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


Who Wrote
“Dreams From
My Father” ?

by Jack Cashill

October 2008

Part TWO of FIVE


Attorneys who reviewed the
piece for Politico described
it as “a fairly standard example
of the genre.”

Of note,
Politico reporters Ben Smith
and Jeffrey Resner observe that
“the temperate legal language
doesn’t display the rhetorical
heights that run through
his memoir,
published a few years later.”

Once elected president of
the Harvard Law Review –
more of a popularity than
a literary contest —
Obama contributed not one
signed word to the HLR or
any other law journal.

As Matthew Franck has pointed
out in National Review Online,
“A search of the Hein Online
database of law journals turns
up exactly nothing credited to
Obama in any law review
anywhere at any time.”

A 1990 New York Times profile
on Obama’s election as Harvard’s
first black president caught the
eye of agent Jane Dystel.

She persuaded Poseidon, a small imprint of Simon & Schuster, to authorize a roughly $125,000 advance for Obama’s proposed memoir.

With advance in hand,
Obama repaired to Chicago
where he dithered.

At one point,
in order to finish without
he and wife Michelle
decamped to Bali.

Obama was supposed to have
finished the book within a year.

Bali or not,
advance or no,
he could not.

He was surely in
way over his head.

According to a surprisingly
harsh 2006 article by liberal
publisher Peter Osnos,
which detailed the “ruthlessness”
of Obama’s literary ascent,
Simon & Schuster canceled
the contract.

Dystel did not give up.

She solicited Times Book,
the division of Random House
at which Osnos was publisher.

He met with Obama,
took his word that he
could finish the book,
and authorized a new advance
of $40,000.

Then suddenly, somehow,
the muse descended on Obama
and transformed him from
a struggling, unschooled amateur,
with no paper trail beyond an
unremarkable legal note and a
poem about fig-stomping apes,
into a literary superstar.

To be sure,
it is not unusual for successful
politicians to hire ghostwriters —
John McCain gives due credit
to Mark Salter for his memoir,
Faith of My Fathers
but it is highly unusual for
unknown young Chicago
lawyers to hire ghostwriters.

I have attempted to contact
Dystel by phone and email
without success.

It is highly unlikely she
refashioned the book,
and Osnos admittedly did not.
If my suspicions are correct,
the ghost on this book shared
many of Obama’s sentiments,
spoke his language and spent
considerable time
reworking the text.

I bought Bill Ayers’ 2001 memoir,
Fugitive Days,
for reasons unrelated
to this project.
As I discovered,
he writes surprisingly well
and very much like “Obama.”

In fact,
my first thought was that the
two may have shared the
same ghostwriter.
Unlike Dreams,
where the high style
is intermittent,
Fugitive Days is infused with
the authorial voice in
every sentence.

What is more,
when Ayers speaks,
even off the cuff,
he uses a cadence and vocabulary consistent with his memoir.
One does not hear any of
Dreams in Obama’s
casual speech.

Obama’s memoir was
published in June 1995.

Earlier that year,
Ayers helped Obama,
then a junior lawyer at
a minor law firm,
get appointed chairman of the
multi-million dollar Chicago
Annenberg Challenge grant.

In the fall of that same year,
Ayers and his wife,
Weatherwoman Bernardine Dohrn,
helped blaze Obama’s path to
political power with a fundraiser
in their Chicago home.

In short,
Ayers had the means,
the motive,
the time,
the place and the literary ability
to jumpstart Obama’s career.

And, as Ayers had to know,
a lovely memoir under Obama’s
belt made for a much better
resume than an unfulfilled
contract over his head.

For simplicity sake,
I will refer to the author of
Dreams as “Obama.”
Without question,
he contributed much of the
book’s raw material,
especially the long-winded
accounting of events
and conversations,
polished just well enough
to pass muster.
The book’s fierce,
succinct and tightly coiled
social analysis more closely
matches the style of Fugitive Days,
a much tighter book.




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