Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. These articles are republished from The American Spectator. Paul Kengor is author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004), The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007), and The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007). His latest book is The Communist - Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama' s Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink (2012).
Here's the Guy Rudy Is Talking About: Frank Marshall Davis, Communist Party No. 47544
Rudy Giuliani is being roundly criticized for several recent statements he has made about President Barack Obama, including the claim that Obama in his youth was influenced by a literal Communist. I cannot address all of Giuliani's remarks, but I can certainly speak to the influence of the Communist he referred to. In short, Rudy was correct and he even had Obama's exact age (nine) right when he was first introduced to this person.
"From the time he was 9 years old, he was influenced by Frank Marshall Davis, who was a Communist," Giuliani said.
I can't say for certain that Rudy Giuliani read my book, which is titled, The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mentor, but he has those facts absolutely right. If I may, I'd like to add some crucial detail:
Frank Marshall Davis (1905-87) was a hardcore Communist, an actual card-carrying member of Communist Party USA (CPUSA), who spent time with a young Barack Obama throughout the 1970s, right up until the moment Obama left Hawaii for Occidental College in 1979.
Davis joined the Communist Party in Chicago in the early 1940s. CPUSA members swore an oath to "ensure the triumph of Soviet power in the United States." They were dedicated to what CPUSA leader William Z. Foster had openly called "Soviet America." Notably, Davis joined CPUSA after the Hitler-Stalin Pact, a time when many American Communists (especially Jewish Communists) had bolted the Party in disgust that their Soviet Union had allied with Hitler.
As we know from Davis's declassified 600-page FBI file (and other sources), his Party card number was 47544. He was very active. In 1946, he became the founding editor-in-chief of the Chicago Star, the party-line newspaper for Chicago. There, Davis shared the op-ed page with the likes of Howard Fast, a "Stalin Prize" winner, and Senator Claude "Red" Pepper, who, at the time, sponsored the bill to nationalize healthcare in the United States.
Davis left the Star in 1948 for Hawaii, where he would write for the party-line organ there, the Honolulu Record. His politics remained so radical that the FBI had him under continued surveillance. The federal government actually placed Davis on the Security Index, meaning that in the event of a war between the United States and USSR, Barack Obama's mentor could be placed under immediate arrest.
Frank Marshall Davis's targets were Democrats more than Republicans, given that Democrats, like Harry Truman, held the White House and opposed Stalin's Soviet expansion at the time. In December 1956, the Democrat-run Senate Judiciary Committee called Davis to Washington to testify on his activities. Davis pleaded the Fifth Amendment. No matter, the next year, the Democratic Senate published a report titled, "Scope of Soviet Activity in the United States," where it listed Davis as "an identified member of the Communist Party."
Frank Marshall Davis would eventually meet a young Barack Obama in 1970, introduced by Obama's grandfather, Stanley Dunham, for the purpose of mentoring. The boy's grandfather felt that the fatherless boy was in need of a black-male role model. For that, Dunham chose one of the most politically radical figures in all of Hawaii. He introduced the two in the fall of 1970. An eyewitness, a woman named Dawna Weatherly-Williams, who knew Davis so well that she called him "Daddy," was present the first time Obama and Davis met. She described the relationship as very influential, with Davis impacting Obama on "social justice," on "life," on "what's important," on no less than "how to use" his "heart" and "mind."
So deep was Davis's influence that Obama, in his huge bestselling memoir, Dreams from My Father, would cite him repeatedly over thousands of words and in each and every section (all three parts) of his memoirs - though he referred to him only as "Frank." "Frank" is mentioned 22 times by name, and far more times via pronouns and other forms of reference.
It is extremely telling that in the 2005 audio version of Dreams, released to help package Obama for the White House, "Frank" was completely purged from the memoir. As noted on the back cover, the audio version was personally "approved" by Obama himself.
How often did Obama and Frank Marshall Davis meet?
Only Obama himself knows and could answer that question. The Washington Post's excellent writer David Maraniss, in his acclaimed biography of Obama, writes that "Obama later estimated that he saw Davis 'ten to fifteen times'" during their years together in Hawaii. Maraniss didn't provide his source, but he must have gotten it directly from Obama in an exclusive interview for his book. I haven't seen that figure cited anywhere else.
For the record, 10 to 15 times is notable, especially given the nature and duration of these one-on-one meetings - often long late-night evenings together. (Some people cite mentors who they've barely met or not even met at all.) The two would drink and even got drunk together. In reality, I bet the number of Obama-Davis meetings is much greater, given that Obama would be expected to understate Davis' influence. Consider the print and audio versions of Dreams from My Father.
Again, one person could easily clarify the whole thing in a sentence, if he were asked by our "journalists": Barack Obama.
