The Corner

Ben Smith and the Evidence

Yesterday, in “Obama’s Third-Party History,” I laid out “smoking gun” proof that Barack Obama had joined the leftist New Party in 1996, despite his campaign’s vehement denials of that fact in 2008. In the course of my argument, I recalled (and linked) my old debate with Ben Smith over Obama’s New Party ties. Now, over at BuzzFeed, Smith has addressed the issues raised by the new evidence I’ve presented.

Smith concedes that the new documents contradict the Obama campaign’s claim that he never sought the New Party’s endorsement. Yet Smith still gives far too much credence to the absurd claim of former New Party head Joel Rogers that the New Party had no members.

To begin with, I’ve already noted that the new documents include a memo from Rogers himself talking about the need for “new members.” How can Rogers go on denying that his party had members, given that, and how can Smith even half believe him?

Further evidence should be unnecessary, but since neither Smith nor Rogers have conceded this point, I will offer some. A memo of September 3, 1993 to “Interested Parties” from “ZAP” (almost certainly ACORN and national New Party political director Zach Pollett) is labeled “Re: August ‘93 New Party Membership Report.” There follows a chart listing the numbers of New Party members in each area of the country and targets for offering local membership groups official New Party “charters.” This charters meant formal recognition from the national office for a given local, and the right of that local to send representatives to the party’s governing council. The chart is followed by a “Membership Recruitment Analysis.”

#more#A Chicago New Party internal memo from 1994 by one of the group’s organizers makes note of a query by “KK” (almost certainly Chicago New Party leader and ACORN-controlled SEIU local 880 head Keith Kelleher): “from KK: is New Party paperwork straight to the national NP on mem lists? yes”

What this evidence shows is that, not only did the Chicago New Party chapter have members, but contrary to what Rogers continues to claim, this was not some quirk of the Chicago local that the national leaders could have known nothing about. On the contrary, it was crucial for actual or aspiring local chapters to get, keep, and increase members if they were to receive recognition and perks from the national party. Rogers’s continuing claim that he has “no idea” what New Party membership means lacks all credibility. Yet Smith continues to give him credence.

Now Rogers admits to having met directly with Obama to try to get him involved in the New Party, but claims that Obama was standoffish. That doesn’t jibe with the documents, which show that the Chicago New Party considered Obama a strong ally from its beginnings right through to its final days. I have much more on this in my longer piece on the New Party out in the latest issue of National Review.

But at least we now know that Rogers did personally meet with Obama to draw him into the New Party, something I suggested in Radical-in-Chief had very likely occurred. That means that Obama heard about the New Party’s true aspirations directly from its founder and chief theorist. And you can read more in my NR magazine piece about just what those aspirations were.

The most important piece of information in Smith’s piece is the very last line: “Obama’s spokesman didn’t have an immediate comment on the minutes.” That is unacceptable. The Obama campaign should not be allowed to get away with refusing to comment on this issue. Breitbart’s site has a report that David Axelrod, when asked whether the Obama campaign still denied that Obama was a New Party member, claimed not to know what the questioner was talking about. That is totally unbelievable. Obama’s history is Axelrod’s specialty, and this was a live issue in 2008. Axelrod is playing dumb to avoid conceding the truth.

Give the Obama campaign’s vehement denials in 2008 that Obama was a New Party member, given that Ben Smith himself now concedes that the Obama campaign was not telling the truth about soliciting the New Party endorsement, given the overwhelming evidence that Joel Rogers is wrong about the New Party membership issue, and given the media’s refusal to cover this issue in the past, the press now has a responsibility to ask the Obama campaign to confirm or deny that Barack Obama was once a member of the leftist, ACORN-controlled New Party.

Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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