Did Bill Ayers write Dreams From My Father?

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Will

Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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76 Responses

  1. Avatar Freddie says:

    I have to tell you, Will, I could not be less confident in this woman’s honesty after looking at that blog.Report

    • Avatar Will says:

      Agreed, but to lie so brazenly? I guess we’ll see . . .Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        ummm Will not to be overly partisan or shrill, but brazen lying has been a feature of political right for several years now. see betsy mccaughny, iraq war, “death panels”, etc.Report

      • It is strange, agreed. I just can’t square the circle of Bill Ayers randomly blurting out, “I wrote ‘Dreams from my Father’!” to some woman who approaches him at an airport Starbucks asking relatively antagonistic questions. It seems simultaneously too pat and too random to be true. I think you’re right to be extremely suspicious.Report

        • Scott – I think my explanation below is the most plausible. In fact, if I were in Ayers’ shoes in that kind of situation, a sarcastic comment claiming the most outlandish claim by that person’s crowd about me is true is exactly how I would respond.Report

        • Avatar Luke says:

          Agreed. Then again, given that the election is over and the Republican Party and its creatures can’t let go of him as a fixture of their paranoia, I can see how it would be tempting for Ayers to respond to some random rude person by confirming their worst delusional fears, or make up some new ones, given their insufferable invasion of his privacy and so on.

          If someone started to do that to me, I’d offer, ” ‘To Serve Man is a cook book! Soylent Green is people! I fathered Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden! I’m the secret 14th member of the Obama Cabinet, here to steal your precious bodily fluids–and Kraft American cheese.” Just to see how long the lag would be between crazytown and Politico running a story about how Obama hates American cheese.Report

        • That seems to be Dave Weigle’s take, as well.Report

      • Avatar Dave says:

        Actually Will, I’m inclined to not only believe Freddie but to answer your question with a resounding “yes”.

        If it’s not lying, its cognitive dissonance to a degree I haven’t seen since conservatives started blaming the Community Reinvestment Act for the financial crisis.

        I can’t treat that post as credible.Report

  2. Avatar Daniel says:

    This honestly is one of the most ridiculous rumors I’ve heard. Beyond ludicrous.Report

  3. What’s interesting though is the way the Obama’s keep getting caught in little fibs here and there. Michelle Obama lied in her Olympics speech…or at least recollected things completely inaccurately.

    George Will’s last column was brutal in its assesment. It seems to be pure vanity on their parts.Report

  4. Avatar Mike says:

    Wait, is this supposed to be a joke by Will? Cuz I normally really like this blog, but this question is just batshit.Report

    • Chill, homesqueeze. Will posted on something he thought was of interest. He explained that he is skeptical of both the general claim and specifically this woman’s claim. We don’t always write about things with which we agree.Report

  5. Avatar Bob Cheeks says:

    Will, thanks for this. Kinda made my day! She’s either a wacko or the Big O and his crew are really, really weird dudes.Report

  6. Avatar rob says:

    this story seems more credible that your run-of-the-mill allegation

    Why? Because the blogger ran into Ayers in an airport and snapped a picture of him?

    Is there a reason to believe that there’s any more substance to this than any other random allegation on the internet? It’s not evident to me from the blogger’s post (for instance: the claim that she “was skeptical” about Ayers’ story, even though she’s been posting about the connection between Ayers and Obama for a year or so, by her own admission), nor the rest of her blog, quickly scanned (which asks other important questions such as Did Michelle sit on her daddy’s knee at age 20)?Report

    • …(which asks other important questions such as Did Michelle sit on her daddy’s knee at age 20)?

      In her Olympics speech Michelle Obama said she remembered sitting in her dad’s lap watching Carl Lewis compete in the Olympics. She was 20 in 1984 when he first competed in the Olympics. Maybe this was a fib, maybe it was just a lousy recollection. The point is that it was a terrible mistake and one easily noticed by even the most casual of observers.Report

      • Avatar rob says:

        I remain unconvinced that there’s anything important about the question.Report

      • I recall going to a Giants game with a college roommate, and seeing Randy Moffit save Vida Blue’s win by striking out the side. It’s a vivid memory.

        Unfortunately, when I look it up, I see that Moffit pitched to only two batters (though he did strike them both out), and it was a year before I met the guy.

