Ghost writers and relevance
posted at 12:15 pm on October 7, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
Allahpundit and Jonah Goldberg both addressed the Bill Ayers-admits-it story regarding the presumed authorship of Dreams of My Father, credited solely to Barack Obama in the early days of his political career, with two different views. Jonah Goldberg gives the supposed admission room for truth, while Allahpundit — rightly, in my opinion — treats it as Ayers’ ridicule of conservative bloggers for their dogged pursuit of the meme. If true, Jonah says, it would make a “very big story”:
I am not sure what to make of the story that Ayers has now admitted to writing Obama’s autobiography. If it pans out, that is to my mind a very big story. Stay tuned. But I do think I should revise my earlier pooh-poohing of Jack Cashill’s effort to prove the Ayers-Obama connection.
I disagree. First, it’s hardly an earth-shaking revelation that politicians use ghost writers for memoirs, political tracts, or anything else they publish. (Here’s another: they don’t usually write their own blog posts or tweets, either.) Whether they use their staff, as they do for their daily messaging, or a professional writer for books and other lengthy efforts, they usually employ people whose business it is to know how to write, mainly because writing is too time-consuming for active politicians. Sarah Palin used a ghost writer for Going Rogue, for instance, and few people bother with it, because it’s a non-issue. Most ghost writers never get publicly acknowledged, although occasionally politicians will share writing credit.
The effort to determine whether Obama had Ayers as a ghost writer for Dreams made some sense in the presidential campaign, where the media regularly hailed Obama as a literary genius as well as a moderate who didn’t indulge in radical politics. However, even here, there were better arguments to be made than whether Ayers ghosted Dreams or participated to a lesser extent in the book. Obama and Ayers worked together repeatedly on political projects, for instance, detailed by David Freddoso in his book The Case Against Barack Obama, and the Jeremiah Wright tapes reinforced that argument much better and much clearer than speculative analyses of writing styles. As for the literary genius, Obama’s soporific follow-up, The Audacity of Hope, should have made it plain that Dreams was a one-trick pony.
But there’s a larger problem with the argument. Even if Cashill and the advocates of this position prove their case or get an admission — a real admission — what does that change? It will show what we already know about Obama and Ayers, a relationship that got plenty of New Media coverage in the campaign, and also show that Obama hired a ghost writer. Neither of these issues are relevant now that Obama is in office. Whatever relevance they had in exposing a relative unknown passed last November on Election Day. Obama will be President until at least January 2013, and his policies and record of governance is really all that’s relevant. By the 2012 election, we will have plenty to criticize about his performance without worrying about his background.
Cashill’s work might make for a good academic-interest story, but politically, it’s rather meaningless.