August 30th, 2011

Obama the writer

Jack Cashill, the author who contends that Dreams From My Father was ghostwritten by none other than Bill Ayres, analyzes the text of a letter to the editor of the Harvard Law Record that Obama wrote back in 1990, when he was president of Harvard Law Review.

It’s pretty shocking—not for its content, but for its style. Cashill has done a good deal of analyzing of Obama’s prose, although there’s not been a whole lot of it available other than Obama’s two books. That last fact, in and of itself, would be odd for a writer, because writers tend to write a lot.

Cashill contends that, except for Obama’s books, the rest of Obama’s writing contains certain stylistic ticks that are telltale signs of his authorship. All writers have them. Hemingway wrote in short clipped sentences, Faulkner long convoluted ones. I, for example, overuse the parenthesis (and I like the comma).

One of Obama’s trademarks is that he’s an awkward writer who makes elementary mistakes with subject/verb agreement. The letter to the Harvard Law Record is no exception:

The response is classic Obama: patronizing, dishonest, syntactically muddled, and grammatically challenged. In the very first sentence Obama leads with his signature failing, one on full display in his earlier published work: his inability to make subject and predicate agree.

“Since the merits of the Law Review’s selection policy has been the subject of commentary for the last three issues,” wrote Obama, “I’d like to take the time to clarify exactly how our selection process works.”

If Obama were as smart as a fifth-grader, he would know, of course, that “merits … have.” Were there such a thing as a literary Darwin Award, Obama could have won it on this on one sentence alone. He had vindicated Chen in his first ten words.

Although the letter is fewer than a thousand words long, Obama repeats the subject-predicate error at least two more times. In one sentence, he seemingly cannot make up his mind as to which verb option is correct so he tries both: “Approximately half of this first batch is chosen … the other half are selected … “

It gets worse; read the whole thing.

Why does it matter? I’m not one to say that a president has to be a good writer in order to be a good leader. But an unusual amount of Obama’s claim to qualification for the job rested, and still rests, on his superior intelligence, and many voters and pundits were drawn to him specifically because of the sensitivity and intelligence reflected in Dreams and to a much lesser extent Audacity. What do they make of the fact that little or nothing else he ever wrote demonstrates these traits, or even an ability to write at the level of an AP high school student?

Nada. It’s a case of the emperor having so few clothes that his subjects must look away lest they view his nakedness.

40 Responses to “Obama the writer”

  1. Colin Says:

    All this talk about intelligence is just hiding a preference for a cultural veneer. And in Obama’s case, a rather thin coating of paint was applied.

    The older I get, and the more I learn about the default reasoning ability of the human mind, the more I am utterly amazed this experiment in democracy has managed to last as long as it has.

  2. Joe Says:

    As I keep telling my wife (usually in regards to her ex) one’s intelligence is no indication of how smart they are.

  3. Bill West Says:

    I’m not too impressed with this line of investigation. Wouldn’t an editor at the publishing house catch an author’s grammatical errors? That isn’t to say that he actually wrote his books, but these examples simply show that he needed an editor.

    I don’t think Obama is as that smart. His silence was taken for wisdom. As he has been expected to say what he thinks, then his level of intelligence has come into view. He’s not as smart as either of the Clintons. He has been the beneficiary of a willing suspension of disbelief.

  4. Artfldgr Says:

    they constructed a false reality to get people to make decisions that they would not do otherwise…

    this is called social engineering and its replaced merit and meritocratic methods because it beats them if people are not culturally and educationally up to it

    the difference between this and soviet living is only one of degree… is there any doubt that given enough power, they would construct the whole reality of their subjects using social engineering knowledge and so, control them rather than serve them?

    and whatever peccadilloes in their mentality, will come thorough in their variation of the ideological actualization…

    Marx invented social engineering, and a morality to justify it, and a system of power acquisition…

    he was paid by who?

    a collective of poor people who pooled their money to buy a smart guy to come up with an ideology for them to re-acquire their rule over the aristocracy?

