Obama Launches New Memoir Without Help of First Mate Ayers
I know I should be writing about the election, but I think we could all use some comic relief. The New Yorker has published an excerpt of Obama’s much delayed memoir, A Promised Land, and one particular passage cries out for deconstruction. The passage concerns Obama’s efforts to get the Affordable Care Act through Congress, both houses of which the Democrats controlled.
Despite having grown up in Hawaii, I have never learned to sail a boat; it wasn’t a pastime my family could afford. Still, for the next three and a half months, I felt the way I imagine sailors feel on the open seas after a brutal storm has passed. The work remained arduous and sometimes monotonous, made tougher by the need to patch leaks and bail water. But, for a span of time, we had in us the thankfulness of survivors, propelled in our daily tasks by a renewed belief that we might make it to port after all.
The first sentence is pure Obama, subtly anti-American and self-pitying. I say this from experience. At 19, I was the sailing instructor at a camp for inner-city orphans, the majority of them “of color,” and they all learned to sail. At the time I was living in a Newark housing project with my widowed mother, but I had learned to sail at 15 while working as a dishwasher at a YMCA camp. And this was New Jersey, not Hawaii. Sorry, Barry, but America is a much more open society than you and Michelle imagine it to be.
If the whole excerpted paragraph above sounds forced, I think there is a reason why: Obama and his handlers wanted to show that nautical metaphors were in Obama’s proverbial wheelhouse, itself a nautical term. In my book Deconstructing Obama, I told of how Bill Ayers served as a merchant seaman before he got into the revolution business and infused his knowledge of the sea into his books as well as into Obama’s 1995 memoir, Dreams from My Father, on which Ayers served as literary first mate.
In the excerpt above Obama acknowledges what I observed in Deconstructing. “Despite growing up in Hawaii,” I wrote, “Obama gives little indication that he has had any real experience with the sea or ships beyond body surfing at Waikiki. Ayers, however, knows a great deal about both.”
This was an argument I first made in early October 2008 in American Thinker. Rush Limbaugh promptly picked up on it. He played an excerpt from Obama’s audio version that read as follows: “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...”
At this point, Rush intervened, “Stop the tape. What’s this? Ballast? He doesn't talk this way. You know, there are stories out there, he may not have written this book. There's a guy named Jack Cashill... Okay, he mispronounced my name, but you get the point.
At the time, the media greeted my research and Limbaugh’s remarks as enthusiastically as they did the news of Hunter’s laptop. Two years later, New Yorker editor and Obama fanboy David Remnick, weighed in: “This may not have been Limbaugh’s most racist insinuation of the campaign,” he wrote in his Obama biography, The Bridge, but he concluded that our collective “libel about Obama’s memoir -- the denial of literacy, the denial of authorship -- had a particularly ugly pedigree.”
Remnick understood just how potent was my accusation. “This was a charge,” he wrote, “that if ever proved true, or believed to be true among enough voters, could have been the end of the candidacy.” If my thesis were correct, Obama was not only close to a terrorist he had publicly denied befriending, but he was also a literary fraud.
Early on, the literati embraced Obama as one of their own. On the strength of Dreams, noted British author Jonathan Raban called Obama "the best writer to occupy the White House since Lincoln." Added Raban, "Every sentence has its own graceful cadence! He could as easily be a novelist as a politician!"
Raban was in good company. “Whatever else people expect from a politician,” wrote Oona King in her London Times review, “it’s not usually a beautifully written personal memoir steeped in honesty.” The American literary crowd was just as enamored. "I was astonished by his ability to write, to think, to reflect, to learn and turn a good phrase," said Nobel prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison of Dreams. "I was very impressed. This was not a normal political biography.'' Implicit in every review I read was that Obama penned the memoir himself. One amateur reviewer nicely captured the left’s shared faith in Obama’s talent: “Wow. The man can write.”
Except he couldn’t and still can’t. Even with all the help his editors surely extended him, Obama’s prose is everywhere as flat and lifeless as a slow day in the Doldrums, the above paragraph being a case in point. Compare, “I felt the way I imagine sailors feel on the open seas after a brutal storm has passed” from A Promised Land with passages from Dreams: “The boats were out of their moorings, their distant sails like the wings of doves across Lake Michigan,” or, “I felt myself drifting back across oceans and over the clouds, into the violet horizon, back to the place where I had once been, or, "knotted, howling assertion of self," which sounds like it had been ripped from the pages of Jack London’s The Sea Wolf.
At the end of the day, I found in both Dreams and in Ayers’ 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, narrower courses, uncertain courses, and things howling, wobbling, fluttering, sinking, leaking, cascading, swimming, knotted, ragged, tangled, boundless, uncharted, turbulent, and murky. I know, Snopes, just a coincidence.
Without the help of Ayers, in A Promised Land Obama reverts back to the C+ writer he was in college. If the 13,000-word passage in the New Yorker is any indication, readers can expect one long, dissembling slog through the literary equivalent of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone.
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.