The Commie's Commie

The Communist who's the subject of the stunning new biography by Paul Kengor is Frank Marshall Davis.  He's the black poet, journalist, and activist whom the young Barack Obama hung out with as a teenager in Hawaii, then wrote a weird, disturbingly affectionate poem about entitled "Pop" while a student at Occidental College.  He's the man whom President Obama describes as his mentor in the latter's autobiography, Dreams from My Father.

Here's Kengor's summary of the man our president so admires:

Frank Marshall Davis was a pro-Soviet, pro-Red China, card-carrying member of Communist Party USA (CPUSA).  His Communist Party card number was 47544.  He did endless Soviet propaganda work in his newspaper columns, at every juncture agitating and opposing U.S. attempts to slow down Stalin and Mao in the late 1940s and early 1950s.  He favored Red Army takeovers of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Central and Eastern Europe as a whole.  In China, he urged America to dump the "fascist" Chiang in support of Mao's Red forces.  He wanted communist takeovers in Korea and Vietnam.  He was adamantly, angrily anti-NATO, anti-Marshall Plan, anti-Truman Doctrine.  He argued that U.S. officials under President Harry Truman -- whom he portrayed as a fascist, racist, and imperialist -- and under secretaries of state George Marshall and Dean Acheson were handing West Germany back to the Nazis, while Stalin was pursuing "democracy" in East Germany and throughout the Communist Bloc.  He portrayed America's leaders as "aching for an excuse to launch a nuclear nightmare of mass murder and extermination" against the Chinese and the Soviets -- and eager to end all civilization.

Wait, it gets better -- sorry, worse.  Once again, here's Kengor's summary of our president's beloved mentor's political views:

Frank Marshall Davis:

  • Rejected and blasted Winston Churchill;
  • Vilified and targeted General Motors;
  • Advocated wealth redistribution from (in his words) greedy "corporations" to "health insurance" and "public works projects";
  • Favored taxpayer funding of universal health care;
  • Supported government stimulus and trumpeted the public sector over the private sector;
  • Constantly bashed Wall Street;
  • Dismissed traditional notions of American exceptionalism and framed American not as selflessly serving the post-World War II world but instead as selfishly flaunting its so-called "mountainous ego" and "racist-imperialist-colonialist" ambitions;
  • Warned God-and-gun-clinging Americans about huckster preachers and instead sought the political support of the "social justice" Religious Left for various causes and campaigns;
  • Perceived the Catholic Church as an obstacle to his vision for the state;
  • Confidently declared certain government actions "constitutional" or "unconstitutional";
  • Excoriated the "tentacles of big business," bankers, big oil, the "Big Boys," "excess profits," corporate fat cats and their "fat contracts," "millionaires" and "rich men," and the wealthy;
  • Attacked "GOP" tax cuts that "spare the rich" and that only "benefit millionaires";
  • Singled out the "corporation executive" for not paying his "fair" share;
  • Used slogans such as "change" and "forward."

Does this near-perfect overlay between the political views of our president and those of his mentor -- a card-carrying Communist whom, decades later, a rising Chicago politician would oh-so-carefully identify in Dreams from My Father only as "Frank" -- strike you as merely a coincidence?  No?  I didn't think so.  To borrow an old Kremlin adage that Frank himself would have heard, and probably used himself, a thousand times: Comrades, there are no coincidences.

Paul Kengor is an historian -- indeed, a brilliant one -- and in The Communist, his objective is to illuminate the life of a man who powerfully influenced a future president.  This is a book about Frank, not about Barack, and Kengor's recounting of Frank's professional journey from Kansas to Atlanta to Chicago -- yes, to Chicago -- and then to Hawaii, where Frank spent the rest of his long life, is riveting.  It's also sympathetic, for instance as Kengor recounts the prejudice, the indignities, and sometimes the physical dangers faced by a rising black poet in our country back in the 1920s and 1930s.

