Politics & Policy

Radical Mind

Understanding Obama.

Barack Obama may very well succeed in convincing most Americans that he espouses their more moderate, traditional mindset: According to a recent New York Times/CBS News Poll, 63 percent of those surveyed believe the nominee shares the values by which most Americans try to live.

But how can they be sure, in light of Obama’s remarkable inexperience, calculated lack of a scholarly “paper trail,” absence of papers from his Illinois Senate days and similar lacunae, deceptively understated or “stealth liberalism,” and ill-defined rhetoric?

#ad#One blind spot in the public’s understanding of Obama concerns his education, in the broad sense of the term: What has he absorbed from various influences over the years?

He has been steeped, by virtue of upbringing and personal choice, in an often extremely radical worldview. Throughout his life he has also typically chosen to consort with radicals of various stripes and gravitated toward radical causes. Consider some of the main educational influences that came to bear on Obama.

Parental Leanings

In The Obama Nation, Jerome R. Corsi documents the intellectual journey of the candidate’s Kenyan father, who abandoned him and about whom he poignantly wrote in his autobiography, Dreams From My Father. Corsi shows how Obama Sr.’s leftist ideology gradually hardened into more extreme Communist views. In Dreams, Obama Jr. speaks of his father’s “strong image,” which provided him with a “bulwark on which to grow up, an image to live up to.”

As for Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, the candidate portrays her as “an unreconstructed liberal” inspired by the civil-rights movement. Yet he stakes out a position different from her liberalism of a “pre-1967 vintage.” He dwells instead on his fascination with “the Dionysian, up-for-grabs quality” of 1968, a time when, as Corsi notes, the “Far Left hardened” and “the civil rights and antiwar movements were both radicalized.” In Dreams, Obama recalls how he “soaked in a vision of the sixties” based on events such as the rise of Huey Newton, the co-founder of the militant Black Panthers. Obama then seems to put some critical distance between himself and far-Left “orthodoxy” with the claim that he had begun “to reexamine” its tenets. How he did so remains unclear.

Frank Marshall Davis, ‘Red Mentor’

Of the curriculum at Punahou Academy, the college-prep school Obama attended for several years in Hawaii, we know little. An apparently greater intellectual influence in those years was a mysterious mentor-writer identified in Dreams only as “Frank,” who counseled him over whiskey on issues relating to race, education and American values, and who read him poems. This close personal mentor was Communist Party USA member Frank Marshall Davis.

#ad#The College ‘Experience’

Many Americans have been swept up in left-wing thought and activism through college. But Obama’s case seems especially drastic. In Dreams, he recalls how at Occidental College in Los Angeles, striving not to be “mistaken for a sellout,” he selected his companions:

carefully. The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets . . . we discussed neocolonialism, [revolutionary writer] Franz Fanon, Eurocentrism, and patriarchy … We weren’t indifferent or careless or insecure. We were alienated.

One of Obama’s friends, incidentally, was “Marcus,” who believed “white people don’t see us as human beings.”

The black nationalism of Malcolm X also attracted Obama, although he rejected this extremist ideology as impractical and ineffective. Nonetheless, it is significant that in Dreams, he wrote about viewing assimilation as:

gravitational pull, the way integration always worked, a one-way street. The minority assimilated into the dominant culture, not the other way around. Only white culture could be . . . nonracial, willing to adopt the occasional exotic into its ranks. Only white culture had individuals. And we, the half-breeds and the college-degreed . . . become only so grateful to lose ourselves in . . . America’s happy, faceless marketplace; and we’re [not outraged by the indignities] . . . less fortunate coloreds have to put up with . . . but because we’re wearing a Brooks Brothers suit and speak impeccable English and yet have somehow been mistaken for an ordinary n*****.

Such harangues show Obama to have been unmindful of the real meaning of assimilation and unappreciative of its immeasurable worth.

Having come to “understand [himself] as a black American,” Obama then transferred to Columbia University in order to “test [his] commitments.” In New York he continued to fixate on issues relating to race and class

I began to grasp the almost mathematical precision with which America’s race and class problems joined; the depth, the ferocity, of resulting tribal wars; the bile that flowed freely not just out on the streets but in the stalls of Columbia’s bathrooms as well, where …the walls remained scratched with blunt correspondence between n****** and k****.

Obama’s absorption in “the politics of the dispossessed” characteristically led him back to socialist solutions. He attended socialist conferences at Cooper Union and worried, justifiably, about “uninhabitable tenements” and black unemployment and low-level jobs.


