Obama's Automythology

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The Book

If one had to name Barack Obama's chief accomplishments in public life, his two books would outweigh anything he has done in politics.  The New York Times had a fascinating article, The Story of Obama, Written by Obama, on the front page of Sunday's paper.  The piece points out that Obama's attraction to the masses is driven not by what he has accomplished in the real world (especially in the Senate), but by his ability to tell a tale -- his own.  Unspoken by the NYT is that this phenomena does have its place in history -- it is the very definition of "cult of personality."

After he was elected as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. He was approached by an agent, Jane Dystel, who got him a contract for a book.

Obama’s original plan was to write a book about race relations (what else?), but, sitting down to write, he found his mind "pulled toward rockier shores."  So the book became more personal -- the record of an interior journey, as he put it in the introduction, "a boy’s search for his father, and through that a search for a workable meaning for his life as a black American."

Obama had been given free use of an office at the University of Chicago, along with a law school fellowship and the aforementioned advance, to finish his first manuscript.   Obama missed his deadline, and Dystel promptly got him another contract and a $40,000 advance for the same book.

The New York Times reported that Obama's first agent (the one he dumped) got him a a second book deal with Random House after the first one with Poseidon Press fell through.

The Times article neglects to mention that Obama received then Random House publisher Peter Osnos describes as a six figure advance "(about $125,000, I am told)" from Poseidon.  According to Osnos, Obama would have had to return all or part of the first advance.  Did he?  And when?

Obama and Dystel worked mostly by telephone and by manuscripts sent by Federal Express between New York and Chicago. Obama, an inveterate journal writer who had published poems in a college literary magazine but had never attempted a book, struggled to finish. His half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, said he eventually retreated to Bali for several months with his wife, Michelle, "to find a peaceful sanctuary where there were no phones."

Ah, retreating to Bali after getting a second $40,000 advance and while receiving income from a law school fellowship -- a tough life indeed.  We can all empathize. Oh, and about the "truthfulness of the book"?
 
 
In the introduction, Mr. Obama acknowledged his use of pseudonyms, composite characters, approximated dialogue and events out of chronological order. He was writing at a time well before a recent series of publishing scandals involving fabrication in memoirs. "He was trying to be careful of people's feelings," said Deborah Baker, the editor on the first paperback edition of the book. "The fact is, it all had a sort of larger truth going on that you couldn't make up."

That's how we judge "truth" now? Ignore the lies used to build the foundation for the benefit of the quest for the nebulous "larger truth"? This article is looking more and more like an apologia for upcoming disclosures that Obama's story as told by himself has more than a few holes in it.
Obama's New Book Deal
Spring 2009 -- The White House has posted the personal financial disclosure reports for Obama, and here are some interesting tidbits.

Obama's financial disclosure report shows evidence that he and the first lady trust the government with their money.  The couple has somewhere between $1 million and $5 million invested in Treasury bills.

In the category of It's Never Too Early to Seek New Supporters, the forms show that Obama in January struck a $500,000 advance deal with Crown Publishing Group for an abridged version of his best-seller, "Dreams From My Father," aimed at "middle grade or young adult readers."  When the book comes out, Obama will rack up more in royalties: 15% of the hardcover sales price and 10% of the paperback price.

It's hard to figure out net worth from these forms because they only ask for broad ranges when reporting value of assets and debts.  But the Obamas tax day filing had showed they paid $855,323 in taxes on a combined income of $2,656,902.
Google Books -- Dreams From My Father
Here's a link to Google Books limited version of "Dreams..." -- you can bounce around by section -- click "Contents" link next to Zoom symbols.

The Search function in the left column is neat -- it searches entire text -- very powerful and returns page and paragraph of search phrase -- better than having to read the book.

Dreams From My Father -- The Book -- The Myth

Well, it probably started with "Dreams . . .."