        I guess I’m a damned liar, just like Michelle.Report

    • Avatar rob says:

      I now subscribe to Mark’s theory below.Report

  7. Reading the story, I have to say that the claim about what Ayers said seems credible; the interpretation of what it means does not. By which I mean – in context, Ayers’ claim is dripping with sarcasm. He starts by saying that people shouldn’t believe everything they hear about him; she responds by saying “she knows plenty about him, and would post about the encounter, and is a conservative blogger – could she be any more confrontational and harassing? Then – and only then – after learning that she’s a conservative blogger, he seizes upon the single most outlandish claim made about him by conservative bloggers and says it’s true? Three times? Sarcasm, dude, sarcasm.Report

    • Thinking about this a little more….

      Assume for the sake of argument that Ayers really did write Dreams and really did want that story to get out. Is he really going to choose a small-time conservative blogger who is accosting him while he’s having a cup of coffee in an airport a year after the rumor started circulating, 10 months into Obama’s Presidency, and well over a decade after the book came out? To answer yes, you have to suspend disbelief even more than you need to in order to think that Vincent Chase really could have gotten offered the lead in a Scorsese movie immediately after he put together one of the worst movies of all time and was kicked off a movie to the point where production of the movie had to be canceled.

      If you have a problem suspending that kind of disbelief, then you either have to conclude that the story is entirely a hoax, or that he was just being sarcastic (and thus did not actually write Dreams). In my mind, the story is just detailed enough and odd enough that I can’t discredit it entirely as a hoax. But goddammit, as I say above, if I were in Ayers’ shoes, sarcasm is exactly how I’d respond.Report

  8. Avatar Jaybird says:

    We need something like emoticons, except for real life.Report

  9. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    Pretty funny, really. It’s sad how quickly the rightysphere will latch on to whatever ludicrous nonsense they think might score them points. There really are very few “conservatives” left on the right. Everyone has become a reactionary.Report

    • I would say that’s more a symptom of the Right’s current minority status, not a shift away from conservatism. Being out of power makes people do kooky things. See Democrats 2000-2008.Report

      • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

        I think ‘teh crazy’ is more widespread on the right then it was on the left. Or the “fringe” is wider on the right now than it was on the left then – and for reasons much less poignant. Can we really blame the left for protesting the war? I protested the damnable war. Well, I didn’t actually “protest” but I was against it/them. I can stomach protests against all the reforms and big spending that Obama is pushing, but where were the protests during Bush’s big spending? Whence the tea partiers? If the left had protested the Iraq war after gung-ho support of Clinton invading Canada or something, that would be as nutty.Report

      • Being out of power makes people do kooky things. See Democrats 2000-2008.

        Such as (that are on par with this type of kookery)?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          “Bush Knew”?Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Insofar as it’s the “Republicans” who believe that Ayers really wrote _Dreams from my Father_.

              It’s like saying “The Left” is defending Polanski. No, the left is *NOT* defending Polanski. There are a handful of people who are defending Polanski and, yes, most of them are, in fact, on “The Left” but they are no more reprsentative of The Left than the Bush Knew types were.

              Nor, for that matter, are the “Ayers Knew” folks representative of Republicans.

              Though, to be sure, the vast majority of the folks who are running with the whole “Ayers Knew” theory are, in fact, on “The Right”.Report

              • No one here accredited the belief about Ayers to Republicans. Erik mentioned “the right”. It was Mike that decided to name a particular party and it was to that claim that I was responding. And I still don’t think he’s offered much of a response.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Ah, well then.

                Let me change my answer.

                “John Kerry.”Report

              • John Kerry believes that Bill Ayers ghostwrote Dreams From My Father?!Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                No, but nominating him was “on par with this type of kookery”.Report

              • “Point Jaybird”

                Well played, good sir. Well played.Report

              • Scott,

                Were you not watching TV during the Bush years? I’m not sure how anyone can characterize the last 9 months as crazy and the 8 years of Bush as what, respectful disagreement?Report

              • Mike, let me get this straight, your contention is that the opposition to Bush voiced by Democrats during his time in office was akin to and on par with allegations that Obama is not to be trusted because we have a theory that Bill Ayers ghostwrote Dreams From My Father?

