Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004), The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007), The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007) and The Communist — Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).
Kengor Writes . . .
Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004), The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007), The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007) and The Communist — Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).
Imagine if Stormy Daniels Were Bill Clinton’s Friend Gennifer Flowers.
CBS’s “60 Minutes” rounded out Palm Sunday yesterday with an exclusive interview with porn-star Stormy Daniels leveling salacious charges against President Trump. The interview was aired almost 20 years to the day of another surreal interview involving a president and sensational sexual allegations.
On March 24, 1998, the New York Times provided a platform for one Bernard Lewinsky, father of a lady likewise infamous for lewd antics. In an article titled, “He Accuses Special Prosecutor of ‘Trying to Torture’ His Daughter: Lewinsky’s Father Rips Into Starr,” Lewinsky exploded not at the man who employed his little girl — Monica — as a sexual play-thing in the nation’s most revered office, but instead unleashed his anger at, well, Ken Starr.
“I think this is just the drip torture technique that Ken Starr is using on her,” complained the Los Angeles cancer specialist, condemning not Bill Clinton’s grotesque techniques on his daughter. “He is just trying to torture her in every possible way.” Dr. Lewinsky said his daughter was being used as a political “pawn” by the slimy Starr. She was now “very depressed” and a “virtual prisoner in her apartment,” unable to talk or even see family and friends and her own brother.
It wasn’t his first slap at the independent counsel. In a piece the Times ran a few weeks earlier, “Intern’s Father Assails Starr Over Inquiry,” Lewinsky had barked at Starr: “Lay off!” These were words that surely would have been better spent hurled at Bill Clinton. But that wasn’t the mindset of Monica’s father; his villain was the independent counsel. Dr. Lewinsky surmised that what Ken Starr (not Bill Clinton) had “brought upon” his daughter was “unconscionable.” Displaying his liberal bona fides, Dr. Lewinsky said the nefarious Starr so repulsed him that the counselor made him think of the worst of humans: Joe McCarthy. The attorney was running a “McCarthy-era” investigation. In fact, said Dr. Lewinsky, this new era was actually worse than that: it was reminiscent not merely of the McCarthy era but “of the Inquisition” and even “the Hitler era.”
Yes, the Hitlerian Ken Starr was “completely out of control.” (Again, no charges of Bill Clinton being out of control.)
That was 20 years ago. And it’s worth noting today because Dr. Lewinsky’s comments weren’t solely representative of an enraged father who had gone bananas thanks to Bill Clinton and was lashing out. No, Lewinsky was a proud liberal, and his misdirected indignation was reflective of liberals’ misdirected indignation during the Clinton-Lewinsky affair. The liberal press wasn’t simply in denial mode; it, too, was in attack mode — attacking not Boy Clinton, but Bad Boy Starr.
Such it had been for two nutty terms of Bill Clinton. Above all, the left told us this sordid stuff didn’t matter, and the liberal mainstream press did everything to avoid the elephants in the Clinton bedroom — actually, in the Clinton Oval Office.
Monica’s dad was sadly symptomatic of Bill’s supporters throughout the media.
It wasn’t until deep into the second Clinton term that names like Monica Lewinsky and Juanita Broaddrick — the latter a two-decade old case of alleged rape by Bill Clinton — made their way into the media. The press had to be dragged kicking and screaming, and only then after exposés by Matt Drudge. As for Broaddrick and her rape claims, the story finally hit the mainstream media when NBC’s Lisa Myers bravely broke ranks and interviewed Broaddrick. Then, the mainstream press slowly followed, including a detailed report on the front page of the February 20, 1999 edition of the Washington Post. It was, alas, the seventh year of Bill’s presidency.
Broaddrick herself would confront Hillary Rodham Clinton with a letter to the sitting first lady demanding an explanation, a letter excerpted in the press. That story didn’t enter the mainstream media until October 2000, the final full year of the Clinton presidency.
The American Spectator as early as late 1993 had been breaking extraordinary stories based on stunning interviews with (among others) the Arkansas state troopers unluckily assigned to Gov. Bill Clinton. The troopers’ accounts were jaw-droppers, and credible — and yet the press assiduously ignored them. When Paula Jones or Gennifer Flowers attempted a press conference, they were openly mocked by the press; literally laughed at on the spot. (To its credit, “60 Minutes” did confront both Clintons on allegations of Bill’s marital infidelity during the 1992 campaign, an interview in which Bill and surely Hillary lied through their grinning lips.)
Recall, too, how all the president’s men joined the pack. Throughout 1998, the lieutenants in the Clinton camp were on a rampage against the special prosecutor’s office, which they openly portrayed as operated by fundamentalist-hayseeds, puritanical tyrants, sexual McCarthyites looking for a woman under every Clinton bed. Ken Starr was a modern Torquemada.
Especially adept at the art of vicious sliming was Clinton hatchet-man James Carville, who lampooned Starr for — heaven forbid — praying and singing hymns during walks along a creek near his home. “He goes down by the Potomac and listens to hymns, as the cleansing water of the Potomac goes by,” screeched a howling Carville, “and we’re going to wash all the Sodomites and fornicators out of town!” Sidney Blumenthal, White House aide and Clinton apologist extraordinaire, snarled that Starr fancied himself a “zealot on a mission derived from a higher authority,” and ripped Starr’s chief deputy in Little Rock, W. Hickman Ewing, who was obviously a “religious fanatic.”
Words like “bimbo” and “trailer-park trash” were tossed around brutally by Clintonistas to besmirch women who courageously stood up against the most powerful man in the world. Bill’s victims might have started the #MeToo movement, if only a single pro-choice feminist in Washington had been willing to stand at their side.
And now, 20 years later, it’s March 2018, barely a full year into the Trump presidency, and liberals are practically kicking down the door of the Playboy Mansion looking under couches for dirt on the Donald. It seems only a matter of time before CNN sets up a full-time bureau in a Washington strip club. Poor Anderson Cooper, a genuinely decent guy, seems to have been dispatched to the Porn Beat, where his duties include shoving microphones in the faces of X-rated film stars and former centerfolds. Turning on CNN in front of the kids is a risk nowadays.
Now, every new sexual allegation against Donald Trump is an instant headline. No hesitation — straight to the front pages, baby.
And as for me, for the record, I’m as troubled by the allegations in 2018 as in 1998. I’m not shrugging this off. Conservatives must stand on principle and care about and condemn such outrageously and scandalously bad behavior, especially to retain any credibility. As readers here well know, I voiced character concerns about Donald Trump during his campaign in 2016 — as I had about Bill Clinton in 1992. But my focus here is liberals, and this reality: Their hypocrisy is coming back to bite them.
When liberals protest that Trump supporters aren’t taking these charges seriously, or cry foul when Trump defenders point instead to Bill Clinton in the 1990s, well, they shouldn’t be surprised. Liberals, there’s a moral-political consequence to how you covered your ears and eyes in the 1990s. And now you’ll see it among a sizable segment of voters who will reject your remonstrations of moral outrage against Donald Trump. Frustrated? So were we.
Obama’s CIA Director Would Sooner Vacation in North Korea Than at Mar-a-Lago.
Obama CIA director John Brennan, recently uncorked an epic Twitter rant. Enraged by President Trump’s words aimed at FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, Brennan steamed at the president:
“When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America . . . America will triumph over you.”
More than one faithful reader emailed me about the irony of such words coming from a man who wanted Gus Hall to be president of the United States.
For those too young to remember, Gus Hall was the longtime hack and head of Communist Party USA, beginning in 1959 until his death in 2000. Not even Joe Stalin as a Party General Secretary came close to matching Gus Hall’s interminable tenure. Hall was unwaveringly dedicated to a global Communist revolution and a truly Evil Empire that was ultimately and blessedly consigned to “the dustbin of history.” Brennan’s loaded words echoed a phrase that Bolshevism made infamous: From the delightful Leon Trotsky to the charming Yuri Andropov, the exhortation evidently remains etched in Brennan’s comradely memory. “Go the place where you belong from now on,” Trotsky thundered at the Mensheviks in 1917, “the dustbin of history!”
Our former CIA director channeled Trotsky in the service of blasting Trump.
Of course, that’s precisely why the good reader emailed me. The reader graciously remembered my piece for The American Spectator in September 2016 in which I noted that the same Mr. John Brennan had supported Mr. Gus Hall for POTUS back in the Brezhnev era. Brennan literally cast a vote for the Kremlin’s man in Washington. Needless to say, the Kremlin in those days was a rather bad place that housed some nasty guys. Leonid Brezhnev’s KGB chief was Yuri Andropov. About the time that Brennan was registering a ballot for Moscow’s man in America to become America’s next president, Brezhnev and Andropov were giving the green light to one of the most shocking crimes of the deadly 20th century: the assassination of Pope John Paul II. Andropov gave the go-ahead to the Soviet GRU to hire Muslim-Turk Mehmet Ali Agca to murder the head of the world’s largest Christian church and inheritor of the Chair of St. Peter.
That ought to have raised a red flag to John Brennan, who, among other things, had been raised an Irish Catholic. His lurch to the far left occurred during his college years at the Jesuit-run Fordham University in New York. (Today, it’s unclear where Brennan stands faith-wise, with not a single mention at his official CIA page and other biographical sources and amid unproven claims that he converted to Islam. The Arabic-speaking ex-CIA director, who studied abroad in Cairo, has made very positive statements about Islam and the “privilege” of making pilgrimage to Mecca and paying homage to “the majesty of the Hajj.”)
In fact, if one studies Brennan’s admission that he voted for Gus Hall, it looks like he also suggested that he might have been a member of the Communist Party in 1980. Yes, a formal member.
Once upon a time in pre-Obama America, the possibility of CPUSA membership would have been a disqualifying factor to run the CIA. But not to the president that Americans elected in 2008 and reelected in 2012. To the contrary, Obama would have been highly sympathetic. It was likewise in 1980, at Occidental College, according to classmate John Drew, that the young Obama was an ideological Marxist, albeit not a formal CPUSA member. Only the most hardcore joined The Party — including Obama mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, whose underground code name for The Party was “The Church.”
But alas, that’s just the start of the irony in John Brennan’s Tweet about the corruption of Donald Trump. Observe that Brennan also blasted Trump for demagoguery, venality, and moral turpitude. Well, that took some gall for a Gus guy. Gus Hall was all those things, and worse.
I couldn’t begin to here lay out the full spectrum and spectacle (and disgrace, to borrow another Brennan description) that was Gus Hall, but here’s one particularly relevant item of interest: ol’ Gus was so corrupt that even the Russkies couldn’t trust him.
An eyewitness to that reality was Morris Childs, a remarkable individual whose story was told by the late John Barron in his fascinating book Operation Solo: The FBI’s Man in the Kremlin. Childs was Gus’s number-two at CPUSA. And all along, Childs was secretly working for the FBI.
The courageous Childs marvelously hoodwinked Hall and his Moscow cronies. The Soviets loved Childs like a brother, bestowing on him their celebrated Soviet Order of the Red Banner — a hilarious accomplishment for an undercover FBI agent.
What Childs learned from the Soviets was significant. But as to the point of Gus Hall’s corruption, consider this: The Soviet Union was secretly bankrolling CPUSA, including annual subsidies to the Daily Worker. It was illegal for CPUSA and Gus Hall to receive this money. Our government knew this was happening, but it kept the information quiet to protect Childs so he could continue providing crucial inside intelligence.
Morris Childs and his brother Jack (also working for our side) were conduits for the funding. The Kremlin gave CPUSA tens of millions of dollars. The total rose to $2,775,000 by 1980. The FBI knew the precise amount because it counted every dime at a half-way house prior to when Morris deposited it in a safe for Gus Hall.
To repeat: Hall and CPUSA were doing all of this illegally. They were a directly-subsidized arm of America’s chief adversary, a barbaric regime.
But that’s not the end of it — of, that is, Gus Hall’s corruption. As for the safe in which Moscow’s money was placed for CPUSA, Gus always pocketed a portion for his personal stash. Childs knew this, the FBI knew it. He wasn’t trustworthy. Then again, why would anyone trust a Communist General Secretary? Come to think of it, why would anyone vote for a Communist General Secretary to be their president of the United States?
That brings us back to John Brennan.
One might lend more credibility to Brennan’s crowing about Donald Trump if he had better judgment about presidents of the United States. And this article doesn’t begin to detail Gus Hall’s venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption. Where to start and finish with those? Here are merely a few Gus gems:
On vacationing in North Korea: “The world should see what North Korea has done. In some ways it’s a miracle. If you want to take a nice vacation, take it in North Korea.”