In the introduction, Obama acknowledged his use of pseudonyms, composite characters, approximated dialogue and events out of chronological order.  "He was trying to be careful of people's feelings," said Deborah Baker, the editor on the first paperback edition of the book.  "The fact is, it all had a sort of larger truth going on that you couldn't make up."

 

Obama's story as told by Obama, and a few others, has more than a few holes in it -- and his relationships are extraordinary.

 

Well, folks put that information away.  Everybody puffs up their resume -- no harm -- no foul.

Stanley Ann Helps With "Dreams..."

Anna helped Barack write his book, "Dreams from My Father," while she was battling cancer. Obama wrote:

During the writing of this book, she would read the drafts, correcting stories that I had misunderstood, careful not to comment on my characterizations of her but quick to explain or defend the less flattering aspects of my father’s character.

Obama noted in the book that it was Ann rather than his natural father who taught him about his African American heritage.

She would come home with books on the civil rights movement, the recordings of Mahalia Jackson, the speeches of Dr. King.  When she told me stories of schoolchildren in the South who were forced to read books handed down from wealthier white schools but who went on to become doctors and lawyers and scientists, I felt chastened by my reluctance to wake up and study in the mornings…

Every black man was Thurgood Marshall or Sidney Poitier; every black woman Fannie Lou Hamer or Lena Horne.  To be black was to be the beneficiary of a great inheritance, a special destiny, glorious burdens that only we were strong enough to bear.

Obama noted in the book that he might have written a different book if he had known she was dying when he wrote it:

I think sometimes that had I known she would not survive her illness, I might have written a different book -- less a meditation on the absent parent, more a celebration of the one who was the single constant in my life.

In my daughters I see her every day, her joy, her capacity for wonder.  I won’t try to describe how deeply I mourn her passing still.  I know that she was the kindest, most generous spirit I have ever known, and that what is best in me I owe to her.

His mother was his first class and race propagandist and mentor.
Neocolonial Dreams From Obama's Mother
Newt Gingrich said to National Review Online recently, "What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anticolonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?"  Gingrich's comment sparked off Dinesh D'Souza's Forbes article, which argues that America is "governed by the ghost" of Obama's "Luo tribesman" father.

But, George Neumayr says, let's not forget the white-liberal neocolonialism of his mother, which influenced him too.  In Dreams from My Father, Obama reveals just as many or more dreams from his mother, the Ford Foundation anthropologist who introduced enlightened liberal ideology to the native tribes of Indonesia.  There in that "land" of "fatalism," Obama writes, "she was a lonely witness for secular humanism, a soldier for New Deal, Peace Corps, position-paper liberalism."

The patronizing tone that Obama adopts in the book when discussing his father's failures makes him sound more like a neocolonialist cut from his mother's cloth than an anticolonialist.  While he approves of the anticolonials' anti-western anger, he still thinks they could use some direction from western liberals.  He expresses disappointment with his father for not swallowing the liberal faith whole.  His father lacked "faith in people" and held too tightly to certain Luo ways -- "too much of its rigidness, its suspicions, its male cruelties."  If only, he implies, the African anticolonials were less stubborn and let neocolonialists at the Ford Foundation guide them to Planned Parenthood clinics and schools bankrolled by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, all would have been well.

It is an open question how much of the book is real or made up.  Obama casually drops into the introduction that quotes in the book are "an approximation of what was actually said or relayed to me," and that for "the sake of compression, some of the characters that appear are composites of people I've known, and some events appear out of precise chronology."  One wonders if he too is a composite in his postmodern memoir.  The book is long on affected literary flourish and short on candor.  He does a lot of "listening to the wind and its whispers of mortality."

But here and there amidst the pretentious throat-clearing he makes some accidental revelations.  I didn't know that his Kenyan grandfather converted from Christianity to Islam, which comes out in a story told to Obama by his grandmother, a story that doesn't exactly lend credence to Obama's Islam-is-a-religion-of-peace line: "What your grandfather respected was strength…This is also why he rejected the Christian religion, I think. For a brief time, he converted, and even changed his name to Johnson.  But he could not understand such ideas as mercy towards your enemies, or that this man Jesus could wash away a man's sins.  To your grandfather, this was foolish sentiment, something to comfort women.  And so he converted to Islam -- he thought its practices conformed more closely to his beliefs."

