Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

There is Nothing ‘Loony’ About Bill Ayers as Obama’s Muse – American Thinker

Posted by M. C. on March 9, 2020

By Jack Cashill

This past week several people called my attention to a post by Scott Johnson on his influential PowerLine blog that addressed the literary relationship between Barack Obama and his radical friend, Bill Ayers.

In the post Johnson spoke of his high regard for David Garrow’s “staggeringly researched” 2017 Obama biography, Rising Star. “Without resolving all mysteries,” Johnson writes, “[Garrow’s] scholarship belies the notion that [Dreams from My Father] was ghostwritten by Bill Ayers or other such collaborator.”

Johnson emailed Garrow to follow up on the authorship question, and Garrow responded, “I don’t recall exactly where the Bill Ayers [stuff] got started, but it, like the Frank-Davis-as-father notion, is just beyond loony, ’cause Dreams is already *in galleys* when Barack and Bill first get to know each other.”

I do know where the Ayers stuff got started because I started it with a major assist from American Thinker on these pages on October 9, 2008. I never said Ayers wrote Dreams, but I presented overwhelming literary forensic evidence that Ayers, a skilled writer and editor, helped Obama shape Dreams.

I did not advance this theory casually. I understood then what Obama biographer David Remnick would later affirm, namely that my theory, “if ever proved true, or believed to be true among enough voters, could have been the end of [Obama’s] candidacy.”

My research on this topic, aided by several helpful literary detectives, culminated in my 2011 book, published by Simon & Schuster, Deconstructing Obama. I think I can safely assume Garrow has never read it. I would invite those curious about the evidence to read the book or even to read the preliminary article cited above.

That Garrow does not know the source of a theory he dismisses offhand as “beyond loony” is, unfortunately, altogether typical of establishment political writers. His airy dismissal, in fact, reinforces the theme of my forthcoming book Unmasking Obama: The Fight to Tell the True Story of a Failed Presidency.

In the book, I use the phrase “samizdat” — Russian for underground press — to describe the loose coalition of conservative blogs, online publications, talk radio shows, and legal monitors such as Judicial Watch that challenged the Left — and, occasionally, the “responsible” right — for control of the Obama narrative.

For eight-plus years, the samizdat broke virtually every major unflattering story about Obama and his presidency, some of which the major media grudgingly confirmed, some of which they continue to suppress. In the book I tell how the individuals in question managed to break these stories out. In every case, as you might imagine, the samizdat journalists were met with condescension, if not outright contempt, from the major media.

Obama’s biographers were among the more contemptuous. Curiously, the four major biographers are all named David — Mendell, Remnick, Maraniss, and Garrow. The last three are Pulitzer Prize winners. To his credit, Garrow was the only one of the four who refused to prop up what Remnick called Obama’s “signature appeal: the use of the details of his own life as a reflection of a kind of multicultural ideal.”

The story Obama told about his happy multicultural family at the conventions was pure fiction. According to Garrow, Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, and Barack Obama Sr. “never chose to live together at any time following the onset of Ann’s pregnancy.” Garrow quotes approvingly one unnamed scholar to the effect that Obama Sr. was no more than “a sperm donor in his son’s life.” All of this was common knowledge in the samizdat as early as 2008, but it came as news to many of Garrow’s readers in 2017.

Like his fellow Davids, however, Garrow has no use for information gleaned from the samizdat, especially information I introduced. On the subject of the Obama poem “Pop,” for instance, Garrow notes, “Most commentators presumed that Obama had written about his grandfather, Stan Dunham, not Frank Marshall Davis.”

This much was true, but “hostile critics,” Garrow continues, insisted the poem was about Obama’s bi-sexual Communist mentor, Davis. The “hostile critics” Garrow cites in the footnotes are historian Paul Kengor and me.

Instead of giving me credit for being the first to decode “Pop,” Garrow describes me in the footnote as “someone who is cited with the greatest reluctance.” What I did to deserve this slight is left unsaid, especially since Garrow knows I nailed the identity of “Pop” two years before anyone in the mainstream media did, including the other Davids.

As to Bill Ayers’s involvement in the writing of Dreams, Garrow does not even deign to dismiss the possibility. He has a discovery of his own, namely that outside literary help came from a law school buddy of Obama’s named Rob Fisher.  This is an important find if for no other reason than it undercuts Obama’s 2008 boast to a crowd of schoolteachers, “I’ve written two books. I actually wrote them myself.”

An established economist before starting law school, Fisher became good friends with Obama at Harvard. There, they co-authored a manuscript that perhaps prophetically was never finished. One completed chapter dealt with the always sexy topic of plant closings.

