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Obama and Ayers and "Dreams from My Father"
Veteran celebrity journalist Christopher Andersen, who has written dozen of quick books about famous folks like Jackie O, has a new book out, Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage. In it, Andersen states, in an unfortunately unsourced fashion, that unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers at least copy-edited the President's memoir Dreams from My Father. Did he also write it, as Jack Cashill has long maintained?
In either case, it supports the inference that Obama was, in his lawyerly way, being intentionally misleading when he said in a primary debate in response to a George Stephanopolous question about Ayers:
OBAMA: George, but this is an example of what I'm talking about. This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who's a professor of English in Chicago who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from. He's not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis.
And the notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values doesn't make much sense, George.
You can search through Andersen's book on Amazon.
Andersen writes on p. 165:
What did interest Barack were Ayers's proven abilities as a writer. Unlike Barack, Ayers had written and cowritten scores of articles and treatises, as well as several nonfiction books beginning with Education: An American Problem in 1968. But it was the tone Ayers had set in his latest book -- To Teach
(1993) -- that Barack hoped to emulate.
The tale of a maverick teacher who takes her students onto the streets of New York to teach them firsthand about history, culture, and survival, To Teach was written in a fluid, novelistic style. Barack asked for Ayers's input, and Ayers, who like so many in his circle was greatly impressed by the charismatic young activist, obliged.
To flesh out his family history, Barack had also taped interviews with Toot, Gramps, Ann, Maya, and his Kenyan relatives. These oral histories, along with his partial manuscript and a trunkload of notes, were given to Ayers. "Everyone knew they were friends and that they worked on various projects together," another Hyde Park neighbor pointed out. "It was not secret. Why would it be? People liked them both."
In the end, Ayers's contribution to Barack's Dreams from My Father would be significant -- so much so that the book's language, oddly specific references, literary devices, and themes would bear a jarring similarity to Ayers's own writings. ...
There was a good deal of literary back-scratching going on in Hyde Park," said writer Jack Cashill ... Thanks to the help from the veteran writer Ayers, Barack would be able to submit a manuscript to his editors at Times Books. With some minor cuts and polishing, the book would be on track for publication in the early summer of 1995. In the meantime, he began showing the rough draft to a chosen few relatives.
Andersen's notes for the chapter appear on p. 309-310 but, unfortunately, they're not terribly informative as to his sources for any particular assertion. Did he do original interviews on the Ayers question? He'll need to get a lot more specific to make this stick. Obviously, there's no chance that any bigfoot Washington reporter will ever ask Obama about it.
Andersen's reference to Ayers' 1993 book To Teach is interesting because the soporific prose style of To Teach appears closer to Dreams from My Father than the livelier prose style in Ayers' own 1999 autobiography Fugitive Days, which begins with the unObama-like sentence: "Memory is a m-----------."
I certainly find it plausible that Ayers copy-edited Dreams from My Father. For example, as I pointed out in February, the Annenberg Project that Obama chaired had the same mailing address as Ayers's Small Schools Workshop, both on the third floor of a small office building: 115 S. Sangamon St., Third Floor. I've never seen anybody ask whether they were run out of the same exact office.
But, some reporter needs to get somebody from Hyde Park on record as saying that Ayers helped Obama write Dreams. Perhaps a disgruntled old radical might spill the beans. Has anybody asked, say, Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. about this?