On the Party’s position on the Hitler-Stalin of 1939, Stalin’s purge trials, and the 1956 invasion of Hungary: “I never believed that we should dwell too much on the past. I have been much more interested in the future.”
On socialism’s inevitability in America: “There’s no question that the United States will become a socialist country. It’s as inevitable as the sun rising tomorrow.”
On the Party remaining committed to revolution: “We want to overthrow the capitalist system. But the means that we have chosen are ones of mass education and propaganda. We have our newspaper and we appear on talk shows and we will take part in elections.”
Well, John Brennan took part in those elections. He cast a vote for the cause.
Let’s Not Forget Bernardine Dohrn, Bill Ayers, and the Four-Finger Salute
Most articles on the death of madman Charles Manson opened by mentioning his role in the diabolical Tate-LaBianca murders. The AP story started this way:
“Charles Manson, the hippie cult leader who became the hypnotic-eyed face of evil across America after orchestrating the gruesome murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six others in Los Angeles during the summer of 1969, died Sunday after nearly a half-century in prison. . . .” The Manson Family, as his followers were called, slaughtered five of its victims on Aug. 9, 1969, at Tate’s home: the actress, who was 8½ months pregnant, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, celebrity hairdresser Jay Sebring, Polish movie director Voyteck Frykowski and Steven Parent, a friend of the estate’s caretaker. Tate’s husband, “Rosemary’s Baby” director Roman Polanski, was out of the country at the time. The next night, a wealthy grocer and his wife, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, were stabbed to death in their home across town.
Charles Manson led this cult of killers. After a sensational trial that truly shocked America, Manson and four genuinely scary members of his “family” — Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten, and Charles “Tex” Watson — were sentenced to death. But because the California Supreme Court had struck down the death penalty, all were spared execution and instead given life sentences.
Manson had directed his “family” members to go out into the dark of night to do “something witchy.” That they did. The way they killed Sharon Tate was especially gruesome. Shortly after midnight, they stabbed Tate at least a dozen times, mutilating the beautiful actress, who was due to give birth in two weeks. Tate had reportedly begged for the life of her unborn child but was told by one of the Manson girls:
“Look bitch, I don’t care about you. I don’t care if you are having a baby. You are going to die and I don’t feel a thing about it.”
The Manson girls repeatedly rammed forks into Tate’s belly to kill her child. The dead baby boy was later removed from his mother’s still womb and buried with her in her arms.
Manson’s acolytes took Tate’s spilled blood and used it to paint the word “PIG” on the front door of her home.
As for the murder of the LaBiancas the next day, Manson himself tied up the couple and ordered his devotees to do the kill. They brandished their knives and ferociously hacked away. They would leave a fork sticking out of the dead belly of Leno LaBianca, a supermarket executive. The fork was used to carve the word “WAR” on his belly.
Everyone knows that Charles Manson inspired those murders. None of that is being forgotten in reports of his death. But what also shouldn’t be forgotten was how the murders inspired Bernardine Dohrn, the ’60s militant Marxist who spearheaded the Weather Underground.
That surreal, cruel moment came at the appropriately titled “War Council” held in Flint, Michigan on December 27, 1969, two days after Christmas. It was attended by some 400 student radicals from the SDS-Weathermen cabal, who promoted this political-ideological-sexual gathering as a collective “Wargasm.” For the lovely ’60s hippies, it would be (as usual) a night of radical politics, unrestrained sex, and violence.
Among the ringleaders was the late John Jacobs, who had coined a fitting slogan for the evening and for the entire movement: “We’re against everything that’s good and decent.” That became obvious when the indecent Bernardine Dohrn grabbed the microphone. “We’re about being crazy motherf—ers,” Dohrn shouted, “and scaring the sh-t out of honky America!”
It was like a radical revival meeting, with the Rev. Dohrn at the political pulpit. Inspired by the spirit — that is, some sort of spirit — Bernardine fired up her brothers and sisters with her hideous ruminations on the vicious Tate-LaBianca murders. The future professor of child education at Northwestern University School of Law — no less than founding director of the university’s Children and Family Justice Center — thrilled over the scene in the bloody Tate living room:
“Dig it! First they killed those pigs. Then they ate dinner in the same room with them. Then they even shoved a fork into the victim’s stomach! Wild!”
One would like to think that this gory moment appalled even the hardcore in that room, but that wouldn’t be accurate. The faithful, from Bernadine’s sweetheart, Bill Ayers, to everyone else in the hall, knew Bernardine was serious — and they dug it. As reported by Mark Rudd, one of the core leaders of SDS and the Weathermen, the assembled “instantly adopted as Weather’s salute four fingers held up in the air, invoking the fork left in Sharon Tate’s belly.”
Imagine. Just imagine. A room full of highly educated young people from some of America’s most hailed colleges. United in a grotesque four-finger salute of diabolical death.
Bill Ayers has been asked to comment on the episode. The best face that Ayers has tried to put on the event is to claim that his sweetheart was being “ironic” or had employed “rhetorical overkill” (Freudian slip?) or was speaking “partly as a joke.”
Among the former ’60s radicals who later investigated the incident is David Horowitz, today a leading conservative. Horowitz set out to document the incident, interviewing his old comrades: “In 1980, I taped interviews with thirty members of the Weather Underground who were present at the Flint War Council, including most of its leadership,” he wrote. “Not one of them thought Dohrn was anything but deadly serious.”
I’ve likewise talked to witnesses. A few years ago I spoke to a Weather Underground cadre who was there. This witness was a good guy — a courageous Vietnam vet who offered his services to the FBI and had infiltrated the group at great personal risk. His name was Larry Grathwohl, who I wrote a tribute to at The American Spectator in July 2013. There, I recounted a conversation I had with Grathwohl the previous summer.
Grathwohl had been at the War Council. When I asked if Dohrn and the others were indeed serious, and whether the rest of the radicals had joined the four-finger salute, he confirmed vigorously: “Absolutely! No question.” He repeated emphatically: “Remember, I was there. I saw it.”
In fact, Grathwohl added a tidbit that I hadn’t read in accounts of that evening. He said that throughout the remainder of the night, as the “flower children” danced, they gleefully bopped and grooved with their fingers in the form of the four-finger salute, thrusting their arms up and down and back and forth, laughing joyfully. Larry demonstrated for me. I felt sick to my stomach.
“How awful,” I said. “Oh, yes,” he replied. “It sure was.”
Mark Rudd, the SDS leader who shut down Columbia University a year earlier, in the spring of 1968, translated this message for the wider world:
“The message was that we sh-t on all your conventional values, you murderers of black revolutionaries and Vietnamese babies. There were no limits to our politics of transgression.”
No, there were not. And this is not quite the flowery image of the innocent ’60s idealists dancing with daisies that liberals would like us to believe about this degenerate generation of ideological goons and nerds and thugs.
A line had been crossed that night in Flint — the first steps into a dark world. From the high altar of Rev. Dohrn’s four-finger salute flowed domestic terror cells, gunpowder, bomb-making units. A “new decade now dawned,” recalled Rudd, as “the New Red Army marched out from Flint, exhilarated and terrified.” Its members would spend the next decade literally plotting the violent overthrow of the United States of America, which (quoting their hero, Che Guevara) they declared “the Great Enemy of Mankind.”
They planned attacks, planted bombs, and engaged in murder, all along fleeing the federal authorities as fugitives on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list. Ayers would change his name from town to town, chillingly visiting cemeteries where he borrowed the names of deceased babies from tombstones as his macabre aliases.
Neither Ayers or Dohrn would get prison time. Quite the contrary, both spent the 1980s earning education degrees from universities like Columbia, and in the 1990s would become professors at, respectively, University of Illinois-Chicago and Northwestern.
Dohrn and Ayers, of course, were back in the news again in 2008, when their friendship with an aspiring Illinois politician named Barack Obama was raised. A chilling symbolic moment in Obama’s rise was the political blessing he received in the living room of Bill and Bernardine in their Hyde Park home in 1995. (Even the New York Times reported on this on the newspaper’s front page in October 2008, albeit downplaying the incident. See: Scott Shane, “Obama and ’60s Bomber: A Look Into Crossed Paths,” New York Times, October 4, 2008.)
Obama during the 2008 campaign would do his best to distance himself from Ayers, just as he did another leftist Chicagoan, his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
In fact, Obama and Bill Ayers actually did a number of things together in Chicago. They jointly served as board members at the Woods Fund in Chicago; they worked on “school reform” through the Chicago Annenberg Challenge; they served on a juvenile-justice panel (organized by Michelle Obama); they appeared together as speakers or panel participants at Chicago events; they had many mutual associations, including with disturbing figures like Rashid Khalidi; they acknowledged one another in books and reviews and even endorsements of their books; they had a relationship as neighbors (three blocks apart); plus numerous other reported associations. (I detail these and many additional connections, with copious endnotes, in my book 2010 book, Dupes.) In 2001, the same period when Ayers openly lamented that he had not done enough damage to the Pentagon, Ayers donated $200 to Obama’s reelection campaign for the Illinois Senate, which Obama happily accepted and was never called upon to repudiate. The relationship was professional and personal. Some have speculated that Barack met his wife Michelle at the Sidley & Austin law firm where Bernardine Dohrn worked.
But, hey, who’s counting — eh?
By 2008, Bill and Bernardine were enthusiastic backers of the group “Progressives for Obama,” spearheaded by SDS founder and leading ’60s radical Tom Hayden.
Unlike Charles Manson, who spent the rest of his life in prison, neither Bill or Bernardine were sentenced to jail time for their alleged crimes, some of which (albeit not as sadistic as Manson’s) could have killed many more people. As Ayers later infamously celebrated, “Guilty as hell, free as a bird!”
Of course, what Charles Manson did was truly of hell. Manson was guilty as hell, and he didn’t get away with it — neither in this world and surely not in the next.
But as we look back at the evil that Charles Manson committed in 1969, we shouldn’t forget how Bernardine and buddies saluted that evil.
Remembering Fidel Castro’s Death
Editor’s note: A shorter version of this article first appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Last November marked the anniversary of the death of Fidel Castro, our hemisphere’s worst dictator for a half century. When we remember Castro’s death, we should remember him for just that: death.
Expressing the depths of Fidel’s destruction is impossible in a short article. But among the corpses under his despotism were the thousands who perished while trying to escape his island-prison by swimming nearly 100 miles to American shores.
A testimony to that desperation was recently provided to my students at Grove City College by a Cuban citizen, who I must leave nameless. In describing her fellow citizens’ surreal lives under totalitarian Communism, she noted that only recently have Cubans been allowed to visit their beautiful beaches, and even then only under strict surveillance. That’s a stunning thought for a country literally surrounded by beaches. And yet, Cubans are banned from their beaches because their government fears they’ll dash into the deep water and start paddling profusely for freedom — swimming all the way for Florida.
Imagine that. Try to conceive the utter despair. Try to wrap your mind around the cruelty of a government not even letting its suffering citizens escape — a regime so repressive that it will not dare avert its gaze for a moment lest its people attempt the physically unimaginable in the agonizing hopes of dashing from this Marxist police state.
We already know that Cuba is a bizarre island without boats. Look at satellite images of Cuba. No boats! There’s also no fishing industry, and people don’t have the luxury of eating fish. (They largely eat chicken, pork, rice, beans.) Why no boats? Why no fishermen? Because fishermen bolt the first chance they get — just like swimmers.
For the record, how many people have attempted the swim since Castro took over in 1959? It’s difficult to say. In 1999, the Harvard University Press classic, The Black Book of Communism, estimated that some 100,000 Cubans had risked the treacherous journey. Of those, perhaps as many as 30,000 to 40,000 died from drowning. As those in the sea bob for breath, the government on occasion has employed the resources of the state to sink them, dropping large bags of sand at them from helicopters hovering above.
Yes, actually dropping sandbags.
As we consider the tens of thousands who’ve drowned, compare it to another glaring number: zero. That’s the total number of Americans who have attempted the swim to Cuba, including all those merry liberals raving about the wondrous “free” education and healthcare awaiting humanity in the Castro collectivist utopia.
Bill Bennett, Ronald Reagan’s secretary of education, speaks of “the gates test.” To wit: when a nation opens its gates, in which direction does humanity flow? Well, when the United States leaves its borders unchecked, the refugees stream in. In the Communist world, the apparatchiks had to build a wall in Berlin to keep the captives contained. In Cuba, they can’t even visit their beaches. I imagine the Communists in Cuba would earnestly have followed the example of their old comrades in East Germany and built a wall around the beaches — if they could afford it.