“The quest is to develop guidelines,” they wrote, “on how politically progressive movements can use the market mechanism to promote social goals.” Garrow quotes the unfinished manuscript extensively. Its style is wonkish and ungainly throughout.

Sentences like the following suggest that one author wrote as awkwardly as the other: “While Yuppies can afford the expensive frivolities provided by The Sharper Image, others receive insufficient nutrition to allow their minds to develop properly.”

I do not question Fisher’s involvement. Obama needed all the help he could get. What I do question is Fisher’s ability to provide the poetry, the rage, the postmodern rhetoric, and the Homeric structure that inspired Oona King of the London Times to overpraise Dreams as “a beautifully written personal memoir steeped in honesty.”

Garrow seems to dismiss my thesis for no more substantial reason than his belief that Dreams was already in galley form when “Barack and Bill first get to know each other.” Garrow traces the first meeting of these two gentlemen to a breakfast some time in early 1995. He bases this timing on the suspiciously well-remembered account of a common friend who claims to have introduced them.

Garrow, however, has a problem with chronology. He writes that Obama took six weeks off from his law firm job “in late spring 1994” to finish Dreams. He needed time to complete the book’s third section, the one on Africa. Garrow claims Obama worked largely from letters he sent in 1988 while in Kenya and retrieved from his girlfriend at the time, Sheila Jager.

David Maraniss told a different story in his 2012 bio. According to Maraniss’s source, Crown editor Henry Ferris, Obama made an additional trip to Kenya for further research. Obama confirmed this trip when interviewed by Marannis. Garrow makes no mention of this mysterious trip, which would have taken place in 1994. No one else does either. Like much in his life, Obama appears to have made it up.

A more likely possibility is that Obama lied to Ferris about the trip. Instead of going to Kenya, Obama may have contented himself with going to the local library and pillaging the memoirs of longtime Kenya resident Kuki Gallmann

This is the theory proposed by tireless researcher Shawn Glasco. He was intrigued by the many words and phrases in Dreams that also appeared in Gallmann’s book, African Nights, which was published in 1994. These include Baobab [a tree], bhang [cannabis], boma [an enclosure], samosa [a fried snack], shamba [a farm field], liana [a vine], tilapia [a fish], kanga [a sheet of fabric], shuka [decorative sashes], and many, many more.

Based on Garrow’s imprecise timeline, Obama flew to New York to hand the completed book off to Ferris no later than early June 1994. In other words, he spent six weeks to finish the last third of the 400-page book between “late spring” 1994 and early June 1994, which is, in fact, late spring.

In his 2009 book, Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage, celebrity biographer Christopher Andersen offers a much more credible account of how Obama managed to finish a project that hung over his head ever since he finished law school.

According to Andersen’s two sources in Chicago’s Hyde Park, 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.” Noting that Obama had already taped interviews with many of his relatives, both African and American, Andersen elaborated, “These oral histories, along with his partial manuscript and a trunkload of notes were given to Ayers.” Andersen’s six-page account makes sense, logically and chronologically, but Garrow fully ignores it.

Andersen is a best-selling, mainstream author. He even appeared on MSNBC’s Hardball to discuss the book. Said Chris Matthews at the end of the interview, “You‘re amazing, successful guy. You have a winning streak here.” Matthews likely did not read the book. Garrow did read it and cites the book in the footnotes but, oddly, not on the subject of authorship.

Garrow nonetheless offers some valuable insights into the Ayers-Obama relationship, insights that I believe strengthen my thesis. Once Ayers helped launch Obama’s political career in 1995, Garrow writes, “Barack and Michelle began to see a great deal more of not only Bill and Bernardine [Dohrn] but also their three closest friends, Rashid and Mona Khalidi and Carole Travis.”

According to Garrow, the three couples attended “almost nightly dinners” together up until the time Obama ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004. This information, of course, makes complete hash out of Obama’s infamous claim during a 2008 debate that Ayers was “just a guy who lives in my neighborhood.”

Khalidi, a radical Palestinian, begins his 2004 book, Resurrecting Empire, with a tribute to his own literary muse. “First, chronologically and in other ways,” writes Khalidi, “comes Bill Ayers.” Unlike the calculating Obama, Khalidi had no reason to be coy about this relationship.  He elaborates, “Bill was particularly generous in letting me use his family’s dining room table to do some writing for the project.”  Khalidi did not need the table.  He had one of his own. He needed help from the skilled neighborhood editor and writer who obviously could and would provide it.

There is nothing “loony” about Bill Ayers helping a good friend finish his book. That is what Ayers did. He was grooming Obama for higher office and was savvy enough to keep his writing relationship with Obama under wraps. Being a friend of a terrorist, Ayers knew, would not exactly help Obama’s career.
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