The belief that moribund institutions, rather than individuals are at the root of the problem, keep SAM’s energies alive.
– Barack Obama, “Breaking The War Mentality”
The highly indicative sentence above comes from an 1,800-word article Barack Obama wrote for Columbia’s weekly news magazine, Sundial, at the height of the KGB-generated anti-nuke craze in March 1983. Obama was 21 at the time.
The sentence nicely captures Obama’s skill as a writer. The noun, “belief,” and the verb, “keep,” don’t agree – one of an appalling five such noun-verb mismatches in the essay – and the punctuation is fully random.
More problematically, the word choice sucks all logic out of the sentence. In the previous paragraph, Obama had warned his readers about the “the relentless, often silent spread of militarism in the country.”
In this paragraph, the reader is told that these same military institutions are “moribund”–that is “nearly dead.” How their debilitated state keeps the “energies” of the Students Against Militarism (SAM) “alive” is apparently left to the reader’s imagination.
This essay, posted two days ago by Ben Smith on his Politico blog, represents the single best example of Obama’s native writing skills yet unearthed.
It should put an end to the charade that Barack Obama wrote his 1995 memoir “Dreams From My Father” unaided, but it probably won’t. The literary left has committed itself to Obama’s genius.
“He wrote it himself,” esteemed British author Jonathan Raban wrote of Obama’s “Dreams” just last week in The Wall Street Journal. “Every sentence has its own graceful cadence. He could just as easily have been a novelist as a politician.”
In “Breaking The War Mentality,” every sentence clunks. Obama not only makes scores of basic grammatical errors – these, with practice, he might have learned to correct – but he also fails to turn one lively or concise or even interesting phrase in the entire essay. Here are some samples:
“An entirely student-run organization, SAM casts a wider net than ARA, though for the purposes of effectiveness, they have tried to lock in on one issue at a time.”
“At this time, the current major issue is the Solomon Bill, the latest legislation from Congress to obtain compliance to registration.”
“Perhaps the essential goodness of humanity is an arguable proposition, but by observing the SAM meeting last Thursday night, with its solid turnout and enthusiasm, one might be persuaded that the manifestations of our better instincts can at least match the bad ones.”
We are asked to believe that in just a decade, without any additional training, Obama was able to write sentences like the following from “Dreams”:
“Winter came and the city turned monochrome-black trees against gray sky above white earth. Night now fell in midafternoon, especially when the snowstorms rolled in, boundless prairie storms that set the sky close to the ground, the city lights reflected against the clouds.”
Please! To put Obama’s talents in perspective, imagine him as a golfer. “Breaking The War Mentality” nets him about a 105 on an easy public course.
Obama plays two more times in the next 10 years. His 1988 essay, “Why Organize,” earns him about a 103 on the same course. His unsigned 1990 Harvard Law Review case note chalks in at 99, thanks largely to superior editing.
After taking the next five years off, Obama takes a turn at Augusta National and, lo and behold, breaks par. The only catch, of course, is that he played by himself and signed his own scorecard.
After “Dreams” was published in 1995, Obama’s typewriter fell silent once again. For more than a decade, this literary wunderkind contributed not one signed word to any law journal or other publication of note.
Writes Ohio State classics professor Bruce Heiden in a clever essay deconstructing Dreams’ 1995 Introduction and 2004 Preface, “When Obama’s ephemeral performance as book-trade personality has run its course, it disappears from his life without residue.”
As Heiden observes, after the 1995 publication of “Dreams,” Obama fails not just to write anything new, but even to re-read his memoir or reflect on his writing, unusual behavior for an anointed literary genius.
As I have argued previously, the evidence that terrorist emeritus Bill Ayers doctored “Dreams” overwhelms the dispassionate observer.
Unlike Obama, Ayers has a well-established paper trail. He co-authored the 1974 tract, “Prairie Fire: The Politics of Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism,” in which book, by the way, he misspells Frantz Fanon’s first name as “Franz” just as Obama does in “Dreams.”
In his underground years, Ayers read and wrote relentlessly. After receiving his doctorate in education from Columbia in 1987 – and given Obama’s exploration of radical groups, a likely meeting place – he began a highly successful career as a writer and editor. He has nearly 20 books to his credit, not including “Dreams From My Father.”
Ayers provided an informal editing service for like-minded friends in the neighborhood. Aspiring radical Rashid Khalidi attests to this in the very first sentence of the acknowledgements in his 2004 book, “Resurrecting Empire.”
“There are many people without whose support and assistance I could not have written this book, or written it in the way that it was written,” Khalidi writes. “First, chronologically, and in other ways, comes Bill Ayers.”
There was a good deal of literary back-scratching going on in Chicago’s Hyde Park. Obama, for instance, wrote a short and glowing review of Ayers’ 1997 book, “A Kind and Just Parent,” for the Chicago Tribune.
In that same book, perhaps with a self-congratulatory wink, Ayers cites the “writer” Barack Obama as one among the celebrities in his neighborhood.
Obama’s memoir was published in June 1995. Earlier that year, Ayers helped Obama get appointed chairman of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge grant. In the fall of that same year, 1995, Ayers helped blaze Obama’s path to political power with a fundraiser in his Chicago home.
In short, Ayers had the means, the motive and the ability to jump start Obama’s literary career, and Obama needed all the help he could get.
He is not a writer in any more than name, never was, and never will be.