At the AIM conference, ObamaNation: A Day of Truth, we did two panels. One was two authors who have written books about President Obama, Edward Klein and Jack Cashill. Klein, who spoke first, talked about his book, The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House. He talked about a bribe offered by a close friend of Obama to Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the radical and anti-Semitic preacher who was Obama’s pastor for 23 years. The other was Jack Cashill, who wrote Deconstructing Obama: The Lifes, Loves and Letters of America’s First Postmodern President. Central to his thesis is that unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers was almost certainly the ghostwriter for Obama’s autobiography, Dreams from My Father. Klein’s talk was called, “The Ideological Amateur,” and Cashill’s was “The Care and Feeding of the Obama Genius Myth.”
Jack Cashill is a writer and producer and has written for Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Weekly Standard, AmericanThinker.com and regularly for WorldNetDaily. Within the last decade, Cashill has written seven books, including Deconstructing Obama: The Life, Loves, and Letters of America’s First Postmodern President. He has also produced a score of documentaries for regional PBS and national cable channels, including the Emmy Award-winning, The Royal Years. Cashill has a Ph.D. from Purdue University in American studies, has taught media and literature at Purdue and at Kansas City area universities, and served as a Fulbright professor in France.
Edward Klein is a writer and editor with a distinguished career in American journalism. He is the author of the recent book, The Amateur, which reveals many behind-the-scenes stories of the Obama White House, as well as the President’s relationship with Rev. Wright, Oprah Winfrey, Bill and Hillary Clinton, members of the Kennedy family, Valerie Jarrett, and others. Klein is a contributing editor to Vanity Fair magazine; a former foreign editor of Newsweek; a former foreign correspondent for UPI; and former editor-in-chief of The New York Times Magazine. During his editorship, The New York Times Magazine won the first Pulitzer Prize in its history. Klein earned a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Obamanation: A Day of Truth
Accuracy in Media Conference 9/21/2012
Speaker: Edward Klein
“The Ideological Amateur”
Speaker: Jack Cashill
“The Care and Feeding of the Obama Genius Myth”
Transcribed by J. C. Hendershot & Bethany Stotts
ROGER ARONOFF: Sorry we’re running a little behind here. I don’t know if we’ll get caught up or if we’ll run over time at the end, but we’ve got to keep it moving here. Next is going to be our first panel of the day, one of two panels. We have two [Barack] Obama biographers, Edward Klein and Jack Cashill. Mr. Klein will speak first—why don’t you gentlemen come on up?—his book The Amateur is again the number two on The New York Times Bestseller List; it’s been there for months now, even though it only got one writeup in The New York Times, and that wasn’t particularly flattering.
JACK CASHILL: Nice to meet you, Ed.
ED KLEIN: Good to meet you, too.
ARONOFF: Let’s see—Ed Klein is a contributing editor to Vanity Fair magazine, and a former foreign editor of Newsweek, a former foreign correspondent for UPI, and he was editor-in-chief of The New York Times Magazine for about ten years. During his editorship The New York Times Magazine won the first Pulitzer Prize in its history. I want to keep moving this on; you can read more about his biography. Let’s get started with Edward Klein.
KLEIN: So, thank you, Roger, for that introduction.
KLEIN: Thank you for Accuracy in Media, for inviting me here today. I understand I have about fifteen or eighteen minutes?
ARONOFF: Fifteen, and then—
KLEIN: So I’ll try to keep it to that.
ARONOFF: —Jack can do the same, and then we’ll do Q & A.
CASHILL: Oh, yeah, thanks.
KLEIN: As someone who was once foreign editor of Newsweek magazine and the editor-in-chief of The New York Times Magazine, I guess you could say that I used to be a card-carrying member of the mainstream media. That was quite a long time ago, however: I left the Times in 1988, and it was a very different New York Times back then. It was under the executive editorship of a guy named Abe Rosenthal, who you may have heard of, A.M. Rosenthal. When he hired me in 1977, he said, “I have one rule, and one rule only, and that is, I want to keep this paper straight. I don’t want it to be a Left-wing paper, I don’t want it to be a Right-wing paper. I want it to be a truthful paper.” And it was. It was a truthful paper. But then Abe left in 1987, and I left in 1988. The executive editorship of the paper went to a guy named Max Frankel, and then to Joseph Lelyveld, and on and on, and as we know, the paper today is about as far Left-wing as you can get. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, I didn’t leave the mainstream media, the mainstream media left me.
I called my book, The Amateur, a “reporter’s book” because I did about 200 interviews for the book. I interviewed present and former members of the Obama administration, members of the White House Press Corps, Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, African-American political leaders. A number of those African-American political leaders urged me to interview the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama’s pastor for 23 years, and I told these African-American leaders—most of them in Chicago, by the way—that I would not feel comfortable sitting down with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright because of his rants against America, against white people, against Jews, against Israel. But they told me, “You’ve got to go see the Reverend Jeremiah Wright because he’s got a story to tell that’s never been told before.” So off I went to meet the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who has an office in the Kwame Nkrumah Academy, which is named after the former Marxist dictator of Ghana; he is now retired from the Trinity United Church of Christ. After I sat down with the Reverend Wright I asked him if I could turn on the tape recorder, and he said, “Yes.” I have this little microtape recorder; I turned it on and for three hours we sat there and talked. I released the entire tape to the press—unedited—including some remarks of my own that were kind of sucking up to the Reverend Wright in order to get him to talk/ I suppose you’re not going to be surprised to hear that, except for Sean Hannity on Fox News Channel, not a single media outlet picked up any of that material from the three-hour tape recording. They ignored it despite the fact that the Reverend Wright said a lot of very important things that had never been reported before—things about Obama’s Islamic past; things about the Reverend Wright being offered a $150,000 bribe by Barack Obama’s closest friend; things about Obama himself secretly meeting with the Reverend Wright during the 2008 Democratic primary campaign, trying to shut him up. None of this has been reported before, and none of it has been reported in The New York Times, The Washington Post, the LA Times, the Chicago Tribune, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN.