Obama writes about his trip to Kenya with the anthropological detachment of his mother, not so much learning from his relatives during the "emotional odyssey" as looking down on them.  But he is happy when his sozzled half-brother Roy turns up at his Jeremiah Wright-presided-over wedding as a convert to Islam.  "The person who made me proudest of all," he writes of the reception, "was Roy."  He had decided to "reassert his African heritage," "converted to Islam," and "sworn off pork and tobacco and alcohol."  His "conversion has given him solid ground to stand on, a pride in his place in the world."

But Obama can't resist a final moment of looking down on him.  "Not that the changes in him are without tension…  The words he speaks are not fully his own, and in his transition he can sometimes sound stilted and dogmatic," he writes.

The implication left from all the self-important ruminations about "his divided inheritance" is that the anticolonial dreams of his father can only be completed through the neocolonial dreams of his mother.
Obama's Ghostwriter From Hell
Author Chris Andersen said on "The Mancow Show," a talk-radio show from Chicago, that he had two sources that suggested unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers played a large part in the writing of Barack Obama's fable, "Dreams From My Father," a book that Time Magazine has called "the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician."

Andersen's on-air comments confirmed what he alleges in his new book, and confirms the literary forensic work of columnist Jack Cashill, who has provided compelling evidence that the co-founder of the radical Weather Underground, and author of its manifesto, "Prairie Fire," fleshed-out and polished Obama's incomplete manuscript with his exceptional writing skills.

After Obama was selected as the first affirmative-action president of the Harvard Law Review, he was approached by an agent, Jane Dystel, who got him a contract for a book from Poseidon Press upon his graduation.

He was given free use of an office at the University of Chicago, a law school fellowship, and a $125,000 advance, to finish his manuscript.  Obama and Dystel worked mostly by telephone and sending draft manuscripts by Federal Express between New York and Chicago.  Even with Dystel's editing, Obama struggled to finish.  His half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, said he eventually retreated to Bali for several months with his wife, Michelle, "to find a peaceful sanctuary where there were no phones."

The real reason Obama scurried off to Bali was to seek his mother's help with his manuscript -- but to no avail.

Anyway, Obama blew his advance, and Dystel got him a second, $40,000 advance from Random House for the same book.

Again, he was unable to deliver a manuscript to Random House, and, in desperation, he turned to his friend and employer at the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, Bill Ayers, to help him finish what was to become a work of fiction, supposedly on the advice of wife, Michelle.  Thanks to the help he received from the skilled Ayers, Obama was able to submit a manuscript to his editors.

Cashill had picked up a copy of Bill Ayers 2001 memoir, "Fugitive Days."  In reading the book, he discovered that Ayers writes very well, and very much like Obama.  This prompted Cashill to examine "Dreams...," and he found that the book's language, its oddly specific references, literary devices, and themes would bear an uncanny similarity to Ayers's own writing.  Cashill pointed out that in contrast to "Dreams," the Obama writing samples unearthed before 1995 "are pedestrian and uninspired."

Last fall, Cashill commissioned an independent scientific comparative analysis of writings by Obama and Ayers to determine whether Ayers had a significant role in the writing of "Dreams...," and reported at least four different stylometric analysts supported his extensive forensic evidence.

His experts included university professors from the U.S. and England in the statistical analysis of authorship, systems engineers, writers and Ph.D. literary analysts.  One analyst said it was possible Ayers served as a "book doctor," drastically rewriting work Obama already had done.

Obama has skated by on his skin-tone, smile, personality and "BS" his entire life -- he's a complete fraud.  Even today, he is helpless and hapless without the ever-present TOTUS.
Obama Comes To The Mainland
Jack Cashill writes, for more than a year I have been making the case that Bill Ayers played a major role in the authorship of Barack Obama's acclaimed 1995 memoir, "Dreams From My Father."