Aside from those who drowned, how many others died under Fidel Castro?
Those numbers likewise run into the thousands. There were the more traditional Marxist methods: bullet to the head, deprivation, succumbing to inhumane prison conditions. The numbers vary, but the range of dead from those means is typically between 10,000 and 20,000, whether victims of long-term imprisonment or outright execution by bullets.
Fidel’s onetime executioner-in-chief, Che Guevara, today an icon to profoundly ignorant college students who sport the cruel psychopath on their t-shirts, is estimated to have overseen as many as 2,000 executions (some of which he personally performed) during the brief period he ran Fidel’s execution pit at the La Cabana concentration camp. Beyond Che’s “bloodthirsty” (he charmingly used that word to describe himself in a letter to his wife) achievement, many more Cubans were liquidated by other state assassins. In all, most credible estimates place the total dead somewhere between 15,000 to 18,000. That’s a lot of people for a tiny island. And again, it doesn’t include those who drowned while attempting an incredible swim.
The late professor R. J. Rummel, an expert on the sordid subject of death by government, estimates that from 1959-87 alone, the grand total of cadavers produced by Fidel ranged from 35,000 to as high as 141,000. How’s that for a resume? Actually, for a Communist leader, it’s pretty typical.
As we pause to remember Fidel Castro at the one-year anniversary of his demise, let us remember him for what he achieved the most: tyranny, repression, and death. *
Kengor Writes . . .
Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004), The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007), The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007) and The Communist — Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).
Going Red for International Women’s Day
The ability of the Communist left to consistently mislead and use an ever-wider group of people never ceases to amaze.
I wrote a few weeks ago about the Women’s March, a shocking display of vulgarity that erupted after the Trump inaugural in January, where none other than Angela Davis — America’s longtime leading female Marxist revolutionary — was honorary co-chair and featured speaker. Davis fired up the faithful as they donned crude pink hats and cheered her revolution. Now, this week, the female front was enlisted again, this time going not pink but red — figuratively and literally.
[March 8] was International Women’s Day. If you know little to nothing of the history of this event, then you probably know more than the vast majority of young women and oblivious corporate sponsors tapped as dutiful foot soldiers.
The fact is that the origins of International Women’s Day are Communist-socialist. That reality is so unavoidably obvious that the “About” section at the official International Women’s Day website candidly lays out the origins in touting this glorious “collective day of global celebration” and calling on “the masses” to “help forge a better working world.” Take a look at this surprisingly honest historical timeline provided at the website:
International Women’s Day Timeline Journey
1909: In accordance with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America, the first National Woman’s Day (NWD) was observed across the United States on 28 February. . . .
1910: In 1910 a second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. A woman named Clara Zetkin (Leader of the “Women’s Office” for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day — a Women’s Day — to press for their demands. The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties, working women’s clubs — and including the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament — greeted Zetkin’s suggestion with unanimous approval and thus International Women’s Day was the result. . . .
1913-1914: On the eve of World War I campaigning for peace, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February 1913. In 1913 following discussions, International Women’s Day was transferred to 8 March and this day has remained the global date for International Women’s Day ever since. . . .
1917 : On the last Sunday of February, Russian women began a strike for “bread and peace” in response to the death of over 2 million Russian soldiers in World War I. Opposed by political leaders, the women continued to strike until four days later the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. The date the women’s strike commenced was Sunday 23 February on the Julian calendar then in use in Russia. This day on the Gregorian calendar in use elsewhere was 8 March.”
I must concede kudos to the International Women’s Day website developers for sharing this accurate history. This is spot on.
Readers will, of course, recognize many of these dates and names, especially the Russian ones. They may not identify names like Clara Zetkin. Zetkin was a big-time German Marxist — or, as leftists will prefer to call her, a socialist or “social democrat.” In fact, Lenin and Trotsky and pioneering cultural Marxists like Herbert Marcuse were also social democrats. Clara was a leading international advocate for Lenin. I have clips from Working Woman magazine, the January 30, 1934 edition, which I copied from the Soviet Comintern files on Communist Party USA. This particular edition included a preview of the coming International Women’s Day of March 8, 1934. It featured a glowing review of Clara’s book Reminiscences of Lenin, including praise for the late despot’s “warm smile,” “keen joy” for workers, “clear thinking,” and “masterly eloquence.” This was Clara’s valentine to Vladimir — a vicious killer — at the time of his death in January 1924, amid her “hour of grief” and “deepest personal sorrow” at the “irreparable loss” of this “great man.”
Perhaps passages of this blast-from-the-past could be posted in the “About” section of the International Women’s Day website?
But there was much more to this year’s International Women’s Day. Its call for a better “gender world” was a distinctly and fittingly red one. Indeed, this seems almost unbelievable in its audacity, but the January Women’s March organizers, who just happened to spearhead this year’s International Women’s Day, literally urged women everywhere to wear red on Wednesday. Yes, red, and to do so in “solidarity” with the “masses.” That call is issued without apology or irony at the Women’s March website, along with two other eye-opening exhortations:
Anyone, anywhere, can join by making March 8 “A Day Without a Woman,” in one or all of the following ways:
Women Take the Day Off, from Paid and Unpaid Labor: Avoid shopping for one day (with exceptions for small, women- and minority-owned businesses).
Wear RED in Solidarity with a Day Without a Woman: What a perfect color for this year’s International Women’s Day: red, the color of the revolution.
But the ironies don’t stop there. Consider the parade of duped organizations that this year’s comradely organizers managed to hook into their cause. No, I’m not talking about the usual suspects, such as those highlighted at People’s World, which I quote: “Backers include the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), Jobs With Justice, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Nurses United (NNU), Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC United), and the National Organization for Women (NOW).”
Those are just a smattering of the same-old-same-old; basically, the regular assortment of leftist groups that rallied behind the so-called “P---y Hats” (their word) in Washington in January. No, look at this group of unexpected allies: The banner sponsors for this International Women’s Day included a select list of ten prominent corporate partners that served up themselves as this year’s cast of tools for exploitation. The list includes Caterpillar, BP, MetLife, PepsiCo, and Western Union.
Do the folks at the PR office at these corporations have any concept of what they lent their name to? Maybe they do. I’m wondering if their female employees got the day off on Wednesday. If not, hopefully they didn’t get in trouble if they simply “took the day off.”
Vladimir Lenin is credited for devising the term “useful idiots.” It’s a cynical albeit all-too-fitting label. And this International Women’s Day once again smoked them out.
Neil Gorsuch on Life, Liberty, and the Natural Law
In a stunning moment in the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Neil Gorsuch, Senator Dianne Feinstein, a staunch supporter of so-called “abortion rights,” took umbrage with one of Gorsuch’s previous written statements. As Feinstein described it, “He [Gorsuch] believes there are no exceptions to the principle that ‘the intentional taking of a human life by private persons is always wrong.’”
Well, yes, that’s right. That’s what Gorsuch believes. That’s a good thing, isn’t it?
Not to Senator Feinstein, sadly, for whom the alpha and omega is what her colleagues Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton consider a “sacred right:” a woman’s “right to choose.” Roe v. Wade is sacrosanct in their eyes, and that’s the complete opposite of what Neil Gorsuch considers sacrosanct.
The Gorsuch statement that Feinstein was quoting comes from a book he wrote in 2006, The Future of Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, published by Princeton University Press. In that book, Gorsuch wrote that “all human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”
As for me, I will choose that worldview over the Feinstein worldview any day.
Gorsuch’s views stem from a very deep, very rich, and very old tradition known as natural law.
Natural law affirms that we do what we ought to do according to nature, to our very nature. “What we ought to do is based on what we are,” writes Peter Kreeft. The natural law, notes Kreeft, is naturally known, by natural human reason and experience. You need not be a religious believer to know the natural law, even if that law (many of us believe) was written into nature by a Creator.
Really, it’s easier to give examples of natural law than a definition. Human sexuality demonstrates natural law so well because it’s so self-evident. Another violation of natural law is murder: one human life taking another. That’s a violation held by cultures and societies and governments of all times.
Natural law is as old and varied as the Old and New Testaments, as the Jewish and Christian faiths, as Aquinas and Augustine, as John Calvin and John Paul II, as Martin Luther King Jr. and Jacques Maritain. It is considered immutable and permanent throughout the variations of history, a universal rule that binds us all. As Augustine put it, natural law is “the law that is written in the human heart.” As Aquinas explained it, the natural law allows us to “know what we must do and what we must avoid. God has given this light or law at the creation.”
Of course, Augustine and Aquinas were Christians, but one need not be a Christian to understand what Thomas Jefferson referred to as “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.” Pre-Christian figures like Aristotle and Cicero spoke of this eternal law. “True law is right reason in agreement with nature,” stated Cicero. “It is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting.”
Nonetheless, this hasn’t stopped many in today’s culture from aggressively seeking to redefine human nature. If you’re endeavoring to fundamentally transform human nature, especially on issues like marriage, family, sexuality, and gender, then the natural law is your chief foe. Indeed, if you’re an aggressive secular progressive, one seeking day in and day out to redefine human nature, what do you do with natural law?
One of my former students got an answer in law school, when her progressive professor boldly proclaimed that “natural law doesn’t exist.” But I caution this professor that if he/she really believes this, then he/she must also reject the natural-law-based conclusions of tribunals such as Nuremberg after World War II, when the judges told Nazi officials that regardless of what Hitler’s laws stated, they should have known that what they were doing was wrong. To gas human beings and recycle their corpses into soap and lampshades is an obvious violation of basic laws of humanity — no excuses.
Or, consider slavery and various civil-rights laws. One current libertarian writer states that “the greatest spokesman for natural law in the 20th century was probably Martin Luther King, who denounced segregation not because of its technical complexities, but because it betrayed the natural law principles of the Declaration of Independence.”
This being the case, most progressives will do with natural law what they do with Biblical Law and other moral laws — they will pick the applications they like and ignore or reject those they don’t. Or, even more brazenly, they will try to remake the natural law in their own image.
No, sorry, it doesn’t work that way. Nature tells you what to do; you don’t tell nature what to do. Just as your biology and your 74 trillion chromosomes tell you your gender; you don’t tell yourself your gender.
But tell that to modern disciples of the dictatorship of relativism, where everything is deemed redefinable, from one’s gender to whether a human life is even considered a human life.
And that brings us back to Neil Gorsuch.
Gorsuch is incredibly well-educated. It’s difficult to find a more credentialed academic pedigree. He studied natural law while earning a Ph.D. at Oxford (he has a J.D. from Harvard) under one of the world’s preeminent authorities on natural law, John Finnis. Professor Finnis was Gorsuch’s dissertation adviser. He’s now on faculty at Notre Dame Law School and a professor emeritus at Oxford. Finnis’ best-known work is his Natural Law and Natural Rights.
It was there that he issued his statement on the inviolability of all human life, and how no human being should be able to take the life of another human being — the statement that Senator Feinstein found so reprehensible.
Gorsuch is also a defender of religious liberty, which Feinstein is likewise finding objectionable.
Take Gorsuch’s statement in support of the Little Sisters of the Poor, when the Obama administration tried to force the nuns to pay for abortion drugs. He wrote: “When a law demands that a person do something the person considers sinful, and the penalty for the refusal is a large financial penalty, then the law imposes a substantial burden on that person’s free exercise of religion.”
It’s good to have Supreme Court justices of this mind, not of the thinking of the likes of Senator Feinstein.
In all, this means that Neil Gorsuch’s thinking on issues like human life and religious liberty should be in concert with faithful Christians, and it should be sympathetic to the rights of those Christians against a government that tries to coerce them.
Socialism Attacks the Family, Just as Its Inventors Intended
Editor’s note: This article first appeared at Stream.org.
Last year, “socialism” was the most looked-up word at Merriam-Webster.com. That is hardly a surprise. It clearly reflects growing interest, especially with the remarkable surge of lifetime socialist Bernie Sanders, who won a pile of states in pursuing the Democratic Party presidential nomination. He earned over 13 million votes nationwide. Many of those voters have only a hazy idea what socialism entails, but most surely know that it gives the government more control over the so-called “means of production” as well as your wallet and your property, but not as much as outright Communists crave.
American interest in socialism was growing well before Bernie Sanders. A telling marker came in 2011, when a major study by the Pew Research Center found that 49 percent of Americans aged 18-29 have a positive view of socialism, exceeding those with a positive view of capitalism. What those voters might not realize, but which I know for certain, is that socialism undermines marriage and family: I’ve published an entire book on the subject. What I learned from mining the origins of the movement is that this is not an accident: The founders of socialist movements always intended their system to have this effect.
