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“I’ve written two books,” the candidate told a giddy crowd of schoolteachers in Virginia in July of 2008. The crowd applauded. “I actually wrote them myself,” he added with a wink and a nod.
Now the teachers exploded in laughter. They got the joke: Republicans were too stupid to write their own books. But their man, Barack Obama, was the one American able to succeed without help.
Although much attention has been paid to the first of Obama’s two books, his 1995 memoir, “Dreams from My Father,” relatively little has been paid to the 2006 sequel, “Audacity of Hope.”
If Obama were to be believed, he found time as a newly minted U.S. senator to write this 431-page book without any writing help in what was roughly an 18-month window from contract signing to due date.
In reality, the window was much less than 18 months. “He procrastinated for a long time,” concedes Obama-friendly biographer David Remnick in “The Bridge.” It is understandable why Obama might have. His schedule was ridiculous.
Obama would typically fly in to D.C. on Monday evenings and out on Thursday evenings. In addition to a daily trip to the gym and occasional lunches and dinners with friends, Obama’s D.C. workdays were packed solid.
In his own retelling, there were “committee markups, votes, caucus lunches, floor statements, speeches, photos with interns, evening fundraisers, returning phone calls, writing correspondence, reviewing legislation, drafting op-eds, recording podcasts, receiving policy briefings, hosting constituent coffees, and attending an endless series of meetings.”
When home, in that first year alone, Obama hosted 39 town-hall meetings throughout the state of Illinois. He traveled abroad to Russia, Eastern Europe, Israel and Iraq.
“Like a traditional pol,” admits Remnick, “he spent hours making cajoling calls” to raise money for his political-action committee.
Given his high profile, Obama hit the campaign trail to raise money for his colleagues. Then too, he set aside Sundays for his family and as much other time as he could squeeze in.
How did Obama moonlight a book project in a day job that always ran overtime? “I usually wrote at night after my Senate day was over, and after my family was asleep – from 9:30 p.m. or so until 1 a.m,” he told interviewer Daphne Durham of Amazon.
“I would work off an outline – certain themes or stories that I wanted to tell – and get them down in longhand on a yellow pad. Then I’d edit while typing in what I’d written.”
Remnick observes that, facing his deadline, Obama wrote “nearly a chapter a week.” The chapters are on average close to 50-pages long.
Remnick is a writer. He should know better than to think that an absurdly busy U.S. senator could suddenly find his mojo and knock off 50 pages of well researched, decently crafted prose a week, writing longhand no less.
In the acknowledgment section of “Audacity,” Obama listed 24 of his own people who provided “invaluable suggestions” in reading or fact checking the book prior to publication. If there was a muse-in-chief among this crowd, it was almost assuredly speechwriting wunderkind Jon Favreau.
Obama biographer David Mendell got to see Favreau in action before Obama became president.
“In crafting a speech,” Mendell writes, “Favreau grabs his laptop and sits with Obama for about 20 minutes, listening to his boss throw out chunks of ideas. Favreau then assembles these thoughts into political prose.”
Although I cannot prove that “Audacity” was assembled in the same fashion, I can confirm that portions of “Audacity” sound like what the New York Times called “outtakes from a stump speech” precisely because they were, in fact, outtakes from a stump speech.
My colleagues and I found no fewer than 38 passages from Obama speeches delivered in 2005 or 2006 that appear virtually word for word as ordinary text in “Audacity.” The following passage, for instance, comes from a speech Obama gave on Oct. 25, 2005:
“… those who work in the field know what reforms really work: a more challenging and rigorous curriculum with emphasis on math, science, and literacy skills. Longer hours and more days to give kids the time and attention they need to learn.”
This second passage comes from “Audacity”:
“And in fact we already have hard evidence of reforms that work: a more challenging and rigorous curriculum with emphasis on math, science, and literacy skills; longer hours and more days to give children the time and sustained attention they need to learn.”
Of the 38 speech passages from 2005-2006 that found their way into “Audacity,” the Obama faithful are forced to believe that Obama wrote all of them.
If he did not, then he did not write “Audacity” by himself, and if he lied about that, then he was also capable of lying about his unique authorship of “Dreams.”
It seems much more likely that Favreau wrote all of these speeches. Yes, Obama may have dictated his thoughts or written down notes in longhand, but why would he not have given those notes to his gifted, government-issue speechwriter to put into prose?
If Favreau wrote the speeches, he likely wrote most of the book, doing his best all the while to mimic the style of “Dreams,” which was crafted in no small part by Bill Ayers.
Favreau apparently didn’t do that good of a job. Ayers would publicly dismiss “Audacity” as a “political hack book.”
One wonders what Ayers would think of Obama’s now infamous Roanoke speech. The teleprompter-free Obama seems to have drafted that himself – and he proved, if nothing else, that not everyone is “smart” enough or “hardworking” enough to succeed on his own.