Stanley Kurtz's new book, Radical-in-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism, is a detailed look into the forces that shaped Barack Obama. Kurtz, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, has written a highly detailed and definitive account of the president's conversion as a radical activist; he provides minute and abundant evidence confirming the long-disputed label of "socialist" that has dogged the president since his undergraduate days. Kurtz describes Obama's ideology as "stealth socialism" and called his views "Barack Obama's secret." In the preface of the book, Kurtz writes, "The president has systematically disguised the truth about his socialist convictions, sometimes by directly misrepresenting his past and sometimes by omitting or parceling out damaging information to disguise its real importance."
Kurtz begins his account in 1983, presenting evidence that Barack Obama, then a senior undergraduate at Columbia University, attended several annual sessions of the "Socialist Scholars Conference." Kurtz describes the shift of strategy that took place at that meeting to turn the socialist movement from its goal of "nationalization" to community organizing as the best means of promoting the movement during the Reagan administration. Kurtz details the evidence that Socialist Scholars conferences influenced Obama and refutes the president's claim that his embrace of community organizing was an "impulse." Instead, in Kurtz's fully documented account, the Socialist Scholars conferences provided the future president with a vision for transforming America, as well as a way for black Americans to be the driving force behind that transformation through the efforts of the Midwest Academy, a training institute that Kurtz credits with Obama's political ascendancy.
Many of the "class warfare" themes that dominate President Obama's current rhetoric are rooted in that period of his life -- such as the "haves" v. the "have-nots" and big business v. the poor. Kurtz shows that the influence of Chicago politics on the future president's life began at that time with his involvement with Chicago mayor Harold Washington. President Obama extols Washington -- a politician Kurtz says openly identified with Chicago's socialists and the person Kurtz credits with overthrowing the "centrist Democratic machine" in Chicago -- as his "political idol" and role model, along with Saul Alinsky, for his political life.
It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of Harold Washington and other Chicago radicals in the 1980s in shaping the politics of Barack Obama. Kurtz details the ways that Washington spearheaded the radicalization of the Democratic Party and shifted the party's focus to building coalitions of poor and minority voters. He also shows how groups like ACORN functioned to swell the party ranks and fuel the anti-business and class warfare agendas. Perhaps more importantly, Kurtz traces the influence of friends and associates from that era of Obama's life who are now among his most controversial political advisors and appointees. Kurtz describes them: "Barack Obama's colleagues and mentors were some of the smartest and most influential stealth-socialist community organizers in the country. Their strategies of political realignment and social transformation guide the Obama administration to this day."
Kurtz's research reveals the intricate, though sometimes "stealth," connections between Obama and the "populist" radical coalitions of the 1980s. Those connections included links to Jeremiah Wright's radical activities, as well as the activities of coalitions like the Midwest Academy, the Illinois Project Vote, and the "Public Allies" projects.
More troubling than any of the obvious, open, and/or stealth associations are the instances where Kurtz details the ways that President Obama "distorted" and "obfuscated" the record of his involvement with ACORN and his relationships with his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, and his mentor, Bill Ayers. Kurtz notes that the deceptions include accounts in the president's memoir, Dreams of My Father. These deceptions, according to Kurtz, are dangerous because "we will be irreversibly down the path toward social transformation before we recognize as a nation what's at stake. The strategy of achieving socialism through a series of 'non-reformist reforms,' so popular among American's community organizing elite, is premised on precisely that deception."
The patterns of behavior, distortion, and rhetorical devices that characterize President Obama's rise to political prominence are disturbing on numerous fronts. The "obfuscation" about his past alignments and associations is particularly troubling, as is the evidence that he continues to govern as president under the same ideology that guided his past behavior and associations. If the driving forces behind his past political ideology and associations remain constant -- as Kurtz's account seems to substantiate beyond refutation -- the questions about his strategy for implementing his vision for change are legitimate and crucial for the future of our nation.
With the 2010 election just around the corner, Obama is engaging in a nationwide campaign similar to the one he waged for the presidency in 2008; his get-out-the-vote strategy is targeting the youth, minority, poor, and women's vote. As centrist independents, all varieties of conservatives plus Tea Party voters look at his past through the lens of Kurtz's exhaustive and thorough research, all have far more information about the "transformation" that the president promised in 2008. Through Kurtz's book, the political picture is crystal clear, and the president's purpose is painfully obvious.
What is equally certain from the evidence Kurtz presents is that the prospect for the nation's future depends upon the results of the 2010 and 2012 elections. We cannot, however, wait until 2012 to place checks and balances on the radical policies and purposes of this most ideologically driven of presidents. As Norman Thomas said, "The American people will never knowingly adopt Socialism. But under the name of ‘liberalism' they will adopt every fragment of the Socialist program, until one day America will be a Socialist nation, without knowing how it happened."
Janice Shaw Crouse, Ph.D., is author of Children at Risk (Transaction, 2010) and is senior fellow of Concerned Women for America's think tank, the Beverly LaHaye Institute.