And for more than a year the hundreds of literary and political critics in the major media have refused to even glance at what is arguably the most consequential literary fraud of our time.  Astonishingly, not one of the myriad reviewers of Christopher Andersen's bestseller Barack and Michelle even commented on the six pages he dedicates to confirming my thesis.

If analyzing the several Ayers and Obama books in question is too much of a bother, I would recommend these critics wander through any two pages of Dreams and concentrate on the nuggets of fraud and falsehood they can find without even looking hard.

As an example, let us take a look at the two pages of Dreams (144-145 in the 2004 paperback) in which young Barry Soetoro first visits the mainland.  The date of the visit is specific: "during the summer after my father's visit to Hawaii, before my eleventh birthday."  This was 1972.  Traveling around the country on Greyhound busses with his mother, grandmother and baby sister, the ten-year old Obama and his family "watched the Watergate hearings every night before going to bed."

Of course, Obama took this trip a year before the Watergate hearings, which actually began in the late spring of 1973.  This is not an isolated misrepresentation.  From the flow of these two pages, I suspect that Ayers took the raw data of Obama's life and improvised as he saw fit.  He does this throughout the book to score ideological points and make the case for Obama as political prodigy.

According to Dreams, the little family with one year-old Maya in tow made a long distance detour from the obvious places they might visit -- Seattle, Disneyland, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone -- to spend three days in Chicago.

As Obama tells it, the family rode some 1500 miles on Greyhound buses from the Grand Canyon and another 1000 miles back to Yellowstone to spend three dreary days in a motel in the South Loop of Chicago. Something does not make sense here.

In Chicago, Obama's most vivid memory is of seeing the shrunken heads on display at the Field Museum.  Yes, the museum did have those heads on display.  They were considered, according to one source, as a "crucial rite of passage for generations of Chicago kids."  Ayers was one such kid.  He grew up in suburban Chicago.

In Dreams, Obama remembers the heads to be of "European extraction."  The man looked like a "conquistador" and the woman had "flowing red hair."  This reversal of Euro-fortune struck the precocious Barry as "some sort of cosmic joke."

This memory too is thoroughly contrived.  That some conquistador would wander into the Ecuadorian jungle with a woman in tow, let alone Lucille Ball, and end up as a shrunken head defies all probabilities.  No source on the Field exhibit even hints that these were Europeans.  In fact, one source suggests that the tribe in question vanished seven hundred years before the first European arrived.

Ayers, however, has something of a fascination with headhunting.  In his 2001 memoir Fugitive Days, Ayers recounts a 1965 anti-war protest on the Michigan campus that proved formative in his own radicalization.

At the protest, Ayers saw a series of photos that moved him.  One showed "four American boys kneeling in the sun, bare-chested, smiling broadly."  Although these soldiers looked like the kind of guys Ayers grew up with, they "cradled in their hands now, the severed heads of human beings, their dull, unseeing eyes eternally open, their ears cut off, strung into a decorative collar worn around one smiling kid's neck."  That this photo never made its way beyond this particular protest testifies to the malevolence of Ayers' imagination.

Another of the photos Ayers saw at this same protest showed water buffaloes and "small boys with bamboo sticks perched upon their backs."  Curiously, in Dreams, Obama also remembers seeing a boy sitting "on the back of a dumb-faced water buffalo, whipping its haunch with a stick of bamboo."  Note that these boys whip the beast not just with sticks but with bamboo sticks.

There's a lot more here . . .
Ayers Admits Writing Dreams
He blurted out: "I wrote ‘Dreams From My Father... Michelle asked me to."  Then he added "And if you can prove it we can split the royalties."

Anne responded, "Stop pulling my leg!"

But he repeated insistently, "I wrote it, the wording was similar [to Ayers' other writing.]"

Anne responded, "I believe you probably heavily edited it."

