I happened to catch David Remnick on television the other day pluggng his new biography of President Obama, The Bridge. It was the first time I’d ever seen New Yorker editor Remnick, and I was transfixed by the hushed and awed NPR-ish tones in which he spoke almost worshipfully of Obama.
We were used to hearing that sort of Obama veneration during the campaign. But it’s extraordinary that Remnick has managed to hold onto it so long, in the face of so much evidence that would tend to topple the pedestal on which anyone but a man who had long ago abandoned any pretense of objective critical thinking might have placed Obama.
For example, take the title of Remnick’s book, which, according to a review in the New York Times:
…refers to the bridge in Selma, Ala., where civil rights demonstrators were violently attacked by state troopers on March 7, 1965…[and] the observation made by one of the leaders of that march, John Lewis, that “Barack Obama is what comes at the end of that bridge in Selma”…[and] the hope voiced by many of the president’s supporters that he would be a bridge between the races, between red states and blue states, between conservatives and liberals, between the generations who remember the bitter days of segregation and those who have grown up in a new, increasingly multicultural America.
This reference to the racial-healing promise of Obama doesn’t appear to have been meant in an ironic, wistful, looking-back sort of way. According to the Times review of the book, Remnick seems to believe that Obama is still a bring-us-all-together kind of guy, whose ” impulse was to try to reconcile or synthesize opposing views. Perhaps it’s also an inclination that explains why he made such a concerted effort last year to try to get Republican support on a health care bill.”
Yes indeed; some “bridge.” The only reconciling effort that occurred there was the use of reconciliation to pass that one-sided monstrosity.
Jack Cashill has a different take on Remnick’s book. Cashill is the man who’s been asserting for quite some time that Bill Ayers ghost-wrote Dreams From My Father for Obama, and he thinks that Remnick’s research has unwittingly supplied more support for Cashill’s case, as well as adding some other interesting information about Obama’s academic history.
First, just to let you know how Remnick operates, here’s Cashill on Remnick’s presentation in The Bridge of Cashill’s credentials:
In the way of credentials, Remnick allows me no discernible Ph.D. in American studies, no Fulbright, no articles in Fortune or the Wall Street Journal, no well-received book on intellectual fraud, no books at all.
Remnick describes me a “little-known conservative writer, magazine editor, and a former talk-radio-show host.” The “little-known” stands in obvious contrast to the well-known, Princeton-educated, Washington Post-groomed New Yorker editor Remnick. The “talk-radio” I did as a sideline more than ten years ago. Remnick intends the reference as a slight.
More damning still, I have done my writing for “right-wing Web sites, including American Thinker and World Net Daily,” obscure dwarf stars in the “Web’s farthest lunatic orbit.” (FYI, the American Thinker editors have better credentials than Remnick or I.)
Next, we have from Remnick the first news of Obama’s undergraduate academic record that I’ve ever come across. And remember, the information Cashill cites here hails from a book written by an Obama admirer:
At Columbia, Remnick tells us, Obama was an “unspectacular” student. Northwestern University communications professor John McKnight reinforces the point, telling Remnick, “I don’t think [Obama] did too well in college.”
McKnight, a Chicago friend, wrote a letter of reference for Obama to attend Harvard Law School. Remnick assures us that Obama was a “serious” student at Columbia, just not a particularly good one. Still, Obama finessed his way into a law school that chooses its 500 new students each year from 7,000 applicants whose LSAT scores generally chart in the 98th to 99th percentile range and whose GPAs average between 3.80 and 3.95…Obama certainly did not write well when he was at Columbia. Remnick charitably describes the one article Obama wrote for Columbia’s weekly news magazine, Sundial, as “muddled,” and he is referring only to the content.
But Cashill is especially interested in this:
Unfortunately, as Jerry Kellman, the organizer who recruited Obama to Chicago, informed Remnick, “[Obama] told me that he had trouble writing, he had to force himself to write.”…[and] Still, for all of Obama’s presumed literary talents, it strikes even Remnick a bit strange that “he never published a single academic article.”
The plot (to coin a phrase) thickens even more when we come to Remnick’s treatment of the writing of Dreams From My Father (which he believes was most definitely written by Obama). Here’s Cashill referring back to Remnick’s book and the information contained therein:
In 1991, Obama also began to work in earnest on the book that he had contracted to write for Poseidon, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. “The advance was reportedly over a $100,000,” Remnick writes. “Obama received half of that amount on signing the contract.”
By 1991, Obama had met Michelle, and the two indulged in a social life that would have left Scarlett O’Hara dizzy. Writes Remnick, “He and Michelle accepted countless invitations to lunches, dinners, cocktail parties, barbecues, and receptions for right minded charities.” Obama also joined the East Bank Club, a combined gym and urban country club, and served on at least a few charitable boards.
Obama’s obligations were taking their toll. “Obama had missed deadlines and handed in bloated, yet incomplete drafts,” Remnick tells us. Simon & Schuster lost patience. In late 1992, weeks after the Obamas’ marriage, the firm canceled the contract…
At the time, the Obamas, still childless, were making well into six figures between them as they partied their way through progressive Chicago’s frenzied social life. According to Remnick, Bill Ayers and weatherwoman bride Bernadine Dohrn played a highly visible role in that life. Remnick calls them collectively the “Elsa Maxwell of Hyde Park.”
After his agent secured Obama a smaller contract with the Times Books division of Random House, Barack decamped to Bali — Bali? — in early 1993 in the hope that he would be able to finish the book without interruption. The sojourn proved fruitless. He still could not produce.
Remnick papers over the two years between Bali and the book’s 1995 publication. He quotes Henry Ferris, the Times Book editor, to bolster Obama’s claim to authorship. Ferris “worked directly with Obama,” Remnick tells us, but Ferris edited in New York while Obama wrote in Chicago. Ferris would have had no way of knowing just how much of the editing or writing Obama was doing himself.
In late 1994, Obama finally submitted his manuscript for publication. Remnick expects the faithful to believe that a mediocre student who had nothing in print save for the occasional “muddled” essay, who blew a huge contract after more than two futile years, who wrote no legal articles, and who turned in bloated drafts when he did start writing, somehow found the time and inspiration during an absurdly busy period of his life to write what Time Magazine would call “the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician.”
Cashill (with the assistance of Remnick) reports. You decide.