What the Media Won't Say about Frank Marshall Davis
Salon contributor Eric McHenry will likely be surprised to find himself categorized as "the media," but his omissions and evasions about Obama mentor Frank Marshall Davis so impressively mirror the major media's that he deserves the honor.
What drew my attention to McHenry's recent article in Salon, "Obama's Oddest Critic," is that yours truly is the "critic" in question. According to the subtitle, "Jack Cashill is obsessed with the president's college poetry and positive it proves his life is 'one massive fraud.'" In that exactly none of my most recent 100 articles is about Obama's poetry -- and only a few even mention it -- I doubt I rank high on anyone's obsession index other than McHenry's.
The reason I mention the poetry at all is to shed light on the young Obama's relationship with Davis, his Hawaiian mentor. In my early writing on Obama's literary talents, I took him at his word that he wrote some "very bad poetry" and largely ignored the two radically different poems he submitted as an Occidental College undergraduate, the cringe-worthy "Underground" and the more complex "Pop."
It was my co-conspirator Don Wilkie who prompted me to take another look at the latter poem. "I have read 'Pop' now maybe 20 or 30 times," Wilkie wrote me a few years back, "and I think it is about Obama telling us that 'Pop' really is, his pop."
At the time, all serious critics were insisting that the subject of "Pop" was Obama's grandfather Stan Dunham, a man whom Obama called "Gramps." On the name alone, this interpretation made no sense. By late 2010, I knew enough about Davis to be sure he was the poem's subject, and I said so in my book. A year and a half later, Pulitzer Prize-winner David Maraniss confirmed as much in his biography, Barack Obama: The Story. McHenry kept this confirmation from his readers.
In fact, Davis was the subject not only of "Pop," but also of an Obama high school poem, "An Old Man." Both poems deal with the relationship between a naïve young man and a jaded older one. Curiously, so does Davis's poem, "To a Young Man," written just a few years before Obama's. Had McHenry given his readers a link to the article in which I make the case for Davis as author of the Obama poems, they might not have thought it as amusing as McHenry does.
McHenry likewise thinks it irrelevant that "Obama didn't remember the poem from his high school magazine when reminded of it in 2008." Again, however, he denies his audience critical information. When Obama was shown "An Old Man" in 2008, he responded, "It sounds in spirit that it's talking a little bit about my grandfather." Obama knew better than that. Like his handlers and their media accomplices, he consciously steered the conversation away from Davis.
There was good reason for the steering. As McHenry concedes, Davis was a communist and a pornographer. Had Mitt Romney written two youthful poems about a man of comparable interests, that man's name would be more notorious than "Bain Capital." As it is, not one Democrat out of a hundred could identify "Frank Marshall Davis."
Hewing to the media norm, McHenry reassures his readers that Davis merits attention only from a monomaniac like myself, an "Ahab," a "Javert." "Like many other black intellectuals of his generation," writes McHenry dismissively, "Davis had at one time been a communist." That is all he says on the subject.
That is not enough. McHenry has reviewed enough of my material to have seen my pieces on historian Paul Kengor's new book, The Communist - Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mentor. In one article I quote Kengor as saying, "Here are the facts and they are indisputable: Davis was a pro-Soviet, pro-Red China, card-carrying member of Communist Party (CPUSA). His Communist Party card number was 47544."
There are few, if any, black intellectuals who carried Stalin's bloody water as proudly and publicly as Davis did. Indeed, he gave up his beloved Chicago to advance the communist cause in Hawaii, almost assuredly at the direction of someone in the Soviet hierarchy. And unlike other intellectuals, black and white, Davis never renounced Stalin or came clean as a "former" anything.
McHenry proves equally evasive about Davis's avocation as a pornographer. He chides me for "accepting without question that a book of porn [Davis's, Sex Rebel: Black] is basically a faithful retelling of a man's life story." As he must know, however, I said quite the opposite. "Sex Rebel is decidedly a novel," I wrote in Deconstructing Obama, "not an autobiography -- a good thing as the book documents his seduction of a 13 year-old girl."
That much said, the Davis persona in Sex Rebel, the narrator, insists that the book's adventures are all "taken from actual experiences." For the record, the narrator confesses to being "bisexual" as well as "a voyeur and an exhibitionist." In the introduction to Sex Rebel, an alleged Ph.D. named Dale Gordon goes further. He describes the pseudonymous author, Bob Greene, as having "strong homosexual tendencies in his personality." He specifies, "When Bob Greene takes another man's penis in his mouth, he does so to provide pleasure for the man."
I cite this because McHenry breezily dismisses my suggestion that the following lines from "Pop" might have sexual overtones:
Pop takes another shot, neat
Points out the same amber
Stain on his shorts that I've got on mine,
Makes me smell his smell, coming
Yes, the author could be talking about whiskey stains, as I admit in Deconstructing, but there is enough talk in Sex Rebel about the taste and texture of semen to merit the suspicion that the "breath" and "amber stain" references in "Pop" refer to the exchange of something other than whiskey, especially since the stains are on their "shorts," not on their shirts. (And let's not even mention Larry Sinclair.)
McHenry fully betrays his audience on the notion that "Obama's entire life is one massive fraud." Although I never said this -- McHenry appears to have pulled the quote from a critic on my Wikipedia page and attributed it to me -- I might be tempted to. As the Maraniss book confirms, Obama's life is a massive fraud. The Obama-friendly Ben Smith of Buzzfeed counted "38 instances in which the biographer [Maraniss] convincingly disputes significant elements of Obama's own story of his life and his family history." That's Million Little Pieces territory, and Maraniss told only half the story.
True to form, McHenry makes no reference to any of Maraniss's revelations. Among the more damning is that the Obama nativity story, one told more often than any since Jesus's, is largely, if not entirely, fictional. On the right, this has been known for years. As to Obama's paternity, I write in Deconstructing, "The best suspect remained Barack Sr." Given the murkiness of Obama's origins, however, research into "Pop's" role continues, and rightly so. It amuses only those who cling, despite all evidence, to the official Obama fiction of an "improbable love" and a happy multicultural home.
Finally, McHenry spares his readers any evidence that Obama is not the writer his acolytes want him to be. Obama's published essay as a Columbia senior, "Breaking the War Mentality," could have done the trick. This God-awful article proves to all but the most faithful that Obama could have not have written Dreams from My Father unaided, and probably not even "Pop."
The fraud likely began early. As Davis reminded us in "To A Young Man," "one plus one" does not necessarily make "two or three or four."
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