Of course, it was in Hawaii that Frank and the young Obama met, probably in 1970, when Obama would have been nine years old.  No one, including Kengor, can explain how Frank and Stanley Dunham, Obama's grandfather, came to know each other.  But they did, and young Barack tagged along on those evenings when the two men would meet at Frank's dilapidated cottage to talk, play poker, and drink.  Later, when Obama was old enough to drive but before heading off to college, he made his own visits to Frank.

Kengor isn't an investigative reporter, so he steers clear of those radioactive issues about whether Frank is really Obama's father, or about where the president was actually born and what citizenship he holds, or may have held, throughout his chaotic childhood.  But -- happily for the reader -- Kengor devotes a few pages to utterly destroying the reputations of those liberal journalists and fawning Obama biographers who do claim to be investigative journalists, and who twisted themselves into pretzels to avoid noticing that Obama's mentor was a Communist.

For example, during the 2008 presidential campaign, the Associated Press ran two articles about Obama's life in Hawaii, one specifically about Frank.  The AP described him to voters desperate for insight about the Democratic candidate merely as an advocate of "civil rights amid segregation" and a crusader for the U.S. Constitution.  The only Frank quote the AP offered its readers -- chosen from decades of vicious, anti-American newspaper columns Frank wrote in Hawaii -- was this: "I refuse to settle for anything less than all the rights which are due me under the Constitution."

Newsweek's John Meacham told readers only that Frank wrote about "civil rights and labor issues."  David Remnick, who wrote for The Washington Post, who now is editor of The New Yorker, and who authored The Bridge, which to date is perhaps the most comprehensive biography of our president, managed to completely ignore Frank's communist ideology and told readers only that Frank "wrote fierce columns about the suppression of unions, conditions on the plantation, the power of oligarchic Hawaiian families, race relations."  Somehow, this Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist failed to notice -- or chose to ignore -- Frank's incendiary, near-treasonous columns blasting Harry Truman and the Marshall Plan, accusing the U.S. of trying to re-Nazify Germany, and defending the Soviet Union at every turn.

The Communist is a page-turner for political junkies, but it's also first-rate history.  You'll learn a great deal about the Communist Party's activities in our country during the 1930s, the 1940s, and the 1950s.  These people were here, they were organized, they were undercover -- and they were determined to destroy our country.

Here's one little tidbit from the book that caught my eye, and which some enterprising journalist who doesn't want to work for The Washington Post, Newsweek, or The New Yorker might want to investigate: by 1948, Frank had achieved considerable success in his adopted city of Chicago.

Frank adored Chicago.  He had thrived there, was respected, and was proud of the prestige he had acquired.  He had come into his own, establishing himself professionally, personally, politically, culturally.  Racially, he was comfortable there, and nothing mattered to Frank like race. ... He was not only read there, but listened to -- literally.  He hosted a nightly jazz program on WJJD, spinning records for a city that was a global mecca for this uniquely American (and African-American) music.  He emceed events, both musical and political.  He taught.

So why, to the utter stupefaction of everyone he knew in Chicago, did Frank announce in September 1948 that he was leaving Chicago and heading for Hawaii?  It made no sense whatsoever, and it wasn't because Frank had grown weary of those cold Chicago winters.  Kengor's narrative leaves little room for doubt: Frank was sent to Hawaii by the Communist Party, because the Party was building its base there and had considerable room to maneuver because at that time, Hawaii hadn't yet become a state.

Now, fast-forward to 1960.  Stanley and Madelyn Dunham were living in Seattle with their teenage daughter, Stanley Ann, who later would give birth to our 44th president.  Stanley's career wasn't going anywhere, but Madelyn had a good-paying job at a local bank.  Suddenly -- inexplicably -- Madelyn quits her job, and the Dunhams hop it to Hawaii.  To date, no journalist or Obama biographer has provided an explanation for this move.  I haven't got one, either.  But as they used to say in Moscow: Comrades, there are no coincidences.

Herbert E. Meyer served during the Reagan administration as special assistant to the director of Central Intelligence and vice chairman of the CIA's National Intelligence Council.  He is author of two new eBooks, The Cure for Poverty and How to Analyze Information.

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