Rush’s Ghost-Writing Charge

February 5th, 2010 at 8:54 am David Frum | 29 Comments |

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Rush Limbaugh charged in a Fox TV interview that Barack Obama’s law review articles were ghost-written for him.

Former White House associate counsel Brad Berenson, who served on the Harvard Law Review with Obama, disputes this allegation.

These charges are not accurate. As a 2L [second year law] student, Barack wrote the same amount as all of his 2L peers, although by policy of the Harvard Law Review, no student writing is signed or attributed to individual authors. As a 3L, it is true that he did not write, but that is because he was the President of the Review. Because the President does so much editing, including of all the major faculty articles, he is not expected to author original pieces himself and almost never does so. I saw Barack hunched over manuscripts editing articles on many a late night at Gannett House. He simply could not have been elected President if he was not regarded by his fellow editors as being among the best legal writers and legal minds in his class.

I should add here that I know Brad well. If he says something is so, it is so. It’s also worth mentioning in this context that Brad is not only one of the most eminent criminal defense lawyers in Washington (Sidley & Austin by the way if you are a client seeking representation), but also a very strong conservative with very little time for the Obama administration’s policies.

One more thing worth adding in this context. As the acknowledgments to the volumes make clear, both of Rush Limbaugh’s own books were ghosted for him, 1992′s The Way Things Ought To Be by John Fund of the Wall Street Journal, and 1993′s See I Told You So by Joseph Farrah, now of World Net Daily.

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29 Comments so far ↓

  • joemarier

    Which is why The Way Things Ought to Be was good, but See, I Told You So sucked. I was 11 and 12 respectively when I read them, and even I could tell that.

  • teabag

    So Limbaugh lied. Did the sun come up this morning?

  • andydp

    Isn’t this a rehash of the e mail going around before the election questioning then Senator Obama’s academic record ?

    The fact Mr Limbaugh has a large staff to do his “fact checking” must escape him. As for the charge of ghost writing:

    Not worth further commentary.

  • balconesfault

    The fact Mr Limbaugh has a large staff to do his “fact checking” must escape him.

    Does anyone really think Limbaugh would ever allow facts to stand in the way of an attack on a Dem?

  • Jim_M

    Does this matter? Regardless of what room of adults Barry stands in, he’s the least experienced.

    The effeminate lefts endless fantasy’s of Obama are stale and embarrassing.

  • Danny_K

    Why give Rush free publicity?

  • DFL

    But for true thinkers like David Frum and Pat Buchanan(sorry to put the two of you in the same sentence), most of these tracts, both on the Right and on the Left, are written by hired guns. People like Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Mr. and Mrs. Carville, Glenn Beck, JohnMcCain, John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama oversee their books but 80 % of the writing is done for them.

  • msmilack

    Thank you for this post, Mr. Frum. The British author Jonathan Raban had an interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal in January 2009 titled, “All the Presidents’ Literature,” where he suggests that leaders who can actually write offer windows into their governing style and how Obama’s memoirs in particular reveal hints of his governing style.

    In contrast, when Sarah Palin refers to herself as an “author,” I laugh aloud; it is obvious that she does not even write her own Tweets much less her editorials in newspapers; one need look no further than the way she speaks to recognize that it is not possible for her to be author of the written words attributed to her. When people say she gave such an amazing speech at the Republican convention, I am surprised because she didn’t write that speech, she delivered it. One should say she read that speech well, not that she gave a great speech (unless it is clear that “gave” refers to a performance instead of a cognitive activity such as writing.

    Is anyone else curious who is running her operation now? The well-timed editorials, unsolicited responses to current events, etc. are far too well-organized to derive from either her or her husband (the “first dude”). I have read that Fred Malek in DC is one of her top advisers along with John Coale (Greta Van Sustern’s husband) but I suspect there are others, no doubt members of the far right. I doubt it is any of the members of the GOP who read books or write books, most if not all of whom disavowed McCain’s decision to make her his vice presidential nominee.

    Last thought on Evita Palin (forgive my joke, but it is how I think of her): fascinating reading in the just released albeit redacted emails of Todd to Sarah Palin which show the extent of his interference in her duties as Governor of Alaska.

