Andrew Breitbart Wonders Who Wrote Obama's First Book

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 19 2011 11:01 AM

Andrew Breitbart Wonders Who Wrote Obama's First Book

I've been reading and enjoying Andrew Breitbart's Righteous Indignation , but I was flummoxed a little by this bit on pages 149-150.

In the past few years alone, citizen journalists have deposed Dan Rather for his scurrilous and baseless attacks on George W. Bush; exposed John Kerry's true war record during the 2004 election cycle; debunked Reuters's photography fraud in the Middle East; raised the question whether Barack Obama's autobiography, Dreams from My Father , was ghostwritten by domestic terrorist Bill Ayers ; gotten rid of communist Van Jones; and the last goes on.


Let's play "one of these things is not like the other." Bloggers definitely debunked the fake TANG docs in 2004, got Kerry to back down on some of his war claims ("Christmas in Cambodia"), proved that Reuters had faked a photo, and chased Van Jones out of the White House because his name was on a 9/11 conspiracy petition. What's "raising the question" about the Ayers story doing in there? Later on page 150 Breitbart refers to Obama's "probably Ayers-ghostwritten autobiography" and cites Jack Cashill's October 2008 article " Who Wrote Dreams From My Father ?" It was the first in an ongoing -- and not yet concluded -- series of pieces in which Cashill argued that similar phrases in the work of Obama and Ayers, and the relative blandness of Obama's other writing, suggested that Ayers had ghost-written Obama's book. The articles are not wholly convincing. Here, from a follow-up piece, is Cashill's comparison of the opening of Obama's 1995 book and Ayers's 2001 memoir. (Yes, Obama's book was published first, and sent to the publisher before Obama and Ayers worked together on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge.)

The opening scene of Dreams takes place in the early 1980s in and around Obama's New York City apartment with its "slanting" floors.  As the scene unfolds, Obama is making breakfast "with coffee on the stove and two eggs in the skillet." 

In Fugitive Days , Ayers inhabits an apartment with "sloping floors." He too cooks a lot -- his books are rich with often sensual food imagery -- and uses a "skillet," a southern regionalism. [ED: Ayers is from the Chicago suburbs.] Obama tells the reader that the buzzer downstairs did not work and that visitors had to call from a pay phone at the corner gas station.  There, "A black Doberman the size of a wolf paced through the night in vigilant patrol, its jaws clamped around an empty beer bottle."  Fugitive Days opens at a pay phone...

Ayers spent much of his underground years waiting at pay phones.   He writes about pay phones with the loving detail art critics reserve for Picassos.  The vivid image of the Doberman almost assuredly comes from his experience.  Obama had no reason to use that pay phone, if it even existed.

There are lots of assertions like that. Basically, the Cashill investigation is less compelling than, say, the Rathergate investigation. But Donald Trump and now Andrew Breitbart are now raising questions about the Ayers-Obama authorship theory, which tells you something about the collapse of trust in the media, if nothing else.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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