May 30, 2010
How the Liberal Mind WorksBy Jack Cashill
In April of this year, I wrote an article for American Thinker about David Remnick's new book, The Bridge, and titled it, "New Obama Bio Strengthens Case for Dreams Fraud."
"It surprised me to learn that David Remnick had dedicated three pages of his comprehensive new Obama biography, The Bridge, to my thesis that Bill Ayers helped Barack Obama write Obama's 1995 memoir, Dreams From My Father," I wrote at the time. "It will surprise Remnick even more to learn that he has unwittingly reinforced a thesis that he set out to discredit."
That night, Milt Rosenberg of Chicago's dominant AM radio station, WGN, was hosting Remnick for two hours in studio. A mutual friend arranged for me to call in just as though I were a regular caller. I was finally able to locate the audio.
If I seem too polite in the exchange that follows, it's because I did not want to embarrass Rosenberg. This format offered the rare opportunity for someone from what Remnick calls the "Web's farthest lunatic orbit" to splash down in the refined waters of the liberal elite.
For the record, Remnick is the Princeton-educated, Washington Post-groomed, Pulitzer-Prize winning New Yorker editor. I am a "little-known conservative writer" who lives in Kansas City.
When I called in, I introduced myself, said that "David" would probably know who I am, and noted that I had originated the thesis that Bill Ayers helped Barack Obama write Dreams From My Father. The question I posed to Remnick was this: "Why did you ignore the six detailed pages Christopher Andersen spent confirming my thesis?"
Rosenberg, bless his heart, asked me who Andersen was and what was my thesis. This allowed me several minutes to report in detail what Andersen had discovered.
As I explained, Andersen is "a celebrity biographer with great establishment credentials." I said on air how I had talked to Andersen, who told me he had two sources on the ground in Hyde Park.
Rosenberg allowed me to establish in some detail how Andersen documented the Obamas' financial struggles in the early 1990s. Andersen related how at the urging of Michelle, a "hopelessly blocked" Obama turned to "friend and neighbor" Bill Ayers to help him with his much-acclaimed 1995 memoir, Dreams From My Father.
Andersen's details are specific. The Obamas were convinced of "Ayers's proven abilities as a writer." Barack particularly liked the novelistic style of To Teach, a 1993 book by Ayers. Obama hoped to use a comparable style for his own family history. The problem was that although he had taped interviews with many of his relatives, he could not find it in himself to write the book.
Andersen documented Obama's blown advances, his futile escape to Bali, the growing financial and emotional pressure to finish a memoir he had started four years earlier.
The key sentence in Andersen's account is the one that I quoted on air almost verbatim: "These oral histories, along with his partial manuscript and a trunkload of notes were given to Ayers." Added Andersen, "Thanks to help from veteran writer Ayers, Barack would be able to submit a manuscript to his editors at Times Book."
I was also able to explain how up until the point of writing what Time Magazine called "the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician," Obama had written nothing of consequence. What he had written, said I, "as David points out," was a "muddled" article in a Columbia University weekly called Sundial, nothing at all as a legal scholar save for one case note at Harvard, and "one really half-assed article" on community organizing.
Remnick came out swinging, and as I knew, a person in studio has a huge tactical advantage over a person on the phone. The quotes that follow from Remnick are word-for-word. To get a true feel for what condescension sounds like in its purest, most undistilled form, please listen to the audio about 57 minutes in:
"Mr. Castle [sic], this is David Remnick. Let's be clear about something. So on the basis of a book by a celebrity biographer of two unnamed sources -- who are those sources, by the way? Do you know?"
"He wouldn't tell me."
"Okay," said Remnick emphatically, as though his point had been confirmed.
"Do you reveal your unnamed sources?" I asked. Having read his book, I knew that Remnick used such sources, often for key details, and sometimes bogus ones -- like, for instance, the person known only as "aide" who misled Remnick on how Obama managed to write The Audacity of Hope.
"My book is filled with hundreds of named sources."
"But so is Andersen's."
"Yes, but you are not providing any sources here. So on the basis of two unnamed sources in a celebrity biographer's book that really has had very little currency and on your own notion that he uses the word 'eyes' a lot ... "
"Hold it right there," I said. "Hold it." Remnick had said something comparably slighting in his book. Those on the left are so used to saying such rubbish unchallenged that he must have forgotten where he was.
"I let you speak. Now you are going to let me respond."
"Go ahead," I conceded, trying not to make things awkward for my generous host.
"So it is hardly scientific," Remnick continued. "I find it deeply offensive. First of all, the history of literature is filled, filled with writers whose first books appear on the scene, and they are very good or excellent, or they are better."
This is true only to a degree. All great authors have a first book, usually very good, and always at the end of a paper trail strewn with other good writing. Obama's paper trail leads back to a literary junk pile. His sudden flowering is miraculous and unprecedented. Unfortunately, I did not have the chance to explain this on the air.
"I make no fantastic claims for his memoir," Remnick continued. "I don't come out of there claiming it to be Moby-Dick or Richard Wright or anything of the kind. I describe it as a very good book and no more and no less, but I examine it as a book that tells us something about Barack Obama, naturally, and something that comes out of the memoir tradition in African-American literature and American literature folklore."
Richard Wright is an African-American author. Note how Remnick feels the need to balance an undeniable classic by a white guy with a black guy of sufficiently lesser stature that he does not -- or cannot -- cite a Wright book. Affirmative action on the fly!
"So your theory, and it was a theory expounded as well by a much bigger microphone, by Rush Limbaugh, got a lot of currency on the internet, and I find it offensive on the minimal amount of proof you provided, in fact, on no proof at all that I could find convincing..."
"Well," I interjected.
"I am going to finish my thought here, okay?" Remnick scolded, sounding all the world like my second-grade nun. "There is something innately offensive about the notion that this man is incapable of writing a book." I should add that in his book, Remnick laments "the ugly pedigree" of my and Limbaugh's "racist insinuation."
"I am not saying he is stupid. I never did say that."
"But you are saying he is faking the book."
"Yes, I am absolutely saying that. He had help, serious help, and all evidence points in that direction." I must confess to being a little perturbed here. I plowed on.
"And when you reduce the twenty thousand or so words I did of textual comparison to saying 'something about eyes,' you are insulting me. And when you call me a racist, David, or when you call Limbaugh a racist, you are insulting the whole damn audience."
"The instances of Barack, uh...uh, Rush Limbaugh using racist language is so long as to beggar the imagination," Remnick answered, nearly averting a newsworthy Freudian slip. He then launched into an odd and disingenuous account of how he "has great respect for serious conservatives" who challenge Obama on his policies, the political equivalent of "some of my best friends are black."
"So why do you call me a racist?" I asked, cutting to the chase.
At this point, Rosenberg thanked me for calling in. If Remnick were gesturing wildly to kill the conversation, I would not have been surprised. Once he had imputed racism to a lesser mortal -- the most popular liberal hobby after recycling -- he had no other argument to make.
"I appreciate your having me on," I said to Rosenberg. "Sorry, but I don't like being called a racist, and that is part of the problem with the post-racial fraud we are living under now because all criticism is racist."
So the conversation ended. I don't get to talk to liberals much anymore.
Jack Cashill's latest book is Popes and Bankers.