Intended Consequences: Most obviously, socialism undermines the family economically. Socialism is ineffective, unproductive, and impoverishing. It creates not economic prosperity but backwardness, and often, genuine deprivation (see Venezuela). In that way alone, socialism adversely affects what sources as diverse as Pope Francis and Ronald Reagan have described as the “fundamental cell” of society: the family.
But surely socialism’s founders didn’t realize that their system just flat-out didn’t work, right? Actually, they believed that it did — and in one sense it does: It weakens families for the benefit of the state, exactly as it creators meant it to.
Since at least the early 1800s, when the effort began in earnest, extreme-left radicals have sought to undermine the natural, traditional, Biblical, family — the Western Judaeo-Christian model anchored in a man and woman as parents of a household. The steady assault on this timeless model has been a long march that culminated in the chaos of the sexual revolution of the 1960s and in the antics of the nature-redefiners of today’s secular left, which employs bullying, state coercion, and demonization to forcibly redefine everything from marriage and parenting to biological sex (or as they now call it “gender”), and whether a child in the womb is even considered a life.
Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto wrote of the “abolition of the family,” which even in 1848, they could flaunt as an “infamous proposal of the Communists.” What, precisely, they meant by that is a complicated subject. But complexities aside, there is no question that efforts to redefine the family structure have been long at work, from Marx and Engels to sordid figures such as Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Alexandra Kollontai, Margaret Sanger, Margaret Mead, Wilhelm Reich, Herbert Marcuse, Betty Friedan, Kate Millet, and assorted ’60s New Left radicals from Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn to Mark Rudd and Tom Hayden. They included groups ranging from the Bolsheviks to the Frankfurt School of cultural Marxists to the Planned Parenthood eugenics “progressives” to the Weather Underground and many more.
Socialists on American Soil: A glance at this list of dubious characters reveals a mangled mosaic of the wide-ranging left. Among them, the earliest and maybe most revealing of the socialists specifically — at least from a family-focused perspective — was perhaps Robert Owen.
Owen (1771-1858) was an English utopian-socialist who made his way to American soil. On July 4, 1826, as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the geniuses of the Declaration of Independence, both dramatically breathed their last gasps on the 50th anniversary of their eloquent achievement on behalf of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, Robert Owen stood atop his new ideological colony in New Harmony, Indiana and delivered his “Declaration of Mental Independence.” It is a document you surely didn’t read in school, but perhaps you should have, because it foretold the spirit of our modern age. Owen proclaimed:
“I now declare to you and to the world that man up to this hour has been in all parts of the earth a slave to a trinity of the most monstrous evils that could be combined to inflict mental and physical evil upon the whole race.”
“I refer to private property, absurd and irrational systems of religion and marriage founded upon individual property, combined with some of these irrational systems of religion.”
There it was: property, religion, marriage. This was Robert Owen’s unholy trinity.
Owen’s acolytes began their new civilization by scrapping the Christian Anno Domini calendar, marking 1826 as their new “Year One.” He was imitating the Jacobins, who had likewise “reset” the calendar in 1794 amid their bloodcurdling de-Christianization of France. (Mussolini and Pol Pot would later follow suit.) Owen established what the 1960s hippies would call communes. Owen’s socialist communes pooled not only profits but people, replacing the nuclear family with the collective family. His socialism was cultural as well as economic, as socialism and its enthusiasts always would be.
The New Harmony colony floundered within just two years, with Owen curiously absent from his creation for sustained periods, thus setting the standard for future leftist-utopian chieftains: They rarely live according to the rules and systems they create for others. Socialism and Communism have always been for “the people,” “the masses,” the ruled, but rarely for the rulers. Castro, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao — given the choice — they never lived the same way with the same rules and equal salaries as the serfs. Indeed, how could they? Their socialist-Communist cocoons were always intolerable because they were bankrupt and unnatural. No one chooses that misery.
But the unnatural is what so many leftist utopians pursued then and in the years and centuries ahead. Even as Robert Owen’s New Harmony commune quickly collapsed, a dozen or so imitators sprang up around the country. Rarely did any of them last more than four years. Owen’s leftist vision remained alive and undeterred. “The social system is now firmly established,” he asserted.
An uphill stream of Owen-like dreamers on the left would keep the flame alive, from the 1820s to the 1960s in their own communes, and into the 21st century with their own versions of marriage and family. Never learning from failed projects of the past, they would always convince themselves that the previous project simply wasn’t done quite right — not yet. When they implemented their commune, their utopia, their more enlightened and modern view of marriage and the family, it would surely work this time around. Such is the socialist faith.
Polyamory and Lemonade Seas: Charles Fourier (1772-1837) was another merry socialist who reviled property, marriage, and religion. He dreamed of collectivizing the masses in communes where they could undergo fundamental transformation. (He also believed that human efforts would someday turn the seas to tasty lemonade.) A forerunner to 1960s New Left radicals on American college campuses, Fourier openly advocated the abolition of monogamous marriage, and championed polyamory, homosexuality, and other forms of what Margaret Sanger and the 1920s American progressives would celebrate as “free love.” Fourier’s lead disciple in America, Albert Brisbane, practiced what his master taught, proving himself exceptionally progressive by maintaining several mistresses and fathering three illegitimate children.
Predictably, the Fourier-Brisbane communes would work about as well as Owen’s ideological colonies, and the ones that followed. There were probably forty some such communes that sprung up around the country in this period, and quickly dissolved. No matter, leftists never give up. All they need is more power than the previous group of ideological colonists, and then they’ll get it right the next time. It is the governing spirit of their ideology. Just wait for their better, more enlightened ideas on marriage, family, sexuality, gender, and on and on. Forward!
On the heels of Fourier came John Humphrey Noyes and his Oneida colony and their newfangled designs for the family, which included group marriages that shared both intimacy and children.
Socialist Ancestors of the Gender Wars: All of these nature-redefiners plowed new ground for new versions of the family according to each of their ideological conceptions. To borrow from Pope Francis, they were engaged in “ideological colonizations.” Each new generation came up with its own socialist colonies, all the way to the Red Family Colony in Berkeley in the 1960s established by Tom Hayden and Robert Scheer. The ’60s New Left also launched its glorious “smash monogamy” movement, which was an exciting form of marriage that would be (and had to be, they insisted) non-monogamous.
In short, these were the bold ancestors of today’s same-sex marriage movement and “LGBTQ” sex-gender redefiners. They all shared in common, then and today, the rejection of any notion that there is a single natural, traditional, and Biblical model for the family.
“It is not possible to speak of ‘the’ family,” insisted Friedrich Engels. Indeed, just ask the broad range of leftists in the current-day organization “Beyond Marriage.” They agree wholeheartedly with Engels on that one. *
Kengor Writes . . .
Rating the Presidents — and Obama
I’ve been getting emails from bewildered colleagues asking about a survey of presidential scholars that determined that Barack Obama is the twelfth best president in the history of the United States, putting him near the top quartile of our presidents.
How can this be? I, too, was mystified, especially given that I participated in the survey.
The survey was conducted by the impeccably fair C-SPAN. Few sources do their job like C-SPAN does. If you want truly unfiltered news, C-SPAN is unrivaled for its ability to simply place a camera in a room and let reality speak for itself.
When it comes to surveys of presidents, C-SPAN likewise has no peer. I remember the nauseating presidential surveys in the 1980s and 1990s. They were mere measurements of the liberalism of the academy — that is, liberal historians and liberal political scientists expressing their liberalism by their liberal rankings of presidents. It was a farce.
C-SPAN, fortunately, has endeavored to provide a valuable corrective. In 2000, 2009, and 2017, C-SPAN set out to do its own survey and has indeed assembled a more rounded group of scholars. (I was among those surveyed for the 2009 ranking, as well.) To be sure, most (if not the vast majority) of the scholars surveyed are clearly on the left, but there are a decent number of conservatives: By my estimate, over a dozen, possibly as many as twenty. Of course, that’s still far out of proportion with the population at large, where self-identified conservatives have outnumbered liberals for decades (usually in the range of 35-40 percent self-identified conservatives vs. 20-25 percent self-identified liberals). C-SPAN needs to do better next time around. A field of 10-20 conservatives among 91 participants isn’t good, albeit better than the nonsense we used to see in biased surveys.
Likewise befitting C-SPAN’s fairness, the ranking criteria for the presidents are commendably nonpartisan. The criteria are obviously intended to remove ideology from those doing the judging. Here are the ten criteria:
Relations with Congress
Vision / Setting an Agenda
Pursued Equal Justice for All
Performance Within Context of Times
For each of the ten criteria, a president received a scored ranging from one (“not effective”) to ten (“very effective”). I’d like readers to pause and look at those criteria carefully. Imagine if you were doing the judging.
Given these criteria — again, essentially non-ideological criteria — I personally had no choice but to score very highly presidents like Franklin Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson and Lyndon Johnson, all of whose presidencies I either did not approve of or outright despised or found destructive. But facts are facts: These presidents were extremely effective. No, I personally didn’t like how they were effective, but they were effective nonetheless. Did Wilson have an agenda and vision and get it through? Oh, yes. You bet he did. So did FDR and LBJ.
And yet, those same criteria prompted me to rank Washington, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Reagan, and Eisenhower very high. I will not here share exactly how I tallied each, but I will say that those presidents in my top ten were very similar to those in the overall top ten. Here’s the top ten that C-SPAN compiled:
Following at eleven and twelve, respectively, were Woodrow Wilson and Obama. (For the record, I gave Kennedy a decent rating, but to place him in the top ten, and ahead of Reagan, is just plain stupid. Gee, the guy wasn’t even president three full years.)
But what about Barack Obama at twelve? I’ll say this as nicely and professionally as I can: I find this utterly perplexing. Do the exercise yourself. Go through those ten categories. Ascribe Obama a score of one to ten, and do so relative to other presidents you’ve ranked. Where would you give Obama a ten? How many (if any) scores above a five would you give Obama? For that matter, how would you not score Reagan so much higher than Obama? Yes, Reagan finished with an overall ranking of nine, which is better than Obama, but his total composite score wasn’t much higher than Obama’s.
Seriously, are even liberals that happy with the Obama presidency? Try to remove your ideological lens, whether left or right, and assess these questions:
What did Barack Obama accomplish? What is the Obama legacy? What was the Obama vision/agenda and (more important, since we’re measuring effectiveness) how successful was he in implementing it? In 2012, at the Democratic National Convention, Obama’s promoters could do no better than come up with silly placards about how Obama “got Osama” and “saved GM.” Unlike the vast majority of two-term presidents, Obama’s re-election numbers were much worse. In fact, Barack Obama was the first president ever re-elected with fewer popular votes, fewer Electoral College votes, a lower percentage and percentage margin of victory, and winning fewer states. He never had a sustained period of high favorability. He couldn’t elect a successor to carry on his legacy. To the contrary, Donald Trump plans to repudiate any Obama legacy.
Where is the list of signature domestic achievements by Obama? Obamacare maybe? It was a disaster from the rollout, and it’s going to be repealed and replaced.
What were Obama’s defining moments of crisis leadership? Where’s his Cuban Missile Crisis? Did he even have a crisis to lead? How about Benghazi as a candidate?
Where was Barack Obama’s Camp David? What did he do for the Middle East, for Arab-Israeli relations, for relations with Russia, the EU, NATO, and the G-20? Where’s his NAFTA? Where’s his summit with the Russian leadership? Where’s his missile-reduction treaty? Where’s his chemical weapons ban?
As for Obama’s economic record, it was colossally bad. My economist colleague Mark Hendrickson calls it a “shocking historically weak economic performance,” as many others have shown. During the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency, the average annual real GDP growth was 1.5 percent, notes Hendrickson, “the weakest economic performance of any post-WWII president, and the fourth worst ever.” And to try to still blame that failure on George W. Bush after eight years is ludicrous. Obama’s GDP growth in 2016 (eight years after Bush) was a terrible 1.6 percent.
Bush’s economy grew better than that, and he inherited a recession and was hit with 9/11 his first year, which devastated the economy. In fact, not only was George W. Bush’s economic-growth rate better than Obama’s, but so was Jimmy Carter’s. Yes, Carter — typically upheld as the dubious yardstick of economic incompetence — actually had more than double Obama’s GDP growth (3.3 percent)!