                I did watch television from time-to-time, yes. And I even read some things on the Intertubes and heard some things on the AM-FM radio. And while I would certainly concur that disagreement with and opposition to President Bush was often not expressed in a respectful manner, aside from the troofers, who are not, as far as I am aware, a constituency of the Democrats, I did not see any argumentation that approached the same tenuous grip on reality that the above conspiracy exhibits — which is, after all, what we’re discussing here.Report

              • Here are just three of the more colorful criticisms of Bush during his presidency. The last one is advocated by a professor at BYU, not some underground blogger. I think all three are on par or worse than the Bill Ayers thing, especially since two of them accuse Bush of mass murder. Now do you want to keep claiming that this Ayers thing is the worst we have seen?

                http://soldierservant.wordpress.com/2007/05/28/will-bush-declare-a-national-emergency-and-stay-in-office/

                http://debtprison.net/wordpress/191/new-orleans-residents-think-the-govt-blew-up-the-levees/

                http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=3149Report

              • Mike, your first offering is by Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party who are not, as far as I know, Democrats (and didn’t Chuck Baldwin used to be part of the Republican Party? Yes, yes he did).

                Your second offering refers to some “unnamed residents of New Orleans’ ninth ward”. And your last is an article by some woman named Christina Asquith who wrote one article for the Center for Research on Globalization and according to this article is, “a former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter, has 10 years of experience as an investigative journalist covering education”.

                So I would say that your evidence fails to make your case that Democrats were making arguments against President Bush that were along the lines of the above. Note, I have never said that the Ayers theory is the worst we have seen. All I’ve ever claimed to counter is your claim that Democrats (note: not Chuck Baldwin, not unnamed residents New Orleans’ ninth ward, and not former education reporters for the Philadelphia Inquirer ) engaged in argumentation of the same variety.Report

              • Scott,

                You are smart enough to know that there are Democrats out there that subscribe to all three theories. If nothing else, the polling data on the 9/11 attacks is well-known.

                I don’t see anything near a serious number of Republicans promoting the Ayers theory, the birther stuff or any other conspiracy theory. There is a loud minority that frankly gets more attention from the liberal media than they do internally in conservative circles.

                All I see is a lot of folks making a mountain out of a molehill. This is no different than the ridiculous claims that Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are the voice of the Right or statements like I heard from a Daily Beast reporter this morning who called Palin the ‘defacto head of the Republican Party’. It’s complete spin and frankly I am a bit surprised you buy into it.Report

        • I would say the fact that even today a healthy number of Democrats believe that Bush knew about 9/11 in advance is pretty ‘kooky’. There were also the claims that Bush wasn’t going to leave office when his term expired. Persaonlly I also think the claims that the election was stolen in 2000 were ridiculous. And all one has to do is watch video of protests during the Bush years to see all manners of insanity.Report

          • The thing is that these claims were less broad-based within the political Left at the time. To get a flavor of how widespread the craziness is on the Right at the moment, take a look at the comments thread to Allahpundit’s post on this topic this morning. Allahpundit pretty much takes the seemingly obvious view that Ayers was being sarcastic, and is getting lambasted for it, with comments running probably 10-1 against him.Report

            • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

              This is exactly right. The right overall may not believe this, but the contingent within the right that is cynical enough to latch on to these claims and use them to its advantage is much larger and stronger than any such contingent on the left during the last administration. In any case, it’s damaging to the conservative cause in the long run. That’s the important thing.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I imagine that, eventually, Hot Air will be given a choice (much like the one Kos had waybackwhen).

                Do we purge the nutters or do we not purge them?

                Kos got rid of all of the LIHOP and MIHOP folks. I daresay that his site improved as a result of that.

                Hot Air will, soon, have to make a decision about the (friggin) birth certificate types and other assorted nutterbutter topics.Report

              • Again – check any polling data on whether or not Bush knew about 9/11 in advance. There are a significant number of Democrats who believe he did. That strikes me as, “…cynical enough to latch on to these claims.”

                At the end of the day i really get tired of these ‘your side is crazier than mine’ discussions. Both sides have their lunatic fringe. The only difference I see is that conservatives in general are a tighter coalition and therefore it is assumed that wacky ideas are more widespread. Using the comment thread for a Hot Air post as anecdotal proof of this strikes me as a biased example. That would be akin to me using a FireDogLake comment thread to point out the mental state of the Left.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                On the point about Bush knowing about 9/11. I don’t, nor did I ever think, he knew specifically about what was going to happen. If he had he would have acted. However when that question is asked in a poll, most people are aware there was a memo soon before the attacks that said “bin laden determined to attack.” So it is easy to see how people could somewhat rationally feel he knew about something. I think it is more about the difficulties of polling and trying to determine what people actually think when they respond to poll questions.

