Obama, Frankly
A president’s influences

Paul Kengor, author of The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, the Untold Story


LOPEZ: If you could ask Barack Obama one question, what would it be and why?

KENGOR: I would like to know the exact influence that Davis had on Obama. Was Obama really a Communist when he entered Occidental College, as his former classmate, John Drew, claims and details quite conclusively — and, if so, did Davis provide that influence? Stanley Kurtz has shown that Obama actually joined the socialist New Party in the 1990s. That doesn’t surprise me.

Well, if those things are true, and if Barack Obama ultimately repudiated Communism and socialism, then when did he do so, and why? Where was the break? When did his conversion happen? We all have conversions. Very few of us still believe what we believed as freshmen in college. My last book, Dupes, was dedicated to Herb Romerstein, the greatest living expert on Communism in America. Herb had been a Communist in college. He changed. We know about the change. Herb has spoken about it at length. Look at my political hero, Ronald Reagan. Reagan in the 1940s had been a liberal dupe, suckered by Communists. They fooled Reagan into joining actually Communist front groups. Reagan changed — and he wrote about it often, talked about it often. Look at Whittaker Chambers. Look at the last president, George W. Bush. He was an open book in discussing his life change.

Most people who have these conversions talk about them. Obama has never detailed any such change, even with two memoirs written before he was president. Why can’t he and we have a candid conversation about his political, intellectual, and ideological development? What’s his fear? Gee, many conservatives already call him a Communist and socialist. Well, if he genuinely left the far left, why not silence them by explaining the how and why? Other presidents gave long interviews on such things.

I could easily accept the possibility that Obama was once a Marxist and then slowly evolved toward socialism or even modern-day liberalism — if that’s what happened. But his sycophantic media won’t even dare have that conversation. It’s an outrage. Never have we known so little about the background of our president. This is a willful, self-imposed ignorance by our media elite.

LOPEZ: What’s the most important takeaway from your book that you’d like every voter to consider this fall?

KENGOR: Our mentors matter. And more broadly, the crimes of Communists matter. Consider: There were hundreds of thousands of American Communists like Frank Marshall Davis who agitated for the Soviet Union and international Communism. They were incredibly wrong. They chose the wrong side of history, a horrendously bloody side that left a wake of over 100 million corpses from the streets of the Bolshevik Revolution to the base of the Berlin Wall — double the combined dead of the century’s two world wars. And they never apologized. Quite the contrary, they cursed their accusers for daring to charge (correctly) that they were Communists whose ideology threatened the American way and the greater world and all of humanity. They took their denials to the grave, and still today liberals continue to cover for them and curse their accusers.

And now, alas, we have the unprecedented case of a man like Frank Marshall Davis managing to influence someone as influential as the current president of the United States of America — i.e., the leader of the free world and driver of the mightiest political/economic engine in history.

Such figures do not mean that our current president is a closet member of Communist Party USA, but they do matter in the political, intellectual, and ideological development of our president. Such figures should not be ignored.

  Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online.