So what did I take away from this interview? I took away a portrait of the kind of man that we have in the White House, and that’s what my book The Amateur is about. This is a man who sat at the knee of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright for 23 years—not just in his pew in the Trinity United Church of Christ, but in the Reverend Wright’s home, “hundreds of times,” according to the Reverend Wright—and he listened to the Reverend Wright spin his Marxist theories of “black liberation theology.” This theology, to summarize it, simply says that there is an oppressor class, whites, and an oppressed class, blacks, and that America needs to redistribute wealth and power to even things out. Is it any surprise that I concluded, in my book, that President Obama is actually, in my view, in revolt against the values of the society he was elected to lead—which is why he has refused to embrace American exceptionalism, the idea that Americans are a special people with a special destiny; why he has railed against the capitalist system; demonized the wealthy; embraced the Occupy Wall Street movement? In fact, he’s done many of the things that the Reverend Wright would applaud.
In addition to being the most divisive and radical Left-wing President we’ve ever had in our history, Obama is, in my view, an amateur. He is at bottom temperamentally unsuited for executive leadership, I concluded. He is something new in American society: An amateur in the White House, a President who is inept in the art of management and governance, who doesn’t learn from his mistakes, and who, therefore, repeats them, and makes our economy less robust and our nation less safe abroad. It’s that combination that I describe in the The Amateur: A radical ideology and a bungling amateurism, a combination that I believe is a toxic mix. I’m reminded of the difference between Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan—whose portrait you see around here at the Heritage Foundation—two Presidents who entered the White House during economic troubles with a very different vision of a way to get us out of our problems. Remember, at the end of the day, Ronald Reagan would pick up the telephone and call Tip O’Neill, the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives. These two guys had very little in common, ideologically or politically—Reagan, obviously, dyed-in-the-wool conservative; Tip, dyed-in-the-wool liberal—but he’d say to him, “Hey Tip, why don’t you come on over to the White House and have a drink?” And, at the end of the day, Tip O’Neill would rise out of his Speaker’s chair—all 200-and-whatever, 275 pounds of him—he’d go over to the White House, they’d open a bottle of whiskey. They’d have a drink, they’d tell jokes, they’d reminisce; both of them loved to tell stories, as you know—Reagan told great stories—and they’d get to know each other. And then they’d get down to business. Reagan would say something like this: “Tip, I’d like to get this bill passed. What’s it going to take to get your boys to give me the votes?” And Tip would say, “Well, you know, Mr. President, there’s a couple of things in that bill that I don’t think I could get my guys to vote for, but if you change this a little bit, and put this in a little,” and Reagan said, “Well, you know, I think I can do some of that”—and they’d work things out together. They’d do the business of America. Can you imagine Barack Obama having that kind of relationship with John Boehner, the current Speaker of the House? I can’t. In fact, it took Barack Obama two years before he had his first meeting with John Boehner. By his very nature, Obama is unable to reach out beyond his tight inner circle of Chicago operatives in the White House to reach common cause with Republicans on Capitol Hill. And I for one don’t buy the mainstream media story that it’s the Republicans who have blocked progress in Washington. In fact, my reporting proved just the opposite.
I spoke to a top aide to the Republican House leadership, very close to Boehner and the other leaders on the Republican side. He told me, and I’m quoting now, “Every modern President, perhaps with the exception of Gerry Ford, entered the White House with large quotients of self-assurance, and arrogance. But what makes this President, Obama, unique is that he is so beyond that.” This insider continued with his explanation, “Not only is Obama self-assured, The Smartest Guy in the Room, but, in his estimation, all he has to do is to state something, and the scales will fall off your eyes. Despite the storyline people create, that he is a thoughtful, non-ideological compromiser, he has a distinct Leftist ideology, and can’t make a decision that takes him out of his comfort zone.” To continue with what this man told me: “He’s got so little appreciation and knowledge of how Congress works, that it’s an equal branch of government. If you challenge him, he’s furious. He gives you what we have come to call ‘The Death Stare.’ He has no close relationships with any members of the Senate or the House, Democrats or Republicans.” John Boehner says that in his 20 years in Washington, he’s been through four administrations, and that this one is completely opaque. He doesn’t know who makes the decisions there, how they make the decisions, and who is running the White House.
The bottom line in my book, The Amateur, is that, by all accounts, Barack Obama was elected for a job for which he has little relish. He doesn’t find joy in being President, and, like Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter, he’s an introvert who prefers his own company. He is someone who finds extended contact with groups of people outside his immediate circle to be actually draining, psychologically draining. He can rouse a stadium of, say, 20,000 people, but that audience is an impersonal monolith. Smaller group settings can be harder for him. Now, I interviewed a State Department guy who has spent many, many hours in the Oval Office with the President, and he told me, “While I was in the room, he’d get a phone call from a head of state or a head of government, foreign government, and I heard him say more than once—” this is the President talking, now, to a foreign head of state or government—“‘I can’t believe that I’ve got to meet with all these Congressmen from Podunk City to get my bills passed.’” Podunk City. And when the meeting was over, the State Department official said, there was no lingering, no schmoozing on the way out. There was no clinging to personal relationships like with Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan. I heard the same complaint from people who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Obama during the 2008 election. I sat down for an hour and a half with a major Jewish donor in Chicago. He raised hundreds of millions of dollars for Barack Obama. I had my reporter’s notebook out and I was scribbling my notes as he was talking about how great Obama was, how much he loved him, how much he had accomplished—and an hour-and-a-half later, after I’d filled up pages of encomiums to Obama by this guy, I closed my notebook, put my pen back away, and got up to leave. He accompanied me to the elevator, and then, suddenly, he put his arm around my shoulder, and he said, “You know something? I get complaints from Jewish American donors that they never hear from this guy. He’s not like Bill Clinton, who used to call them and ask them about their wives and grandchildren and businesses and things like that.” I turned to him and I said, “Well, how about you?” He said, “Well, you know, I don’t hear from him, either.”
