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Obama’s Radical Past
And his connection to socialism isn’t all ancient history, either.


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Stanley Kurtz

By the mid-1980s, James Cone, Jeremiah Wright’s theological mentor, had struck up a close cooperative relationship with the DSA. Cone and a prominent follower spoke at the conferences Obama attended. Shortly after the 1984 conference, Cone joined Reverend Wright in Cuba, where they expressed support for the Cuban social system as a model for the United States. Wright touted his Cuba trips to his congregation for years. Obama would have quickly discovered Wright’s ties to the liberation theologians he’d first learned of at the Socialist Scholars conferences. The connection helps explain Obama’s choice of Wright as his pastor.

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A little-known Chicago training institute for community organizers, the Midwest Academy, is in many ways the key to Barack Obama’s political rise. The Midwest Academy was closely allied to the DSA, which sponsored the Socialist Scholars conferences in New York. Most Midwest Academy leaders remained quiet about their socialism. Inspired by the success of the American Communist “Popular Front,” and by 19th-century American reformers who used populist and communitarian language to achieve socialist ends through incremental legislative means, the Midwest Academy’s leaders advocated a strategy of stealth.

In the ’70s and ’80s, theory was put into action in a series of “populist” coalitions quietly controlled by the socialist leadership of the Midwest Academy and the DSA. The Citizen/Labor Energy Coalition, for example, fought a series of legislative battles against oil and gas companies. Its signature proposal was its call for a public energy corporation to “compete” with private companies.

Officials from the Midwest Academy network trained Obama, supplied him with funds, and got him appointed head of Illinois Project Vote. Years later, Obama sent foundation money to the Midwest Academy. Barack and Michelle Obama ran a project called “Public Allies” that was effectively an extension of the Midwest Academy. Alice Palmer, the Illinois state senator who chose Obama as her successor, was once a high official in the Midwest Academy network. Several Midwest Academy leaders advised Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Academy founder Heather Booth is now a key figure in coordinating grassroots support for the president’s budget, health-care, and financial-reform plans.

The leaders of the Midwest Academy were eager to avoid public exposure of their socialism. Yet they trusted Obama enough to put him on the board of their satellite organization, Chicago Public Allies, and to succeed one of their own as state senator.

As I detail at length in Radical-in-Chief, deceptions and glaring omissions about his radical past reach far beyond Obama’s involvement with the Socialist Scholars conferences and the Midwest Academy. Archival documents reveal that Obama lied during the 2008 campaign about his ties to ACORN. New evidence confirms that Obama has hidden the truth about his relationships to Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers. The unknown story of Obama’s deep involvement with a radical group called UNO of Chicago is revealed. The claims of candidate Obama and his mentors that he shunned Saul Alinsky’s confrontational tactics turn out to be a sugary fairy tale. The obfuscating techniques of Obama’s memoir, Dreams from My Father, are exposed.

The pattern of misdirection upon which President Obama’s political career has been built has its roots in the socialist background of community organizing. ACORN, Reverend Wright, and Bill Ayers were all routes into that hidden socialist world, and that is why Obama has had to obscure the truth about these and other elements of his past. More important, the president’s socialist past is still very much alive in the governing philosophy and long-term political strategy of the Obama administration.

As we move into the first national election of the Obama presidency, Americans are confronted with a fateful choice. Either we will continue to be subject to President Obama’s radical and only very partially revealed plans for our future, or we will place a strong check on the president’s ambitions. Knowing the truth about Obama’s past is the best way to safeguard our future.

Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and author of Radical-in-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism.



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