Any deficit reduction under Obama (after he exploded the deficit to unprecedented record highs in the first two years of the Pelosi-Reid Congress) is attributable in large part to the Republican Congress that liberals excoriated for spending cuts (and now want to take responsibility for the subsequent deficit reduction). The Obama debt exploded way worse than the debt under Reagan and George W. Bush.
So, where would you score Obama on Economic Management? I can’t imagine anything beyond a three.
In what way was Obama a master at public persuasion? What new constituencies did he generate? Where are the Obama Republicans, akin to the Reagan Democrats? How were his relations with Congress? Did you observe stellar “administrative skills” in Obama? His notorious lack of meetings with his NSC and intelligence and security staffs were breathtaking in their lack of any administration. As I reported here in 2012, Obama attended only 44 percent of his Daily Briefs in the first 1,225 days of his administration. For 2012, he attended a little over a third. This was totally contrary to Bush and other predecessors. Reagan and Ike both had hands-off leadership styles, but at least they attended meetings.
Who gave him a ten for that category?
And if you’re extolling Obama’s attempted fundamental transformation of America’s public-school toilets via executive order, or his illuminating the White House in rainbow colors to celebrate the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision, or his suing the Little Sisters of the Poor via the HHS Mandate, sorry, but those are not among the categories for evaluation.
I want to see the case made by the guy or gal who thinks that Barack Obama merits being listed near the top ten presidents in history. Actually, some must have rated him in the top five, because I guarantee my score for Obama (low as it was) surely dropped him a few pegs.
In short, I’m stunned. Based on the criteria we were given for ranking these presidents, I cannot conceive how Obama could possibly score well. I don’t see how Bill Clinton didn’t rate higher than Obama.
As noted, there were some conservatives on C-SPAN’s list. I’m wondering if the conservatives didn’t send in their surveys. The liberal historians must have gone bonkers in merrily giving Obama the highest scores in every category. But forget about that. This shouldn’t be a liberal-conservative thing. That’s the point. Literally half of my top ten or twelve were Democrats, and I’m no Democrat.
Clearly, the liberal scholars were not able to separate their partisanship when it came to objectively judging Obama. There’s no way that Barack Obama should rate the 12th-best president in U.S. history. Not a chance.
Women’s Marchers, Unite!
“The most important task,” said Communist dictator Kim Il Sung in October 1971, in his address to the Democratic Women’s Union of North Korea, “is to revolutionize and working-classize all the women.”
Kim hoisted the torch blazed by glorious female comrades such as Alexandra Kollontai (the Eleanor Roosevelt of the Bolshevik Revolution), Bella Dodd, Rosa Luxemburg, Ethel Rosenberg, Elizabeth Bentley, Lillian Hellman, Betty Freidan, Kate Millett, Angela Davis, and a bevy of true believers. Friedan and Millett were pioneers of the National Organization for Women (NOW). Millett, author of Sexual Politics, her dissertation at the ideological insane asylum known as Columbia University, became a cultural juggernaut when published in 1969. Time magazine hailed Kate as “the Karl Marx of the Women’s Movement.”
They were marchers for the revolution. And this past weekend, their ideological sisters lent their support to the Women’s March on Washington, an event that sources like CNN gave maximum publicity — a level of attention that absolutely will not be granted to this week’s March for Life in Washington, where the goal will be to preserve life.
A list of the sponsors for the Women’s March is illuminating. The two lead organizations, highlighted as the March’s “premier partners,” were Planned Parenthood — America’s preeminent abortion factory — and the Natural Resources Defense Council. As for the latter, if it confuses you why a group of climate comrades would march in lockstep with women whose highest priority is abortion, then you don’t understand the American left. Go to the website of the Women’s March, where “environmental justice” is featured among the leading “Unity Principles,” right up there with “reproductive rights” (read: abortion) and “worker’s rights” and “LGBTQIA rights” [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Queer, Intersex, Asexual].
But that was just the start. Arm in arm with the sisters at the Women’s March were two touted “Social Justice Partners,” namely: Emily’s List and NARAL. For these girls, too, “women’s rights” means one thing: abortion. Abortion, abortion, abortion. The holy sacrament in the feminist church.
The next major level of sponsors for the Women’s March was an eclectic cabal of fellow travelers and usual suspects: the ACLU, MoveOn.org, the Human Rights Campaign, the American Federation of Teachers, the AFL-CIO, and SEIU, the worst of the government unions.
And then there was a longer list of March “partners,” a Who’s Who of the left: AFSCME, the toxic National Education Association, the National Organization for Women, National Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Occupy Wall Street, the NAACP, the Council on American Islamic Relations, Amnesty International, Greenpeace, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Human Rights Watch, People for the American Way, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Sierra Club, the National Urban League, the YWCA, the Center for American Progress, Code Pink, and a litany of Religious Left dupes such as the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, the Unitarian Universality Association, and the heretical Catholics for Free Choice.
And there was a wider panoply of perversity: novel organizations like Free the Nipple, Got a Girl Crush, Pussy Hat Project, and the Georgetown University College Democrats.
But alas, most enlightening was another curious collective of sponsors for the Women’s March, one that brings me full circle to the start of this article. The Communists and Socialists came out: Communist Party USA and the Democratic Socialists of America.
Yes, Communist Party USA was a proud sponsor of the Women’s March on Washington, and the ladies were evidently proud to have them.
Ain’t nothing too left-wing, apparently, for the Women’s Marchers.
Among the Bolshevik element, consider some of the high-profile individuals who lent their names. Listed first among honorary co-chairs at the March website was none other than the delightful Angela Davis, where the glowing, lengthy bio somehow avoided mentioning even one word of Ms. Davis’s most notable bona fides: Davis has long been, of course, one of America’s most infamous Marxist-Leninists. Comrade Angela was so high-ranking that she not only met with the worst Communist despots in the Soviet Bloc, but actually twice ran on Communist Party USA’s presidential ticket. The celebrated recipient of the Lenin Peace Prize, much appreciated by the Kremlin for her advocacy of the Soviet invasions of Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan, ran as vice president of the United States on the Communist Party ticket, alongside longtime CPUSA party secretary and hack Gus Hall. (As I noted in a recent piece for The American Spectator, among those who voted for the Hall-Davis Communist Party presidential ticket was none other than John Brennan, Barack Obama’s CIA director.)
Davis was one of many tragic academic byproducts of Herbert Marcuse, the leading Frankfurt School cultural Marxist. Marcuse was guru to the 1960s New Left. Davis is arguably Marcuse’s most long-lasting success. He took her under his wing at Brandeis University in the early 1960s. In 1965, she honored her professor by retracing his steps to the University of Frankfurt. He sent her to West Germany to study at his old haunt, the hideous “Institute for Social Research.” She returned in 1967, coming back to America to continue studies with Marcuse as her doctoral adviser. The blooming Bolshevik formally joined Communist Party USA the next year.
Like any good Communist, Davis’s road to the revolution included breaking a few eggs along the way. She was soon pursued on charges of kidnapping, murder, and conspiracy for her suspected role in the August 1970 murder of a prison guard. Like Weather Underground terrorists and Obama buddies Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, she landed on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list. And like Ayers and Dohrn, she escaped jail-time (“guilty as hell, free as a bird!” Ayers boasted), and then spread her wings in academia.
Today, like her late mentor, Herbert Marcuse, Angela Davis is (naturally) a professor. She lists among her expertise the field of “critical theory,” the formal academic front-name for cultural Marxism. She holds forth on “LGBTQIA” issues to the wide-eyed freshmen whose duped parents hand over their children and lifetime savings to the universities to indoctrinate them.
One might think that today’s left would shy away from figures like Davis. But again, anyone who thinks that doesn’t know the left. The likes of Angela Davis are not embarrassments to today’s left; they are heroes. In June 2016, the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum feted Davis with its 2016 Sackler Center First Award, “honoring women who are first in their fields.”
Among Angela Davis’s firsts, of course, was to be the first female comrade to run on a Communist presidential ticket.
And this past weekend, Davis was listed literally first among the female comrades who were the poster-girls to the Women’s March on Washington. She and her cronies at Communist Party USA and the Democratic Socialists of America must have gotten quite a kick at the legions of oblivious ladies and splendid dupes who joined them in solidarity last weekend — all marching for “women’s rights,” of course. Forward!
Barack Obama’s Fundamental Transformation
“We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” So declared Barack Obama in Columbia, Missouri on October 30, 2008, on the cusp of his historic presidential election.
It was a stunning statement, boldly revolutionary, surpassed only by the response of those in attendance, who, rather than pausing to reflect upon such an audacious assertion, wildly applauded. To be sure, these Obama enthusiasts would have ecstatically cheered anything he said at that moment. There was a full-fledged Obama personality cult in motion at that time. He could’ve promised a box of “Lucky Charms” cereal in every home and gotten a giddy reaction. Obama himself admitted to serving as a kind of “blank screen” upon which Americans desiring some warm and fuzzy “hope and change” could project whatever they wanted.
But even then, the words “fundamentally transform” should have alarmed everyone. We Americans generally don’t do fundamental transformation. We make changes, yes, small and large, but who among us — other than the most radical revolutionaries — actually want to fundamentally transform the nation? Many people think that America has many problems, but those can be addressed without a fundamental transformation. Ask professors who teach history or political ideologies (as I have for two decades) and we will tell you that totalitarianism is the ideology that fundamentally transforms. Indeed, the textbook definition of totalitarianism, which I’ve scribbled on the chalkboard every fall and spring semester since 1997, is to seek to fundamentally transform — specifically, to fundamentally transform human nature via some form of political-ideological-cultural upheaval.
So, that being the case, I winced when Barack Obama said that, and then felt sick to the stomach when I watched people blissfully and blindly applaud without question or objection.
But now here we are, at the end of Obama’s presidency, a two-term one, and the question begs to be pondered: Did Barack Obama fundamentally transform the United States of America, as he promised?
The answer is absolutely yes.
That fundamental transformation, however, has not happened in areas where many might have hoped (or feared) in 2008. It has not been a fundamental shift in the attitudes of the vast majority regarding the role of government, taxation, regulations, economics, education, or even healthcare, where Obama had his signature legislative achievement. It hasn’t happened in foreign policy, though Obama has made a seriously detrimental impact in regions from Eastern Europe to the Middle East.
The reality is that the true fundamental transformation has been in the realm of culture, notably in matters of sexual orientation, gender, marriage, and family. The shift there has been unprecedented and far beyond anyone’s imagination eight years ago. Looking back, that was where Obama’s heart was, and that was where his deepest impact will be felt. Changes there, more than anywhere, seem irreversible by anything other than the miraculous, than anything short of a religious revival or dramatic shift in spiritual-moral thinking.
Obama’s cultural revolution on the sexual-gender-family front is all around us. We see it in the culture of fear and intimidation by the forces of “diversity” and “tolerance” who viciously seek to denounce, dehumanize, demonize, and destroy anyone who disagrees with their brazen newfound conceptions of marriage and family, even as our position (not theirs) has been the prevailing position of 99.99 percent-plus of human beings who have bestrode the earth since the dawn of humanity. Instead, in the Obama era, we are the ones portrayed as the outliers, as abnormal, as extremists, as “haters.” If you dissent from this new vociferous breed of human-nature re-definers, they sue you, they jail you, they smear you, they boycott you, they harass you, they ruin you — and they do so (with no sense of their hypocrisy) in the name of “tolerance” and “diversity.” Whether you’re a Baptist grandma who bakes cakes, or a Catholic photographer who takes wedding photos, or a Mormon florist who arranges flowers, they refuse your appeals to your conscience; they steamroll you. Changes by Obama and his allies here have constituted a major attack on religious liberty, where two-century-old First Amendment guarantees have been torched by modern culture warriors discerning heretofore unknown higher rights like “marriage equality” and co-ed toilets.
That is a fundamental transformation of a culture and a nation that did not exist prior to Barack Obama’s ascent.
The manifestations of this are so ubiquitous that laying them out here isn’t necessary, but I’d like to offer just a handful of brief illustrations and images:
The first was the Newsweek cover from May 2012 showing Barack Obama with a rainbow halo over his head above the words, “The First Gay President.” This was in response to Obama coming out for same-sex “marriage,” which for five years he had claimed to oppose. This public shift occurred as Obama was ramping up his reelection campaign, just as Hillary Clinton would do later that year when she announced her 2016 campaign. After that announcement, Obama went wild with an aggressive agenda of fundamental transformation on the sexual-gender-family front, one that picked up speed, depth, and arrogance throughout his second term.