  • msmilack

    Forgot to include a link to the article about writers who become president:

  • GOProud

    #8 & 9: Ahhh yes, Saul Alinsky play #412 for the Democrats failing and flailing… “Look over there, it’s Sarah Palin!!”.

    Sorry guys, blaming her or Bush 43 or the GOP ain’t cutting it as a campaign-turned-governing strategy. Or didn’t you get the message from Democrat Virginia, Democrat New Jersey, Democrat Massachusetts and Democrat Illinois?

    Frankly, with the number of lies that Obama utters in a single paragraph or 2 minutes before the Holy Teleprompter, I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss a claim he had his L-school articles ghost-written for him.

    Let’s face it, Obama’s Daily Flail is making Geo Bush 43 look like a Great President in comparison. Campaigning isn’t governing. Lesson #1 you guys need to take home.

    Obama used a ghost writer? Sure, didn’t Biden literally steal his college work from others and not give credit? I knew there was something magical that drew Obama to Biden… it’s the shared value in plagiarism and faking your work for others.

    What next? Obama attempts to put the blame on Holder for the KSM trial move decision? That’ll never fly.

  • balconesfault

    Frankly, with the number of lies that Obama utters in a single paragraph or 2 minutes before the Holy Teleprompter, I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss a claim he had his L-school articles ghost-written for him.

    LOL – go watch Obama’s meeting with Republican Congressmen last week.

    No script. No teleprompter. Yet far far more coherent than anything you’ve written here, even with your ability to take as much time as needed before each response, and edit before hitting “submit”.

    Note again that there is no evidence that Obama had anyone write his law review articles for him. All you have is fantasies. I’m expecting the next right wing chain e-mails to circulate on how Obama led black street gangs from Harlem at night while attending Columbia during the day. And of course, Rush will tell his listeners “where the proof Obama didn’t do this?”

  • msmilack


    While I find it difficult to understand your post (literally), I nonetheless recognize that your aspersions are not only undocumented, they are rabid.

  • CentristNYer

    msmilack // Feb 5, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    And you forgot unhinged.

  • teabag


    And you forgot Paranoid.

  • msmilack

    To be honest, I want very much not to call anybody names; I’m so anxious for a reasoned reasonable discussion. Call me naive believing such is possible, but the alternative is so scary, that I keep on trying. I honestly don’t understand the anger but I do recognize its danger; and since ignoring it doesn’t make it go away, I keep on hoping those who scream loudest will eventually quiet down and engage in a discussion. What is it that Barack Obama often says? We can disagree without being disagreeable. Easier said than done, I know. And I know that to some I sound silly for even imagining such a world. Anyway, thanks for the responses.

  • msmilack

    Wow, has anyone heard Tom Tancredo’s opening remarks at the Tea Party convention? Asking for literacy tests for voters and speaking against multiculturalism! He is one scary man. Despite what I said not five minutes ago about not calling people names, I have to admit that I find it easy to picture him in a Nazi uniform. (You see, I’m not so nice all the time). If I were an anthropologist, I might find it interesting to study the way different societies, from the Balkans to Africa to the Americas and everywhere else apparently periodically move toward a regime of racial cleansing; but as a regular American citizen, I was brought up to believe that an education combined with empathy would preclude such tendencies in humans. The more things change, the more they stay the same. And then I remember Obama saying repeatedly that change is hard: it really does bring out the best and the worst in people. Maybe there is no avoiding the conflict, but it really has to be called out when it occurs. I wish there was a single member of the GOP who had the courage to stand up and disavow the hatred that occurs under that tent. Buckley threw out the Birchers; why can’t any of the current leadership do the same? Is there none willing to put country before party?

  • balconesfault

    I wish there was a single member of the GOP who had the courage to stand up and disavow the hatred that occurs under that tent. Buckley threw out the Birchers; why can’t any of the current leadership do the same?

    This speaks to a comment I made on another thread the other day, on Obama being attacked for not spending more time with any Republicans hammering out details for legislation.

    There is nobody on the Republican side of the aisle who can hammer out details … and then deliver votes. Reagan could meet with a Tip O’Neill, and O’Neill could guarantee at the end of the day that if a compromise was reached there would be Democratic votes to support it. Bush could do the same with a Ted Kennedy.