    or a group of aristocrats who could see their being turned into clerks with limited power and used their wealth to buy a smart guy go come up with an ideology to re-acquire their rule over the common man lost through the industrial revolutions distribution of capital away from aristocracy and incompetence and to merit?

    call me funny, but the first cant tie their shoes, and as crabs in a bucket pull each other down.

    so the second is more apt, and given that there are tons of quotes to confirm it… we ignore that and believe the first

    Potemkin village

    is an idiom based on a historical myth. According to the myth, there were fake settlements purportedly erected at the direction of Russian minister Grigory Potemkin to fool Empress Catherine II during her visit to Crimea in 1787. According to this story, Potemkin, who led the Crimean military campaign, had hollow facades of villages constructed along the desolate banks of the Dnieper River in order to impress the monarch and her travel party with the value of her new conquests, thus enhancing his standing in the empress’s eyes.

    funny… but AFTER They decalare it MYTH in that first paragraph, they then say:

    Modern historians are divided on the degree of truth behind Potemkin villages. While tales of the fake villages are generally considered exaggerations, some historians dismiss them as malicious rumors spread by Potemkin’s opponents. These historians argue that Potemkin did mount efforts to develop the Crimea and probably directed peasants to spruce up the riverfront in advance of the Empress’s arrival. According to Simon Sebag-Montefiore, Potemkin’s most comprehensive English-language biographer, the tale of elaborate, fake settlements with glowing fires designed to comfort the monarch and her entourage as they surveyed the barren territory at night, is largely fictional.

    according to historians they dont detail, Jesus and lincoln were gay…

    and ya got to love simons history

    Simon’s father, a doctor, is descended from a famous line of wealthy Sephardic Jews who became diplomats and bankers all over Europe. At the start of the 19th century, by playing the markets based on intelligence about the Battle of Waterloo, Simon’s great-great uncle, Sir Moses Montefiore, became a banking partner of N M Rothschild & Sons. By contrast, Simon’s mother, April, a novelist, comes from a Lithuanian Jewish family of poor scholars. Her parents fled the Russian Empire at the turn of the 20th century. They bought tickets for New York City but were cheated and dropped off at Cork, Ireland. During the Limerick boycott of 1904 they left Ireland, despite offers of hospitality in Irish homes, and moved to Newcastle, England.

    hmmm…he would be on WHICH SIDE of this game?

    Montefiore’s books are world bestsellers, published in 33 languages. His first history book, Catherine the Great & Potemkin, was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson, Duff Cooper, and Marsh Biography Prizes

    Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar won History Book of the Year at the 2004 British Book Awards

    Young Stalin won the LA Times Book Prize for Best Biography

    yeah, he is trustworthy…

    the piont is that they revisoned the potemkin.. the point of potemkin is that one can construct artificial realities for the purpose of controlling people.

    most of the time, we as people do this on short term. for a scam… much like the one that shorted the jewish historian and put his family in ireland…

    a more elaborate one would be bernie madoff

    a even more elaborate one is a zeitgeist established from external tweaking over 100 years.

    and even MORE elaborate is when they take over and impose that zeitgeist permanently…

    hitler was way too fast… his ideas sans war would have had permanence… but he rushed it… stalin and others realized this… you can read it… but no one wants to read their own words (what thye make up is so much better, no?)

    “Potemkin village” has also been used to describe the attempts of the Soviet government to fool foreign visitors. The government would take such visitors, who were often already sympathetic to socialism or communism, to select villages, factories, schools, stores, or neighborhoods and present them as if they were typical, rather than exceptional. Given the strict limitations on the movement of foreigners in the USSR, it was often impossible for these visitors to see any other examples

    this is where you get the westerners like hanoi jane and others who believe cause they see it with their own eyes…

    the new doccumentarist on health care showing us how great is is in cuba was this kind of thing

    BBC series reported that in 1952 Doris Lessing, a British writer who has since won the Nobel Prize for Literature, was part of a delegation visiting the Soviet Union. Her memories of the trip are clear and unforgiving: “I was taken around and shown things as a ‘useful idiot’… that’s what my role was. I cannot understand why I was so gullible.”


