Much is being made of the fact that it’s finally becoming big news that Obama, in Dreams From My Father, “compressed” a girlfriend. That is, he’s acknowledged in his book that some people referenced in the book were “composites.” It’s just that no one realized that at least one of the girlfriends who got a lot of airtime in the book was one of those compressions.
What’s equally interesting is the fact that this composite, who is supposedly an amalgam of many Obama girlfriends, perfectly matches Bill Ayres’ 1960s-era girlfriend:
As I have argued from textual analysis, and as Andersen has confirmed from his own reporting, Obama had help with the book. As Andersen tells it, after four futile years of trying to finish the contracted book, a “hopelessly blocked” Obama delivered his family’s “oral histories, along with his partial manuscript and a trunkload of notes” to “friend and neighbor” Ayers for a major overhaul.
Any number of incidents in Dreams recall Homer’s Odyssey. In his quest, Obama encounters blind seers, lotus-eaters, the “ghosts” of the underworld, whirlpools, a half-dozen sundry “demons,” and even a menacing one-eyed bald man. These encounters likely run the full range of stylistic possibilities from verifiable fact to artful shaping to pure invention.
The mystery woman recalls the temptress Circe. Like Obama’s unnamed girlfriend, Circe lives in a “splendid house” on “spacious grounds.” She too wants her lover, Odysseus, to stay forever. Like Obama, Odysseus has shared his bed with this alien seductress for one year. But her world can never be his.
“You god-driven man,” Odysseus’s mates warn him, “now the time has come to think about your native land once more, if you are fated to be saved and reach your high-roofed home and your own country” (Ian Johnston translation).
If Obama’s friend nicely fills the Circe role, then she is almost surely grounded in the real-life person of Diana Oughton, Ayers’ lover who was killed in a 1970 Greenwich Village bomb factory blast. Ayers was obsessed with Oughton. In Fugitive Days, he fixes on her in ways that had to discomfit the woman that he eventually married, their fellow traveler in the Weather Underground, Bernardine Dohrn.
Physically, the woman of Obama’s memory, with her “dark hair, and specks of green in her eyes,” evokes images of Oughton. As her FBI files attest, Oughton had brown hair and green eyes. The two women share similar family backgrounds as well. In fact, they seem to have grown up on the very same estate.
According to a Time Magazine article written soon after her death, Oughton “brought Bill Ayers and other radicals” to the family homestead in Dwight, Illinois. There, “she would talk politics with her father, defending the revolutionary’s approach to social ills.”
The main house on the Oughton estate, a twenty-room Victorian mansion, was built by Oughton’s father’s grandfather. Formally known as the John R. Oughton House, it was placed on the national historic register in 1980. Despite forty years of encroaching development since Oughton’s death, aerial photos show the Oughton estate (103 South Street) with a small lake in the middle and a thick ring of trees around it, very much like the estate in Dreams.
I mean, what are the odds that you’d combine a whole lot of different women in your life, and then come up with Bill Ayers’ girlfriend? Maybe this peculiar coincidence is just the random effect of too many drugs in Obama’s system, but somehow I doubt it.
[Note: I decided what I posted originally was too rough, so I've gone back and fleshed this post out a little.]