The Corner

Did Obama Write “Dreams from My Father” … Or Did Ayers?

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.

There’s been some talk around here about Christopher Buckley’s endorsement of Obama.  I don’t really know Christopher (I’ve met him once), but I’ve admired his writing over the years.  And prowess with the written word plainly is important to him.  Like the rest of us, Christopher can point to nothing noteworthy in Obama’s record — to call it a thin record is an understatement — other than that Obama is clearly a man of the Left, which Christopher is not.  But he gets beyond his misgivings because of what he takes to be Obama’s intellect, for which he finds evidence principally in Obama’s writing: 

I’ve read Obama’s books, and they are first-rate. He is that rara avis, the politician who writes his own books. Imagine. He is also a lefty. I am not…. But having a first-class temperament and a first-class intellect, President Obama will (I pray, secularly) surely understand that traditional left-politics aren’t going to get us out of this pit we’ve dug for ourselves….  Obama has in him—I think, despite his sometimes airy-fairy “We are the people we have been waiting for” silly rhetoric—the potential to be a good, perhaps even great leader.

Now, as Jonah has pointed out, there’s a lot to disagree with in that rationale.  But I don’t want to get into all that.  My narrow point here is that we don’t really know Obama.  Taking Christopher Buckley as a measure of what intelligent people who favor Obama are thinking, it’s fair to say there’s a lot riding on Obama’s writing.  I’d like to feel more confident that he wrote it:  If he wins, Obama will be my president, and as I’m not a MoveOn Democrat who’d rather tear down my country than see a president I opposed succeed, I’d like to feel some of Christopher’s hope for what that portends. 

Cashill raises significant questions about whether Obama is the rara avis he’s portrayed to be. 

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