                Pointing out crazy comment threads is a weak arugment. It’s nutpicking. I could point out plenty of crazy comment threads on con blogs. some that have been nutzoid for several years, not to mention the out right racism on many of them.Report

      • Avatar Katherine says:

        The vast majority of the things liberals and the left said about the Bush Administration during 2000-2008 turned out to be correct, though, not kooky. Bush invaded Iraq despite lack of evidence of WMDs. The Administration, particularly Cheney, responded to 9/11 by immediately wanting to spin in into “evidence” for an attack on Iraq, and ignored and dismissed anyone who said there wasn’t a connection. They detained hundred of innocents in Guantanamo who they claimed were “the worst of the worst”. They utilized widespread torture resulting in the deaths of at least 100 people and driving others insane, and this included the torture of people who had done nothing wrong, and even of people who were know at the time to be innocent. They infiltrated perfectly innocuous anti-war groups. And so on and so forth. It’s perfectly ridiculous to insist that liberal and left-wing opponents of Bush was crazy when they were right on almost every count, despite being disbelieved by the media and dismissed by the Bush Administration at every turn.Report

        • Avatar Gary says:

          I am not sure why people forgot that over 180,000 Kurds and countless Iranians were killed with American WMD’s given to Saddam, or the over 560,000 Iraqi’s that died during the Clinton years. That cycle of death for 1,000,000+ dead ended when we went into Iraq. The WMD’s will not be found because it will prove that we supplied them to Saddam during the Iran-Iraq war. Israeli news estimated that only 2% of the tons of nerve agents and mustard gas that were sent there, were actually used. If you do your research, you can verify. Even Wikipedia shows that over 20,000 Iranians died in just one gas attack, in one day. That is only one of many gas attacks.
          Any pre-election anti-war groups are gone today. There were a publicity stunt, just like Vietnam. Those who voted for Obama don’t give a damn about Americans dying overseas, but they certainly care more about terrorists being mistreated. Sometimes, and unfortunately, people have to die. Interrogate 100 and save 10,000, or not interrogate and 10,000 die. Would you really not interrogate and let thousand’s die?
          Have you seen that stats that over 40% of those released from Guantanamo returned to terrorism? They are killing again.
          The problem, as I see it, is that people are easily deceived by popular untruths. They don’t research on their own and just believe what they are told. If Guantanamo was so bad, why hasn’t Obama ended it?Report

  10. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Asking for clarification:

    Why does it matter if Ayers ghostwrote Dreams from my Father? Members (okay one) of my family have (okay has) been (a) ghostwriters (and, when walking through various parts of bookstores, they can point to a cover and say “so-and-so ghostwrote that and you wouldn’t believe how much he got for not having his name be on the cover or frontispiece”).

    I was raised to see ghostwriting as a fairly common thing. Why is it a big deal in this case?Report

    • I don’t think too many people would much care if it turned out that the book was ghostwritten. But given Obama’s attempts to distance himself from Ayers, thereby validating the meme that Ayers is a toxic individual in the first place, I can see it being a modestly big deal if it was Ayers who ghost-wrote the book.Report

      • I should say that the question of whether I personally would care much is a different question altogether.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Okay. I mean, normally I see one of these tempests in a teapot and I can at least understand why someone who is relatively informed and crazy within acceptable boundaries might have a strong opinion even if I don’t.

          It ain’t there for this one. It’s like watching curling.Report

          • Avatar greginak says:

            Really Jay, is personal destruction a new tactic??? Hasn’t it been made clear that every single possible aspect of everything O has done is open to criticism. Geez people have complained about Michelle O, showing her arms for hecks sake.

            Don’t piss off curler’s, their revenge comes silently in the cold night.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Oh, the whole “I don’t care about this but I’m going to use it as a cudgel” is something I understand.

              For the most part, however, it wears a mask like “how dare you not care about The Children???” and one could see how a theoretical someone *MIGHT* care about these things, even if no one in the debate really does.

              I don’t see what the theoretical person who legitimately cares in this situation would be thinking.Report

    • Avatar Bob Cheeks says:

      If His Significance didn’t write Wet Dreams of My Father, doesn’t that mean that he’s not as smart as the kooky-kinky Left says he is, what with his Harvard degree, lawyer bidness, and erudite “street organizer.”
      Just a thought?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Keep in mind: one of my relatives is someone who has ghostwritten for someone else. (Additionally, I am from the internet.)

