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. You can catch his appearance on CSPAN2 by clicking here. 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. Cashill’s results are politically significant because President Obama's charisma is dependent on the images Obama created about his early life in his first book, Dreams from My Father. Cashill’s new insights about the real Obama should be particularly relevant to the sort of swing voters who tell survey researchers that they do not care for Obama’s results even thought they still like Obama as a person. After reading Cashill’s book, I suspect these 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 there are now nude photos on the Internet of a woman who looks exactly like Obama's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham. This news was so unpleasant to me that I was nervous about checking up on Cashill’s report by searching for these photos through Google. (To my relief, the samples I found are clear enough to show the girl’s face, but cropped tight enough that I did not feel I violated any laws.) Along with Cashill, I see these photos as evidence of a much larger pattern of unfortunate mistakes made by the young Ms. Dunham. These photos are politically significant because they offer a convenient segue into a larger discussion of an 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.
Cashill adds to the sheer seediness of the world surrounding little Obama plenty of new evidence that infant Obama had no conscious contact with his birth father. This unpleasant reality is an abrupt challenge to Obama’s claim, in Dreams, that his father left him and his mother behind in Hawaii after two years of dutiful fatherhood. Here, Cashill leverages the outstanding reporting done by one of our nation’s most intelligent and charming citizen journalists - Michael Patrick Leahy. Leahy interviewed a few of Stanley Anne Dunham’s childhood friends and reported the results in his book, What Does Barack Obama Believe? Leahy’s research shows Anne Dunham took infant Obama with her to Seattle, Washington in the summer of 1961 and did not return with her baby to Hawaii until Obama, Sr. was long gone from the island. Leahy, in my view, has been doing the hard work I assumed New York Times reporters should have been doing including interviewing members of the extended Dunham family, sharing freely available information from the Internet, and combing over public records to determine the precise details of Barack Obama's birth and early childhood.
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.
John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.