    Every Republican, on the other hand, pretty much has a target on his back. In my opinion it’s thanks to the huge importance of talk radio and Fox News on the Republican Party … and in particular, the importance of Rush Limbaugh.

    Consider this – what Republican Congressman could sit down, hammer out a deal, and then deliver a meaningful number of Republican votes if the day after the compromise was announced Rush spent the bulk of his show attacking the compromise?

    None. There isn’t one.

  • msmilack

    That was an extremely interesting post you wrote and I think you may be right about the influence of talk radio. (B/w, I noticed Mr. Frum exposed Limbaugh (I’m thinking of “Limbaugh is a Walking Stereotype of Self-Indulgence); maybe if more conservative writers took Rush Limbaugh on, it would pave the way for the politicians — or am I being foolishly optimistic? Even Palin is afraid of him; despite his terrible rants using the “R” word, and even though Palin went after Perry’s aide in Texas (a Republican) — as she did with Rahm Emanuel (though she didn’t ask for the aide’s resignation) — I noticed she did not go after Limbaugh and kept her remarks about his rant general. Limbaugh really is a phenomenon: wish he had gone to jail for his drug offenses though maybe it wouldn’t have mattered. I think of Sartre’s comment, that if the Jew didn’t exist, the anti-semite would have created him; maybe the same is true of Rush Limbaugh, i.e. that in a sad and serious way, he is an inevitable product of our culture. That said, he’s had plenty of help from the unholy alliance of media and message.

  • kevin47

    “Asking for literacy tests for voters and speaking against multiculturalism!”

    I don’t know what he said about multiculturalism, but I support literacy tests, or at least a basic civics test, consistently applied. If you don’t know the three branches of federal government, and are too lazy to Google the answer, I don’t want you deciding my leadership.

  • msmilack

    I just watched the unedited version of the Bill O’Reilly interview with Jon Stewart (which is wonderful b/w) and Stewart, in a very compelling way, makes an argument very similar to your point about talk radio (in part 2); you should watch it. I found all five parts of u-tube though Fox (to its credit) has offered it on-line. Their conversation is exactly what I think is best about opposing views in a conversation with disagreement that does not become disagreeable. I totally loved it and loved hearing both points of view.

  • balconesfault

    msmilack – I’ll look it up – thanks.

    O’Reilly is maddening at times – he can be a very reasonable man … until he takes something personally. At that point he can quickly switch to a pugilistic mode where he doesn’t care about facts and becomes utterly irrational in his attacks.

    Re Limbaugh – to a certain extent I think that if he didn’t exist, some people with a lot of money would create him, although I’ll note that Limbaugh is a very talented performer and he would be able to develop an audience even if he weren’t a water carrier for corporate America. But consider Glenn Beck – there is a man with virtually no talent, but simply a willingness to take his punditry to an extreme past the line where most would stop (kind of the carney geek of American punditry) and the man has his own show on Fox. A civil society would have kicked his rantings to the curb long ago, but he there are obviously some people with money who like him getting airtime and developing an audience.

  • rbottoms

    I don’t know what he said about multiculturalism, but I support literacy tests, or at least a basic civics test, consistently applied.

    Tell you what, as soon as all 20 million black people get a case of amnesia so they forget Jim Crow and that whole hang ‘em if they try to vote thing ever happened, you can have your literacy test.

    Even I wouldn’t have guess that the very first words uttered at the Teabagger’s Ball would insult and infuriate every black person in America, but then I’ve misunderestimated the GOP before.

    It could happen, because I know there must be some kind of pill that every Right Wing wack job ingests to induce their mindset it.

  • GOProud

    It’s good to see the ol’ tribe of trolls here are back to their rare form… msmilack (a new one or just another invention in the long route of faked names?), TeaBagged, CentristNY, BlankHead et al. Is their a secret code when you know to pile on where the truth is being told, off-script?

    msmilack at #12: “GOProud While I find it difficult to understand your post (literally)….” Sure you do sweety… it because it contains truth. That always throws you trolls. I have a cartoon, coloring book version for you msmilack… it might be more at your level of understanding complex concepts not approved by the DailyKos. I won’t even grade you on staying in the lines, either… that would be beyond your abilities.