Ayers stated firmly, "I wrote it."

Read James Simpson's account of Anne Leary's run-in with Bill Ayers here . . .
A Closer Look At Obama's Odyssey
Jack Cashill is back with more -- Cashill believes that Christopher Andersen's new book, "Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage," it made it increasingly clear that Obama friend and neighbor, Bill Ayers, gave the book its structure.  As Andersen relates, after four futile years of trying to finish the contracted book, a "hopelessly blocked" Obama delivered his family's "oral histories, along with his partial manuscript and a trunk-load of notes" to Ayers for a major overhaul.

Interesting read, here . . .
  
Here's a link to Google Books limited version of "Dreams..." -- you can bounce around by section -- click "Contents" link next to Zoom symbols.

The Search function in the left column is neat -- it searches entire text -- very powerful and returns page and paragraph of search phrase -- better than having to read the book.
How Obama Himself Made More Than "Enough Money"
Jack Cashill says in defending his administration's efforts at putative financial reform, Obama suggested a ceiling, perhaps government-imposed, for Wall Street executives.  Although he did not begrudge them income that is "fairly earned," he added ominously, "I do think that at a certain point, you've made enough money."

Obama may be projecting guilt from his own excellent adventures in greed.  A surprising 2006 article for the American Century Foundation by liberal publisher Peter Osnos sheds useful light on this subject.  As Osnos relates, a 1990 New York Times profile on The Harvard Law Review's first black president caught the eye of a hustling young literary agent named Jane Dystel.

Dystel persuaded Obama to put a book proposal together, and she submitted it.  Poseidon, a small imprint of Simon & Schuster, signed on and authorized a roughly $125,000 advance in November 1990 for Obama's proposed memoir.

With advance in hand, Obama repaired to Chicago, where the University of Chicago offered him an office and stipend to help him write.  Obama dithered.  At one point, in order to finish without interruption, he decamped to Bali for a month.  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.

"Obama had missed deadlines and handed in bloated, yet incomplete drafts," David Remnick tells us in The Bridge.  Simon & Schuster lost patience.  In the summer of 1993, Simon & Schuster canceled the contract.  According to Osnos, the publisher asked that Obama return at least some of the advance

Not surprisingly, the Obama-friendly Remnick skips some of the details that Christopher Andersen includes in his book, Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage, such as how Obama had spent $75,000 of the advance and could not pay it back.  According to Andersen, the publisher let Obama keep the money only after he pled poverty due to "massive student loan debt" -- this despite a combined salary for the still childless Obamas well into six figures, not to mention the trip to Bali and a trip to Kenya for the couple as well.

As Osnos tells it, Dystel did not give up.  She solicited Times Books, 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.

During this same period, Obama was working as a full-time associate at the law firm of Davis Miner, teaching classes at the University of Chicago Law School, and spinning through a social whirl that would have left Scarlett O'Hara dizzy.  Writes Remnick, "He and Michelle accepted countless invitations to lunches, dinners, cocktail parties, barbecues, and receptions for right minded charities."  Obama had also joined the East Bank Club, a combined gym and urban country club, and served on at least a few charitable boards.

In addition, Obama, as Remnick admits, was a slow writer.  He would later explain his plodding, 19th-century technique to Daphne Durham of Amazon.  "I would work off an outline -- certain themes or stories that I wanted to tell -- and get them down in longhand on a yellow pad.  Then I'd edit while typing in what I'd written."

As Andersen tells it, 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."  What attracted the Obamas were "Ayers's proven abilities as a writer."  Noting that Obama had already taped interviews with many of his relatives, both African and American, Andersen elaborates, "These oral histories, along with his partial manuscript and a trunkload of notes were given to Ayers."  The result was "Dreams From My Father" -- Obama's automythology

Although Dreams did not do particularly well in 1995, the sales shot through the roof after Obama's keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic convention.  As Osnos relates, Obama unceremoniously dumped his devoted longtime agent after Dreams took off and then signed a seven-figure deal with Crown, using only a by-the-hour attorney.

