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.
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.