Full disclosure: I am Blog Editor of The American Thinker
There’s a video of Bill Ayers making the rounds of conservative blogs where the radical extremist “admits” to writing Obama’s best selling autobiography Dreams of my Father.
The video originates on American Thinker, as does Cashill’s blog post claiming that Ayers owns up to writing the book. Cashill, a prolific writer, has published several pieces at AT and elsewhere that has advanced the theme that Obama - an unknown community organizer who couldn’t meet publisher’s deadlines for his book - handed off the writing of Dreams to his co-worker on the Annenburg Challenge and Hyde Park neighbor William Ayers.
I (and almost everyone who has commented on Cashill’s evidence) am not qualified to judge the relative merits of Mr. Cashill’s arguments. The critiques I have read of his thesis come up short in debunking the writer’s arguments entirely. However, while Cashill offers some compelling similarities between the writings of Ayers and Dreams, I am a skeptic of his conclusion that Ayers wrote the book. Whether he assisted Obama is an entirely different question and much more plausible considering Obama’s lies about how well he knew Ayers when he was running for president. But Cashill’s connective tissues are too weakly constructed, too pat to stand up to serious analysis.
What is perhaps even more bothersome than the wholesale acceptance of this theme by so many on the right is the embrace of the video linked in the AT blog post above by many who appear to have suspended critical analysis in lieu of wishful thinking. Ayers does indeed admit to writing Dreams but in such an obviously sarcastic manner that the question isn’t whether Ayers was serious but how in God’s name so many conservative bloggers failed to see the taunting sarcasm used in his “confession.”
John Hawkins isn’t one of these:
This story is starting to pick up steam across the blogosphere.
However, there’s one problem: Ayers appears to be joking.
It’s the last question of the evening; so Ayers has no chance to elaborate, but here are the words he deadpans,
“Did you know I wrote it, incidentally? I wrote that, Dreams from my Father (Voices in the crowd, “We know that.”). Yeah, if you could help me prove it, I’ll split the royalties with you.” (Crowd laughs)
Not only is Ayers making a joke, he’s making a joke at the expense of the people who claim he wrote the book. Granted, interpretations may differ, especially since Ayers’ delivery was very dry, but it’s a mistake to take that as some sort of confession.
This is not an isolated incident for many on the right. Wanting something to be true - Obama’s foreign birth, his Muslim religion, Obama as socialist, Marxist, communist conspirator - leads many conservatives into uncritical, unsound conclusions about the president. Julian Sanchez referred to this mindset as “epistemic closure” where themes and narratives - sometimes wildly exaggerated - are bounced back and forth among conservatives until they take on a life all their own and the truth of them cannot be challenged, even though common sense or even the record say otherwise.
There is plenty on which to oppose Obama right in front of us without stretching reason and logic to include claims such as Cashill’s. A good rule of thumb to follow is if you have to reach beyond the record and common sense in order to connect the dots, it’s probably a weak argument and should be discarded. Cashill believing that Obama didn’t write Dreams is a stretch beyond reason. Conservatives would do well to apply a similar standard to many of the shibboleths held regarding Barack Obama.
UPDATE: GOLDSTEIN AND INTERPRETATION
Goldstein responds in the comments to his own post:
Nice to see that Rick Moran is still counseling us on how to look refined while we allow the left to run roughshod over us. How’d that work out for McCain again?
As someone who knows a thing or two about interpretation, I don’t need John Hawkins or Rick Moran to point out Ayers’ tone of sarcasm. What I’m interested in is the rather pointed tone of the sarcasm - it’s too deliberate, and the question seems too staged - and suggesting that, while Ayers wants to joke it all away, he also very much wants credit. It’s who he is. It’s who they all are.
I can be as hard and as tough on the left as anyone - and I have about 3,000 blog posts to prove it. I’ve even resorted to polemics on occasion - just to show that I can be as unreasoned and illogical as Goldstein or any other right wing blogger out there.
This appears to be a definitional dispute. Goldstein seems to equate writing exaggerated, over the top rhetorical stink bombs with being tough. I say it shows weakness. Barely better than school yard epithets, disguising horse’s ass opinions about “the Left” as intelligent analysis, Goldstein’s simple minded critiques - “It’s who he is. It’s who they all are” - fall far short of being tough and even shorter as reasoned argument. Proving that you can scream incoherently the loudest might get one links and readership but not much else.
If Goldstein is saying you can’t make logical arguments about the left without appearing weak, I have to disagree. There is still a well spring of common sense in America and a desire on the part of many who troll the internet for thoughtful writing to choose reading fact based, reasoned dialectic. Goldstein knows this. His blog used to feature such writing.
Alas, writing in a “refined” or reasoned manner is not the path to fame and fortune on the internet. Goldstein combined rowdiness with penetrating insight and logic for the first few years of his very entertaining blog. But he has, I believe, abandoned what made his blog unique and readable, and settled for a style that makes it virtually indistinguishable from the ranting, frothing, majority of right wing blogs that have eschewed objective reality in favor of exaggeration and hatred.
If Goldstein actually believes that McCain lost because he wasn’t tough enough on Obama, he proves himself not much of a political analyst. Every time McCain went brutally negative - Ayers, socialist, Wright, etc. - his numbers dropped like a stone. Despite what many conservatives might believe, McCain’s team were not a bunch of dummies. They won the nomination for God’s sake. That puts them more than a leg up on the critics accusing them of not being tough enough on the opposition. It bears repeating - slowly for those with a reading comprehension deficit - McCain’s margin of defeat would have been larger if he had gotten “tough” on Obama.