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. I identify with Cashill. In his newest book, he indicates it is not so easy to balance his efforts to save Western civilization with his concurrent responsibilities for bagging leaves in time for the city leaf collectors. In my case, I have sought to expose President Barack Obama’s intellectual roots as a revolutionary Marxist while addressing my nagging doubts about the necessity of rinsing dishes prior to racking them up 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 eye witness to young Obama’s Marxist ideology, I was excited to see Cashill busting up the myths surrounding Obama and replacing them with a simpler, easier to believe story that is a much better fit with accessible, on-line evidence. After reading Cashill’s book, I suspect swing voters will be disappointed by the titanic gap between Obama’s all-American myth and the cold facts of his real life.
One of the coldest facts is that Cashill gives us insight into the unwholesome side of the young Obama story – the odd, deviant, dysfunctional world of Frank Marshall Davis. Davis, as readers may know, was a member of the Communist party and also handy in the craft of producing pornographic literature and photography. Cashill reframes the Obama story by pointing out that Frank Marshall Davis and his friend Paul Robeson were Stalinist Communists, a political label which is shocking to most Americans and yet useful to me in understanding the roots of the Marxist ideology and earnest revolutionary fervor I observed in the young Barack Obama while he was a sophomore at Occidental College in 1980-1981.
Even as somebody who met young Obama in the early 1980s, I’m was still startled by Cashill’s most controversial argument – the theory that Bill Ayers was the ghost author of Dreams from My Father. Cashill’s thesis was supported, of course, by the independent reporting of a liberal author, Christopher Andersen. Andersen unwisely confirmed Ayers’ participation in creating Dreams in an otherwise flattering book called Barack and Michelle: Portrait of An American Marriage (2010). The weight of Cashill’s argument, however, rests on his careful textual analysis of the striking similarities between the language used in Dreams and the language used in Ayers’ own writing. Here, I’m most convinced by Cashill’s description of how Obama correctly applies nautical images to his life story. The accuracy of the nautical language in Dreams strikes me as much more consistent with Ayer’s experience as a merchant marine than with Obama’s experience as a community organizer.
I would like to add more details that support the idea that Ayers was a major player in drafting Dreams from My Father. The young Barack Obama I knew, for example, displayed absolutely no hostility to white people. He appeared to be culturally and emotionally white. The young Barack Obama I knew was not particularly close to the African-American students at Oxy either, but was – instead – deeply involved in the lives and political activities of the most radical foreign and Muslim students. The young Barack Obama I knew would have been excited to meet Bill Ayers, would have been comfortable with Ayers’ anti-American hostility, and would have been more than capable of persuading the jaded ex-terrorist that he was a sincere believer in the necessity of a socialist transformation of the U.S.
My only difference with Cashill is that I’m not impressed with the quality of Dreams from My Father.
This is true even after Cashill’s book single-handedly improved my taste as a consumer of contemporary literature. My reading of Dreams did not leave me with any useful paradigm shifts, any evidence of encyclopedic knowledge or any immediately relevant information. I think it is more accurate to assert that President Clinton’s book, My Life, articulates the insights and raw memory capacity of a true genius. In comparison to My Life, I found Dreams dull and boring – except for the parts tangentially related to my own intellectual development or linked to my nearly insignificant participation in what Obama reports were the pivotal, life-changing moments of his sophomore year at Occidental College.
Aside from this relatively minor disagreement regarding the quality of Dreams, I whole-heartedly agree with Cashill’s take on the challenge of confronting Obama’s charismatic power: The alarming sense that media elites greet one’s modest, factual, painfully obvious news tips with an astonishing lack of appropriate attention. I have come to believe there is something broken in American journalism. I would think a healthy, well-functioning democracy would include mainstream media outlets that would snap open the delightful fortune cookies Cashill has set out for them. For now, my confidence for winning our future rests in the outspoken courage of Jack Cashill, a writer who is willing to go to extreme lengths – short of leaving his home surrounded by leaves – to make sure that his fellow citizens learn the truth about President Obama.