Now, the billion-dollar question: What's the relevancy of all of this? Does this Davis stuff mean that Barack Obama is today a closet Communist? No, of course it doesn't. We all know that. It does, however, explain how and why and where Obama went so far to the left, and why he's so far to the left to this day. In my book on Davis, I quote at length a student Communist leader at Occidental College who knew Obama immediately after he left Davis and knew him as a Communist. I'm confident from my research that the young Obama was once a Communist, and that Davis was surely an influence in that regard. The unknown is precisely how much Davis influenced Obama, and - the true big question - when and where and how and why Obama ever rejected that Communist past. To this day, Obama has never, despite two pre-presidential memoirs and thousands of interviews, told us about this radical background and why he supposedly left it. And the media refuses to ask, instead they dump on those like Rudy (and myself) who bother to ask.
As I've said repeatedly in my interviews on the Frank Marshall Davis book, Barack Obama could have crushed all wild speculation in 2008 by simply being candid about the Communism in his background and explaining when he (allegedly) left it all behind. My primary biographical subject, Ronald Reagan, once had been a self-described "hemophiliac" liberal duped by Communists. He told us all about it. George W. Bush told us about his alcohol struggles. Hillary Clinton has told us about her shift away from being a Goldwater girl.
So, where is Obama's conversion narrative? Again, the media refuses to ask.
All of which brings me back to Rudy Giuliani and Barack Obama. There's a super-quick way to clear up what Rudy is raising: Instead of interrogating Rudy, just once, finally, for the first time, ask Barack Obama about the Communist, Frank Marshall Davis, whom he spent time with throughout the 1970s. We're still waiting for just one question.
"It Was a Real Killing Field" - Remembering Iwo Jima
On February 19, 1945, 20-year-old Bill Young of Mooresville, North Carolina, disembarked an LST onto a miserable hunk of black rock called Iwo Jima. He was part of a 75-mile-long convoy of ships preparing to dislodge the Japanese from this volcanic remnant of an island. The territory was formally part of Japan, meaning it was considered literally sacred ground to Japanese soldiers.
Just how many Japanese were there, and where, was a mystery to Bill and the approaching Marines. It took his crewmen six weeks to arrive. They slept in cots under a tarp erected on the deck; all beds below were taken up by as many men as the U.S. military could jam onto one boat. But that little bit of discomfort was nothing compared to what was unexpectedly awaiting them.
"The plan was to be at Iwo Jima just a few days to mop it up - less than a week we were told," Bill told me. They would tidy up things and then move on. The Japanese, however, had other plans.
"I ended up there for 37 days," says Bill, who stayed for the full duration of the unforeseen hell ahead. "We ran into more resistance than we ever thought imaginable. It was a real killing field."
It became the bloodiest battle for American troops during all of World War II, with 7,000 killed and 20,000 casualties. Bodies, bullets, and death everywhere.
"You could just shoot into a crowd and kill someone, there was so many people," says Bill of those first waves that stormed the beaches. "We lost one Marine every 45 seconds, more than one per minute, for the first three days. We didn't have anywhere to bury them. We laid them out side by side, put a raincoat over them until we could build a cemetery."
I asked Bill about those early moments. In his low-key voice, he recalled that things happened so fast he didn't have time to dwell on the calamity. In between firing their weapons, he and the others tried to make foxholes but couldn't because of the odd lava rock. Their instinct was to simply survive.
The Japanese weren't on the island, explains Bill, they were in the island. They were hidden in a wild labyrinth of caves, intricate tunnels, and camouflaged concealments.
The Japanese dead numbered around 19,000, with only about 200 taken prisoner - those too injured to kill themselves with their grenades. The Japanese homeland was only 600 miles away. They would (and did) fight to the death. And they took a lot of good American boys with them.
As for Bill, he survived without a scratch, but most weren't so fortunate. Of the six men who raised the famous flag photographed atop Mount Suribachi, only three left the island, with two of them, John Bradley and Rene Gagnon, going on to lead normal lives. Bradley is the subject of the superb book-turned-film, Flags of Our Fathers. The third surviving flag raiser was Ira Hayes, a Native American.
Bill Young knew Ira Hayes. He vividly remembers leaning on the ship rail and shooting the breeze with Ira for several hours on the boat home. "They didn't think nothing of it," says Bill of Ira and his fellow flag-raisers. "They just grabbed a pipe, put a flag on it, and raised it."
But everyone else thought something of it. The moment was captured by AP photographer Joe Rosenthal and became a national sensation. Indeed, Ira's time with Bill on the ship was cut short when a helicopter nabbed the instant celebrity to rush him off to sell war bonds. He and Bradley and Gagnon became a huge hit touring the country.
The adulation, however, couldn't heal Ira Hayes, who used alcohol to cope with the horrors he experienced. He died a sad death after returning home.
Bill Young didn't get home right away. He readied for an even worse dnouement with the devil: an invasion of Japan's mainland. He was spared when President Harry Truman dropped the atomic bomb, finally compelling the Japanese to surrender.
