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Did Bill Ayers write Obama’s book “Dreams From My Father”? (Part FOUR of FIVE)


Who Wrote
“Dreams From
My Father” ?

by Jack Cashill

October 2008



In a similar vein,
Ayers tells of hitching a ride
in Missouri with “Bud,”
the driver of a “brand-new
Peterbilt truck.”

The man proceeds to regale
Ayers with a string of dirty jokes —
at least two of them
retold word for word —
before reaching under his seat
and pulling out a large pistol,
his “N****r neutralizer.”

“White people can never
quite remember the scope
and scale of the slavocracy,”
Ayers reminds the reader
again and again,
writing as though he were
not a member of this
benighted race.

These parallels intrigue perhaps,
but they prove little.

To add a little science
to the analysis,
I identified two similar “nature”
passages in Obama’s and Ayers’
respective memoirs,
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
poetic sense,
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 12th 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 more reliable data-driven
way to prove authorship goes
under the rubric “cusum analysis”
or QSUM.
This analysis begins with the
measurement of sentence length,
a significant and telling variable.
To compare the two books,
I selected thirty-sentence sequences
from Dreams and Fugitive Days,
each of which relates the author’s
entry into the world of
“community organizing.”

“Fugitive Days” averaged
23.13 words a sentence.

“Dreams” averaged
23.36 words a sentence.

By contrast,
the memoir section of
“Sucker Punch” averaged
15 words a sentence.

Interestingly, the 30-sentence
sequence that I pulled from
Obama’s conventional
political tract,
Audacity of Hope,
averages more than 29 words
a sentence and clocks in with
a 9th grade reading level,
three levels below the earlier
cited passages from “Dreams”
and “Fugitive Days.”

The differential in the Audacity
numbers should not surprise.
By the time it was
published in 2006,
Obama was a public figure
of some wealth,
one who could afford editors
and ghost writers.

The publisher of Dreams,
the openly liberal Peter Osnos,
tells how this came to be.

According to Osnos,
Dreams took off during
Obama’s much-publicized race
for the U.S. Senate in 2004,
nearly ten years after
its modest release.
After winning the election,
Obama dumped his devoted
long time agent,
Jane Dystel,
and signed a seven-figure deal
with Crown,
using only a by-the-hour attorney.

Obama pulled off the deal before
being sworn in as Senator,
this way to avoid the disclosure
and reporting requirements
applicable to members of Congress.

To his credit,
Osnos publicly scolds Obama
for his “ruthlessness” and
“his questionable judgment
about using public service
as a personal payday.”


the technology is not currently

available to do a fully reliable

authorship analysis.

As expert in the field
Patrick Juola of Duquesne
University observed,
“The accuracy simply
isn’t there.”
He cautioned that for high
stakes issues like this one,
“The repercussions of a
technical error could be a disaster
(in either direction).”


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