December 10, 2010
Obama's 'Missing Link'
Like many political Americans, right or left or center, I'm still grappling with what President Obama did this week. I'm trying to get a handle on what it means not so much for the country and the economy, but rather for Barack Obama.
On Monday evening came the remarkable announcement by Obama that he had compromised with Republicans on a "framework" to extend the Bush tax cuts. My take on that action was that Obama was motivated entirely by politics and not at all by ideology.
That take was quickly reinforced on Tuesday, when Obama, almost chastising his angry left-wing base for not understanding political realities, analogized Republicans to "hostage-takers," holding Obama and America and its poor and proletariat ransom to tax cuts for the bloody rich. The president bemoaned his moral dilemma, forced as he was to "negotiate" with Republicans, who kneel before what Obama described as "their Holy Grail": "tax cuts for the wealthy." It was a stunning metaphor, and rather offensive: That cup overfloweth, apparently, with the real presence of the blood of the workers, which Republicans and their loyal factory bosses and greedy landlords slurp up from the fruits of the assembly line.
"These tax cuts for the wealthy -- " said a visibly bitter Obama " -- this is, seems to be, their central economic doctrine."
Of course, it is not the Republicans' "central economic doctrine." One of the worst mistakes you can make in politics or in life or in war is to misdiagnose your adversary by allowing emotion to supersede logic.
But here's the crucial point on Obama's assessment: it was clear that this wasn't the standard class-warfare claptrap we typically get from Democrats. This wasn't mere political rhetoric to toss to the unions to make them happy at the expense of those with more money. No, Barack Obama uttered these words with such conviction and such contempt that you could tell it was from the heart. It came off not as Democrat demagoguery, but as reflective of the class-based worldview that I suspect is the core Barack Obama.
It made me think of Frank Marshall Davis and other Marxists in Obama's past -- and of a man named Dr. John Drew.
"I see myself as a missing link between Barack Obama's exposure to communism with Frank Marshall Davis and his later exposure to Bill Ayers and Alice Palmer in Chicago," Drew told me.
Drew's words -- of which these are just the tip of the iceberg -- are immensely important. To consider them, first consider this quick recap on Davis:
Frank Marshall Davis was Barack Obama's mentor in Hawaii in the 1970s, right up until Obama left for college at Occidental. As I've shown at length in articles and a book, Davis was also a communist -- in fact, an actual Communist Party member. In Dupes, I show this over the course of about sixty pages with help from numerous sources. Among them there is a 1957 U.S. Senate report, titled "Scope of Soviet Activity in the United States," which described Davis as "an indentified member of the Communist Party." Most illuminating, I found and have reprinted about a dozen pages from Davis's declassified 600-page FBI file, including one (on page 507 of my book) that lists Davis's actual Communist Party number: 47544. (Click here to view some of these documents.)
So Frank Marshall Davis was a communist, and it's clear that he influenced Obama's thinking. But how much, exactly? That's where John Drew comes in.
Drew contacted me last year after reading an article I had written on Davis and Obama for American Thinker. Drew had some significant experiences to share, and he e-mailed me just before I turned in my final manuscript. I concluded that he was legitimate (no question) and recorded his testimony at length.
Drew was a contemporary of Obama at Occidental College and a Marxist himself. In fact, Drew was a well-known campus communist when Obama was introduced to him as "one of us." "Obama was already an ardent Marxist when I met in the fall of 1980," said Drew, going on the record.
Drew is certainly cognizant of the gravity of his statement. "I know it's incendiary to say this," he adds, but Obama "was basically a Marxist-Leninist." He noted how Obama, in Dreams from My Father, stated that when he got to college, he attended "socialist conferences" and "hung out" with Marxist professors. But what Obama did not explain or clarify, says Dr. Drew, is that Obama "was in 100 percent, total agreement with these Marxist professors."