The second is another image, more profound than the Newsweek creation/coronation because it was real. It was from June 2015, when the Obama White House, the nation’s first house, was lit up in the colors of the “LGBTQ” rainbow [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (and/or questioning) individuals/identities] on the day of the Obergefell decision, when a Catholic Supreme Court justice, Anthony Kennedy, led the liberal bloc of the court in redefining marriage and imposing this non-existent “Constitutional right” on all fifty states. If ever there was a picture of Obama’s fundamental transformation of America, that was it.
Third was the bathroom fiat, when according to Barack Obama’s word, all public schools were ordered to revolutionize their restrooms and locker-rooms to make them available to teenage boys who want to be called girls (among other gender novelties). It is hard to conceive a more surreal example of executive overreach. Truly, George Washington is rolling over in his grave.
Fourth is an ironic moment of Obama’s own doing, one that got virtually no press coverage. It occurred at a townhall meeting in London last April, where Obama was scolded by a young man for not doing enough to “recognize non-binary people” such as himself. This young man wanted the British government to “respect pronouns” — using not words like “he” or “she” but rather “hir” or “ze” — in addition to “commit to gender-neutral toilets.” “I really, really wish that yourself and [British Prime Minister] David Cameron would take us seriously as transgender people,” pushed the student.
“. . . And perhaps you could elucidate as to what you can do to go beyond what has been accepted as the LGBTQ rights movement, in including people who fit outside the social norms.”
It was almost hilarious to observe Barack Obama, of all people, reprimanded for inadequacies in this area, which brings me to my final example.
That London incident might have prompted a remarkable action by the Obama White House a few weeks later, which also got virtually no news coverage: The White House press office released two extraordinary fact sheets detailing Obama’s vast efforts to promote “LGBT” rights at home and abroad. Not only was it telling that the White House would assemble such a list, and tout it, but the sheer length of the list is striking to behold. It is hard to find any similar roster of such dramatic changes by the Obama White House in any policy area. The list runs page after page.
In short, what we see here is the true Barack Obama legacy, the genuine fundamental transformation. It has occurred not in economics, government, or foreign policy, but in culture. When we look back at Barack Obama’s eight years, we should visualize not Obamacare or something in foreign policy but the White House illuminated in rainbow colors on June 26, 2015, or a rainbow-haloed Obama coronated as the “first gay president.”
George W. Bush: Deadlier Than Stalin? Our Profound Ignorance of the Crimes of Communism
“Many Millennials Think Bush Killed More Than Stalin.” Such was the surreal subject head sitting in my email box one morning. “Holy @#$%!” wrote a colleague in response. “This is mind-boggling. . . . This is scary, scary, scary.”
It sure is. It also isn’t surprising. Such profound, disturbing ignorance is a direct result of what Americans have learned about Communism in our horrid system of education, from high schools to colleges. The failure is massive.
According to a stunning new report by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, one-third of Millennials (32 percent) “believe more people were killed under George W. Bush than under Joseph Stalin.” And it isn’t just those silly Millennials that we like to view as clueless. One in four Americans generally (26 percent) believe more people were killed under Bush than Stalin.
That is breathtaking. Truly incredible.
That rather sickening finding was just one by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, which has the noble objective of trying to correct America’s ignoble ignorance of the crimes of Communism.
Among the basic facts that every American should know: At least 100 million people have died under Communist governments. That ghastly number, tabulated two decades ago by The Black Book of Communism, the seminal work on the subject by Harvard University Press, is actually conservative. For instance, the Black Book recorded merely 20 million dead in the Soviet Union. Alexander Yakovlev, one of Mikhail Gorbachev’s top aides, was given the official task of trying to quantify the victims. In a 2002 book published by Yale University Press, A Century of Violence in Soviet Russia, Yakovlev estimated that Stalin alone “annihilated . . . sixty to seventy million people” — figures consistent with those estimated by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, among others. Similar levels of bloodshed were wrought by China’s Mao Tse-tung, who was responsible for the deaths of 65 million, according to the Black Book, and possibly more than 70 million, according to more recent biographical studies. And then there were the killing fields of North Korea, Cambodia, Cuba, Ethiopia, Eastern Europe, Africa, and more. Really, the death generated by Communist governments over the last 100 years is likely closer to 140 million.
For a sense of proportion, Hitler’s mad genocide against Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, the mentally disabled, the elderly, the handicapped, and others he deemed “misfits,” was approximately 10 million (six million of them Jews). The combined dead from World Wars I and II — the most destructive conflicts in human history — was 50-60 million. Communism’s body count surpasses both world wars combined and probably doubled.
And yet, Americans’ knowledge of this vast sea of destruction is atrocious, which brings me back to the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.
The foundation is seeking to document this ignorance on a regular basis via its first “Annual Report on U.S. Attitudes Towards Socialism.” According to the report, the vast majority of Americans (75 percent) underestimate the number of people killed by Communist regimes, and a strong majority (68 percent) believe that Hitler killed more people than Stalin.
Death tallies aside, not only do they not see Stalin for the killer he was, but their views on Communism are not terribly negative.
Just 37 percent of Millennials had a “very unfavorable” view of Communism. One quarter (25 percent) of Millennials have a “favorable” view of Vladimir Lenin, namesake of Marxism-Leninism, the vicious architect and godfather of the Bolshevik totalitarian state. And 42 percent of Millennials are flatly “unfamiliar” with Mao Tse-tung.
It gets worse: 64 percent of Americans agree with Karl Marx’s classic credo that underpins Communist philosophy: “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”
Thus, it’s not surprising that close to half (45 percent) of Americans aged 16 to 20 (first-time voters in this presidential election) said they would vote for a socialist, and 21 percent would vote for a Communist. Of course, that’s reflected in what happened in 2016, as Bernie Sanders, a lifelong self-professed “socialist,” received 13 million votes in the Democratic primary. To give you a sense of that number’s significance, Donald Trump got 14 million votes in the Republican primary, and that was a record for a Republican primary.
This is not a failure to teach history; it is a failure to teach Communist and socialist history. We haven’t neglected to teach that Nazism was evil, that Hitler was a mass-murderer, that fascism is bad. We long ago failed when it came to Communism, Marxism-Leninism, Bolshevism, the USSR, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Che, Pol Pot, North Korea’s crazy Kims, and on and on.
Importantly, that failure is often the result of ideological biases, especially among leftist teachers and professors. Liberals and progressives do not suffer the same historical negligence when it comes to teaching the crimes of fascism and Nazism. They do a bang-up job with Hitler’s crimes, but not Stalin’s.
And the result is seen in this study. You reap what you sow.
More death under George W. Bush than Joseph Stalin? Good grief, comrade.
Remembering Two Christian College Presidents—Charles MacKenzie and Michael Scanlan
The story of Christian higher education in America is a sad saga. Once upon a time, the nation’s premier universities were run by religious people or founded with religious missions, or at least were respectful of the Christian faith. That sharp reversal has been a painful long march, with a marked turn early in the 20th century. I’m often reminded of the sardonic words of Thomas Merton, who at radical Columbia University in the 1930s became a Communist. He ultimately escaped the god that failed, instead becoming a Trappist monk. Columbia had become a toxic environment where Dewey-ism rather than Christianity was the prevailing zeitgeist. Merton wrote:
“Poor Columbia! It was founded by sincere [Christians] as a college predominantly religious. The only thing that remains of that is the university motto: In lumine tuo videbimus lumen — one of the deepest and most beautiful lines of the psalms. ‘In Thy light, we shall see light.’ It is, precisely, about grace. It is a line that might serve as the foundation stone of all Christian and Scholastic learning, and which simply has nothing whatever to do with the standards of education at modern Columbia. It might profitably be changed to: In lumine Randall videbimus Dewey.”
That last sentence was a reference to John Dewey and to John Herman Randall, another influential Columbia philosophy professor. For Merton, he found God in spite of Columbia. And that was the 1930s. Merton and Randall and even Dewey would be stunned by the secular/leftward lunge of our universities in just a few generations. By the 1970s and 1980s, even colleges that were explicitly Christian by charter and mission enthusiastically separated from those moorings, led by administrators and faculty who fled the faith.
And yet, amid all the chaos, a few jewels held firm to the foundation, keeping the faith and holding true to or reverting to their missions. Two colleges that did just that, preserving and actually heightening their commitment, are Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, and Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania, one Roman Catholic and one Protestant. The period when the two institutions successfully struggled to retain their commitments came in the 1970s and 1980s under the long-term leaderships of two particular presidents: Father Michael Scanlan and Dr. Charles MacKenzie.
My occasion for mentioning this now is a quite moving development: both Father Scanlan and Dr. MacKenzie were called to be with their Maker this January. Scanlan died on January 7 at the age of 85. MacKenzie died, on January 26, at age 92.
Michael Scanlan had stepped down as chancellor of Franciscan in 2011. He had been chancellor since 2000, and before that was president for 26 years. MacKenzie had been president of Grove City College from 1971 to 1991. He was the college’s (mere) fifth president.
In reaction to Scanlan’s death three weeks ago, the Catholic press was filled with glowing tributes. Tributes to MacKenzie likewise have now begun. Current Grove City College president Paul McNulty describes MacKenzie as a man of “courageous leadership” who had an “extraordinary impact” on the college, strengthening its “core values of faithfulness, excellence, community, stewardship, and independence. . . . He inspired us to serve God with energy and integrity.” Right up until his death, said McNulty, MacKenzie “continuously prayed for Grove City College and our distinct mission.”
Among the many remembrances of Scanlan and MacKenzie, I want to report an interesting but unseen ecumenical item related to their efforts — a joint effort. Faithful Catholics and Protestants alike will appreciate it, and it was first told to me by Scott Hahn, the famous Catholic convert and Franciscan University theology professor who, ironically, had been a student and then special assistant to President MacKenzie at Grove City College. Only Hahn could have observed what I’m about to relate.
During some very trying days when the two colleges were seeking to hold true to their Christian missions, Hahn several times overheard phone calls between MacKenzie and Scanlan, as the two men alternately advised and encouraged one another. Somewhat akin to the excellent ecumenical work of the late Chuck Colson and Father Richard John Neuhaus, here were Protestants and Catholics working together, united by a common foe: secular relativism, in this case in the academy.
Those phone calls, said Hahn, an eyewitness, were very important to MacKenzie. Hahn observed this first-hand in the president’s office at Grove City College. Hahn later heard more about the calls from Father Scanlan. When I met Scanlan, he confirmed the relationship with MacKenzie.
Back in 2011, when I heard the news of Scanlan’s retirement, I emailed MacKenzie to inquire about their relationship. He was eager to go on-the-record. “During my twenty years at Grove City, Father Scanlan and I had several conversations or communications,” MacKenzie confirmed to me.
“He and I were on the same wavelength as we sought to lead our schools back to the roots of the Christian faith. We were very careful what we said to each other, but I personally benefitted from his encouragement.”
MacKenzie hastened to add that he wasn’t free to share everything from their conversations. That isn’t a surprise. Recounting the faculty battles alone would be enough for a book. MacKenzie simply summed up by emphasizing that he and Scanlan “were on the same side on many of the issues.” He called Scanlan a “man of courage and faith, and in that regard, he was a blessing to me. . . . I thank God for him.”
And so do the folks at Franciscan University, which, today, like Grove City College, is a shining light amid the darkness of higher education. Both Scanlan and MacKenzie ensured that those lights were not extinguished under a bushel of secular relativism, as has happened at countless erstwhile Christian colleges. They wanted that light to shine before men, and they sought to do so cooperatively, not as antagonists from opposing Catholic and Protestant trenches, but as allies and partners working together in a shared vision.
It’s a tale of two Christian colleges that both Catholics and Protestants alike can learn from and emulate. *
Kengor Writes . . .
Death by Fidel
Fidel Castro is dead. To say those words is so strange. I’ve never known a moment when he wasn’t alive.
Castro came to power seven years before I was born, and I’m almost 50. I’ve been lecturing on the man every fall semester for 20 years, spending two or three weeks on him, his ideology, and the beautiful country he destroyed. It’s ironic that the day he died I finished two long chapters on him for a book manuscript, and a family friend (whose mother escaped Cuba) visiting for Thanksgiving just happened to ask how much longer I thought the 90-year-old despot might continue to live. The answer, it turned out, was a mere few hours more.
What to say in a few hundred words about a man like Fidel Castro at his death? Where to start? Where to end?
I think the answer is easy: The focus on Castro at his death must be just that: Castro and death. First, there’s the death he was responsible for since seizing Cuba in January 1959, and then, second, there are the incalculable millions more who would have died — not just in Cuba but in America and worldwide — had he gotten his way in October 1962.
So, for starters how many people were killed by Fidel and his Communist dystopia?