    The simple truth is that Obama likely did have a student ghost-write his pieces for the Harvard L Review… he’s proven over and over he just isn’t that smart to be able to complete a sentence without using “I” or “me” 100 times in the sentence. Proving it would be difficult because it’s very likely a major donor has already vanquished the participants with enough happy cash and a severe no-disclosure contract that would put them in poor house for years… besides, at Harvard L, it’s likely the ghost-writer would now be an Obama czar or appointee… knowing how that crowd plays fast and loose with the public purse and vetting.

    Our teleprompter Prez has never worked for anything he has –it came at the luxury of affirmative action quotas and his willingness to ignore 1/2 of his racial heritage in exchange for perpetual privilege at the expense of non-white students. It’s the unjust enrichment that many others in a similar position feel is a right granted by America’s racial history. We’ve got them at Michigan, too. You can tell who they are by the number of mentors and tutors who follow them around campus.

    Frankly, I think it’s what we must do to erase the guilt all non-colored people feel for the wrongs committed throughout our history… right up to the modern day civil rights period. But that doesn’t change the likely truth about Obama and his condition while at Harvard L.

    Obama, just like his Veep Joe Biden, is the kind of man who would indeed cheat and plagiarize to get ahead especially because he –just like Joe Biden at Syracuse L School– didn’t merit advancement to L School based on his capabilities… he got there because of society’s loop hole on claiming racial status. Obama has already proven a keen disposition to say anything, spin everything, promise the moon and transparency on C-SPAN if it will get him some applause and a vote or two.

    When Democrats and Obama Messiah worshipers can admit to the simple facts and reality, they can drop their well earned title of Cowards on Race. Because that’s exactly what each of the trolls on this thread are: Cowards on Race.

    Like with John Edwards and his lovely, seemingly adoring wife, we now know that there are lots of secrets well-kept behind most Democrat politicians. It took a long time for the Edwards controversy to come out of hiding… the MSM helping to keep it hidden from the public.

    Obama using a ghost-writer to shave off some responsiblity? Sure. Biden lying and cheating to get ahead in L School. The record is indisputable there. TeddieK lying and getting kicked out of college? Sure. Al Gore appearing to be GoGreen only to learn his family holdings include a huge toxic chemical processing facility and a house which has a monthly electric bill that drawfs most Americans’ yearly income?

    Duplicity and lying from Democrats? Say it ain’t so Joe!

  • GOProud

    msmilak contends: “To be honest, I want very much not to call anybody names…”

    Honesty is a trait that has escaped your short grasp. For someone who claims not to want to name call, you do it with particular talent.

    Hypocrite. Democrat… oh, that’s redundant.

  • Carney

    I bought both of Rush’s books as a college student. It didn’t occur to me that they were ghosted, as they did not feature anyone else’s name on the cover. Usually the cover would have something like “by Rush Limbaugh with John Fund”, with the “with John Fund” part in smaller print. This is disappointing to hear.

  • msmilack

    Your description of O’Reilly closely matches one I heard Stewart make in a different interview where he described O’Reilly (I’m paraphrasing) as an intelligent man wrapped in a bubble of ego. Whatever his exact words were, Stewart’s insight was the same as yours, that O’Reilly’s thin skin makes him explosive which in turn covers up or distracts from what is really good mind. Of course, after calling him the sanest voice at Fox, Stewart adds: “that’s like saying you’re the thinnest person at fat camp”. It is a very, very interesting interview. Definitely watch the unedited version which is more powerful than the one that aired.

    It’s available on Fox at:

    If you lack the proper software (Adobe flash), you can find the five parts on u-tube starting at:

  • msmilack


    If I said anything that hurt your feelings or offended you, I am genuinely sorry. I can’t seem to say anything right to you, but honestly, it is not my intention that you should feel as you do about my comments. I am really trying to understand your point of view. Take it for what it’s worth. I wish you well.

  • balconesfault

    Usually the cover would have something like “by Rush Limbaugh with John Fund”, with the “with John Fund” part in smaller print.

    Sorry – but no. Who knows if “usually”, but one helluva lot of time the ghost is never acknowledged publicly. Pick up a copy of “Profiles in Courage” some day and look for Ted Sorenson anywhere on the cover.

  • Jim_M

    Limbaugh established YEARS ago that his books were “written” by someone else. He didn’t type a single word. Constructed entirely from recorded commentary.