Alinsky ‘Apprenticeship

Fresh out of college, and with a range of work or study options before him, Obama elected to become a left-wing community organizer in Chicago. He was hired for the job, NRO’s David Freddoso stresses, by persons who had trained under academic-turned-radical-socialist and self-described agitator Saul Alinsky. Employed to bring jobs and government benefits to needy Chicago neighborhoods, Obama would later praise this activist stint as “the best education of his life.”

#ad#Freddoso specifies that Alinsky followers were taught to churn up popular dissatisfaction, manipulate interest groups, appear to have integrity and not to exhibit class hatred, and intimidate when necessary. He cites Mike Kruglik, once an Alinsky organizer, who declared Obama “’the undisputed master of agitation.’”

‘Lying Low’ at Law School and in Teaching Years

About Obama’s time at Harvard Law School, where he was editor of the law review, the New York Times reports, “In dozens of interviews, his friends said they could not remember his specific views from that era, beyond a general emphasis on diversity and social and economic justice.” Obama became “deft at navigating an institution scorched with ideological battles, many of which revolved around race,” and, in particular, issues relating to affirmative action. He became adept at not giving away his true positions, “giving warring classmates the impression that he agreed with all of them at once.”

Later, during his years of teaching constitutional law as an adjunct professor at the University of Chicago, Obama also kept a low profile. Although his focus remained on race, rights, and gender “at a school where,” the Times writes, “market-friendliness” prevailed and “economic analysis was all the rage,” he did not engage in the heated debates, had few close friends except for liberal constitutional-law professors, and produced no scholarship at all. In the words of Richard Epstein, a libertarian colleague, Obama “’doesn’t have the slightest idea where folks like me are coming from,” was “an absentee tenant” in ideological debates, and “was unwilling to put his name to anything that could haunt him politically, as [Lani] Guinier’s writings had hurt her.’”

Consorting with ‘Unrepentant Terrorist’ Ayers

Well on the nation’s radar now are Obama’s ties (described by his spokesman David Axelrod as “a friendly relationship”) to the aforementioned Ayers, now distinguished professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Ayers has pronounced, “I don’t regret setting bombs,” and held a fundraiser in his home for Obama early in his political career. In addition, Ayers and Obama served jointly on the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago, which today gives large grants to left-wing groups, and on two academic panels.


Connection to Khalidi

Among other of Obama’s academic friends and associates, writes Freddoso, has been Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi, a backer of the Palestine Liberation Organization while it was designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.

#ad#While Obama and Ayers served on the Woods Fund board, the trust made substantial grants to the Arab American Action Network, founded by Khalidi. The organization reports that it conducted an oral history project on “an-Nakba,” or the “catastrophe” of Israel’s founding. Khalidi also hosted a political fundraiser for Obama, and Obama in turn offered a testimonial at a dinner in Khalidi’s honor. (Ayers also gave a testimonial.)

Radical Campaign Advisers

The editors of the Wall Street Journal have criticized Obama for populating his “national security councils” with “superdove” academics and others such as Anthony Lake and Susan Rice.

Moreover, just as Obama did not in the past hesitate to support the work of Khalidi, so did he not hesitate in his campaign to hire Mazen Asbahi as his Muslim-Outreach Adviser. Asbahi recently resigned in the wake of publicity linking him to legacy groups of the worldwide Muslim Brotherhood. “This is relevant,” comments Douglas Farrah of the International Assessment and Strategy Center, “because of the MB’s historical ties to radical Islamist terrorism and the ties of members of legacy groups in the United States to multiple terrorist cases, investigations and convictions.”

Obama’s other “radical advisers,” Freddoso decries, include Cornel West, an African-American studies professor at Princeton University who describes himself as a “progressive socialist.” West has called Marxism “an indispensable tradition for freedom fighters,” and lauded the usurpation of executive power by leftist strongman Hugo Chavez in Venezuela as a “democratic awakening.”

There is also Charles Ogletree, a Harvard law professor who favors reparations to the descendants of slaves, and Robert Malley, who resigned when it became known that he had been meeting with the terrorist group Hamas, which in 2006 called for attacks against the U.S.

If the American people grasp in time who Obama really is — who he has been informed by, who he associates with and what he appears to believe in, he will not be elected.

 – Candace de Russy is an expert on higher education who blogs at NRO’s Phi Beta Cons.”

Candace de Russy — Candace de Russy is a nationally recognized expert on education and cultural issues.

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