Unfortunately, no one truly knows, akin to how no one knows how many poor souls he tossed into his jails, from political dissidents to priests to homosexuals. Fidel’s prison state has never permitted human-rights observers, reminiscent of how he never permitted the elections he repeatedly promised in the 1950s. That said, many sources have tried to pin down numbers and have generated some common estimates:
The Black Book of Communism, the seminal Harvard University Press work, which specialized in trying to get accurate data on the enormous volume of deaths produced by Communist tyrants, states that in the 1960s alone, when Fidel and his brother Raul (Cuba’s current leader) established their complete control, with the help of their murdering buddy Che Guevara, an estimated 30,000 people were arrested in Cuba for political reasons and 7,000 to 10,000 were believed to have been executed. Even then, that was merely the start.
From the late 1950s to the late 1990s, it’s estimated that Castro killed between 15,000 to 18,000 people, whether victims of long-term imprisonment or outright execution by bullets.
That is a lot of people for a small island. And it isn’t all.
Cuba is a surreal island of no boats, where boats are banned — because people with boats flee. Thus, untold numbers of citizens have attempted the treacherous nearly 100-mile swim to Florida in shark-infested waters. An estimated 100,000 have risked the journey. Of those, perhaps as many as 30,000 to 40,000 died from drowning. As they bob for breath, the Castro government sends military helicopters to drop large bags of sand on them from high above.
Yes, actually drop sandbags on them.
So, Fidel Castro is responsible for a lot of death.
But here, too, these numbers do not capture the level of Fidel’s brutal madness. Consider the actual millions he badly wanted to kill, especially here in America.
If Fidel Castro had his way in October 1962, the United States would have been leveled by atomic bombs and so would little Cuba, which would’ve ceased to exist. The fact is that Fidel recommended to Nikita Khrushchev that Cuba and the USSR together launch an all-out nuclear attack upon the United States, literally igniting Armageddon.
This is no secret. Castro admitted it. In an open forum discussing the Cuban Missile Crisis 30 years later, Castro told Robert McNamara, JFK’s secretary of defense: “Bob, I did recommend they [the nuclear missiles] were to be used.”
In total, said McNamara, there were 162 Soviet missiles on the island. The firing of those missiles alone would have led to (according to McNamara) at least 80 million dead Americans, which would have been half the population, plus added tens of millions of casualties.
That, however, is a conservative estimate, given that 162 missiles was far from the sum total that would have been subsequently launched. The United States in turn would have launched on Cuba, and also on the USSR. President Kennedy made that commitment clear in his nationally televised speech on October 22, 1962:
“It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.”
In response, of course, the Soviets would have automatically launched on America from Soviet soil. Even then, the fireworks would just be starting: Under the terms of their NATO and Warsaw Pact charters, the territories of Western and Eastern Europe would also erupt.
Once the smoke cleared, hundreds of millions to possibly over a billion people could have perished, with Western civilization in its death throes. If Fidel Castro had gotten his way, he would have precipitated the greatest slaughter in human history. (Che Guevara also wanted to launch the nukes.)
The Soviets were horrified. Their ambassador to Cuba, Alexander Alekseyev, was so stunned at what Castro told him that he stood frozen, speechless, crushed. Without waiting for an answer from the numb ambassador, Castro started writing his feelings on paper, which Alekseyev saw as a kind of “last testament, a farewell.”
Fidel was ready to go — go up in a giant mushroom cloud for Marxism. As McNamara learned, this was Fidel’s big chance to die as a “martyr” for Marxism-Leninism. He was ready to “pull the temple down on his head.”
A shocked Nikita Khrushchev realized he was dealing with madmen. Khrushchev’s son Sergei, in his three-volume biography of his father, said that the Soviet general secretary huddled with top officials in the “code room” of the Foreign Ministry late on a Sunday night and repeatedly ordered, “Remove them, and as quickly as possible.”
Khrushchev urged Andrei Gromyko to instantly get in touch with Washington in order “to save the world from those pushing us toward war.”
As for Fidel, he was “furious” with Khrushchev. “Castro was mortally offended,” recorded Sergei. “He had not managed to engage in a fight with the Americans. He had made up his mind to die a hero, and to have it end that way.” He had been ready to “die beautifully,” as one Soviet official put it. Denied his glorious opportunity, he now considered Khrushchev “a traitor.”
Thankfully, the world averted nuclear war, through the leadership of Khrushchev and Kennedy, and no thanks to bloodthirsty lunatics like Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, who were ready to blow up the world in the name of their Marxist-Leninist nightmare.
This, alas, was Fidel Castro. And for the record (and not surprisingly), not a word of it is found in the awful press release by President Barack Obama acknowledging Castro’s death, a statement that Marco Rubio rightly called “pathetic,” with “no mention of [the] thousands he killed and imprisoned.”
Pathetic, indeed. Fidel Castro is dead. And Fidel Castro was death.
Hillary’s Faith: In God and Roe She Trusts
“Secretary Clinton, I want to explore how far you believe the right to abortion goes,” asked Fox News Channel’s Chris Wallace, moderator for the third and final presidential debate.
“You have been quoted as saying that the fetus has no constitutional rights. You also voted against a ban on late-term, partial-birth abortions. Why?”
Mrs. Clinton’s answer was precisely what we’ve come to expect. She bristled, her voice turning sharp, her tone unyielding: “Because Roe v. Wade very clearly sets out that there can be regulations on abortion so long as the life and the health of the mother are taken into account. . . .” It was her canned answer, one I’ve heard countless times in my years writing about her.
Donald Trump’s retort was a good one — one of his best:
“Well, I think it’s terrible. If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby. Now, you can say that that’s OK and Hillary can say that that’s OK, but it’s not OK with me.”
With that, Hillary grew angry, denouncing Trump’s “scare rhetoric.” I wasn’t surprised. If you want to get under Hillary’s skin, challenge her on abortion, what she considers a sacred “right,” the hill of Roe that Hillary would die on.
She continued with this telling line: “The government has no business in the decisions that women make with their families in accordance with their faith.”
With that word, “faith,” I envisioned my email box filling up. That’s because I have the unenviable position of being a go-to guy on questions involving the faith of Hillary Clinton — fitting punishment for daring to write a book on the faith of Hillary Clinton a decade ago. Ever since, I’ve been peppered with questions from all sides of the political and spiritual spectrum. Among them, the one I get the most from conservatives goes something like this: How can you call Hillary Clinton a “sincere, lifelong Christian” (as I have) when she is so fanatical on abortion?
The question frequently moves beyond abortion to more general statements about Hillary Clinton’s honesty and character.
As one conservative colleague put it in an email to me this week, if Hillary is such a committed Christian, where is her faith in action — especially in regard to character and this abortion thing?
It’s a valid objection from conservative Christians. It’s not, however, an objection that I hear from liberal Christians. And indeed, that dichotomy gets to the crux of the matter, and it’s one that conservative Christians always struggle to grasp.
Here’s the reality: The fact is that Hillary Clinton, since childhood, has been a committed Methodist, which is a liberal denomination, the tenets of which she interprets very selectively — much like how Nancy Pelosi or Tim Kaine selectively interpret Catholicism. Much like how a Barack Obama selectively invokes the “Golden Rule” as (amazingly) a rationale to redefine marriage, obviously and unequivocally violating the multi-millennial natural-traditional-Biblical standard of marriage as being between a man and a woman. Look at Jimmy Carter, the “born-again” president, invoking his garbled understanding of the Scriptures in his support of redefining marriage. Look at Jim Wallis and the old Sojourners gang and their myriad of radically left-wing positions.
Ask any of these liberal Christians if they believe they are acting un-Biblically, or in an un-Christian or ungodly way. They will vehemently protest. They are convinced — or have convinced themselves — that they are doing the right thing. They are Religious Left Christians. And, yes, certain positions they take, especially to conservative Christians, can be downright maddening.
That brings me back to Hillary Clinton. She is a classic Religious Left Christian. In her mind, her position on abortion, even partial-birth position, is a moral one. I have no doubt that Hillary feels that someday she’ll be able to stand before her Savior and make the case that she did what she thought was right because she was seeking to save women’s lives via legal abortion — yep, irrespective of the 60 million unborn victims of Roe v. Wade.
And Hillary is far from alone in that belief among the Religious Left. Do a Google search on the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. It’s an entire organization of left-wing believers who seem to think that the Creator would approve of Roe v. Wade. Among the members are the Episcopal Church, Obama’s United Church of Christ, Presbyterian Church USA, and other mainline groups. Most significant to the Hillary discussion, Hillary’s United Methodist Church was a pivotal, founding member (it finally withdrew only last April). The UMC’s liberalism on abortion is a key reason that Hillary glows about being “so comfortable” as a member.
So, think about it, conservative Christians: How can you insist to Hillary that she’s not being a Christian in supporting legal abortion when all of these mainline Christian groups, including her own, were supporting legal abortion?
Do I agree with these groups? No, I think they’re off their rockers, and will have much to answer for. But if you’re looking to reconcile Hillary’s thinking, well, you’re not thinking about it enough. Peer beyond your conservative Christian choir and gaze into the perverse ideological abyss of the Religious Left and you’ll discern some answers, infuriating as they are.
Thus, returning to Hillary’s answer on partial-birth abortion in the third and final presidential debate: “The government has no business in the decisions that women make with their families in accordance with their faith.”
Conservative Christians who believe that statement is inherently contradictory need to realize that to Hillary Clinton it is not. She believes she can justify her abortion position in accordance with her faith.
To borrow from Donald Trump, Hillary can say that that’s OK, but it’s not OK with me. Nonetheless, to Hillary, it’s OK.
How Mother Teresa Challenged Hillary Clinton on Abortion
Two very different women on the minds of Christians right now are Mother Teresa, with her canonization on Sept. 4, and Hillary Clinton, with her name on the presidential ballot in 2016. Hillary stands as the most influential woman in America. Someone who might have foreseen such prominence for Hillary was Mother Teresa. Perhaps that’s why the bold nun from Kolkata, India, persistently challenged the then-first lady’s push to make abortion more widely available.
Let’s back up to where it all began.
Clinton’s arrival upon the national scene became reality when her husband was inaugurated president in January 1993. That same year, in August, both Clintons would greet Pope John Paul II, who came to America for World Youth Day in Denver. John Paul II spoke to both Clintons on the imperative of valuing the life of the unborn child.
It didn’t seem to make much of an impact.
The new first lady was already starting her efforts to revolutionize the health-care industry — which, people forget, she was doing very aggressively that first year, only to back off as her efforts hurt her husband politically.
She said in an October 1993 televised forum discussing her new national healthcare plan that abortion would be made “widely available.” This prompted anxieties over the prospect of taxpayer-funded abortion, sparking the Coates Amendment in the U.S. House of Representatives, which sought to strip abortion funding from the plan. Mrs. Clinton’s intentions sent elected pro-life Democrats like Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey into such anger that Casey considered a run for the presidency to dislodge the Clintons.
Clinton’s words also ignited fears over the availability of the abortion pill, RU-486, under her plan. One of her husband’s first acts in office was to push the pill to market through an expedited FDA approval process that pro-lifers insisted was too quick for the safety of the women who would take the pill.
Not at all ignorant of these advances by the Clintons was a nun named Mother Teresa, who in February 1994 made her own visit to America, which included a meeting with the Clintons.
The occasion was the annual National Prayer Breakfast, a huge ecumenical gathering in Washington. As president, Bill Clinton was a high-profile attendee, with Hillary accompanying him. That year, on Feb. 3, 1994, the keynoter was a very special guest, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and saintly figure who had come all the way from the most impoverished area of the planet, the slums of Kolkata.
According to Kathryn Spink’s Mother Teresa, An Authorized Biography, the reluctant nun was invited by President Clinton himself.
Held at the Washington Hilton, nearly 3,000 people packed the huge room. Near the dais were the president and first lady, along with the vice president and his wife, and a select few VIPs, including Supreme Court justices and the highest-ranking members of Congress.
Unlike in typical years, where the keynoter sits among the assembled and waits for others to finish before his or her turn, Mother Teresa emerged from a curtain behind the platform only when she was called and then slowly hunched her way to the microphone. Hillary said in her memoir, Living History, she was struck by how tiny she was, wearing only socks and sandals in the bitter cold.
The title of the talk was “Whatever You Did Unto One of the Least, You Did Unto Me.” She began by talking about Jesus and John the Baptist in their wombs, about their mothers, Mary and Elizabeth, and how the “unborn child” in the womb of Elizabeth — John the Baptist — leapt for joy as he felt the presence of Christ in the room when Mary entered to speak to Elizabeth.