Obama pulled off the deal after his election but before being sworn in as Senator in order to avoid the disclosure and reporting requirements applicable to members of Congress.  Although an Obama-supporter, Osnos publicly scolds Obama for his "ruthlessness" and "his questionable judgment about using public service as a personal payday."

As to the question of income "fairly earned," Obama makes Fabrice 'Fabulous Fab' Tourre look like a lumberjack.
For The Serious Student
   


Click image for video
    
Obama school chum and ex-Marxist, John C. Drew, Ph.D, says Jack Cashill voices the pain of those of us who are doing the journalistic work we once thought was the sole responsibility of CBS’s 60 Minutes.  In his newest book, he indicates it is not so easy to balance his efforts to save Western civilization with his concurrent responsibility of bagging leaves.  In my case, I have sought to expose Barack Obama’s intellectual roots as a revolutionary Marxist while addressing my nagging doubts about the necessity of rinsing dishes prior to loading in the dishwasher.  If you understand that neither Cashill or me are kidding about our lives, then you will be thrilled by the tone and fresh insight in Deconstructing Obama: The Life, Loves, and Letters of America's First Postmodern President .

As an eyewitness to young Obama’s Marxist ideology, I was excited to see Cashill busting up the myths surrounding Obama and replacing them with a more believable story that is a much better fit with accessible evidence.  Cashill’s results are politically significant because Obama’s charisma is dependent on the images in his first book, Dreams from My Father.  Cashill’s new insights about the real Obama should be particularly relevant to the sort of swing voters who tell survey researchers that they do not care for Obama’s policies while still liking him as a person.  After reading Cashill’s book, I suspect these swing voters will be disappointed by the titanic gap between Obama’s all-American myth and the cold facts of his real life.
I Wrote That Book
    
    

Question:  Thank you sir, thank you, thank you. Time magazine columnist Joe Klein wrote that President Obama's book, "Dreams from My Father," quote: "may be the best written memoir ever produced by an American politician."

Ayers:  I agree with that.

Question:  What is your opinion of Barack Obama's style as a writer and uh …

Ayers:  I think the book is very good, the second book ("The Audacity of Hope") is more of a political hack book, but uh, the first book is quite good.

Question:  Also, you just mentioned the Pentagon and Tomahawk …

Ayers:  Did you know that I wrote it, incidentally?

Question:  What's that?

Ayers:  I wrote that book.

Several audience members:  Yeah, we know that.

Question:  You wrote that?

Ayers:  Yeah, yeah.  And if you help me prove it, I'll split the royalties with you.  Thank you very much.

    
Is Gallmann's Memoir The Source For Obama's?

Jack Cashill says: Sometime in 1994, as I have argued on these pages and in my book, Deconstructing Obama, one-time terrorist Bill Ayers took over the memoir that his struggling protégé, Barack Obama, proved unable to complete. Although my evidence was textual or circumstantial, celebrity biographer Christopher Andersen had sources within the Chicago community that confirmed the collaboration.

Noting that a "hopelessly blocked" Obama had already taped interviews with many of his relatives, both African and American, Andersen elaborates, "These oral histories, along with his partial manuscript and a trunkload of notes were given to Ayers." The result was the much-acclaimed Dreams from My Father. In that the audience for Andersen's favorable book, Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage, skewed left, he had no reason to fabricate unflattering details.

Ayers knew Obama's terrain well, in some ways better than Obama himself. "I also thought I was black," writes Ayers only half-jokingly in his own 2001 memoir, Fugitive Days. He read all the authors Obama did -- James Baldwin, Leroi Jones, Richard Wright, Malcolm X. Tellingly, like Obama, he began his career as a self-described "community organizer," Ayers in inner-city Cleveland.

Like Obama, too, Ayers spent many years in both New York and Chicago, and, fortuitously, he and his family spent their spring 1993 vacation in Hawaii. A careful craftsman, Ayers has a novelist's eye for detail. He used his own experiences to good effect in helping Obama create what Time Magazine would call "the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician."