So what does all of this say about a President who hates the day-to-day give-and-take of politics; who doesn’t have respect for members of Congress; who doesn’t show loyalty to those who supported him with their money, time, and organizational skills? What does this say about a President who doesn’t show any gratitude, who has frozen Oprah Winfrey out of the White House, who has frozen Caroline Kennedy out of the White House—two very important women who helped get him elected? What does this say about a President who has ignored his African-American base to the point where every single African-American businessperson I spoke to told me that they were disappointed and disillusioned with this country’s first black President? Friends, I think it speaks volumes about his character, his inflated self-image, and his amateurism. Thank you very much.
ARONOFF: Okay. Moving right along, our next speaker is Jack Cashill, who is a writer and producer. He’s written for Fortune magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Weekly Standard, The American Thinker, and World Net Daily. He’s written seven books in the last decade. The one we’re talking about today is, primarily, his book Deconstructing Obama: The Life, Loves, and Letters of America’s First Postmodern President. He’s also produced scores of documentaries for regional PBS and national cable channels; taught courses on media and literature at Purdue, and at Kansas City area universities; and has served as a Fulbright professor in France. Ladies and Gentlemen, Jack Cashill.
CASHILL: Thank you. You know, this all started very innocently: I was in the Detroit airport—a frightening place, by the way, for many reasons, especially those billboard-size screens they have up there that play CNN 24 hours a day—and it was just 2008, July 2008. I had yet to pick up a copy of Barack Obama’s book, Dreams from My Father, partly because I had been busy the last four years—and I’m going to cite this for a reason. In the previous four years I had written four books of my own; I ghostwrote two books—by the way, one of the four books I wrote was on literary fraud, called Hoodwinked—one of them was for someone everyone in America knows and loves; I had taught, voluntarily, at a local Catholic high school, a journalism class; and I also was serving as an executive editor of a regional business magazine, in which capacity I had reviewed the portfolios of at least 200 professional writers looking for work—and I’d gotten to the point where, within two paragraphs, I could tell the publishers, whether they should hire that person or not, or at least give them second look. So I have some familiarity with the written word, and I bring this up because it’s important to what happens next.
I’m reading through Dreams from My Father, and I said, “Whoa, no. Too good. Too good!” So when I went back, I googled “Barack Obama ghostwriter.” I was just curious who his ghostwriter was. What I got was this: “Unlike John McCain, Barack Obama does not need a ghostwriter.” By the summer of 2008, every single critic I could find had bought into the myth that Barack Obama was a literary genius, and it was on that foundation of being a literary genius that they embellished him into being just a genius genius. I could cite you twenty accolades from famous American writers so over the top that it would make Chris Matthews blush. I’m just going to—let me just cite one. This is Joe Klein from Time magazine, their estimable man-about-town: “The best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician.”
Here’s what Obama was saying about himself—he was feeding the myth, feeding the genius myth. Speaking in July 2008, to a conference of school teachers in Virginia—these are the audience—he says, “I’ve written two books.” They applaud, and then he goes, “Actually, I wrote them myself.” Now they laugh and applaud, because they got the message: You see, Obama’s a genius, Republicans are too stupid to write their own books. We’ve always had stupid people: Sarah Palin’s stupid, George Bush was stupid, Ronald Reagan was an amiable dunce, don’t even
mention Dan Quayle. They’ve continued this myth for years, and the media were buying in. Organizing for America, Obama’s campaign arm, here’s what they are saying—“Get out the vote, and keep talking to others about the genius of Barack Obama.” All right?
Now, I’m not even going to talk about the mainstream media—I’ll let Ed do that—because that’s like kicking a dog for barking; they’re so hopelessly corrupt it’s simply not even worth pursuing it. I’m going to talk about our media, and I’m going to pull a phraseology from my own ethnic heritage: I’m going to talk about the “lace curtain” conservative media versus the “shanty” conservative media, which includes myself—and Accuracy in Media, by the way; even though they’re here I’ll put them in the shanty category, I’ll commend them for that. I could cite you a dozen accolades from our side almost as bad as the one I just read from Joe Klein. I’ll just read one of them. Christopher Buckley, formerly National Review, son of William F.: “I’ve read Obama’s books, and they are first-rate. He is that rara avis, the politician who writes his own books. Imagine.” That caused him to support Obama in 2008.
