Did Bill Ayers Write Obama's Books? w/ UPDATES

There is mounting evidence that Obama’s two best-selling books, Dreams of My Father and The Audacity of Hope were in fact ghost-written.

Dr. Jack Cashill first raised the question earlier in the month, and made a compelling (but not convincing) argument that the author of both books was not Barack Obama, but prolific author, upstanding Chicago citizen and unrepentant domestic terrorist Bill Ayers.

Now, Cashill shores up his thesis with more detail.

Cashill is wrong when he says Obama contributed “not one word” to the Harvard Law Review – it has been determined that he contributed at least this piece, on abortion rights – while he was editor, there.

However, this is pretty interesting. Remember, the Obama books are lyrical, gorgeous bits of writing, well-crafted and moving, with an impressive seamlessness:

In 1990 Obama also contributed an essay to a book published by the University of Illinois at Springfield, an anthology called After Alinsky: Community Organizing in Illinois.

Although the essay covers many of the issues raised in Dreams and uses some of the memoir’s techniques, it does so without a hint of style, sophistication, or promise. The following two excerpts capture Obama’s range or lack thereof:

“Moreover, such approaches can and have become thinly veiled excuses for cutting back on social programs, which are anathema to a conservative agenda.”

“But organizing the black community faces enormous problems as well . . . and the urban landscape is littered with the skeletons of previous efforts.”

These cliché-choked sentences go beyond the merely unpromising to the fully ungrammatical. “Organizing” does not “face.” “Efforts” do not leave “skeletons.” “Agendas” do not have “anathemas.” Indeed, the essay is clunky, pedestrian, and wonkish, a B- paper in a freshman comp class.

The evidence strongly suggests that Ayers transformed the stumbling literalist of “Why Organize” into the sophisticated postmodernist of Dreams, and he did not so not by tutoring Obama, but by rewriting his text. The Ayers’ quotes that follow come from an essay of his, “Narrative Push/Narrative Pull.” The Obama quotes come from Dreams:…

It’s a long piece, difficult to excerpt, but do read it. No, it is not conclusive. But it is intriguing enough to raise legitimate doubt about Obama’s authorship, and Ayer’s input.

“Why does that matter,” you ask, “Ted Sorenson ghost-wrote Profiles in Courage for John F. Kennedy. Most books at that level are ghost written!

True. But Ted Sorenson is not Bill Ayers, and – most problematically – Obama has spent a good chunk of time suggesting that his association with Ayers was casual, happenstance and shallow.

A man does not ghost-write two books for you and remain a casual acquaintance. More likely, this is a fellow you’ve spent a great deal of time with, shared meals and bottles of wine with, and spoken to in depth about your deepest beliefs and yearnings.

If Cashill is correct, and Bill Ayers wrote Barack Obama’s books, it matters, because it demonstrates Obama’s comfort level with a man who cheerfully trods upon the flag while admitting that he wishes he’d blown up more buildings and terrorized more of his fellow citizens; a man who is still actively engaged in pursuing “revolution” within America, albeit revolution from within the safety of the establishment and tenure – revolution through the classroom rather than the streets.

Obama has said Ayers would “have no part in my administration.” He doesn’t have to have a part in Obama’s administration. Good friends are good friends. They have your ear whether in an official capacity or not.

So…take it for what it’s worth. As I said, there is no smoking gun, and Cashill cannot wholly close his case. But he does open a door to some serious wondering.

Which, come to think of it, leaves me to wondering something else…how come a global economic crisis that just two weeks ago was the most pressing concern in the whole wide world has all but fallen off the map, to be replaced by…Joe the Plumber?

Kind of weird, isn’t that?

UPDATED: Reader EW notes that the authorship question is also important because people like her mother – and Christopher Buckley – are voting for Obama on the strength of his writing. I have a friend who also was quite impassioned about Obama, writing, “did you read those books,” as an argument for a vote. Good point, EW.

UPDATE II: The debate goes on. Ann Althouse examines Cashill and finds his assertions – as I do – interesting but not convincing. So does NRO’s Andrew McCarthy, although Adler, over there, says “come on, this guy has no credibility.” And, seeing this, I say it is very fair to question whether Cashill is capable of making a truly fair and unbiased analysis. So…I remain unconvinced and wondering.

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  • tim maguire

    It matters both because it would show a very deep Ayers connection, far beyond anything so far accused, but also because so much of Obama’s stature as an intellectual comes from those books. Take away the books and you have yet another, huge, “there’s no there there” on Obama’s resume.

    That said, I don’t think this meme should be pushed without a smoking gun. Otherwise it becomes just another smear by those crazy conservatives that will fall flat.

