Conservative author Jack Cashill has set himself up as a literary Sherlock Holmes, and the mystery he is determined to solve is why the eloquent President Obama couldn't possibly have written his best selling 1995 memoir "Dreams From My Father." The book is beautifully written and yet, in Cashill's opinion, Obama is - and always was - a crappy writer.
Hence, the stink that fills the detective's nose.
The clues Sherlock has uncovered point to one man as the mastermind behind Obama's pearls: Bill Ayers. He's the one-time Obama acquaintance and 1960s radical who prompted Sarah Palin to quip during the presidental campaign that the Democratic candidate had been "palling around with terrorists."
Cashill lit the fuse on his literary bomb last year during the presidential race and it burned feebly for a bit then sputtered out.
Now he's back with it.
On Sunday, he posted on the conservative website American Thinker what he calls the latest breakthrough in his research - following on four earlier installments beginning in October 2008. The National Review called Cashill's first blast on October 9 a "thorough, thoughtful, and alarming" analysis.
Salon deemed the latest offering "the sort of crazy that tends to get purchase in the fever swamps." The Cashill campaign has yet to click with mainstream conservatives.
A busy scribbler himself, Cashill has published five books, including "Hoodwinked: How the Intellectual Hucksters Have Hijacked American Culture," has written for mainstream and fringe media, and is executive editor of Ingram's Magazine, a Kansas City business publication.
To reach his conclusions on "Dreams," he compared Ayers's language in his books, such as "A Kind and Just Parent" and "Fugitive Days," to the words and phrasing in Obama's memoir.
Here's a sampling of the clues that convince Cashill that Ayers is Obama's secret wordsmith.
Both Obama and Ayers cite poet Carl Sandburg and misquote him in the same way. They use the phrase "hog butcher to the world" when Sandburg wrote "hog butcher for the world."
Both authors use the phrase "beneath the surface" repeatedly.
Both speak of power, its use and misuse. In Ayers' "Fugitive Days," the word "power" or some form of it crops up 75 times; in Obama's "Dreams" 83 times.
Both write excessively about eyes. In Ayers' work, there are "sparkling," "laughing," "twinkling" eyes; in Obama's, there are "sparkling," "laughing," "twinkling" eyes.
Both men are fixated on eyebrows, to the point of a fetish, Cashill asserts: six references in "Fugitive Days" - "bushy," "flaring," "arched." Seven references in "Dreams": "bushy," "heavy," "wispy."
Both authors summon the phrase "bill of particulars," a legal usage that sent Cashill racing to his dictionary.
Sherlock has benefited from anonymous sleuths digging on their own and supplying him with clues. One, whom he refers to as Mr. West, came up with "759 striking similiarities between Dreams and Ayers' work."
In his earlier writings, Cashill identified a shared usage of cooking metaphors: Ayers calls his students' immersion in cultural study a "thick stew." Obama makes reference to a "stew of voices." Both use the word "skillet."
Both men write of rage in its many varieties. Ayers: "justifiable rage," "uncontrollable rage," "blind rage." Obama: "suppressed rage," "coil of rage."
Why does Cashill obsess on all of this? He's out to prove that Obama has fraudulently sold the American public on his intelligence - Obama just ain't smart enough, in Cashill's eyes, to pull off what Time Magazine called "the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician."
"Even if someone benign had ghostwritten the book it would present a problem for Obama," Cashill writes. More to the point, he adds, "If it were revealed that the ghostwriter is Ayers, it would suggest that Ayers has played a major role all along in the shaping of Barack Obama."
Surprisingly, few people have taken Cashill to task for his claims. Yet following Cashill's announcement Sunday, a blogger named Scott Eric Kaufman, who says he has a PhD in English from the University of California at Irvine, did a little of his own sleuthing.
Among his findings:
"Hog butcher to the world" - not an uncommon slip-up.
Kaufman did a Google book search and found that a legion of authors have made the same mistake. Count among them: Saul Bellow, S.J. Perelman, Ezra Pound, Paul Krugman, Langston Hughes, Andrei Codrescu.
Fascination with eyes. Eyes have mesmerized writers throughout history. Kaufman quotes passages from Gertrude Stein and Samuel Beckett.
"Bill of particulars." This legal phrase that stumped Cashill would understandably be part of Obama's vocabulary, Kaufman points out, because the president is, after all, a lawyer. Ayers, though he's not a lawyer, would likely know a thing or two about legal jargon, given his history.
Now where does all this literary sleuthing take us?
When Cashill received Mr. West's 759 similiarities, he said he was "blown away."
It has come to my attention that Lenny Kravitz used the identical language in describing the first time he saw The Jackson Five perform. "I was just blown away," he said.
Let's not speculate on Lenny Kravitz's influence on Cashill.
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