    The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw and American journalist Walter Duranty also visited the Soviet Union. They mingled with political leaders, were escorted into the countryside by Stalin’s secret police, and returned home to speak and write of “a land of hope” with “evils retreating before the spread of communism”. However as stories mounted of mass murder and starvation in parts of Russia and Ukraine, reporters such as Gareth Jones and Malcolm Muggeridge investigated and reported on “the creation of one enormous Belsen”. Duranty responded with an article in the New York Times headed “Story of the famine is bunk”, and got an exclusive interview with Stalin. Duranty was awarded a Pulitzer Prize.

    duranty and the times wont give that one back!

    and we still live with the argument between what they said was real and what is real

    and now, we have that same game in our own place.

    the lies obama tells, and the lies of the left and all that stuff…

    is about building a potemkin reality

    and of course… its a MIND PRISON


    until you learn your in it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Artfldgr Says:

    by the way

    Neo and everyone misses the most important part of his letter.

    he admits to being an affirmative action appointee…

    and that he never noticed a difference…

    I respect Mr. Chen’s personal concern over the possible stigmatizing effects of affirmative action, and do not question the depth or sincerity of his feelings. I must say, however, that as someone who has undoubtedly benefited from affirmative action programs during my academic career, and as someone who may have benefited from the Law Review’s affirmative action policy when I was selected to join the Review last year, I have not personally felt stigmatized either within the broader law school community or as a staff member of the Review. Indeed, my election last year as President of the Review would seem to indicate that at least among Review staff, and hopefully for the majority of professors at Harvard, affirmative action in no way tarnishes the accomplishments of those who are members of historically underrepresented groups.

  6. Artfldgr Says:

    More potemkin:

    He blew $2.2 million on twin Canadian-made buses for the tour….

    The Manchurian Moonbat actually flew from point to point, then rode a bus from the airport for show

    and putin is doing the harley davidson, finding rare pottery instantly upon swimming at a beach, and karate… for what reason?

    and mao and stalin had lots of images created with children…

    anyone notice recent obama pictures with lots of children?

    as time goes by, he is MORE like it than LESS like it

    Like Obama, the buses were flown from place to place — at staggering public expense.


    just like his Riefenstahl campaign…

  7. Jack Says:

    Artfldgr is absolutely correct. The money quote is:

    “I must say, however, that as someone who has undoubtedly benefited from affirmative action programs during my academic career, and as someone who may have benefited from the Law Review’s affirmative action policy when I was selected to join the Review last year…”

    Why would the “smartest person in evey room he enters” and “the most intelligent U.S. president in history” need affirmative action to help him advance every step of the way in his academic life?

    If Obama truly has the “superior intelligence” that we are constantly reminded he possesses, wouldn’t any admissions committee be struck by the evidence of it and vault him to the top of their lists even before looking at what box he checked off next to “race”?

    Unfortunately, Obama’s re-election strategy will rely upon the pounding the public with the notion of his brilliance (based on the schools he attended and “Dreams”), while deriding his Republican opponent as an uneducated, illiterate, slack-jawed imbecile. Anyone who points out that Obama is a self-professed affirmative action case will predictably be called a “liar” and “racist”.

  8. Libby Says:

    I’m glad the letter was published, regardless of whether or not it can be used to determine his ability to write “Dreams from My Father”. I’d like to see other documents from Obama’s past, as it seems that so much of what we know about him has been kept from public view.

  9. Wry Mouth Says:

    I still maintain that it is not The Emperor who has no clothes; it is an empty suit of clothes that has no Emperor.

  10. Rich R Says:

    Speaking of rambling and off topic, shouldn’t Neo consider banning Artfldgr? I mean, his comments are invariably verbose, turgid, and filled with non seqiuturs. I never see the value in anything he/she has to say.

    Okay “ban” is strong — but how about word limits?

  11. Rich R Says:


  12. vanderleun Says:

    No, no, NO! Artfldgr is a critical part of the ecosystem here. You have to understand that you are dealing with a seething cranium and that in the midst of much rambling are nuggets of gold.