What Ayers did not know was Kenya, the setting for the last third of Dreams. There was no Google in 1994 and little else of use on the still embryonic Internet. Obama did not know Kenya much better. He visited for a few weeks in 1987 or 1988 -- he can never get the date quite straight -- and again briefly with Michelle in 1992.

Lacking an authoritative source, Ayers may well have turned for useful local color to the memoirs of longtime Kenya resident Kuki Gallmannn. So theorizes Shawn Glasco, the tireless researcher that I refer to in Deconstructing Obama as "Mr. Southwest."

In June 2010, while searching for nonfiction books about Kenya at the public library, Glasco spotted Gallmann's 1991 memoir, I Dreamed of Africa, which was later made into a film of the same name starring Kim Basinger. The similarity between Gallmann's title and Obama's caught his eye.

At the library, Glasco randomly opened Gallmann's book and was struck by the similarity in word choice and writing styles between her work and Dreams. He suspects that the Gallmann memoir may have inspired the "dreams" trope that Ayers likely invented to provide structure to Obama's memoir.

In 1994, Gallmann's memoir, African Nights, was published. Glasco believes that Ayers mined both books. A meticulous researcher, Glasco has completed his review of African Nights, the results of which follow. Glasco worked from hard copies. Had he digital copies available, the results would have been more impressive still. Glasco has also been in touch with Gallmann to verify details.

Presuming that Glasco is right, Ayers is not a plagiarist. He is careful, in fact, to avoid the kind of piracy that got author Alex Haley in trouble. For Roots -- his presumably factual, Pulitzer Prize-winning family history -- Haley plundered a novel titled The African, written by Harold Courlander.

In 1978, Courlander sued Haley in U.S. District Court for copyright infringement. Midway through the trial, the judge counseled the dissembling Haley to settle with Courlander or face a perjury charge. Haley did just that to the tune of $650,000, or more than $2 million by today's standards. The publishing world chose not to notice. Haley was too sacred a cow and Roots too valuable a property.

Although not illegal, what Obama apparently allowed Ayers to do violates any number of ethical standards, and the fault here lies with Obama. Dreams was alleged to have been his own memoir, faithfully told. Using a ghostwriter is fair enough. Letting the ghostwriter mine someone else's experiences and call them your own is not.

Gallmann, for instance, tells the reader of a certain acquaintance. "He was a little man with a perennial grin" and a "readiness to obey or volunteer for any work." His "sentences often became tangled in a painful stutter." Obama meets a man just like this: "He was a short, gentle man with a bit of a stutter; he did odd jobs."

In assessing sentences like this, the reader has to ask: did Obama really know such a man, or is the character on loan from Gallmann? The reader has every reason to be suspicious. In Dreams, Ayers often attributes his own thoughts and experiences to Obama. Even Obama-friendly biographer David Remnick concedes that Dreams is a "mixture of verifiable fact, recollection, recreation, invention, and artful shaping." The same could be said for James Frey's bestselling memoir, A Million Little Pieces, whose many inventions, once revealed, made Frey a national pariah.

As will become obvious, Dreams and African Nights share any number of distinctive words and phrases, many of which are commonly in use in East Africa: 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]. It is possible that Obama remembered these phrases from his few weeks in country, but it is not at all likely.

On the fashion front, both books have young women "wrapped" in their kangas and "dressed" in "rags." The women in both books wear shukas, head shawls, head scarves, and goatskins, and they balance baskets on heads graced with "laughing smiles."

On the animal front, men in both books spearfish in "ink-black" waters and hunt by torchlight. Elephants are "fanning" themselves, birds "trill," insects "buzz," weaver birds "nest," and monkeys "mesmerize." The books share a veritable Noah's ark of additional fauna: crickets, crocodiles, starlings, dragonflies, tilapia, cattle, lions, sand crabs, vultures, hyenas, "herds of gazelle," and leopards that can hold small animals "in their jaws."

