Who Will Have Written Obama's New Book? (Not Obama)
When the first half of Barack Obama's long overdue memoir, Promised Land, is published on November 17, I expect to receive calls like the one I received in the spring of 2011. That call came from a fellow named Michael Cohen. I did not recognize the name at the time. Nor did I know how Cohen got my cell number. He explained that he was the attorney for Donald Trump — I did recognize that name — and he wanted to know what I knew about Barack Obama's origins.
Ever since I first started questioning the authorship of Obama's 1995 memoir, Dreams from My Father, I would occasionally get calls like this from people of a higher pay grade than mine. Having followed the birth certificate issue only from a distance, I recommended instead that Trump focus on the authorship question. As I explained to Cohen, although Obama claimed to have written both his books by himself, he definitely had help, much of it from terrorist turned educator Bill Ayers. This I deduced from my literary forensic work in the summer and fall of 2008.
Mainstream biographer Christopher Andersen confirmed Ayers's involvement in his Obama-friendly 2009 book, Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage. Andersen's sources in Obama's Hyde Park neighborhood told him that Obama found himself deeply in debt and “hopelessly blocked.” At “Michelle's urging,” Obama “sought advice from his friend and Hyde Park neighbor Bill Ayers.”
What attracted the Obamas were “Ayers's proven abilities as a writer” as evident in his 1993 book To Teach. Noting that Obama had already taped interviews with many of his relatives, both African and American, Andersen elaborates, "These oral histories, along with his partial manuscript and a trunkload of notes were given to Ayers." Ayers himself took credit for Dreams on multiple occasions, usually, but not always, with a wink and a nod.
My conversation with Cohen reaffirmed that Trump was the un-Obama, a creature of his own creation: blunt, bombastic, and as subtle as a truck bomb. Unlike most on the right, Trump refused to be intimidated. He was eager and ready to vet the nation's first unvetted president. On April 15, 2011, Sean Hannity of Fox News gave him the opportunity.
"I heard he had terrible marks, and he ends up in Harvard," said Trump in his inimitably artless style. "He wrote a book that was better than Ernest Hemingway, but the second book was written by an average person."
"You suspect Bill Ayers?" said Hannity.
"I said, Bill Ayers wrote the book," Trump replied.
Trump had made the claim earlier in a public forum. He doubled
down on Hannity's show. For all the outrage about Trump's questioning of Obama's birth certificate, the mainstream media were noticeably silent about Trump's much more tangible challenge to Obama's literary skills. At the time, there was negligible pushback to his remarks about Dreams.
The media were equally silent about Andersen's revelations. Indeed, at least fifty publications reviewed Andersen's book, and not a one that I could find mentioned the six pages he spent on the book's most newsworthy revelation. Relentless Obama-defender Chris Matthews interviewed Andersen on MSNBC's Hardball and did not address the authorship issue. Said Matthews at the end of the interview, "You're amazing, successful guy. You have a winning streak here."
If Matthews did not read the book, which is likely, someone on his staff surely must have but chose not to notice the damning Ayers revelation. The mainstream media have been silent on this issue not because they think Trump was wrong, but because they think he might have been right, and Obama's reputation as a literary genius hinged on Dreams.
The election was still in play in September 2008. By late in that month, I had gathered enough evidence to make a strong public case for my thesis, but I needed a lot of words to make it and ideally some high-profile space to put those words.
The managing editor of the Weekly Standard, who had earlier published several of my articles, sent me to the magazine's literary editor. His response nicely reflected the widespread fecklessness that allowed Obama to win the 2008 election.
"An interesting piece," he wrote, "but I'm rather oversubscribed at the moment, the length is considerable, and cutting would not do it justice. (Also, we had a long, rather critical, piece on Obama's oeuvre not too long ago.) So permit me to decline with thanks for allowing me to take a look." Other than the prissy use of the word "oeuvre," there was nothing unusual about the Weekly Standard's response.
The American Thinker came to the rescue, but most of the higher-profile conservative publications would not even look at the evidence for fear, I suspect, of being called racist. The fear was justified. As soon as Andrew Breitbart and National Review's Andy McCarthy came to my defense, they were dutifully smeared.
In his 2010 Obama biography, The Bridge, New Yorker editor David Remnick observed about my theory and McCarthy's endorsement, "if ever proved true, or believed to be true among enough voters, [it] could have been the end of [Obama's] candidacy." Although Remnick demeaned many of Obama's critics, he reserved what historian Ron Radosh called "his most extensive and nasty comments" for me.
Remnick made no effort to find a hole in my argument. He simply attacked me personally and concluded, as Radosh noted, "by playing the race card in an absurd way." Remnick would play that card until the spots wore off, explaining for the naïve that mine was a "racist insinuation," one with a "particularly ugly pedigree." There was a price to be paid for criticizing Obama. Everyone on the responsible right understood this.
Almost no one took Obama's second book, the 2006 Audacity of Hope, seriously. Michiko Kakutani of the Times noticed that the prose, filled as it was with "flabby platitudes," read "like outtakes from a stump speech." She was righter than she knew. At least 38 extended passages in Audacity matched passages from Obama's speeches nearly word for word. These speeches were almost assuredly written by boy wonder speechwriter Jon Favreau, and the book itself appears to have been planned and written by committee. Even Bill Ayers dismissed Audacity as a "political hack book."
As to the authorship of Promised Land, I will venture only two modest predictions: one is that Obama will not have written the book by himself; the second is that anyone who challenges his authorship will be called a "racist." Such is the America that Obama has wrought.
Jack Cashill's new book, Unmasking Obama: The Fight to Tell the True Story of a Failed Presidency, is widely available. See also www.cashill.com.