Tuesday, October 14, 2008


One of the more amusing signs of the right's desperation at this moment is the campaign to persuade America that the author of Barack Obama's first book, Dreams from My Father, was not Obama himself but, rather -- of all the possible ghostwriters in the English-speaking world -- Bill Ayers. A gentleman named Jack Cashill made this argument at length in an online wingnut journal called The American Thinker; Cashill's Thinker article was cited approvingly by Andy McCarthy of National Review.

(Sample Cashill mumbo-jumbo: "The 'Fugitive Days' excerpt scores a 54 on reading ease and a 12th grade reading level. The 'Dreams' excerpt scores a 54.8 on reading ease and a 12th grade reading level. Scores can range from 0 to 121, so hitting a nearly exact score matters. A more reliable data-driven way to prove authorship goes under the rubric 'cusum analysis' or QSUM. his analysis begins with the measurement of sentence length, a significant and telling variable...." You really don't want to read more.)

Cashill's now published a second article, this one for the even loopier World Net Daily, and before to he gets to his main thesis -- that any reference to water in Obama's writing is a sure sign that Ayers was his ghostwriter, because Ayers was once a merchant seaman (while Obama merely lived in Hawaii and Indonesia for years) -- he tells us that we should be suspicious of Obama's story about the aftermath of a meeting he had on Manhattan's East Side with the man who recruited him to come to Chicago to be a community organizer:

After the meeting, Obama "took the long way home, along the East River promenade." As "a long brown barge rolled through the gray waters toward the sea," Obama sat down on a bench to consider his options.

While sitting, he noticed a black woman and her young son against the railing....

The boy appeared to ask his mother a question that she could not answer and then approached Obama:

"Excuse me, mister," he shouted. "You know why sometimes the river runs that way and then sometimes it goes this way?"

The woman smiled and shook her head, and I said it probably had to do with the tides.

Why is this susapicious? Well, for one thing, Cashill says,

the East River would be hugely out of his way no matter where he lived in New York and especially if he lived anywhere near the Columbia campus on the upper West Side.

Um, except for the fact that it's possible to determine exactly where Obama lived in New York by doing about three seconds' worth of Googling -- and it was on the East Side, close to the East River:

In his memoir, “Dreams From My Father” (Three Rivers Press, 1995), Mr. Obama described his Yorkville apartment, on East 94th Street between First and Second Avenues, as “part of the shifting border between East Harlem and the rest of Manhattan.” ...

(“B. Obama” was listed in telephone directories at 339 East 94th Street in the early 1980s. Mr. Obama did not specify the building number in his memoir....)

If Obama met the guy on Lex and lived between First and Second, the East River promenade was, admittedly, out of his way. But New Yorkers walk. New Yorkers dawdle on the way home -- our apartments are too damn small, and we're often in no hurry to get back. As you get older, maybe you don't do that as much, but I sure did when I was in my twenties.

So, um, yeah, on the way home he probably swung by the river.

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