Now, I seemed to be the only person in America at that time who doubted that Barack Obama wrote his own books, and there’s a reason I doubted it: I checked his paper trail. You don’t just write the best-written memoir ever out of nowhere. Up until that point—and this is in 1995, when he wrote it—he’d only written three things that he had in print under his own name. The first was in 1993, as a senior at Columbia—he wrote ”Breaking the War Mentality,” an 1,800-word essay that had five sentences in it in which the noun and the verb did not agree. Every single sentence clunks, the word choices are appalling, his punctuation is random. Now, if they had found him in an Indonesian cave a year before and put him in Columbia, you’d cut him some slack, but they didn’t: He had spent twelve years in America’s best schools. This is his DNA. This person cannot write Dreams from My Father ten years later. That’s impossible—because we see the rest of his paper trail as it plays out. Five years later he writes an essay called ”Why Organize?” for a book called After Alinsky. Same problems, slightly better edited: Nouns and verbs not agreeing; random punctuation; just awkward, clunky sentences. Not a single sentence in the whole two essays has just a hint of promise to it. Three years after that he writes an op-ed for the Harvard Law Record—these are the only things he has in print, by the way, under his name—he writes an op-ed supporting affirmative action for the Harvard Law Record—not the [Harvard Law Review], the Record. And here’s a good way not to make the case for affirmative action: In your first sentence, have the noun and verb not agree. We see this pattern repeating itself. Then, in 1995, he writes the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician, then, for the next eleven years, the greatest writer to occupy the White House since Abraham Lincoln goes fallow—writes nothing, other than this pedestrian column for the Hyde Park Herald, the most interesting of which I could find was how he said how his daughter had a fever, so he couldn’t get back to the state House in time to vote for a gun control bill, and Bobby Rush took him to task for it.
He didn’t write the book. It just comes down to that.
Now, at that time—this is July of 2008—I had no idea who did write it. I presumed it was some Left-wing poet or something who helped him with the book; it’s a very poetic book. But what did interest me was where he got the money to pay for a ghost writer: He’s a struggling state Senator in 1995. So I started following a different trail: I was intrigued by the Percy Sutton interview—some of you have seen it—where [Sutton] attributes the influence to get [Obama] into Harvard to a guy named Khalid al-Mansour, who was the lawyer for Al-Waleed bin Talal, one of the richest men in the world. That led to Edward Said, and then Edward Said led to Bill Ayers, so I picked up a copy of Fugitive Days, Bill Ayers’s memoir, and said, “I wonder if their paths crossed before Chicago?” That’s all I was I was curious about. I started reading Ayers’s book, and—bam!—the light bulb goes off. But it’s a kind of a dim bulb, it’s not the right bulb: This bulb says, “Both Chicago, same style, both kind of radical—same ghostwriter! I wonder who that ghostwriter is.” That’s what I was thinking at the time. I finished reading Ayers’s book and I say, “Oh, this guy writes. This guy can write.” Then I look into Ayers’s history: He takes great pride in being a writer and editor, and he nurtures young radical writers. He brags about it. I’ll give you an example: Rashid Khalidi, another Hyde Park radical, author of Resurrecting Empire. First sentence in his acknowledgments, here’s how it starts: “First and foremost, I want to thank—” and I’m paraphrasing—“Bill Ayers, without whom this book wouldn’t be possible.” That’s the role that Bill Ayers played. So it’s not a conspiracy too far. It’s like, if Bill Ayers was your neighborhood electrician, and your power went out, you’d call him—now, this was the position that Obama was in. On September 18th I started a three-part series on WND on “Did Bill Ayers write Dreams from My Father?”—I’m still writing it speculatively—and what I found out was, I tapped a vein all across the world: I got people from Australia, South Africa, Israel, the Phillippines, E-mailing me, saying “Yes, you’re on to something,” and they’re sending me new information—matching words, phrases, all this sort of stuff, parallel stories. And so, by early October, I would say I’m close to 100% confident Obama didn’t write Dreams—which is important, because this genius myth is based on this book—and I would say I’m 90% confident that Bill Ayers was the primary craftsman behind it.
Then I go looking for a home. I need a lot of words, and I need it in a high-profile place. I start knocking on the “lace curtain” doors, and I got turned away from every single one of them: National Review, Washington Times, Human Events, Fox, Wall Street Journal—no interest at all. I’m just saying, “Look at my information, test it any which way you want, I’m not holding anything back here. Tell me I’m not onto something.” If, for instance, The Weekly Standard does a headline—because they have the literary editor—in early October 2009, and it reads, “Who Wrote Dreams from My Father?” we could turn the election, especially if the answer is “Bill Ayers.” Here’s what The Weekly Standard says to me—and I used to write for them—“An interesting piece, but I’m rather oversubscribed at the moment. The length is considerable, and cutting would not do it justice,” all right? I went with American Thinker, which is a blog, a very great blog, out in “shantytown.” We did a 3,700 word piece, “Who wrote Dreams From My Father?” It went wildly viral. Rush Limbaugh picked it up that day and started talking about “Jack Cashill”—he’s never pronounced my name right yet, it rhymes with “Daschle,” by the way, for future reference—so okay, great: Rush Limbaugh is talking about it, I have the October Surprise. Here I am, raking leaves in Kansas City, and I’ve got the October Surprise here in my pocket. Now I feel like the character in that Randy Travis song—I don’t know if you know this song—“Is it still over? Are we still through? If my phone still ain’t ringing, can I still assume it still ain’t you?” That’s where I was.
Nothing happens for the next month—we lose the election, if you remember right—and then I get ambushed after the election. This totally surprised me, because I’m still doing research—by the way, no one’s paying me to do any of this, I’m doing this on my own dime, and people say, “Why don’t you commission a study?” I’d say, “Help me out!” you know, I’m just doing this. The “lace curtain” crowd gets it into their head—but I’m going to make one exception today, Andy McCarthy, the one guy in the media to support me from that crowd; thank you sir, appreciate it—and he’s heard from it ever since, right? He’s been called “this,” “that,” and the “other thing.”
ANDY MCCARTHY: I’ve moved as far back as I can.
