Jack Cashill is the author of Deconstructing Obama: The Life, Loves, and Letters of America’s First Postmodern President. He is a student of the literary works of Barack Obama, or of those bearing his name. Cashill argues, most notably, that Bill Ayers was Obama’s ghost for Dreams From My Father. It’s hard to believe that Obama didn’t have substantial help writing Dreams — can one find a sentence under Obama’s name outside the book that isn’t deadened or leaden? — and Ayers is a good guess for the source, but Cashill seems to me to take his case beyond the evidence.
Cashill now turns his attention to a 1990 letter Obama wrote as president of the Harvard Law Review in defense of affirmative action. Cashill accurately characterizes the letter as “patronizing, dishonest, syntactically muddled, and grammatically challenged.”
The letter is a response to Jim Chen, with whom Cashill seems to be unfamiliar. Chen is the Dean and professor of law at the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville. He is a former law clerk to Justice Thomas and a former professor at the University of Minnesota Law School. Dean Chen has eloquently argued on occasion that the policy of affirmative action stigmatizes its beneficiaries, and apparently did so as a student in the context of a debate over using affirmative action to increase the number of women on the Harvaerd Law Review. Chen served as executive editor of the Review over the 1990-91 school year, when Obama served as its president.
Obama’s response as the Harvard Law Review’s first black president is interesting, to say the least. The letter reflects a substantial gap between Obama’s office and his abilities. It also reveals his way with a threat, in this case to any employer who might harbor guilty thoughts about the presumed beneficiaries of affirmative action, a class in which Obama places Dean Chen as well as himself. Let’s just say, as one of Shakespeare’s characters holds, what’s past is prologue.