The Corner

‘The Trojan Pragmatist’

Kathryn’s thorough and informative interview with Stanley Kurtz about his new book, Radical-in-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism, is must reading. As one of a few people who read the manuscript before its publication last week, I know that this interview is the best preview yet of what’s inside — and that anybody reading it will end up wanting to read the whole book.

And no wonder. Radical-in-Chief compellingly lays out as never before the firm ideological chain running through the president’s political life. It joins Obama’s earliest radical mentors to his college Marxism-Leninism to his attendance at Socialist Scholars Conferences in the early 1980s to his years spent collaborating with Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn and other radicals to his steady rise in the world of socialist politics in Chicago and beyond. It also connects the dots between those decades of thought and work and associations — and current White House policy.

It’s a product of extraordinary research; see just for starters pages 392-393, where scores of libraries and librarians across the country are thanked for allowing the author access to archives that anyone else could have found too — but only Stanley Kurtz did. Frankly, reading the manuscript almost made me feel sorry for our president. He has something far more dangerous on his trail than the right-wing noise machine. He has as his political biographer a former Harvard anthropologist who learned how to research and handle evidence at some of the best universities in the world, and who’s won coveted teaching awards at Harvard and elsewhere for his ability to explain complicated issues clearly and persuasively. How scary is that? For a politician who’s depended on passing himself off as a post-ideological pragmatist, plenty.

Just one take-home thought among many others that come to mind for NRO readers is this: what on earth would have happened if any conservative candidate for office had had the mirror-image ideological history of candidate Obama? As Stanley Kurtz writes, driving the point straight to the White House:

Imagine a presidential candidate who attended CPAC [Conservative Political Action Conference] conferences throughout his youth, then spent years as an activist in various conservative organizations, before finally becoming a politician with the most conservative voting record in the United States Senate. (Obama had the most liberal Senate record.) Instead of campaigning openly as a conservative…he claims to be a pragmatist who rejects ideologies of the left and right. Questioned by the press about his youthful conference attendance, he denies being a conservative and insists during those same years he had also made a point of reading Karl Marx and Michael Harrington. This would not be a persuasive reply.”

It sure wouldn’t, any more than Obama’s obfuscations about his ties to radicals have been persuasive, either. Radical-in-Chief is nothing more or less than the closest reading of President Obama’s political biography that he is going to get — and it proves that he’s distorted the public understanding of his deep, longstanding, and largely unrepudiated ties to many important figures of note in post-1980s American socialism.

Was that really so hard to see? Thanks to Radical-in-Chief, not anymore.

 – Mary Eberstadt is author of The Loser Letters.

Mary Eberstadt — Mary Eberstadt has written for a variety of magazines and newspapers, including National Review, Policy Review, The Weekly Standard, Commentary, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, First Things, ...

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Hillary Ruins the Plan

Editor’s note: Andrew C. McCarthy’s new book is Ball of Collusion: The Plot to Rig an Election and Destroy a Presidency. This is the first in a series of excerpts.  There really was a collusion plot. It really did target our election system. It absolutely sought to usurp our capacity for ... Read More

An Insider’s Guide to Italian Insults

The tragicomic irony of Chris Cuomo’s pugilistic outburst earlier this week — cursing and physically threatening a man for taunting him with a reference to the movie The Godfather — is that the CNN anchor reinforced the usual tropes about Italian Americans. We are all wise-guys, goons, and Mafiosi, just ... Read More

The End of Hong Kong as We Know It

The protests in Hong Kong have been going on for more than four months now, and no matter how the current crisis concludes in the coming days or weeks, it will mark the end of Hong Kong as we know it. The protests started in response to an extradition bill that was proposed by the city’s Beijing-backed ... Read More

Another Pop-Culture Christian Loses His Faith

It’s happened again. For the second time in three weeks, a prominent (at least in Evangelical circles) Christian has renounced his faith. In July, it was Josh Harris, a pastor and author of the mega-best-selling purity-culture book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. This month, it’s Hillsong United songwriter and ... Read More

A Brief History of Election Meddling

Editor’s note: Andrew C. McCarthy’s new book is Ball of Collusion: The Plot to Rig an Election and Destroy a Presidency. This is the second in a series of excerpts. ‘The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.” Thus spoke President Barack Obama just a couple of weeks before ... Read More