CASHILL: I go to a Grover Norquist meeting a couple months after the election, the Wednesday morning meeting, and Grover gives me three minutes to present, I present—I got booed. I got booed by about a quarter of the audience. James Taranto, who I respect and like—Wall Street Journal, American Spectator—singled me out by name as among those of his fellow conservatives who, quote, “engaged in irresponsible rumormongering and conspiracy theorizing,” which cost, presumably, John McCain the election. Jonah Goldberg—I loved his book, Liberal Fascism, his mother’s been very helpful, Lucianne—writes, “I think trying to claim some sort of literary conspiracy is a bridge too far.” Ken Blackwell listed me among the “Internet zanies” who cost McCain the election.
September 2009, I wake up—early Christmas! There’s a pony under my tree! It’s Christopher Andersen’s book Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage. Andersen is a celebrity biographer, his audience skews Left and female, he writes this glowing biography of Barack Obama’s marriage—but he has a six-page section that he stumbled across. He found people in Hyde Park who backed him up. Here’s what he writes: “Obama, hopelessly blocked, deeply in debt, at Michele’s urging—he can’t write the book, he’s already blown one contract, he’s blowing the next—he turns to their Hyde Park friend and neighbor Bill Ayers and says ‘Help!’ They bring a trunkload of notes, they bring his unfinished manuscript, they bring his audio tapes, and Ayers solves the problem.” Right? Now, Ed will know this is the way the world turns: I’ve read something like 80 mainstream reviews of the book—the book got great reviews, Andersen’s a best selling author—and you know how many of them mention Bill Ayers, out of the 80? Zero. WND hired a publicist to get the word out to our “lace curtain” audience, we get zero response. No one wanted to know about it.
2011, my book comes out. I ask two questions, “Who wrote Dreams From My Father?” and “Is the story he tells true?” The answer to both questions is, “No,” and “No.” David Maraniss comes out, and basically confirms much of what I said several years ago.
Okay, to redeem themselves here, I’m going to give five possible headlines for the “lace curtain” crowd to do in the next six weeks and try to save the election for us.
First headline: “Barack Obama: The Seattle Years.” If you don’t know what that means, look it up.
Second one: “Who Wrote Dream From My Father, and Why does it Matter?”
Third one, “The Original Birther: Why Barack Obama Told the World he was ‘Born in Kenya.’”
Number four, I’m just going to go with this headline: “042-68-4425.” Figure that one out if you don’t know it.
Number five: “Why did Barack Obama Let Dr. Terry Lakin Go to Prison?” In fact, I helped Terry Lakin with his book. I have it here, and I’ll be signing that afterwards.
Thank you for your time. If you can get on their asses and tell them to get off theirs and do something in the next six weeks, we can save the election, and, in the future—even scarier for them—we might still be able to get people to go on their cruises, okay?
Thank you. Appreciate it.
ARONOFF: Okay, we’re going to do some Q & A with these two. I want to start, to show how we’re fair and balanced here. I think I’ve mentioned that we invited Jonathan Alter and David Maraniss and David Remnick to be part of this panel. We wanted to do that. Jon Alter sent this note. He said, “Unfortunately, I have a conflict that week, so I have to pass, but I hope you can get someone else to take on Ed Klein. His book is riddled with inaccuracies. For instance, the part about Caroline Kennedy is entirely false, as Ms. Kennedy told me herself. He has a good journalistic pedigree, but is no longer an accurate reporter, which might be a problem for an organization with your mission.” Mr. Klein?
KLEIN: I actually ran into Jonathan Alter not so long ago, and he told me pretty much the same thing in not quite as objectionable a way. He said, “Where did you get that story about Caroline Kennedy?” I said, “Why do you want to know?” He said, “Well, I’m a good friend of Caroline Kennedy’s.”
CASHILL: I know Caroline Kennedy!
KLEIN: “I know Caroline Kennedy,” right. First of all, nobody is a good friend of Caroline Kennedy’s. I mean, that’s just—he said, “And she told me that what’s in your book is not true.” I said, “Jonathan, I can assure you that I would not go with the story that the Obama administration had ignored Caroline Kennedy for the last three-and-a-half years, all her efforts to get in touch with them, unless I had a basis in fact for that.” My “basis in fact” were three members of the Kennedy family, who I know because I’ve written five books about the Kennedys—all of which, by the way, were bestsellers. I know the Kennedys backwards and forwards. They’re not my friends, by the way, but I do know them, and I have great sources in the Kennedy family—and Caroline Kennedy tried desperately to get in touch with Barack Obama after the election, to give him a memo about how she could help raise money, private funds for public education. I’m not going to go into this at any length, but I just want to let Jonathan Alter know that my sources are impeccable, and I stand by them.
ARONOFF: Questions? Cliff.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 1: Can I have a mic?
AUDIENCE MEMBER 1: Thanks. Jack, I respect what you did on determining the true authorship of Dreams, but, by your own admission, if your theory is true, Ayers was dealing with material—an unfinished manuscript, notes, et cetera—that Obama gave him.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 1: To me—and I’ll talk about this later—the key question, one of the key questions, is why they decided to conceal the identity of Frank Marshall Davis, by referring to him as just “Frank.” Can you shed any light on that? What do you think the motive was? Do you think Ayers was in contact with, or part of a network that included, people like Davis? Where has your research taken you there?
CASHILL: You know, that’s an interesting question. Very few people in the book get mentioned by name at all. Jeremiah Wright is another one, but with Frank Marshall Davis, by calling him “Frank,” he did two things. One is, he dropped the trail back to the real Frank Marshall Davis, Communist pornographer—you know he’s going to have a very dark room in the Barack Obama Memorial Library. But the other thing, though, is that he tells the people in Chicago, like Vernon Jarrett and those people, “I’m in touch.” They know who “Frank” is, the rest of the world doesn’t know who he is. So it’s a little inside jab, I think, that accomplishes two things at the same time, because Jarrett was on the front lines with Davis in the Communist front movements in the late ’40s.