        It is no shock to me (that is to say, NONE WHATSOEVER) when I find a real person who is an eloquent speaker and strikes me as being fairly intelligent ends up being someone who cannot write a coherent sentence when they sit down at a computer.

        It ain’t that they ain’t smart, it’s that they ain’t been trained.Report

        • I would agree with Mark – I don’t think it’s a problem that it’s ghost written (does anyone believe W’s upcoming memoirs will be in his own words?) The problem is that Obama lied during the election and said he didn’t really know Ayers. Most of the political junkies knew he was fibbing but in the absense of a photo of them watching a Bears game on Obama’s couch, it was eventually buried. No way did Ayers ghost write a book without them spending a lot of time together, which would be clear evidence that Obama was indeed lying during the election. It would be no different if we found a video of Obama in Wright’s church during one of those sermons. More proof of flasehoods.

          I don’t even care if Ayers wrote the book – I care that Obama got away with such obvious lies during the campaign.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            I care that Obama got away with such obvious lies during the campaign.

            “net tax cut” is the one that I would see as a lot easier to point to, myself.Report

            • Indeed. Those are the types of lies that concern me far more than whether someone knew someone else at some time in the past, and how well they knew them.

              Plus, there’s that whole lack of evidence that Ayers ghost-wrote the book thing.Report

            • Avatar Zach says:

              The Making Work Pay cut was one of the largest income tax cuts in history (even if few people realize they’re getting it); the AMT patch was a major cut. With those two measures, Obama delivered on a sizable fraction of his promised cuts within a month of taking office. Congress cut the MWP credit by 25% to get the total stimulus cost down, but Obama’s stuck to his income tax promises thus far. Obama’s favored health care funding mechanisms only affect the wealthy. Where’s the lie here? The cigarette tax increase?

              The vast majority of Americans have a net tax cut for the 2009 tax year relative to pre-stimulus law. If you insist on including cigarette taxes, it’s still a large majority but not the promised 95% of filers.Report

  11. Avatar Zach says:

    Claiming that the birther/tenther/FEMA trailer concentration camp/death panel/census rightwing roundup/one world currency/ghostwriting Ayers/etc nonsense has any equivalent on the left from 2000-2008 that was accepted on as wide a basis is absurd. I can think of one point of view that was held by a similar number of elected officials, activists, and intellectuals on the left during that period that was widely panned as kooky: that the evidence of WMD in Iraq was not convincing. Of course, this view was shared by the inspectors actually in Iraq, but that’s neither here nor there.

    All of the utterly insane ideas mentioned above are held and expressed by conservatives in national elected office (except for Ayers the ghostwriter, I believe), and every one of those concerns has been expressed by conservatives who regularly crack the top 5 nonfiction list or the top 5 rated TV/radio programs and written up in supposedly serious conservative publications or affiliated outlets.

    Bush knew about 9/11 (or did it himself) and vaccine hysteria are the only things I can even think of that approached the same level of support during that period, and neither of those were unique to the left.Report

    • “Bush knew about 9/11 (or did it himself) and vaccine hysteria are the only things I can even think of that approached the same level of support during that period, and neither of those were unique to the left.”

      This is all too true, actually. Many of the most passionate Truthers were Ron Paul supporters, and I’m quite certain that no small number of that group is tightly involved in birtherism and the Tea Parties. Meanwhile, few people did more to give the vaccination-autism craziness legitimacy than John McCain.Report

      • Avatar Zach says:

        As a die-hard Obama supporter, I have to point out that he’s very guilty here, too: “We’ve seen just a skyrocketing autism rate. Some people are suspicious that it’s connected to the vaccines. This person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it.”

        My hunch is that this has to do with the outsized number of influential donors in the vaccine hysteria crowd who manage to get candidates’ ears more often than they should. Not to mention RFK Jr.Report

  12. Avatar nick.t. says:

    Funnily enough, I was having dinner with Colonel Gaddafi the other day (in this wonderful greasy spoon in Chicago) and he leaned over and whispered in my ear that he was the real writer of “Dreams from my Father”. He said that the hardest thing to do was keeping the *whisper* “Kenyan stuff” out of it. Apparently he is also the “real” Lynn Vincent, but I digress. I must say, I had no idea that he was quite so versatile. Anyway, we had this marvellous discussion about whether gold was the way to go in the current economic crisis, and then he went off to do his daily stint as Jon Stewart. What a marvel he is!Report