Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Jack Cashill, a Kansas City-based writer and producer who serves as executive editor of Ingram’s, a regional business magazine. He is the author of the just released, Deconstructing Obama: The Life, Loves, and Letters of America’s First Postmodern President, his eighth book and his second on the subject of literary fraud. He has a Ph.D. in American Studies from Purdue.
FP: Jack Cashill, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Let’s begin with how you came to believe that Obama was not the principal author of his acclaimed memoir “Dreams from My Father”.
Cashill: Thanks Jamie.
I first picked up the book in July 2008. Early on in the first read, the quality of the writing caught my attention. Although the book lacks discipline, long stretches of Dreams are very well written. In my twenty-five year career in advertising and publishing, I have reviewed the portfolios of at least a thousand professional writers. Not a half-dozen among them wrote as well as the author of the book’s best passages. When I looked into Obama’s other efforts in print, I saw that nothing he wrote was nearly this good. What surprised me was that no one was even suspicious of Obama’s ability.
FP: Ok, so tell us why it matters if Obama wasn’t the real author.
Cashill: The literary gatekeepers had already anointed Obama a genius on the basis of Dreams, the sacred text in the cult of Obama. The Obama campaign machine, Organizing for America, encouraged its minions to “get out the vote and keep talking to others about the genius of Barack Obama.” This, I sensed from the beginning, was a myth that one challenged at his own peril.
FP: You ultimately came to the belief that Bill Ayers was the craftsman behind Dreams from My Father. How did you come to make this judgment?
Cashill: Entirely by accident. About six weeks after reading Dreams, I ordered a copy of Ayers’s 2001 memoir Fugitive Days and started reading. The stylistic parallels were stunning. At this point, I had my first Eureka moment, albeit a dumb one—Gosh, I thought, they both live in Chicago. They must have shared the same ghostwriter! I had not known that Ayers was a skilled writer and editor. As a case in point, Hyde Park PLO booster and Obama pal, Rashid Khalidi, credits Ayers in the first sentence of his acknowledgment section of his book, Resurrecting Empire.
FP: In the fall of 2008, what would have happened to the Obama campaign if your thesis had been accepted?
Cashill: Obama biographer David Remnick got this much right. Said he, “This was a charge that if ever proved true, or believed to be true among enough voters, could have been the end of the candidacy.”
FP: How did the media respond?
Cashill: With a shrug. This did not surprise me. Real knowledge might just have undermined their commitment to a philosophy so evasive — “Yes, we can?” — they themselves would be at a loss to describe it. That much I got. What I did not get was why the “respectable” conservative media were mimicking the turtle-like defenses of their mainstream peers. I was not asking them to buy my thesis sight unseen but to kick the tires and take it for a test drive.
FP: How confident were you that you were right?
Cashill: Four weeks before the election I was confident enough in my thesis to submit it to any test. If proved right, it would have undermined the foundational myth of Obama as genius, confirmed his intimate relationship with an unrepentant terrorist and, perhaps most damningly, established this still untested candidate as a liar of consequence. In short, it could have turned the election.
FP: Was your thesis ever confirmed?
Cashill: Yes, in Christopher Andersen’s book, Barack and Michele: Portrait of an American Marriage, which was published in September of 2009. A celebrity biographer with impeccable mainstream credentials, Andersen based his account of Dreams’ creation on sources within Hyde Park. 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” as evident in his 1993 book, To Teach. Noting that Obama had already taped interviews with many of his relatives, Andersen elaborates, “These oral histories, along with his partial manuscript and a trunkload of notes were given to Ayers.” Andersen was reviewed in every major periodical. Not one so much as mentioned his Ayers’s revelations.
FP: When did you begin to doubt the story that was told in “Dreams”?
Cashill: I had steered clear of the “birther” business. The fever swamps surrounding Obama’s citizenship were swallowing reputations whole, and so I stuck to literary analysis. It was the poem “Pop,” allegedly written by the 19-year old Obama, that got me interested. Virtually all reviewers of consequence said the poem was about “Gramps,” Obama’s maternal grandfather. In fact, as was obvious, it was about Obama’s Hawaii mentor, the poet, pornographer and CPUSA member Frank Marshall Davis. This poem begged the question–why “Pop”?–and opened the doors on Obama’s murky past.
FP: Your own personal belief on the birther issue? Do you think Obama was born in the United States?
Cashill: Yes, but when strategist David Axelrod first combed through the official Obama records—the grades, the SAT and LSAT scores, the college theses, the passport, his parents’ marriage license, the college applications, the birth certificate—he likely saw more red flags than in his parents’ May Day parades and so decided to bury them all. I think there is something on the birth certificate that will throw the much told nativity story of Barack Obama into doubt, quite possibly the date of birth or even the place. Unreported so far by the media, little Barry spent the first year of his life in Washington State.
FP: What are your feelings about Obama’s second book, “Audacity of Hope”?
Cashill: To credit Dreams to Obama alone, one has to posit any number of near 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. To credit Audacity to Obama alone, one has to posit at least two additional variables: one is his adoption of a modified and less competent style, and the second is his ability to write such a book given the punishing schedule of a freshman senator.
Whoever wrote Obama’s speeches wrote large sections of Audacity, perhaps all of it. We found 38 extended passages from stump speeches in 2005-2006 that made their way into this book virtually word for word. Easily the best candidate for authorship is Obama’s wunderkind speechwriter Jon Favreau.
FP: What happens from here?
Cashill: It was scandalous that JFK won a Pulitzer Prize for Profiles In Courage, a book that he himself did not write. Imagine if the book had been written not by Ted Sorensen but by Alger Hiss. That is the kind of scandal we are looking at here. I need the help of our friends in the conservative media to get the story out.