ARONOFF: Yes? Oh—two here, and then we’ll come to you so we can get you the mic.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 2: For Mr. Klein: Is there some chance that Barack’s—I’m going to say “tendency”—towards anger could be somewhat provoked during the debates? Is that predictable at all?
KLEIN: I think it’s a good question. As I mentioned in my remarks, when anyone in his office contradicts him he gives them what they call “The Death Stare.” We saw that in the YouTube replay of Paul Ryan challenging Barack Obama on Obamacare. I don’t know if you’ve seen that YouTube thing, but Barack Obama’s face gets into this rictus of tight smile and sneer at the same time. I think the answer is “Yes” to your question: I think that if Mitt Romney challenges him face-to-face in these debates, and provokes him, and gives him the sense that he thinks Barack Obama’s positions are absurd and ridiculous, that this could unnerve Barack Obama, because he is not accustomed to being surrounded by people who do anything except kiss his you-know-what. So I think the debates should be very interesting on that account.
ARONOFF: Yeah, Sandy
AUDIENCE MEMBER 3: Mr. Klein, Sandy Rios. How are you? I’ve interviewed you twice, from Chicago. Sandy—anyway—all right, it doesn’t matter; you’ll remember. You mentioned—You went into great length a few minutes ago to talk about all the people, the publishers and all the people in publishing, who raved and ranted about the glories of Barack Obama, then you talked about the Jewish donor who raised several hundred million, and he was raving and then, privately, he tells you, “I never hear from him.”
AUDIENCE MEMBER 3: Then you talk about black audiences, all kinds of constituencies. My question for you is, it’s one thing for them to say that, but if they never hear from him, why do you think they do that? Why are they so enamored without any feedback? What is it about him that causes them—we all see so clearly that he is vapid, he is an amateur, he’s a Leftist, he’s probably any number of other things that I’m not going to say right now. We see that clearly. Why is it that so many Americans are willing to lavish praise on him in spite of the evidence, and in spite of him even ignoring them?
KLEIN: Well, that’s a complicated question, or at least the answer is a complicated answer, because there are two things going on here simultaneously. One is the small number, relatively small number, of backers, like Penny Pritzker, who is a billionaire Chicago fundraiser—African-American people who call themselves “Day One” people because they raised money for Barack Obama’s earliest campaigns—Oprah Winfrey, Caroline Kennedy, people like that who have been frozen out, and who are very disillusioned with him, and, in fact, are not, many of them, supporting him as vigorously in 2012 as they were in 2008. A lot of Jewish donors are sitting on their wallets, for instance, this time around, and a lot African-American leaders—not the rank and file—are not happy at all, and are talking to the Romney people about helping Romney. That’s the small group of his supporters, but you’re asking a larger question—why has America, as a whole, been mesmerized by this charismatic leader? And he is a charismatic leader—I mean, I know that’s not a popular thing to say in this room, but, in fact, he may be an amateur as an executive, but he ain’t an amateur as a campaigner: He is a very good politician. He seems to be one thing in front of a great audience—this loose, cool guy with the neckties, the suits, and everything like that—and quite another thing in private. Most people don’t see the private Barack Obama, they are just taken by the public one. I think, in this day and age of television, that goes a very long way to making people think that this charismatic guy is going to save us from ourselves. I think fewer people few feel that way this time around than in 2008, but in order to defeat Barack Obama in 2012, I think we have to understand that he’s a tough campaigner, and he’s a good campaigner, and he needs to have somebody who is equally good to defeat him.
ARONOFF: Let’s see, someone who hasn’t asked—go ahead.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 4: My name is Joan Weir; I’m from Pennsylvania. I see the Romney campaign making the same mistake that the McCain campaign did: They have all this information about the Communist ties, the radical ties, of Barack Obama, but they’re not telling people about this. They’re very mum on this subject, and—
AUDIENCE MEMBER 4: —I would like to know what your opinion is —
CASHILL: Now that’s an excellent question, because I’ve had this discussion; it goes exactly to my point, and that is, unless they get support by our media, they can’t go out on that limb—he can’t introduce subjects that no one else has heard of. So if I say that Barack Obama has a Connecticut Social Security number, how many people in this room know that? How many people know why he has a Connecticut Social Security number? No one’s asked, so Romney can’t drop it in a debate, saying, “What are you doing with a Connecticut social security number?” because the audience is going to be scratching its head, unless, like, The Weekly Standard and National Review, or The Wall Street Journal, has a story on “What is Barack Obama doing with a Connecticut Social Security number?” How can he not be asked that question? That’s why Romney needs support from our media, and it’s not too late for them to do that.
KLEIN: You know, I’d like to ask Jack a question, if I might, because I’ve read Jack’s book. Fantastic book.
CASHILL: Thank you.
KLEIN: You read his book, and you go, “!” You can’t believe the stuff he’s turned up, these phrases that appear in Dreams from My Father that are parallel to phrases used in Bill Ayers’s books. The question I’d like to ask Jack—and I don’t know if we have an answer to this, Jack—
CASHILL: I have one question for you, too, by the way.
KLEIN: [The question I’d like to ask] is, given the convincing nature of your book, why do you think it hasn’t been embraced more than it has been so far?
CASHILL: I’m going to—is there someone from Media Matters here?