    I have had my way with the dgr at other times and I know whereof the codgers speak, but upon reflection I find that his writing is not only enjoyable in its stylistic eecummingsesque prose style but his links lead to places one would never know about.

    Scroll past if you like ( Hint: just keep hitting the space bar like a rat trying to get another pellet from a Skinner box.) but the Artfldgr stays!

  13. CV Says:

    Pithy he is not, but if this were a Facebook page I would “like” the dgr.

  14. SteveH Says:

    Obama said…”"affirmative action in no way tarnishes the accomplishments of those who are members of historically underrepresented groups.”"

    So privledge and preferential treatment to aquire life accomplishments is ok depending on your heritage. And this is different from how the 1850 plantation owner justified his privledge…In what way?

  15. holmes Says:

    The Great Gatsby presidency.

  16. Occam's Beard Says:

    Obama said…””affirmative action in no way tarnishes the accomplishments of those who are members of historically underrepresented groups.””

    This amused me, too.

    “Drop your pants. Hmmm. Yep, your ass is brown all right. Vanna, tell the man what he’s won.”

    No tarnishing of accomplishments there. Nosir. Pure merit and richly deserved achievement, that is.

  17. Richard Aubrey Says:

    It would distress me to think anybody’s been keeping track of my letters here. But if you don’t have a life, you’ll know I’m particularly interested in the reactions of zero’s supporters to the various catastrophes attending his admin, and the manifestations of any changes they may be feeling, and delighting in any public embarrassments which may be anticipated, including climbing down. Which I don’t expect I’ll be making easy for them.

  18. Bob from Virginia Says:

    Richard A: Obama’s supporters deny his administration had any catastrophes. Everything he did was brilliant, us rubes are too low on the evolutionary scale to understand.

    BTW I kid you not; AOS has a post about a scholar who concluded that because O hasn’t had any major scandals or foreign policy catastrophes, among other things, he will almost certainly be re-elected.

    I guess the sole criteria for whether a decision a flawed is whether the MSM harps on it for weeks on end.

  19. neo-neocon Says:

    Bill West: you would be correct if the difference between this letter of Obama’s and Dreams was merely grammar, such as subject/verb agreement. That, an editor can fix. The difference between Obama’s letters and other known writings and Dreams requires a ghostwriter. And ghostwriters are not ordinarily provided relative unknowns who are writing their first books. Cashill’s thesis is that Obama himself provided one.

  20. Don Says:

    It seems to me that the lack of major scandals is mostly a lack of MSM interest in such. Fast and Ferious is a major scandal, even if it isn’t being covered in the MSM. There have been other administration scandals, none of which interested the media, and none of which interested the Democrats who controlled both the House and Senate during 2009 and 2010.

  21. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Bill West. Yes, an editor fixes grammar and suchlike.
    Point is, a really well-educated person doesn’t submit such stuff in the first place.
    Editing is still necessary, but a good writer, an Ivy student, no less, does not make those mistakes.
    Reminds me of a company clerk I knew in the Army whose first language was other than English. For shorthand, I told him that either the noun or the verb has an “s”. Not both, not neither. Got him out of most trouble.
    Still, there were some graduate engineers in Air Defense. Those guys….

  22. betsybounds Says:

    Joe, with all due respect and recognition of the possibility that you may have been making a joke, still I must note: “As I keep telling my wife (usually in regards to her ex) one’s intelligence is no indication of how smart they are.” They? Really? Who are “they?”

    It reads, actually, as though you meant, “This guy’s intelligence is no indication of how smart those people over there are.”

  23. Parker Says:

    Rich R Says: blah, blah.

    If you don’t appreciate something pass it by, no one is forcing you to read Artfldgr’s posts. We are all guests here, not proprietors.

  24. Parker Says:

    “.. an Ivy student, no less, does not make those mistakes.”

    Whipping a dead horse with glee; I wish to note I still want to see his Occidental, Columbia, and Harvard transcripts.