I asked Drew where, precisely, he believes Obama stands today. Of course, Drew no longer knows Obama, and his main goal in reaching out to me was to clarify where Obama stood at Occidental, which is information that cannot be ignored. That said, he did tell me this: "There are a lot of brands of Marxism. That was one of the key ingredients of my argument with the young Barack Obama. I see evidence of [a] continuing commitment to Marxist ideology every time President Obama traces the furor of the public to underlying economic conditions and inevitable changes taking place in society. In the Marxist model, the economy is the driving force behind change in the other spheres of society."
Drew shared those thoughts with me last spring. More recently, however, we had an even more illuminating conversation when I had the opportunity to interview Drew while I was guest-hosting the Glen Meakem Program, a terrific radio-talk show broadcast from Pittsburgh. Here are edited excerpts of what Drew told me on the air on October 16, 2010:
Drew: As far as I can tell, I'm the only person in Obama's extended circle of friends who is willing to speak out and verify that he was a Marxist-Leninist in his sophomore year of college from 1980 to 1981. I met him because I graduated from Occidental College in 1979, and I was back at Occidental visiting a girlfriend.Kengor: Was Occidental known for radical-left politics? Would that have been an attraction to Obama?Drew: It was considered the Moscow of southern California when I was there. There were a lot of Marxist professors, many of whom I got to know pretty well. ... What I know absolutely for sure -- and this is where I really sought you out and I really wanted to be helpful in terms of the historic record -- was to verify that Barack Obama was definitely a Marxist and that it was very unusual for a sophomore at Occidental to be as radical or as ideologically attuned as young Barack Obama was.Kengor: You said that Obama was introduced to you at Occidental College as a Marxist? Because you were one [a Marxist] at that point?Drew: Yeah, that's embarrassing for me, but I studied Marxist economics when I was at the University of Sussex in England. I had a junior-year scholarship over there and I did my senior honors thesis on Marxist economics when I was at Occidental College. And I also founded [the] Democratic Student Socialist Alliance, you know, under a different name, in 1976.Kengor: John, now you had told me before, and I'm reading from my own book here, "Obama was already an ardent Marxist when I met him in the fall of 1980. [Quotation from above continued.]"Drew: Yeah, that's exactly right. Obama believed, at the time I met him -- this was probably around Christmastime in 1980 -- because, you know, I had flown out during Christmas break from Cornell, where I was doing my graduate work. Young Obama was looking forward to an imminent social revolution -- literally a movement where the working classes would overthrow the ruling class and institute a kind of socialist utopia in the United States. I mean, that's how extreme his views were his sophomore year of college.Kengor: And you would know this because you were a comrade, so to speak.Drew: Yeah, I was a comrade, but I was kind of more what Michael Savage called the "Frankfurt School" of Marxism at the time. I was, you know, I felt like I was doing Obama a favor by pointing out that the Marxist revolution that he and [our friends] were hoping for was really kind of a pipe dream, and that there was nothing in European history or the history of developed nations that would make that sort of fantasy -- you know, Frank Marshall Davis fantasy of revolution -- come true.Kengor: So you had a realistic sense that even though you liked these ideas, it [Marxist revolution] really couldn't happen or really wouldn't even work.Drew: Right. I was ... still a card-carrying Marxist, but I was kind of a more advanced, East Coast, Cornell University Marxist, I think, at the time.Kengor: But Obama thought it was practical -- he thought you could make this happen in America?Drew: Oh yeah, and he kind of thought I was, you know, a little reactionary --Kengor: -- that you were conservative compared to him!Drew: Yeah, like I was kind of insensitive to the needs of the coming revolution. So that's why I said [Obama] was full-bore, 100% into that simpleminded Marxist, revolutionary mental framework.Kengor: I know people are listening right now who want me to address this -- and especially people who are Obama supporters. To be fair, I mean, look at where you were then and now where you are today.Drew: Well, yeah, now I'm a Ronald Reagan, churchgoing, Baptist conservative ...Kengor: But now, okay, so what about Obama? Where do you think he is today? And to the people who are listening and are angry that we're even having this conversation, [I want to tell them this]: Look, you don't want us to talk about this because you don't like what it says about Obama's past, but we have to know this stuff about our presidents. We have to know where they came from. You can't leave this out of biographies. ...But what do you think it says about him today, Dr. Drew?Drew: I can definitely kick down some doors here intellectually by nailing down that he had a very consistent ideology, probably from the time that he was [in Hawaii] until he was there with Alice Palmer and Bill Ayers in Chicago. I think his current behavior demonstrates that he does still have these ideological convictions. Whenever he talks about taxing the richest two percent, I think even though he knows that will harm the economy -- to him, that redistribution of wealth is still extremely important. And I think the problem here is that he never studied political science or economics the way I did. He just went straight to law school.Kengor: No real-world experience.Drew: Right. He never had any real business experience, never had a payroll to meet, and I think he still is locked in a very dangerous mindset where I think if he didn't fight to redistribute the wealth, he would feel guilty -- as if he were violating a John Rawls' Theory of Justice ideology.Kengor: And that's what people need to understand. That's why all of this matters. That's why the background is so crucial -- Frank Marshall Davis, what happened at Occidental, goes straight to Columbia from Occidental, the Bill Ayers affiliation, no real-world experience -- this matters. You need to know this in your presidents. ...On whether or not [Obama] believes in some form of Marxism today, you had told me for my book, "There are a lot of brands of Marxism. That was one of the key ingredients in my argument with Obama. I see evidence of a continuing commitment to Marxist ideology every time President Obama traces the furor of the public to underlying economic conditions and inevitable changes taking place in society."So it's not that he's right now trying to abolish all private property, but you're saying he has a certain -- he still holds to certain tenets of a Marxist worldview.Drew: Yeah, I think whenever he talks about people clinging to their guns and their religion due to economic stress, that's just the standard Marxist argument. In fact, that's the argument of alienation and class-consciousness that [Marxists believe that people] hold to, the superficial religious and cultural ideals of the capitalist culture. [Marxists believe that people hold to that] instead of paying attention to the root economic changes, which are supposedly controlling their thoughts and their behavior. So he's still using the Marxist mental architecture in the way he talks about things, and I really think he's surrounded by people that share that mental architecture.
Those are excerpts from my interview with Dr. Drew in October. You can click here to listen to the interview. Moreover, Drew followed up with a short article (click here), noting his frustration over the media's refusal to even call him about Obama.
Clearly, these are important things that at least should be part of the conversation in trying to understand what our president believes and where he came from. Any historian or biographer knows: You don't ignore mentors. To the contrary, you start with the mentors.
And yet, to my knowledge, only a handful of people have interviewed John Drew or bothered with his story, including even the biggies in conservative talk radio. (Michael Savage is an exception. Also, on the web, Trevor Loudon and Scott Baker have shared his story.)
In 2007-2008, our press failed to do its job in vetting this candidate for the presidency. Our liberal "journalists" willfully covered their eyes and ears. And now they'll blast people like me for daring to even bother to investigate and consider these questions. (Actually, they don't blast; they ignore.) And we went encounter the likes of Dr. John Drew and carefully walk through his experiences, they'll dismiss us, as they are dismissing Drew himself.
That's a mistake. Drew has a lot to teach us about a critical missing piece in the puzzle of Barack Obama's early life and political-ideological development. This information would seem rather relevant, given that this is the man now running the mightiest economic engine in the history of humanity.
For the occupant of that position, I personally prefer someone who doesn't have remnants of a Marxist worldview influencing his thoughts and actions. Unfortunately, I believe we saw some of those remnants on display in Obama's words earlier this week, and not for the first -- or last -- time.
Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College. His books include The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism and the newly released Dupes: How America's Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.