Bill Ayers, the unrepentant former leader of the radical 1960s Weather Underground group, has been asked on several occasions over the past five years if he wrote "Dreams from My Father," the book offered as evidence that Barack Obama is an intellectual heavyweight worthy of the Oval Office despite his relatively thin resume.
Aware of WND columnist and author Jack Cashill's extensive literary analysis and independent corroboration by a friendly Obama biographer, Ayers has obscured his responses with a layer of irony, telling inquirers in essence, Yes, I did, and if you can help me prove it, I'll split the royalties with you.
Prior to a debate Thursday night with author and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza at Dartmouth College, Ayers brought up the subject himself in an exchange with WND senior reporter Jerome Corsi.
The conversation took a familiar path, but toward the end, Corsi tried to cut through the irony, pointing out to Ayers that he typically says he wrote it and will split the royalties with anyone who can prove it.
Corsi asserted that Ayers' familiar, ironic reply was a declaration that he doesn't really mean what he's saying, that he was "taking it back."
"No, it does not take it back," Ayers insisted.
"It doesn't?" asked Corsi.
"No," Ayers said.
"You wrote it?"
"I wrote it," Ayers said.
Whether or not Ayers was simply draping another layer of irony on his "admission," Cashill's compelling comparative analysis was confirmed in a 2009 book by celebrity biographer Christopher Anderson, "Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage," which recounted in some detail how a desperate Obama in the mid-1990s, facing a second canceled book contract, sought the help of Ayers.
Cashill, who makes his case in his book "Deconstructing Obama," said in a 2011 interview with WND he believed Ayers, with a sharp intellect, had been "careful to couch his comments with irony."
Cashill said he believed, however, that Ayers's irony was not aimed at critics like him but at the White House, "letting Obama know that he could blow Obama out of the water, if he gets serious about it."
Cashill noted Ayers is strongly anti-war and at odds with many of Obama's policies.
"All Ayers would have to do is give a press conference in which he demonstrated he was the principle craftsman behind 'Dreams' and the whole myth of Obama's literary genius would come crashing down," Cashill said.
The exchange Thursday night went like this:
Corsi: "I've written about you."
Ayers: "You've written about me? What did you write?"
Corsi: "I work for WND. I wrote 'The Obama Nation' book."
Ayers: "Oh yeah, 'The Obama Nation.' ... I vaguely remember, but you know that I wrote 'Dreams from My Father,' right?"
Corsi: "Well, you say that, but you kid about it all the time."
Ayers: "Which is true."
Corsi: "You tell me. I think you did."
Ayers: "I did, I did. You're right. You get the scoop. That's a scoop."
Corsi: "Can I quote you on that?"
Ayers: "You can quote me on that and help me split the royalties, too, if you can prove it."
Corsi: "Oh, you always say that."
Ayers: "I always say that."
Corsi: "So, you take it back?"
Ayers: "No, I'm not taking it back."
Corsi: "That takes it back."
Ayers: "No, it does not take it back."
Corsi: "It doesn't?"
Corsi: You wrote it?
Ayers: "I wrote it."
'Just a guy'
"Dreams" won the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album and drew praise from Time magazine, which called it "the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician."
In the 2008 election campaign, Obama dismissed Ayers as merely a fellow resident of the upscale Hyde Park area of Chicago, or "just a guy in the neighborhood."
But Ayers – whose movement sought to overthrow the U.S. government and replace it with a communist regime – served with Obama in the leadership of education projects with radical aims and has admitted to hosting Obama's first political fundraiser the same year "Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance" was published, 1995.
As WND reported, a previous exchange with Ayers about "Dreams" took place in a video interview June 19 with Real Clear Politics Executive Editor Tom Bevan and Charlie Stone.
"Yes. I wrote that," Ayers replied when asked. "I've written many books for many Hyde Parkers, but that one I wrote. And it didn't take long. I had a few interviews, and then I wrote it up. It took me about four months."
Apparently alluding to Cashill's comparative analysis, Ayers said, "And, I love the nautical imagery, which I also use in 'Fugitive Days.'"
"Now, if you guys can help me prove this," he said, smiling and eliciting laughter from his interviewers, "I'll split the royalties with you. ... I haven't gotten a nickel from my effort."
Without mentioning Cashill's name, Ayers then referred to "a book comparing phrases from 'Dreams from My Father.'"
"So, he's proven it, kind of," Ayers said of Cashill. "But I'm still not getting any royalty checks."
Cashill, after watching the clip, told WND that in each response to the authorship question over the past five years, Ayers "adds new information and eases off on the irony."
Cashill noted that in the June interview, Ayers gives his writing work with Obama a reasonable time frame, four months.
"He also talks about other Hyde Park authors and, in fact, local radical Rashid Khalidi gave Ayers top billing in the acknowledgment section of his book 'Resurrecting Empire,'" Cashill pointed out.
Ayers, he said, "enjoys the game, I suspect, more than Obama does."
'Be sure to write it down'
As WND reported in 2011, in a Q&A after a speech sponsored by the Students for a Democratic Society at Montclair State University in New Jersey, Ayers volunteered that he was the ghostwriter of "Dreams" then finished with his usual "split the royalties" joke.
In 2009, WND reported Ayers gave a similar ironic answer to a National Journal reporter who posed the question at a book conference.
Ayers declared to the National Journal reporter, "Yes, I wrote 'Dreams from My Father.'"
"Here's what I'm going to say," Ayers said, according to a report in Talking Points Memo. "This is my quote. Be sure to write it down: 'Yes, I wrote 'Dreams from My Father.' I ghostwrote the whole thing. I met with the president three or four times, and then I wrote the entire book."
TPM reported that Ayers then released the National Journal reporter's arm, beamed "in Marxist triumph," and said, "And now I would like the royalties."
In an encounter at Reagan National Airport in October 2009 with conservative blogger Anne Leary, who did not even ask the question, Ayers declared, "Yes, I wrote 'Dreams from My Father' ... Michelle [Obama] asked me to."
Leary said she was sipping coffee by the United Airlines counter before going through security when she saw Ayers:
"Then, unprompted he [Ayers] said – I wrote 'Dreams From My Father.' I said, oh, so you admit it. He said – Michelle asked me to. I looked at him. He seemed eager. He's about my height, short. He went on to say – and if you can prove it, we can split the royalties. So I said, stop pulling my leg. Horrible thought. But he came again – I really wrote it, the wording was similar. I said I believe you probably heavily edited it. He said – I wrote it. I said – why would I believe you, you're a liar.
"He had no answer to that. Just looked at me and walked off, and said again his bit about my proving it and splitting the proceeds."
Previously, in May 2009, a Washington Times online editor posed the authorship question at a Baltimore book-signing.
In the encounter, which was captured on video, the Times' Kerry Picket asked Ayers if he had received any feedback from Obama on Ayers' latest book, "Race Course: Against White Supremacy."
Ayers asked rhetorically, "Why would I?"
Picket then asked, "Considering that you may have had a collaboration with 'Dreams of My Father.'"
Ayers' body language changed abruptly. Turning away from Picket, he replied curtly, "I never had a collaboration, no."
"No?" she persisted.
"That's a myth," said Ayers, ending the conversation.