  25. Occam's Beard Says:

    Everything he did was brilliant, us rubes are too low on the evolutionary scale to understand.

    No matter how smart you are, there’s somebody smarter. In fact, probably a hell of a lot of people who are smarter. An IQ of 145 means someone is pretty smart, right? That translates to the top 0.5% of the population. So far, so good – until you realize that 0.5% only amounts to 1/200. Yeah. A high school with 1000 students figures to have about five people every bit as smart – or smarter – than you are. And half of them will end up as baristas at Starbuck’s.

    So much for smarts. Smart people are two a penny. Obama types are four a penny.

  26. Curtis Says:

    Great point, Occam.

    Michelle Malkin nails the point further in response to a questions about Perry’s smarts. In particular, the question, by Megan Kelly, asks “Does it make it illegitimate just because of who’s asking it?”

    Go to time of 4:40 in the interview for, what I think, is a brilliant reply by Michelle:

  27. RandomThoughts Says:

    It’s a case of the emperor having so few clothes that his subjects must look away lest they view his nakedness.

    That’s so perfect I will have to steal it and use it elsewhere.

    Regarding Obama’s intellect, he lost me at “57 states.”

  28. Rich R Says:


    Your advice applies to your comment, too, right?

    If we’re all “guests” then does it not follow that some make better guests than others?

  29. Daniel Says:

    Good lord.

    I had to take a proficiency test to graduate with a BA from a Virginia college (an interesting but valuable requirement for graduation) that consisted of a 1,000 word essay in which there could be no more than 3 structural errors such as the one Obama makes in his first sentence.

    How did this guy get into Harvard? For that matter, how did he even make it through undergrad school?

  30. SteveH Says:

    I forget who said…”The growing problem in the world is too many people are educated beyond their level of intelligence”.

  31. Highlander Says:

    I hestitate to judge Obama’s, or anyone else’s intellect. There’s just no reliable way to measure it. Besides, as an old friend of mine used to say, “there’s all kinds of smarts.”

    Obama’s education however, is another matter. Some of his statements – the “corpsman” and “Austrian as a language” gaffes come to mind – show evidence of some serious gaps in knowledge that, I believe are evidence of a lazy student and too many activist teachers willing to pass along a clever but disinterested minority student, via the corrosive societal pipeline that is affirmative action.

    It is an extremely painful lesson for us as a nation to have to learn – just how dangerous this system of unjust preferences can be. But we – that is to say an electoral majority of us – must learn it, such that it can never happen again.

  32. texexec Says:

    “I, for example, overuse the parenthesis (and I like the comma).”

    Me too.

  33. Don Carlos Says:

    You are making the mistake of buying in to the mystique that admission to Harvard and the other elite academies is based on intrinsic merit and ability.

  34. Artfldgr Says:

    Rich R,
    Don’t worry rich… i am planning to leave…

    No reason to be anymore… neo knows why…

    Just a matter of time I hope… then you can be happy with everyone else too. No?

    Turns out that people like you are a major reason / you have no room in the world for people like me / and you go out of your way to make it known that if I was someone else, you might like me, but as long as I am ME… then what? I can’t be what you want, even if I wanted to…

    I can only be me, and me isn’t good enough, is it?
    To tell you the truth… it’s ok. I don’t want to be in a world that has people like you…

    You make the world a sick place of pain, misery, and hatefulness, and normalized sadism, just by existing
    I may not write well enough to entertain you…

    But you have neither written well, written anything useful, nor done much other than…. What?

    I may be a walking encyclopedia, but what value is a dictionary like you with blank pages, and who has to be negative to strangers to feel larger than a midget flea?

    How much did you enjoy the narcissistic fantasy of others joining your cause and hurting someone with your words and feeling the power of a tiny army of misfits banishing someone for failing to meet your literary standards?

    You say I have no value, but to tell you the truth, being bait to expose such cancerous people of you has more value to the world than being the cancer…

    By what right do you, a guest in someone else’s home, make demands to remove another guest who has done you no harm?

    Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time.

    Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines

    Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
    The time is gone, the song is over,
    Thought I’d something more to say.

    In all the years writing here and even seeing people write longer than me and not be attacked…

    I have never asked once for someone else to defend me, quite the contrary

    I never thought so erroneously big of myself to think myself so important that someone else should be ousted for not being what I want them to be.

    OR try to manipulate and use social power to try to form a group to attack someone else in some form of commiseration of pain (and personal pleasure)

    The world will be a better place without me, right Rich R?

    I have no value; Rich R declared it… right Rich R?

    I am not equal to you, so i make you look bad and have to go, right Rich R?

    If I didn’t make you look bad, then why would you care?

    You took the hallway monitor strap they gave you too seriously?

    You would appear so much better without someone like me to make you look bad, yes Rich R?

    The Tall poppy must go! He doesn’t entertain “King Shiza the Chotsky” declares it…

    A decent society where everyone has a place is not possible with idjit mofo’s like you…

    Intolerant, judgmental, lazy, shiftless, manipulative, hateful, and more – including disarming when someone pegs your negative butt to the wall.

    People like you could sour heaven…

    Why would I ever want to live forever in heaven if I have to remember the kindnesses of people like you for eternity? Complete strangers who have nothing good to say to another person they don’t know., but like some passive aggressive mental patient think hurting them for their enjoyment and pretending its some form of social help and lesson…

    Perhaps I should crawl into a box?

    For there was no room in the life boat named earth for me, right?

  35. Alex Bensky Says:

    I’m sure the president will do well on an IQ test–I do myself, although that’s mostly because I’m a good test-taker. But the penetrating intelligence, the preternaturally wise insights, the high rhetoric that summons us all to a better future–where is it? Which of his speeches will be worth reading fifty years from now, although many of Churchill’s indubitably are?

    And it’s not the “corpse-man,” the “Austrian language,” or “fifty-seven states” as such. We all makes these gaffes in speaking every day. I do, and most of you do as well.

    It’s that when it’s George Bush this is proof presumptive that he’s an idiot; when it’s Barack Obama it’s simply ignored.

    By the way, I’ve read “Dreams..” It was pretty good but the claim that it’s the best memoir even written by a US president is sheer, unadulterated applesauce–that prize would have to go to US Grant, if no one else.

  36. vanderleun Says:

    Now now, artfl, you need to stick around to see who you will be when who you are now has faded out…. stay curious…. that person will be a very interesting person to know. Trust me on this.

    As you know, things change — but they don’t change overnight but rather over decade. And that really doesn’t take long.

  37. Gringo Says:

    Alex Bensky
    By the way, I’ve read “Dreams..” It was pretty good but the claim that it’s the best memoir even written by a US president is sheer, unadulterated applesauce–that prize would have to go to US Grant, if no one else.

    When Lincoln was asked why he kept Grant in command after suffering horrific losses in the 1864 campaigns, Lincoln’s reply was, “He fights.” Which was a definite contrast to McClellan.

    Had Lincoln lived to read Grant’s memoir, he could have also said of Grant, “He writes.”

  38. Gringo Says:

    Artfldgr, please carry on. When I have the patience to read your long essays, I learn a lot.

  39. Perfected democrat Says:

    “But an unusual amount of Obama’s claim to qualification for the job rested, and still rests, on his superior intelligence, and many voters and pundits were drawn to him specifically because of the sensitivity and intelligence reflected in Dreams…”

    Idiots look pretty smart to fools…

  40. Parker Says:

    Rich R says,


    Your advice applies to your comment, too, right?

    Of course, you are free to pass by anything I post, its no skin from my back. Your opinion of me matters not to me. The opinions of no one, with the exception of my family and close friends, matters to me.

    “If we’re all “guests” then does it not follow that some make better guests than others?”

    Indeed this is true. Ever go to a cocktail party and come across a person who bores you to tears or annoys you? If the answer is yes, do you not have the freedom to simply walk away?

    BTW, FIFWASIWTSDS. If that acronym confounds you, you’re too young.

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