Such is the sordid legacy of the People’s Friendship University, championed by Frank Marshall Davis mentor William Patterson.
FP: So, Patterson helped mentor Frank Marshall Davis, who, in turn, mentored Obama?
FP: In your book, you say that Davis’s first major Party job was editing and writing columns for the Chicago Star in the late 1940s. You found a lot of similarity in what Davis was writing and what Obama says today.
Kengor: Yes. Davis constantly bashed Wall Street, big oil, profits, GOP tax cuts, the wealthy and “millionaires.” He called for taxpayer funding of “universal healthcare” and “public works projects.” He targeted General Motors. He championed Russian foreign policy, especially at the expense of countries like Poland. I could go on and on. The similarities are chilling.
FP: Was there a particular Davis column that really struck you?
Kengor: Yes, and I use it to open the book. In a November 1946 column, Davis wrote: “I’m tired of being beaned with those double meaning words like ‘sacred institutions’ and ‘the American way of life’ which our flag-waving fascists and lukewarm liberals hurl at us day and night.” This struck me because it’s so similar to Obama’s quoting of Davis in Dreams from My Father. There, Obama quoted Davis saying: “They’ll train you so good, you’ll start believing what they tell you about equal opportunity and the American way and all that sh-t.”
When I saw that, I knew that Davis had lectured Obama with at least some of the same sentiments decades earlier in his old Communist Party writings. I found a bunch of examples of Davis trashing the American way, so much so that my initial subtitle for this book was “Frank Marshall Davis and the American Way.”
FP: Okay, when did Obama meet Davis?
Kengor: According to an eyewitness, they were first introduced in 1970. It was Obama’s grandfather, Stanley Dunham, who made the introduction. Dunham, himself a leftist, saw in Davis a potential role model and black father figure that Obama was lacking. Davis knew and influenced Obama throughout Obama’s adolescence in the 1970s, right up until he went to college. In fact, those disparaging words about the American way were Davis’s parting words to Obama before Obama headed off to Occidental College.
FP: You interview someone who knew Obama at Occidental and says that Obama was an actual communist at Occidental.
Kengor: That’s right. The person is Dr. John Drew, who I’ve interviewed at length and remain in regular contact with today. He’s totally credible, no axe to grind, no story to sell. Drew contacted me because he knew I was researching Davis. Drew sees himself as the “missing link” between Obama’s time with Frank Marshall Davis and with later radicals like Bill Ayers and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Drew himself was a Marxist at the time, and Obama was introduced to him as a fellow Marxist—as “one of us.” Drew told me about Obama’s belief in what Drew described as the “Frank Marshall Davis fantasy of revolution.” Drew, who was a more realistic, chastened Marxist, was stunned at Obama’s unwavering belief in the imminence of a Marxist revolution in the United States.
Now, for the record, if this is true, this doesn’t mean that Obama is today still a Marxist, but it would mean that he once was—and Frank Marshall Davis would have been a primary explanatory factor in Obama becoming a Marxist at the time. That’s why (among other reasons) this book on Davis needed to be done.
FP: Was Davis a national-security threat?
Kengor: The federal government thought so. In the book, I present documents from Davis’s 600-page FBI file in which the FBI repeatedly re-certifies Davis on the Security Index. That’s a very serious thing. It means that, in the event of a war breaking out between the US and USSR, Obama’s mentor could have been placed under immediate arrest. Needless to say, that’s quite unprecedented for a presidential mentor. With a mentor like that, Barack Obama should have trouble getting a security clearance for a standard, entry-level government job. Instead, Americans elected him right into the Oval Office.
FP: Incredible, that is really something.
Paul Kengor, how would you crystallize the main message/thesis of your book?
Kengor: Mentors matter. Any study of any president starts with mentors. We all know that. And yet, why have we ignored this mentor to this particular president? Well, the answer is clear from my book: Because no president in all of American history has ever had a mentor as radical as Frank Marshall Davis. No president—ever—has had a mentor who was a literal card-carrying member of the Communist Party. This obviously ought to merit our attention. My book provides that attention. It’s scandalous that it would take four years into Obama’s presidency for a book like this to be published. It’s a sign of the woeful liberal bias by this nation’s “journalists” and “biographers.”
FP: What do you hope your book will help achieve?
Kengor: Many things, but I’ll list just a few.
First off, I want people to continue to realize that our president is the product of some remarkably radical influences, and here, in Frank Marshall Davis, was arguably the most radical of them all. Davis had an influence on Obama. We need to consider that influence.
Beyond that, I’d like liberals and Democrats to please understand that communists were not their friends. The communists considered liberals to be their useful idiots, their dupes, their “prey,” as Whittaker Chambers put it. They used them incessantly. Davis was one of those who used liberals. And then, after all that, after decades of targeting the Democratic Party, Davis ultimately infiltrated the party and even influenced its current president. It’s a remarkable story.
Finally, there were numerous American communists like Frank Marshall Davis who did horrible agitation on behalf of international communism throughout the 20th century. They were on the wrong side of history, a bloody side that left over 100 million corpses in their wake—double the combined dead of the century’s two world wars. And you know what? They never apologized.
No, instead, they cursed their accusers for daring to charge (quite correctly) that they were communists threatening America and the wider world. Not only did they get away with it, but liberals today continue to excuse and protect them. In Davis’s case, they do so to protect Obama. This is a great historical injustice. The truth needs to be told.
FP: Paul Kengor, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
Kengor: Thank you, Jamie. And my thanks to you, David Horowitz, and everyone at Frontpage for your courage. Be not afraid.
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