Since I’ve been paged, and since it’s being discussed in the comments, and since some people are thick enough to believe Cashill possesses “evidence” that requires “ironiz[ing] away,” I believe it’s time to reconvene the standards committee and remind people—via embarrassment—what the source of their “evidence” considers an “A-level match”:
As all actual, practicing literary critics know, few sentences in critical works scream tendentiousness louder than:
What should be transparent to any literary critic is that . . .
Literary matters are only “transparent” when they’re not properly literary. If something is transparent, you don’t need a literary critic to ponder the depths it doesn’t have—any old idiot will suffice. And that’s exactly why Jack Cashill, author of the above [italicized text] and an idiot of long-standing, is just the man to prove that Bill Ayers wrote Obama’s autobiography, Dreams From My Father. For Cashill and his mysterious contributors (“[t]he media punishment that Joe the Plumber received” requires they remain anonymous), the case against Obama is a compelling one:
What Mr. Midwest noticed recently is that both Ayers in [A Kind and Just Parent] and Obama in [Dreams From My Father] make reference to the poet Carl Sandburg. In itself, this is not a grand revelation. Let us call it a C-level match. Obama and Ayers seem to have shared the same library in any case . . . Ayers and Obama, however, go beyond citing Sandburg. Each quotes the opening line of his poem “Chicago” . . . This I would call a B-level match. What raises it up a notch to an A-level match is the fact that both misquote “Chicago,” and they do so in exactly the same way.
So both Ayers and Obama misquote the opening line of Carl Sandburg’s “Chicago,” substituting “hog butcher to the world” for “hog butcher for the world.” This mutual error would be significant (an “A-level match”) if Ayers and Obama were the only two people who ever made it, but according to Google Book Search—a secret search engine to which only I have access—the same mistake has been made by Nelson Algren, Alan Lomax, Andrei Codrescu, H.L. Mencken, Paul Krugman, Perry Miller, Donald Hall, Ed McBain, Saul Bellow, S.J. Perelman, Nathanael West, Ezra Pound, Wright Morris, Allen Ginsberg, Langston Hughes, and the 1967 Illinois Commission on Automation and Technological Progress. (To name but a few.) According to Cashill, I have now proven that Dreams From My Father was written by many a dead man of American letters, a living mystery writer, a New York Times columnist and the 1967 Illinois Commission on Automation and Technological Progress. That bears repeating:
I have an “A-level match” that proves that Obama’s autobiography was written by a “study of the economic and social effects of automation and other technological changes on industry, commerce, agriculture, education, manpower, and society in Illinois” when Obama was only six years old.
What you see there is actual evidence—against Cashill—of being a blinkered, methodologically unsound literary scholar. I challenge anyone to demonstrate that Cashill’s method is sound and likely to produce accurate results. No one will, because they either aren’t experts in literary analysis or they “know a thing or two about interpretation” but are choosing to set said knowledge aside in the interest of what they believe to be great justice. That they’ve offered no evidence, but have merely piggy-backed on Cashill’s demonstrably inadequate noodling, is beside the point. Or would be, if there were one. There isn’t. Why isn’t there?
Because none of the evidence has changed. Cashill’s attempting to bulwark an unsteady argument with information extraneous to it. Whether Ayers made “a strained effort to take credit without taking credit” has no bearing on the quality of Cashill’s argument. Whether “Donald Trump has proved willing to challenge the story” has no bearing on the quality of Cashill’s argument. Nothing outside of the “case” Cashill’s made against Ayers and Obama matters, and the “facts” in evidence are still so pitiful that belief in them basically functions as an indictment against your intelligence.
This is the political-theater equivalent of a student who’s been told he’s written a non-passing essay, runs to Rite Aid and buys a snazzy binder, then slips the same essay into it and turns it back in. The student expects a better grade, but only because the student is an idiot. Until he addresses the failings of his non-passing argument, he’s going to continue to receive a non-passing grade.