HotAir is discussing the Anderson book over on their site tonight.

Update #3: Some wag writes that Dreams From My Father ought to rightly be titled Thoughts From My Neighbor. Heh.

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