Bill Young eventually made his way home. He married his sweetheart, Arvelle. They were together for 58 years before her death. Today, at age 90, Bill lives next door to the house where he grew up.
Asked how he feels about his time in World War II, Bill recalls the entire experience, beyond just Iwo Jima, and says simply: "I'm glad I did it. I enjoyed it, as much as you could something like that."
Yes, as much as you could enjoy something like that.
Iwo Jima was, says Bill Young, a real killing field. On the anniversary of that ferocious battle, let's remember Bill and all those who sacrificed so much.
Remembering Roe: A Forgotten Warning from Ronald Reagan
Given the somber anniversary of Roe v. Wade - source of 40 million abortions since 1973 - I thought I'd share an excellent but forgotten speech by President Ronald Reagan. The speechwriter was Peter Robinson, featured guest of our Reagan Lecture this year.
Reagan's remarks, made in July 1987 to pro-life leaders, are moving to read and watch (or listen to). They are prescient in light of the widening abortion abyss we face under the Obama administration and Pelosi-Reid Congress.
Reagan began with a reminder I often share with my secular-liberal friends. He told the pro-life activists:
[M]any of you, perhaps most, never dreamed of getting involved in politics. What brought you into politics was a matter of conscience, a matter of fundamental conviction.
That point cannot be underscored enough. Few things rile me more than demands that pro-lifers - especially those motivated by their faith - keep out of politics. Quite the contrary, many did just that, quietly going to church and reading their Bibles, until one day they awoke to learn the Supreme Court had passed Roe v. Wade. . . and the hellacious assault was on. They entered pro-life activism reluctantly, as a reaction to what was thrust upon their culture and country. The last thing they wanted was to get involved in politics. The Death Culture came to them.
Reagan next added:
Many of you've been attacked for being single-issue activists or single-issue voters. But I ask: What single issue could be of greater significance?
Agreed. For me, the life issue is my starting point, of far greater value than where a politician stands on social security or the minimum wage. Obviously, other issues matter. The right to life, however, is the first and most fundamental of rights, without which other rights are impossible. And if you, personally, are unsure when life begins, consider Reagan's recommendation: "If there's even a question about when human life begins, isn't it our duty to err on the side of life?"
Reagan saw the onslaught against America's unborn as so ferocious that he favored a "human life amendment" to the Constitution. At the time, this seemed extreme, but we've learned that unless amendments are attached to bill after bill - the Hyde Amendment, the Stupak Amendment - anonymous powers ensure all sorts of "unintended" consequences, including taxpayer funding of abortion.
Speaking of such funding, Reagan also acknowledged his "Mexico City policy," which blocked U.S. taxpayer funding of international "family planning" groups. One of the first things President Obama did was rescind that policy - immediately after the March for Life in January.
Another policy Reagan highlighted in his speech was the prohibition of federal funds to finance abortions in the District of Columbia. This, too, was overturned, thanks to a Democratic Congress and president that rejected funding for school vouchers for poor children in Washington, DC, but supported funding for abortions for the mothers of those children.
Yes, I know the contrast is breathtaking, but it's true.
Reagan talked more about abortion funding, and specifically "the so-called Grove City [College] legislation sponsored by Senator [Ted] Kennedy." "This bill," noted Reagan,
. . . would mean that all hospitals and colleges receiving federal funds, even those with religious affiliations, would be open to lawsuits if they failed to provide abortions.
The usually affable Reagan said: "this one really touches my temperature control."
There was much more Reagan said in this speech, but I'll close with two poignant thoughts: "Many who turn to abortion do so in harrowing circumstances," Reagan emphasized, including women "misled by inaccurate information."
. . . [W]e must remind those who disagree with us, and sometimes even ourselves, that we do not seek to condemn, we do not seek to sit in judgment. . . . [I]t is our duty to rise above bitterness and reproach.
Pro-lifers must heed that call, respecting the human dignity of everyone. All victims require love and charity. On that, Reagan finished with this:
I'd like to leave with you a quotation that means a great deal to me. These are the words of my friend, the late Terence Cardinal Cooke, of New York. "The gift of life, God's special gift, is no less beautiful when it is accompanied by illness or weakness, hunger or poverty, mental or physical handicaps, loneliness or old age. Indeed, at these times, human life gains extra splendor as it requires our special care, concern, and reverence. It is in and through the weakest of human vessels that the Lord continues to reveal the power of His love."
Here was a warning against the pallbearers of the progressive death march, from Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger - who hoped to expunge the gene pool of "human weeds" - to the euthanasia precipice to which America is being dragged. It starts with the weakest of vessels: the infant in its mother's womb.
Timeless words of wisdom to bear in mind this week, as America struggles to survive another year of Roe v. Wade. *