Part of the reason is that our people are afraid of being branded “kooks.” They live in a deathly fear of that. And so, it’s not just me. It’s anyone’s who’s advanced—for instance, we know now, and we knew this four years ago, Ed, that the story that Obama told at the ’04 and ’08 conventions, about having, you know, the goatherd, the girl from Kansas, a loving marriage, two years, when he’s two years old his father goes to Harvard—we knew that was false in 2008. The whole story was false. His mother and father never lived together. They probably never spent a night together. They may not be married. We know that he spent his first year of his life in Seattle. This is coming as news to people now, and the reason that our people, I think, don’t want to embrace it is for fear if they go out on that limb—and Andy can talk about this, because he just said two sentences good about me and he’s heard about it ever since. David Remnick denounced him as a racist for supporting me, right? He’s right, he knows what I’m talking about. Limbaugh was denounced as a racist for supporting me. Andrew Breitbart gave me one sentence in his book, and he was denounced as a racist by both Martin Bashir and Bill Maher—on TV, by the way. And that, I think, is part of what suppresses that.
My question for you now. First chapter: Do you think they set up that meeting in Chappaqua so that you would know about it? This is where the word “amateur” comes out.
CASHILL: Because I thought Hillary was going to—I thought they wanted Hillary to run in ’12.
KLEIN: Well, what he’s referring to is, at the beginning of my book, I have a scene in which Bill Clinton holds a meeting in Chappaqua, his home north of New York City, and urges Hillary to run against Barack Obama in 2012—this took place in 2011—in the Democratic primaries because he had a poll that he did, secretly, showing that she could beat him at that time. She refused to do so.
I interviewed two people who were at that meeting, people who didn’t know that I was interviewing each one of them, and they confirmed the story. Bill, at that time, said that the people around Obama didn’t understand how the real world worked, that they’d lost America its AAA credit rating for the first time in its history, and that Barack Obama is an amateur. That’s where I got the title for the book.
I’ll tell you what I learned later about that: When that story came out, I was denounced by the Hillary operation, a guy named Philippe Reines, who is her hatchet man—“Klein makes up these stories in order to make money!” But I heard, from my sources, that Hillary was amazed that I had gotten the story. She wondered who leaked the story to me, and she decided it was Chelsea who had leaked the story to me! Now, I’ve never met Chelsea Clinton; I’ve never spoken to Chelsea Clinton. She did not leak the story to me—but, apparently, Chelsea has this reputation for texting her friends about what goes on in her mother and father’s meetings. So Hillary accused Chelsea of being the leaker. She wasn’t; somebody else was.
No, I don’t think they did that. You know, David Maraniss came out with [Barack Obama: The Story]—
KLEIN: —what? Two months—
CASHILL: In June.
KLEIN: —six weeks ago, something like that?
CASHILL: In June, yeah.
KLEIN: What were there, 38 . . . ?
CASHILL: According to Buzzfeed, there were 38 misrepresentations—
KLEIN: In that book, Dreams from My Father.
CASHILL: Right, that Maraniss caught. And Maraniss only caught half of them.
KLEIN: Guess what’s happened to David Maraniss, who is, really, a member of the mainstream media? He’s a Washington Post guy, everybody loves him—they did love him. His book has disappeared.
KLEIN: Completely disappeared. Nobody wants to hear about these 38 instances—
KLEIN: —that Jack had gotten years ago.
CASHILL: The problem was that the book was too honest for the Left and too dishonest for the Right.
KLEIN: Yeah, that’s right. Exactly.
CASHILL: And I checked, because after your book had been out for like two months, it was still on the Top Ten New York Times Bestseller List—and after one month out, he was 1,600 on Amazon.
CASHILL: They must have a $2 million advance; he spent four years on that book.
CASHILL: Oh, yes. Yeah.
KLEIN: So it’s—
CASHILL: Glad to see that, by the way!
KLEIN: So the Left-wing mainstream media will suppress even their own people’s books that have anything negative to say about Barack Obama, such as the inaccuracies and misrepresentations in Dreams from My Father. I recommend Jack’s book, I really do.
CASHILL: Thank you very much.
KLEIN: It’s a fantastic book.
CASHILL: Deconstructing Obama, still available in every bookstore!
KLEIN: An excellent book.
CASHILL: By the way, with Maraniss’s book, it was interesting to see the evolution of the Seattle story, because they started writing the biographies—Remnick writes one, then Jodi Kantor writes one, The Obamas—they’re all mainstream people. Who—the woman writes one on Mrs. Obama, Ann Dunham—
KLEIN: Oh, yeah.
CASHILL: I forget her name right off the top of my head. But now they all know that [Ann Dunham] was in Seattle. We’ve known this since 2008—I’m going to give a plug here to Michael Patrick Leahy, who discovered this in the summer of 2008. But they can’t admit that she went there right after the baby was born, so they have to, like, finesse, like, six months. They had to finesse it out, finesse it out—finally, Maraniss says, “Okay, they never lived together; she was in Seattle within weeks of the child’s birth”—in fact, the first confirmed sighting of Obama is in Seattle. I mean, there is no one in Maraniss’s book who confirms the birth in Hawaii, no one in Maraniss’s book who tells us what Ann Dunham did for the six months prior. I’d just like to know. I’d like to see a picture. I’m just curious. Anyhow . . .
ARONOFF: And Maraniss said something to the effect, when questioned about these 38, “Well, I’m not a fact-checker.”
ARONOFF: He’s doing a biography—
KLEIN: How do we get ahold of Barack Obama’s application to Harvard?
CASHILL: Oh, that’s a good one.
KLEIN: If anybody could help on that, that would be interesting.
CASHILL: Right. When people were saying, “I want to see his birth certificate,” I’d say, “I’d just be happy with his SAT scores.”
