New York Times Can’t Stop Pushing the Myth of Obama’s Literary Genius
In a Sunday New York Times article, oddly insensitive to the would-be socialists who comprise the Times readership, reporter Gardiner Harris fantasized about how much money Barack and Michelle might pocket from their post-White House memoirs.
“Publishers hope that Mr. Obama’s writing ability could make his memoir not only profitable in its first years but perhaps for decades to come,” gushed Harris, who compared Obama’s literary talents to those of Theodore Roosevelt and Ulysses Grant.
Unlike John F. Kennedy, whose authorship of Profiles in Courage “has been questioned,” Obama’s literary skills, according to Harris, are “widely” accepted. To confirm that point, Harris cites a May 2008 article by the Times’s Janny Scott headlined, “The Story of Obama, Written by Obama.”
For years, Obama has encouraged this fiction. "I've written two books," he told a crowd of teachers in Virginia in July of 2008. The crowd applauded. "I actually wrote them myself," he added with a wink and a nod, and now the teachers exploded in laughter. They got the joke: Republicans were too stupid to write their books.
No one much cared about Obama’s second book, The Audacity of Hope, a policy brief written by committee and published in 2006. It was his 1995 memoir, Dreams from My Father, that emerged as the sacred text in the cult of Obama. “There is no underestimating the importance of Dreams from My Father in the political rise of Barack Obama,” New Yorker editor David Remnick would later write in his exhaustive look at Obama’s life and career, The Bridge.
The problem, of course, is that Obama did not write either of his books in any meaningful way. On October 9, 2008, American Thinker gave me my first extended opportunity to make the case that either Obama experienced a miraculous turnaround in his literary abilities -- his pre-Dreams work was sophomoric tripe -- or that he had major editorial help, up to and including a ghostwriter, specifically Bill Ayers.
David Remnick could not control his elitist imp in discussing what happened next. “Cashill’s assertions might well have remained a mere twinkling in the Web’s farthest lunatic orbit had it not been for the fact that more powerful voices hoped to give his theory wider currency.” None would be more powerful than that of Rush Limbaugh, a man who haunts the liberal imagination the way Kong did Skull Island’s.
On October 10 of 2008, Limbaugh played audio excerpts from Dreams and commented on them. The one that triggered my name was this, “A steady attack on the White race, the constant recitation of black people's brutal experience in this country served as the ballast that could prevent the ideas of personal responsibility….”
“Stop the tape,” said Rush “What is this? Ballast? He doesn't talk this way. You know, there are stories out there, he may not have written this book.”
Ballast was something of a give-away. Ayers, a former merchant seaman, liked nautical metaphors. So too, curiously, did Obama. I found in both Dreams and in Ayers’s several works the following shared words: fog, mist, ships, sinking ships, seas, sails, boats, oceans, calms, captains, charts, first mates, floods, shores, storms, streams, wind, waves, waters, anchors, barges, horizons, harbor, bays, ports, panoramas, moorings, tides, currents, voyages (TP), narrower courses, uncertain courses, and things howling, wobbling, fluttering, sinking, leaking, cascading, swimming, knotted, ragged, tangled, boundless, uncharted, turbulent, and murky.
Remnick had no use for evidence, and there was much more than the nautical. “This may not have been Limbaugh’s most racist insinuation of the campaign.” He cited others he liked less, but he concluded that our collective “libel about Obama’s memoir -- the denial of literacy, the denial of authorship -- had a particularly ugly pedigree.”
If asked, I would have traced the “denial of authorship” pedigree to an 1852 entry by an anonymous author in Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal. Titled “Who Wrote Shakespeare,” the article opened a spanking new literary territory, and critics -- as diverse as Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud, and Helen Keller -- rushed in as though it were Oklahoma circa 1889. To this day, investigators continue to question Shakespeare’s authorship of the plays that bear his name, but not a one of them -- and there are thousands -- makes a case for Bacon or Oxford or whomever as convincingly as I had for Bill Ayers on Dreams by October 2008. If they ever do, it will be headline news.
Happily for Obama, an ad hoc literary EEOC protects liberal authors of color, none more politically useful than the late Alex Haley. When Roots: The Saga of an American Family was first published in 1976, it sold millions of copies, won Haley a special nonfiction Pulitzer Prize, and has served as a progressive pedagogical cudgel for the last forty years.
In fact, however, Haley had ripped off huge chunks of his book from a novel titled The African, written by a white guy, Harold Courlander. In 1978, Courlander sued Haley in a U.S. District Court in New York for copyright infringement. Midway through the trial, not wanting to attract undue attention, the judge counseled the dissembling Haley to settle with Courlander or face a perjury charge. Haley did just that to the tune of $650,000, or more than $2 million by today’s standards. The literary world chose not to notice.
In 1993 literary detective Philip Nobile thought he had busted Haley’s fraud wide open in a deeply researched Village Voice exposé. “There was no Kunta Kinte,” said Nobile bluntly, and he proved as much in compelling detail. Although the European media gave his research huge play, Nobile was either shunned or ignored in the United States.
The Times had exactly this to say about Nobile’s revelations: “Two weeks ago, the charges about the authenticity of Roots and the integrity of Mr. Haley were raised anew in an investigative article by Philip Nobile in The Village Voice. Members of the Haley family have rebutted the accusations.” The Times reported this in its “Book Notes” section on page 18.
Although Remnick would take me to the progressive woodshed for my “libel” of Obama, he and those others who scolded me in 2008 never accepted the challenge to prove or disprove my theory. “In that this remains something of a work in progress,” I wrote in the October 9th article that sparked Limbaugh’s interest, “I am willing to test my hypothesis against any standard of proof.”
To his credit, Remnick understood just how newsworthy that revelation should have been. “This was a charge,” he wrote of the fraud accusation, “that if ever proved true, or believed to be true among enough voters, could have been the end of the candidacy.”
Four weeks before the election I was confident enough in my thesis to submit it to any test. If proved right, it would have undermined the foundational myth of Obama as genius, confirmed his intimate relationship with an unrepentant terrorist and, perhaps most damningly, established this still untested candidate as a liar of consequence. In short, it could have turned the election. I waited for some news operation with more resources and credibility to put my theory to the test. And I waited, and I waited, and I am still waiting.
Jack Cashill’s newest book, TWA 800: The Crash, The Cover-Up, The Conspiracy, is available wherever you buy books.