One reason few have finished Obama's autobiography, even though it has been on the bestseller list for over a year, is because of the stubborn relentlessness with which he refused to recount any incidents in his life just because they were entertaining or educational or edifying. It's clearly not ghostwritten—any professional hack would have made it less forbiddingly literary, more reader-friendly.Steve's probably spent more time with Dreams than anyone else has. Jack will need to produce a smoking gun, not just suggestive circumstantial evidence, to definitively make his case. He tells me he's sure he is right, and that he has more coming soon. Stay tuned, I guess.
Jack Cashill has been marshalling circumstantial evidence that Obama's Dreams from my Father was ghostwritten for months. He has now flagged William Ayers as the suspected shade, arguing the sentence style, imagery, readability, and technical difficulty of the former terrorist's Fugitive Days bears a strong resemblance to Dreams:
Although Ayers has tried to put his unhappy ocean-going days behind him, the language of the sea will not let him go. Indeed, it infuses much of what he writes. This is only natural and often distinctive, as in an appealing Ayers’ metaphor like “the easy inlet of her eyes.”Interesting suspicion, anyway.
Less natural is that much of this same nautical language flows through Obama’s earth-bound memoir, Dreams From My Father. For simplicity sake, I will refer to the memoir’s author is “Obama.”
Ayers is particularly eloquent when writing about the “fury” of the elements as, curiously, is Obama. Consider the following two passages, the first from “Fugitive Days”:
“I picture the street coming alive, awakening from the fury of winter, stirred from the chilly spring night by cold glimmers of sunlight angling through the city.”
The second from “Dreams”:
“Night now fell in midafternoon, especially when the snowstorms rolled in, boundless prairie storms that set the sky close to the ground, the city lights reflected against the clouds.”
These two sentences are alike in more than their poetry, their length and their gracefully layered structure. They tabulate nearly identically on the Flesch Reading Ease Score (FRES), something of a standard in the field.
The “Fugitive Days” excerpt scores a 54 on reading ease and a 12 th grade reading level. The “Dreams’” excerpt scores a 54.8 on reading ease and a 12th grade reading level. Scores can range from 0 to 121, so hitting a nearly exact score matters.
A comparable nature passage from my novel, “2006: The Chautauqua Rising,” scores a 61.6 with an 11 th grade reading level. The samples I submitted from my own semi-memoir on race, “Sucker Punch,” score in the 63-76 range.
In reading Ayers, one senses that he is unaware how deeply his
seagoing affects his language. “Memory sails out upon a murky sea,” he writes at one point.
Indeed, both he and Obama are obsessed with memory and its
instability. The latter writes of its breaks, its blurs, its edges, its lapses. He also has a fondness for the word “murky” and its aquatic usages.
Before settling on Ayers, the investigative work for which Jack is renowned didn't draw much attention. I suspect this is because it only requires a few minutes with Dreams and Obama's post-'04 DNC convention speech book, Audacity of Hope, to realize they probably weren't written by the same person. Ghostwriting is not an uncommon for celebrities to have done. Obama surely had substantial input in Dreams, and likely in Audacity, too, but unless he is the apotheosis of literary ventriloquism, possessing an uncanny political prescience to boot, he wasn't behind the keyboard when both (or either) of them were created.
It is the Ayers' connection and the Obama campaign's downplaying of it that has the conservative media now paying attention. It seems to me that proving that Ayers ghostwrote Dreams (presuming for the sake of argument that he actually did so) will be an impossibility. The major media will not only fail to undertake any investigative journalism of their own, they'll likely make no mention of Jack's work at all. It'll take an internal leak from someone on the 'inside' 15 years ago to break the thing open.