More Evidence That Ayers Ghosted Obama’s “Dreams"


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© Jack Cashill
October 20, 2008

As I have contended in previous articles, there is considerable and growing evidence that Bill Ayers made a significant contribution to Obama’s Dreams From My Father.

Among other indicators, I have cited the stunning parallels in nautical metaphors and postmodern themes as well as the nearly miraculous transformation of Obama from struggling hack to literary giant in just a few years.

On Friday evening I received a welcome call from a member of Congress who has found the evidence as convincing as I have and has intervened to have writing samples tested through a university-based authorship program.

Although no such program is fully reliable, all preliminary comparisons that I have run have tested positive.

Two comparable nature passages-- from Dreams and Ayers’ memoir, Fugitive Days, respectively--scored very nearly identically on the Flesch Reading Ease test.

On sentence length, a significant and telling variable, thirty-sentence sequences from Dreams and Fugitive Days, each dealing with “community organizing,” scored very nearly identically again, “Fugitive Days” averaging 23.13 words a sentence and “Dreams” averaging 23.36 words a sentence.

By contrast, the memoir section of my own book about race, Sucker Punch, averaged 15 words a sentence and tested significantly higher than either book on the Flesch Reading Ease test.

I also tested verb repetition in all three books, using as a base the first 60 distinctive verbs in Fugitive Days. In Dreams, an eye-popping 55 of those verbs appear. In Sucker Punch, 37 do, this despite the fact that I am closer in age and education to Ayers than Obama is.

Ayers’ involvement in Obama’s memoir is not nearly as improbable as it might sound. Ayers served as something of a literary guru for his radical Hyde Park neighbors in Chicago.

Rashid Khalidi attests to this in the very first sentence of the acknowledgements in his 2004 book, Resurrecting Empire.

“There are many people without whose support and assistance I could not have written this book, or written it in the way that it was written,” he writes. “First, chronologically, and in other ways, comes Bill Ayers.”

A friend of the PLO, even back in its terrorist days, Khalidi was as tight with Obama as he was with Ayers. Obama acknowledged as much when he toasted Khalidi on his departure from Chicago in 2003.

It would seem as natural, in fact, for Obama to have made use of Ayers’ famed “dining room table” and the literary help that came with it as it was for Khalidi.

In fact, based on comparisons of style and word selection, Ayers seems to have had a much greater impact on Obama’s work than on Khalidi’s.

New evidence suggests that there was a good deal of literary back-scratching going on in Chicago’s Hyde Park. Obama, for instance, wrote a short and glowing review of Ayers’ 1997 book, A Kind and Just Parent, for the Chicago Tribune.

Obama, whose photo is shown with the review, describes Ayers’ book as “a searing and timely account of the juvenile court system.”

In that same book, perhaps with a self-congratulatory wink, Ayers cites the “writer” Barack Obama as one among the celebrities in his neighborhood.

Ayers’ likely ghosting of Dreams matters not so much because of what Ayers was, but rather because of what Ayers is: a man still intent on destroying an America that, in his own words, post 9-11, “makes me want to puke.”

The congressman’s real concern is that Ayers may have influenced Obama’s political philosophy as much as he seems to have influenced his literary style. Consider the following passage from Dreams:

Some [tourists] came because Kenya, without shame, offered to re-create an age when the lives of whites in foreign lands rested comfortably on the backs of the darker races; an age of innocence before Kimathi and other angry young men in Soweto or Detroit or the Mekong Delta started to lash out in street crime and revolution.

Barack Obama, Dreams From My Father

Although Obama’s memoir is generally more restrained and politic than Ayers’ Fugitive Days, passages like the one above make one wonder which is the real Obama.

The reference to “angry young men in Soweto or Detroit or the Mekong Delta” reflects Ayers’ worldview of America as a “marauding monster,” one that terrorizes its own citizens of color just as it does those in the third world.

Ayers does not define himself as being part of this monster but rather sees himself and his colleagues as saboteurs “behind enemy lines.”

Curiously, Obama used the exact same phrase—“behind enemy lines”—to describe his own status while working in corporate America.

Obama’s best defense here is that he did not write these passages and may not have understood their implications. For one, given his age, “Mekong Delta” was not likely a part of his vocabulary.

Ayers and his radical friends, however, were obsessed with Vietnam. It defined them and still does. To reflect their superior insight into that country, they have shown a tendency to use “Mekong Delta” as synecdoche, the part that indicates the whole.

In his 2001 memoir, Fugitive Days, for instance, Ayers envisions “a patrol in the Mekong Delta” when he conjures up an image of Vietnam.

Ayers’ wife, Bernadine Dohrn, pontificated about “a hamlet called My Lai” in a 1998 interview, but to flash her radical chops, she located it “in the middle of the Mekong Delta,” which is in reality several hundred miles from My Lai.

In Sucker Punch, though I write extensively about Vietnam, I make no reference to the “Mekong Delta.” I have never written those words before this article.

Similarly, Ayers would have had a much deeper connection than Obama to “ Detroit,” whose historic riot took place, shortly before Obama’s sixth birthday.

Ayers was posted to Detroit the year after the riot and experienced its fallout first hand. In 2007, on his blog, he “commemorate[d]” the 40 th anniversary of what he predictably calls the “Detroit Rebellion.”

For obvious reasons, the media and the Obama camp have held Obama blameless for knowing anything about anything before 1970.

“Why is John McCain talking about the sixties,” one Obama ad asks. “McCain knows Obama denounced Bill Ayers’ crimes committed when Obama was just eight years old.”

The fact that the Weather Underground did all of its bombing in the 1970’s, a conscious deception on the part of Obama and his handlers, is not at issue here.

What is at issue is that, if my thesis is correct, Obama has maintained an intimate working relationship with a self-described “communist” whose actions Obama now calls “despicable” and “detestable” only because he has to.

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