    [Which is why I went out of my way to say this is not conclusive. Yes. Smoking gun required. -admin]

  • stephanie

    Umm, anchoress? It’s not us (liberals) who brought Joe the plumber up as a national distraction. We just beat it to death in heavy handed attempts to “defend” the cause :-)

    [True. Drudge brought J-t-P to the fore; McCain exploited it. But it took the left to demonstrate that "heavy hand" or, better, the "chill wind." :-) admin]

  • Bridey

    Based on those two sentences, and one of them partial, it’s certainly not good writing. But Cashill’s specific carping is not persuasive, particularly that crack about efforts not having skeletons. It’s not a strong turn of phrase, but it’s obviously metaphorical. I don’t imagine, and Cashill doesn’t either, that Obama was thinking of actual effort-bones scattered about. Cashill is reaching. (He also confuses usage with grammar.)

    Mediocre-to-rotten writers can be made quite publishable, or even good, with the help of a very strong editor. As you say, this isn’t anything other than interesting — yet.


    Using the same methodology that the Mainstream Media (aka the media arm of the Democratic party) and the Obama campaign uses, I have to venture that we have overwhelming evidences that Ayers wrote Obama’s books.

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  • Jay C.

    Anchoress, if definite proof ever comes out that BHO’s two books were ghost-written by none other than Ayers himself, what’s to say that it won’t backfire on Republicans? Would this be our turn at “fake but accurate,” or will the books take on the “fake but accurate” quality?

    I’m not sure I want to see someone gamble with this kind of possibility, but then again it is but his credibility on the line until the people on the campaigns themselves attest to the truth of the matter.

  • Leopold Stotch

    I am feeling a little bit of the “Milli Vanilli” vibe from The One. Those guy we great, too.

  • ClintACK

    I’m relatively persuaded that Obama either had a ghostwriter or an extremely hands-on editor…

    But the leap to Bill Ayers being that ghostwriter seems a bit much.

    We see Ayers’ turns of phrase popping up all the time in the speeches of both Obamas… so the fact that they turn up in his books isn’t particularly indicative of anything.

    At the end of the day, though, there’s no real way to prove any of this, unless someone spills the beans. So this isn’t a particularly fruitful line of discourse.

  • http://hootsbuddy.blogspot.com Hootsbuddy

    Obama’s ghost writer must have been very busy during his time at Chicago Law School. He pulled a lot of wool over a good many erudite eyes while he was there. One faculty member from Yale seems to have had a crush on the guy…

    As a constitutional law professor, I came away impressed — dazzled, really — by the analytic intelligence and sophistication of these questions and answers. A really good exam — an exam that tests and stretches the student, while simultaneously providing the professor with a handy and fair index to rank the class — is its own special art form. Composing such an exam is like crafting a sonnet or a crossword puzzle. We don’t have Obama’s answer key every year; but the questions themselves are in many instances beautifully constructed to enable students to explore the seams and plumb the depths of the Supreme Court’s case law. I am tempted to use variations of several of these questions myself in some future exam.

    A bunch of Volokh Conspiracy guys were all over a Times piece in July about his law school days.

    I’m just an old guy blogging but I was impressed with what little I read. I put up a bait-and-switch post which was fun to put together but no one took the bait. Yet.

  • gs

    [...this is not conclusive. Yes. Smoking gun required. -admin]

    Relevant technology exists. Maybe it is a horse in search of a rider. Maybe someone (the RNC, the McCain or Clinton campaign, etc.) has used it and come up empty.

  • jtm

    I tend to agree with Bridey, “the skeletons of our efforts” is a metaphor.

    Who is “our?” Obviously, Obama, Ayers, Alinsky, etc.

    What were their “efforts?” The imposition of communist principles.

    Now the critical piece, very nuanced, indeed:

    What are the “skeletons?”

    Theory 1. The skeletons are the dead bodies in Cambodia under Pol Pot, the dead bodies of the Soviet Gulags, the concentration camps, in short, all the martyrs of collectivist utopias in the 20th century.

    On this theory, the martyrs are the VICTIMS of communism.

    Theory 2. The skeletons are the well-intentioned but failed attempts at communism in the 20th century.

    On this theory, the martyrs are the PERPETRATORS of communism.

    xactly what did Obama mean when he referred to the skeletons of the efforts of himself, Ayers, Alinsky, etc?

    Clearly, Obama is in the camp that considers Stalin the martyr.

    Is the other interpretation possible? Of course.

    But given Obama’s deeply disturbing metaphor, I think we all need to vote this November as if our lives are at stake. I don’t have a good feeling about this Obama fellow.