Ayers From My Father


Ronald Radosh claims there is new evidence that former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers ghostwrote President Obama's early memoir Dreams From My Father.

Ghostwriting as I understand it can take many forms. The literary issue is unimportant to Radosh and his source -- Ingram's magazine editor and Nazi hunter Jack Cashill -- who are concerned only with placing Ayers and fledgling author Barack Obama together. (Candidate Obama disowned Ayers and denied that they had an extensive relationship.)

I am interested in the literary issue. I read and enjoyed Dreams From My Father, and to the extent President Obama disappoints me (a very limited extent, as the Obama Administration has mostly been what I expected), he disappoints me by not being more like the character in the book.

Author Obama did not conceal his hard-left inclinations or his family's history of socialistic politics. But he repeatedly dramatized his own disaffection with the buttoned-down liberal consensus. (Maybe this is some thumbprint of the New Leftist Ayers?) The narrative is basically a series of epiphanies about the failures of parents, grandparents, male role models, friends and finally mentors, with the climax (which was a little anti-climactic) being the narrator's graduation from these many imperfect schools. I hadn't really expected, but had hoped, that the Barry who hung out with lesbian marxist poets and punk rock performance artists might take a little more of a burn-baby-burn attitude toward institutions that were, for example, sacred to both Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill.

President Obama, on the other hand, governs as the answer to the question historians have been puzzling over for decades: What if Adlai Stevenson had taken it back in '52? If Obama were the radical demagogue I keep hearing he is, he'd probably be more relevant. Consensus politics have never been deader, yet Obama keeps ruling as if we're in some great age of the vital center.

As for who wrote the book, I'm just a simple caveman, but aren't questions like this one the reason President Wilson invented authorship attribution and statistical text analysis software?