On the flora front, the shared references are just as compelling: roadside palms, yellow grass, red bougainvillaea, pink bougainvillaea, fig trees, shady mango trees, thornbrush, banana leaves, Baobab trees, liana vines, tomatoes. The landscape, occasionally "barren," is rich in "undulating hills" whose "grazing lands" are dotted with the occasional "watering hole."

The "mud and dung" houses feature "thatched roofs" "verandas," and "vegetable gardens." People seem to be carrying "straw mats" everywhere. The stars "glint" and people "waltz" underneath them. Eyes "glimmer" in the light of "campfires." Children sing in "high-pitched" rhythms, and girls endure "barbaric" circumcisions. Obama, like Gallmannn, travels to the Great Rift Valley and stands at its edge. Both visit the small trading town of Narok.

Karl Rove tells of running into "the best writer to occupy the White House since Lincoln" soon after the latter's second book, Audacity of Hope, was published. "Hey, I understand you got me in your book," said Rove. "I don't think so," Obama replied. Rove continued, "I think you got me in your book saying, 'we're a Christian nation.'" Said Obama, "Where'd I say that?" Rove showed him.

I suspect if someone asked Obama what a shamba was or a shuka, the inquirer would get an equally dumb answer.

All Obama Really Needed To Know He Learned From His Composites
Carl Scott says the new Obama biography by David Maraniss finds still more composites haunting the pages of Dreams From My Father. That "still more" is not surprising, as Dreams says up front that some composites have been employed, but the importance of them to the narrative, and the lengths to which the compositing of them went, really is. Black-power extremist "Ray" and authentic black experience "Regina" now appear to be even more tangled webs of fabrication than the privileged white "New York Girlfriend" composite I discussed here. So the always-worth-reading Andrew Ferguson explains at The Weekly Standard. His judgment hits the right balance between that's weird/lying's bad, on one hand, and why he likely did it on the other:
  

We can see the dilemma he faced. Obama signed a contract to write a racial memoir. They were all the rage in those days, but in fact their moment had passed. Even with the distant father and absent mother, the schooling in Indonesia and the remote stepfather, Obama lived a life of relative ease. He moved, however uncomfortably, into one elite institution after another, protected by civil rights laws… …So Obama moved the drama inside himself, and said he'd found there an experience both singular and universal, and he brought nonexistent friends like Regina and Ray to goose the story along.

 
Ferguson's overall judgment is that this is dispiriting…it reveals a squishy post-modern reserve. Obama, even in a memoir that used confessional tropes, gave us little to work with in terms of understanding him. In Ferguson's hands, that suggests not so much a sinister character, but rather, a pretty uninteresting one.
  

What's dispiriting is that throughout Dreams, the moments that Obama has invented are precisely the occasions of his epiphanies -- precisely those periodic aha! moments that carry the book and bring its author closer to self-discovery. Without them not much is left: a lot of lovely writing, some unoriginal social observations, a handful of precocious literary turns.

 
And I think Ferguson could go further, to speculate that Obama's staged "conservations" with his composited characters, usually touching on racial identity matters, might reflect a pattern not just of "self-branding" narrative-construction, but of this construction-process at some level taking in and fooling himself.
 
These little details about Obama's long practice of playing with the truth seem more significant to me than the debate about his socialism. Yes, Stanley Kurtz's sober book on Obama's socialist past Radical-in-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism got one of its key factual findings further documented last week, but in my opinion the most shocking thing in that book is not its revealing Obama's socialism (he was a democratic socialist at least up through the 90s), but the brazen acceptance of deception and smear-tactics that pervaded the movement, and which he did nothing to diminish when he was in community-organizer or political-candidate leadership positions.
 
Bonus: Ferguson also demolishes the latest big Obama-hating book, The Amateur, as no one but he can, and to a large degree on the basis that there's just too little available evidence about Obama's pre-candidate life to make the judgments it does.
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