D. Dowd Muska


A Frustrating Contribution to Obamology

February 03, 2011

The country is broke. Unemployment is high. Four out of every ten babies are born to unwed mothers. The population is aging. Soldiers are dying in a faraway land for an undefined goal.

Is now the time for an “extensively researched work of literary criticism and social commentary” focused on … Barack Obama?

Jack Cashill, a fringe-right “independent writer and producer,” thinks so. His part-cogent, part-crazy Deconstructing Obama: The Life, Loves, and Letters of America’s First Postmodern President is primarily an examination of the authorship of Obama’s Dreams from My Father. But Cashill’s not content to argue that the budding Chicago pol’s 1995 magnum opus was ghostwritten. In multiple trips to Nuttytown, he explores Obama’s dating experiences, sexual habits, and biological father. He also grumbles, repeatedly, that neither the lefties in the mainstream media, nor the “‘respectable’ conservative media” will transmit his assertions. Cashill’s wild and whiny diversions detract from what is a surprisingly strong investigation of “the foundational myth that Obama is a literary lion.”

Who wrote Dreams from My Father? Cashill fingers Bill Ayers, a founder of the Weather Underground who would later join the liberal establishment as an education theorist and undeniably gifted writer.

Obama was an average student, and wrote infrequently until penning, in his mid-30s, a book Joe Klein gushed was “the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician.” Cashill notes that the manuscript was delivered years behind schedule. And the eventual product bears so many similarities to Ayers’s writings -- phrases, imagery, tone, subjects -- that asking questions about the ex-terrorist’s involvement shouldn’t be a task reserved for cranks.

How could a white radical from Chicago substitute his voice for that of a decades-younger, biracial lawyer raised in Indonesia and Hawaii? “Skin color aside,” Cashill observes, “Ayers and Obama had much in common. Both grew up in comfortable white households, attended idyllic, largely white prep schools, and have struggled to find an identity as righteous black men ever since.”

After the two race-obsessed liberals connected in the early ‘90s, a collaboration was all but inevitable: “In 1994, at Michelle’s urging, a desperate Barack Obama turned his mess of a manuscript over to Bill Ayers and asked for help. … Obama had not yet run for office, but he was itching to. As far as Ayers knew, Obama had set his sights no higher than mayor of Chicago, and that was fine by Ayers. With an indebted African American protégé as mayor, Ayers could undertake the kind of educational reform he had been conjuring since quitting the underground. So together he and Obama conspired to tell the kind of story that would make Obama electable. Ayers’s political insights tempered Obama’s steely ambition to produce a shrewdly crafted book, one whose architecture, if sometimes a plumb or two off bubble, is not terribly hard to decode.”

Flaky? Perhaps. But Cashill devotes hundreds of pages to compelling -- if not bulletproof -- evidence that the “ability to write, to think, to reflect, to learn and turn a good phrase” that so impressed Toni Morrison about Obama in truth belonged to Ayers.  

“To credit Dreams to Obama alone,” Cashill avers, “one has to posit any number of nearly miraculous variables: he somehow found the time; he somewhere mastered nautical jargon and postmodern jabberwocky; he in some sudden, inexplicable way developed the technique and the talent to transform himself from stumbling amateur to literary superstar without any stops in between.”

If limited to the authorship issue, Deconstructing Obama would be a credible exposé of the book that helped make Obama the 44th president. But Cashill just can’t help himself. A believer in crackpot tales about the death of Clinton administration official Ron Brown and the explosion of TWA 800, he ratchets up the conspiracy content. Obama’s bio-daddy, we are told, was actually family friend Frank Marshall Davis. Obama’s maternal grandfather paid Barack Obama, Sr. to pretend to be the boy’s father. “Pop,” a poem Obama published in college, was written by Marshall. The romances detailed in Dreams are entirely fictional. Claims about Obama’s bisexuality might be true.

There’s a reason why Jack Cashill’s work is consigned to bottom-feeder conservative media -- e.g., Newsmax, WorldNetDaily, The Rusty Humphries Show. However skilled a writer and dogged a researcher, he can’t distinguish between rational analysis and irresponsible conjecture.

Thoughtful opponents of the nation’s cipher-in-chief will find Deconstructing Obama frustrating. It thoroughly smashes a key Obama fabrication. But much to its author’s misfortune, the book’s outrageously kooky claims are sure to reinforce Cashill’s self-confessed obscurity.

D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.

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