The Washington Times - October 30, 2008, 11:35PM


I’ve called this year’s presidential campaign “a battle of books.”



The candidacy of Sen. Barack Obama, particularly, has been underpinned by a memoir, “Dreams from My Father,” which, most would agree, sets him far apart from the usual run of presidential pulp literature.


His proficiency as a writer is undoubtedly one of the reasons Mr. Obama appeals to a cadre of intellctually-inclined conservatives — “Obamacons,” they’re now routinely referred to — who ordinarily would never consider voting for a liberal Democrat. His considerable (for a modern American politician, at least) literary talent must say something of the quality of his mind, the thinking goes.


“I’ve read Obama’s books, and they are first-rate,” wrote satirist-novelist Christopher Buckley in his attention-grabbing endorsement of the Illinois senator. “He is that rara avis, the politician who writes his own books.”


So it’s no small matter to consider whether Obama actually wrote his books. If it were proven that “Dreams” or its follow-up, “The Audacity of Hope,” had been ghostwritten, Obama’s credibility, and quite possibly his candidacy, would be gravely undermined.


Efforts in search of such a revelation, however, have been comically inept.


Jack Cashill, “literary detective,” has been on the case now for weeks, deconstructing “Dreams” and comparing it with passages in William Ayers’ memoir “Fugitive Days.” He believes Mr. Ayers, Mr. Obama’s notorious Hyde Park acquaintance/pal/whatever, helped substantially with the book.


The evidence, such as it is, leaves much to be desired — notwithstanding the scholarly tone that Mr. Cashill affects.


Mr. Cashill finds it especially suspicious that both Mr. Obama and Mr. Ayers make liberal use of “nautical metaphors.”


Mr. Ayers, he avers, was a merchant marine who knows from matters maritime. Mr. Obama, meanwhile, could not possiblly possess such detailed knowledge of the sea. Writes Mr. Cashill:


“Both books use ‘storms’ and ‘horizons’ both as metaphor and as reality. Ayers writes poetically of an ‘unbounded horizon,’ and Obama writes of ‘boundless prairie storms’ and poetic horizons — ‘violet horizon,’ ‘eastern horizon,’ ‘western horizon.’


Ayers often speaks of ‘currents’ and ‘pockets of calm’ as does Obama, who uses both as nouns as in ‘menacing calm’ or ‘against the current’ or ‘into the current.’


The metaphorical use of the word ‘tangled’ might also derive from one’s nautical adventures. Ayers writers of his ‘tangled love affairs’ and Obama of his ‘tangled arguments.’ “


It can’t merely be coincidence that two writers could independently employ such rarely-used metaphorical language, can it?


Mr. Cashill: “My own semi-memoir, ‘Sucker Punch,’ offers a useful control. It makes no reference at all, metaphorical or otherwise, to fog, mist, ships, seas, oceans, calms, storms, wind, waves, horizons, harbors, ports, panoramas, moorings, or to things howling, fluttering, knotted, ragged, tangled, or murky.”


If that’s not slam dunk, Q.E.D., that-settles-it proof, then I don’t know what it is.


I mean, just think of how infrequently you hear phrases like “against the tide,” “flying the flag,” “beacon of hope” and “lost bearings.”


Surely, Barack Obama would have been better off using timeworn cliches than cribbing from Bill Ayers.