ARONOFF: Well, Breitbart.com now has this $100,000 offer for anyone who brings forth the Rashid Khalidi tape—
CASHILL: Tape from the Los Angeles Times, right.
ARONOFF: —the one that the LA Times is holding.
CASHILL: Suppressed, right?
ARONOFF: Yeah. But Jack, give a little flavor of the evidence that convinces you that this book was written by Ayers. I mean, one of the more compelling things to me is, you give, like, five examples of words they misspelled, or names they misspelled, the same way.
CASHILL: Right, they misspelled, they tell stories—just quickly, Bill Ayers used to be a merchant seaman. I like, when people criticize my book, they say, “Oh, so they have a few sea words together.” No, they have 50 matching sea words! Bill Ayers was a merchant seaman for a year, so they have things like—you know, you’d have to see them all listed—words that a layman would never use, moorings and ballast and bog. Just go through the whole thing.
Let me just tell you one example that just jumped out: All the way, I had help from all over the world; my best help came from two construction guys, one working in Nebraska, one working in Colorado, who just poured through all this stuff even before I got to it. Bill Ayers tells a story in To Teach, a 1993 book; he says, “The school, they go down to the Hudson River, and one kid says, ‘Oh, look at the river, it’s flowing north.’ Then the other kid says, ‘No, it’s flowing south.’ And the teacher said ‘Oh, it’s a tidal river, where the south flow from the Hudson meets the north flow from the tides.’” Well, jump ahead two years. We’re in Dreams from My Father, Barack Obama is sitting by the East River now, right? A little kid comes up to him and says, “Mister, why is some of the water flowing north and the other’s flowing south?” He goes, “Well, it’s a tidal river, son.”
Come on! Multiply that by a hundred, multiply that by a thousand. I mean, there is no instance in the book where my mind rebels against the possibility that maybe it wasn’t that—and when you’re a ghostwriter, by the way, having done this for probably half-a-dozen books myself, you try to match the voice of your subject. You don’t put it in your own voice. That’s where—I mean, Ayers is an egotist, his own book tanked because it came out on September 11, 2001, so, yeah, I’m waiting—and he’s said on a couple of occasions, he’s taken credit for it, sort of flippantly, but I’m still waiting for him to come clean.
ARONOFF: Any more questions? Yes.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 5: Yes, I’m interested in this sort of authorship of Dreams [from] My Father for this reason—two reasons really. One is because, if it can be proved that he did not write this, that is concrete evidence that he is, let’s say, not truthful. But the other is that I think the question ought to be resolvable by technical evaluation. There ought to be software that can look at both of those two pieces of literature and say, with a certain degree of probability, “These were written by the same people.” So my question is whether you know, or whether you have submitted Bill Ayers’s book and Barack Obama’s book to some sort of software technical analysis that could pertain to that function.
CASHILL: It’s the first thing I did when I came across this. I wrote blindly into that academic establishment. I said, to certain people, “I see you’re listed as a great authority on this. Could you help me out, give me some advice?” And the advice that I got back from a guy named Patrick Juola Duquesne—I don’t know even what his politics are—very honest, said, “Don’t get into this.” He goes, “This isn’t DNA, this is polygraph. This is a very rough science, and you don’t want to subject something this important to that.” Plus the complication was that Ayers over-wrote the book; it’s not like he took it from scratch and started it. So there’s parts there that, you know, I was going through and saying, “Some parts sound much more like him than others. The good parts, especially, sound like Ayers.” That’s what it comes down to—the introspective parts. So that’s the difficulty. I did have several people volunteer to do it with their own software—every time, positive confirmation. But it wasn’t a comprehensive enough a study and I didn’t trust the studies, anyhow.
ARONOFF: Let me tell you, read the book, and you’ll see he’s better than a software program could be to deconstruct it—
AUDIENCE MEMBER 5: A software program can’t be accused of bias.
CASHILL: No, they can’t, but they’ve been wrong in the past.
ARONOFF: Yeah, so—
CASHILL: There’s a Master’s—a famous case where they were terribly wrong about a Shakespeare elegy that—I’m sorry, actually a poem—that had been found.
ARONOFF: I’d love to go on. I want to give you each one minute to wrap up here. Then we’ve got to keep moving, okay?
ARONOFF: So, Ed, you want to take one minute?
KLEIN: Well, I think the key here, of course, is the current election, which we should all keep in mind. Right now, we are reading in our papers that Barack Obama’s pulling ahead in many key states, that he’s doing well in Colorado, he’s doing well in Iowa, he’s doing well in Michigan, Virginia, et cetera, et cetera. However, there is also a poll out that the number of people who describe themselves as willing to be to influenced, or willing to keep their mind open, has actually increased. Everybody’s talking about only a 6% undecided, but I think that group is actually, according to these latest polls, considerably larger. Here’s where I think there’s an opportunity for conservatives to make the case, to these people who are open to reason, that choosing Barack Obama for a second term will lead us into a very sorry future for the United States.
CASHILL: Just a quick anecdote: About a month ago, Mitt Romney was in Michigan. He said, “No one’s asked me to see my birth certificate!” So he opened the door to a debate question, because he’s not going to raise it otherwise. Here’s what I would ask him, if it’s raised in the debate—and I think they will, because they want to embarrass him, and I think he should answer it this way: “I’m going to ask Barack Obama, why did you say when you were in your literary agency brochure in 1991 that you were born in Kenya?” I’d also say, “Where did you get that Connecticut Social Security number?” and, third, “Why did you fully fabricate the story of your origins—the story of which 95% of the people in this audience still believe? You never lived with your mother and father—they never lived together—and you spent your babyhood in Seattle, right? Just answer me those questions, and I’ll drop asking about your birth certificate in the future.”