Hillary might have seen what was coming.
She next spoke of love, of selfishness, of a lack of love for the unborn — and a lack of want of the unborn because of one’s selfishness. Jesus, said the sister, who brought joy while still in the womb of Mary, had died on the cross “because that is what it took for him to do good to us — to save us from our selfishness in sin.”
Peggy Noonan, the former Reagan speechwriter and a pro-life Catholic, was there. She says that by this point in the talk some attendees began shifting in their seats, as a lot of what the lady from Kolkata had to say was striking too close to home.
Then the sister said something that made everyone very uncomfortable:
“But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because Jesus said, ‘If you receive a little child, you receive me.’ So every abortion is the denial of receiving Jesus, the neglect of receiving Jesus.”
Here, Noonan described a “cool deep silence” that enveloped the room, but only for a brief moment, and then applause started on the right side of the room and then spread throughout the crowd, as people began clapping and standing; the ballroom was swept up in nonstop applause, which Noonan says lasted five to six minutes.
Yet some did not clap at all. Hillary Clinton did not, and neither did her husband; nor did Vice President Al Gore and Tipper Gore. They sat there, in the glare of the hot lights, all eyes in the crowd fixed upon them, as they tried not to move or be noticed, conspicuous in their lack of response, clearly uncomfortable as the applause raged on.
The tiny, weak, aged lady was only warming up. She had seen and experienced real suffering and couldn’t care less about making momentarily uncomfortable a crowd of a few thousand financially comfortable people who had never known real material deprivation and whose only crisis each morning was traffic or a long line at Starbucks.
She returned to that selfishness point:
“By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. [Abortion is] really a war against the child, and I hate the killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that the mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? . . . Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love one another, but to use violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.”
The little nun was doing what pro-choicers find unacceptable and might have booed out of the room if not for her moral authority. She kept describing abortion as “killing.”
She concluded by asking for prayers for her ministry, by asking for the blessing of God’s love and by telling the 3,000 that she would pray for them and their families: “God bless you all.” She then parted as she came, through the curtain behind the platform.
Throughout the talk’s high points on abortion — the raw nerve — the Clintons and Gores remained in stone silence. One attendee, a pro-life Catholic and high-level appointee in the Reagan administration, later told me:
“It was an outrage, an abomination, very rude. Mrs. Clinton in particular just sat there. I will never forget that moment. It told me all I needed to know about her.”
To his credit, Bill Clinton realized that his behavior and that of his wife and the others was indeed rude. According to Spink, he apologized to Mother Teresa after the speech.
Hillary responded later that day — sort of. In commenting on Mother Teresa’s remarks, she must have briefly given the nun hope that she, too, would speak on behalf of the unborn when she began, “I have always believed that Christ wanted us to be joyous, to look at the face of creation and to know that there was more joy than any of us could imagine.”
As the “Champion of Calcutta” held her breath, however, she was disappointed, as Mrs. Clinton did what she has long done — applied the thought very selectively, restricted it solely to her understanding of economics, not unborn life, as she followed:
“Or as Mother Teresa told us this morning, to see the joy on the face of a homeless beggar, who is picked up off the street and brought in to die, says joyously, ‘Thank you.’”
Hillary’s remarks were an extraordinary example of psychological-ideological compartmentalization, a surreal mastery of ignoring the obvious, of hearing only what one wants to hear.
Mother Teresa had come to give a major moral statement on abortion and did so in a way that shocked the entire crowd. And then Clinton flatly ignored the entire message in her follow-up remarks, carefully lifting a smaller item from the nun’s address, one with which she agreed, then placed it fully out of its context and used it for an entirely separate political purpose with which she was politically satisfied. Her reaction was inexpressibly strange, but no surprise.
And it was not like Clinton did not get the point.
“She [Mother Teresa] had just delivered a speech against abortion,” explained Clinton in assessing the keynote address in her memoirs, almost 10 years later. In the minutes after the talk, said Hillary, the nun persisted, taking the abortion issue directly to Hillary’s face: “[She] wanted to talk to me,” said the first lady. “Mother Teresa was unerringly direct. She disagreed with my views on a woman’s right to choose and told me so.”
In other words, there was no mistaking the message that day, nor that Hillary got it unerringly.
On the other hand, Hillary later, perhaps upon further reflection with the help of an aide, identified a crucial component of the speech that she did not need to take out of context to find common ground: Mother Teresa had said:
“Please don’t kill the child. I want the child. Give me the child. I’m willing to accept any child who would be aborted and to give that child to a married couple who will love the child and be loved by the child.”
Echoing the Malcolm Muggeridge phrase that introduced her to the West, Mother Teresa said, “I will tell you something beautiful. We are fighting abortion by adoption.”
Now that was something that Hillary could applaud. Babies outside the womb, by her reckoning, merit her and society’s protection.
In the course of one of their subsequent conversations, Clinton made clear to Mother Teresa that while she supported legalized abortion, she also wanted to see more adoptions, presumably as an alternative. The nun told the first lady she had placed more than 3,000 orphaned babies into adoptive homes in India. Hillary said she would like to visit the orphanage in New Delhi. A year later, she and daughter Chelsea did just that, visiting one of the Missionary of Charity homes in New Delhi, a facility that, said Hillary, “would not have passed inspection in the U.S.” because there were too many cribs crowded together.
Mother Teresa informed the first lady of her goal of establishing a home in Washington, where mothers could take care of their babies until they found adoptive or foster homes. In turn, Hillary went to bat for her, rounding up pro bono lawyers to do legal work, fighting through the bureaucracy of the District of Columbia and doing what she could to lend a hand to create a home for infant children near Chevy Chase Circle, just over the Washington, D.C., line. She telephoned community leaders and pastors from nearby Baptist, Catholic, Episcopal and Presbyterian churches, calling them to the White House to see where and how they could help. Moving the bureaucracy, said Hillary, turned out to be harder than she had imagined.
Regardless, Hillary Clinton apparently helped quite a bit.
Mother Teresa was equally relentless on her end. When she felt the project was lagging, she sent a letter to the first lady, checking on the progress. “She sent emissaries to spur me on,” recalled Hillary. “She called me from Vietnam, she called me from India, always with the same message: When do I get my center for babies?”
On June 19, 1995, the shelter for children opened, the Mother Teresa Home for Infant Children. This led to a photo op of Hillary and Mother Teresa clasping hands in the newly decorated nursery and smiling at one another. A reporter could not resist asking the uncomfortable question: Yes, conceded the first lady, of course they had discussed their “philosophical differences” over abortion.
Mother Teresa, ever the peacemaker, stepped in to underscore where the focus should be at that particular moment, namely, on where they agreed: “We want to save the children,” she said. The nun, slow and frail, held Hillary’s arm as they toured the facility, examining the freshly painted nursery and rows of bassinets awaiting infants.
This was not the end of the relationship, which Hillary has always looked back upon with fondness. In the short time she had left on earth, Mother Teresa continued to try to change Clinton’s view on abortion. According to Hillary, “she sent me dozens of notes and messages with the same gentle entreaty.” She dealt with the first lady with patience and kindness, but firm conviction: “Mother Teresa never lectured or scolded me; her admonitions were always loving and heartfelt,” wrote Hillary, adding that she had “the greatest respect for her opposition to abortion.” Mother Teresa saw in Hillary a potentially huge convert to the pro-life cause, and never gave up, but to no avail.
Two years after their tour through the foster home in Chevy Chase, on a Friday, Sept. 5, 1997, Mother Teresa’s heart beat its last. The funeral Mass was held at St. Thomas Church in Middleton Row, Kolkata. Hillary Clinton was there.
After the memorial service, Clinton unexpectedly found herself invited to a private meeting at the motherhouse, the headquarters of the order founded by Mother Teresa. As the nuns formed a circle around the coffin, where they stood in silent meditation, one of them, Sister Nirmala, mother’s successor, asked the first lady if she would offer a prayer. Later confessing to feeling inadequate to do so, Hillary hesitated and then bowed her head and thanked God for “the privilege” of having known this “tiny, forceful, saintly woman.”
It was a complex, intriguing, touching, but also frustrating relationship. What to make of all of this today?
Well, tragically, Hillary Clinton has become far more fanatical for “abortion rights” (and for redefining marriage and the ever-expanding “LGBTQ” agenda) — and at the expense of religious liberty — than Mother Teresa could have foreseen. Or maybe she did foresee it. Maybe the little nun saw it coming. Maybe she perceived that Hillary Clinton was poised to one day have an even greater impact. Perhaps something spoke to her. And perhaps a sign of her genuine saintliness was her vigorous attempt to reach out to Hillary Clinton and try to salvage, if not improve, the road ahead.
With her canonization, Catholics might look to Mother Teresa now for some formal intercession, as Mrs. Clinton’s trajectory increasingly foreshadows a dark future for the unborn and for religious liberty in America. *
Kengor Writes . . .
Western Civ in the Crosshairs — and a Glimmer of Hope
Students at Indiana University-Bloomington recently went into panic mode at the sight of a Dominican friar, who they mistook for a Ku Klux Klan member. Funny? Yes, but also sad. It is a further sign of the state of our universities, and what is and isn’t being taught.
For starters, let’s get this on the blackboard: For a really long time, there have been religious guys in robes, flatly unmistakable in their appearance. This year, 2016 A.D. (Anno Domini, Latin for “In the Year of Our Lord”), just happens to mark the 800th anniversary of the Dominicans. The Dominicans, named for their founder, Dominic de Guzman, a Spanish priest and contemporary of another giant of the faith, Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscans, long pre-date the KKK. These “orders” preceded Luther’s Reformation by three centuries, and themselves were a vital reform in rekindling and sustaining the faith against some significant heresy.
(A related funny-but-sad story on the Franciscans: A Franciscan friar told me about an encounter he had on the New York subway. A young woman looked at him in his garb and smiled and said: “Okay, I get it — you’re a Jedi Knight, right?”)
The Dominicans far pre-date the American university. Not unrelated, our universities once taught what we commonly call “Western Civ,” or “Western Civilization,” where students learned the elemental facts of their Western world, and where contemporary campus oddities like religious figures were not alien to their mind’s eye. But such is not the zeitgeist of the modern university, where today’s typical student is enmeshed with a thoroughly secular worldview where a trinity of race, gender, and sexual orientation account for what is held sacred. They are carefully trained to be ever-vigilant for the slightest whiff of racism, sexism, and “homophobia” or (the latest rage) “transphobia.” Their “education” is such that an ancient religious order is utterly unrecognizable.
That brings me back to what happened at Indiana University-Bloomington.
The mysterious robed intruder shuffled his way on to campus in the dark of night. “U students be careful,” Tweeted one vigilant student, “there’s someone walking around in kkk gear with a whip.”
The “kkk gear” was the friar’s robe. The “whip” was presumably either his belt or his rosary, the latter an 800-year practice likewise started by Dominic.
Residential hall advisor Ethan Gill zapped an email to his peers, warning them of the ominous “threat” marching across the quad:
There has been a person reported walking around campus in a KKK outfit holding a whip. . . . Please PLEASE PLEASE be careful out there tonight.
Later in the evening, a relieved Gill retracted his warning, but not before recounting the sense of horror unleashed by the unsuspecting friar:
Then my residents, terrified, come running to me, saying yeah the report must be true, they saw him and couldn’t believe there was a klans member with a whip. . . . (he explained) And I see this picture. It’s a priest. With a rosary.
In short, it’s no surprise that today’s college students would be dumbstruck at the image of a religious figure in a robe. Such is completely symptomatic of the life and learning of the cultural asylum we call the modern American university, where — in the name of secular liberalism, multiculturalism, diversity, and “tolerance” — a relentless battle has been waged upon Western civilization for decades. In fact, consider this irony: fittingly, mere days after this incident in Bloomington, students at Stanford University resoundingly rejected — by a margin of six to one — an effort to add a required course on Western Civ to the curriculum. The campus secularists can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that a dangerous Western Civ requirement will not cut into enrollment for courses like “Narrating Queer Drama“ at Stanford’s department of Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.
And here’s the height of the irony: If students at Stanford, and at Indiana University-Bloomington and elsewhere, would dare explore Western civilization, they might discover that their entire educational tradition owes quite a debt to these arcane men with robes and beads. The reality is that it was the monks, starting with the Benedictines (founded in the fifth century), who preserved crucial ancient texts and were the educators who established the model and laid the foundation for the universities. We arguably would not have the modern university without monks, certainly not how and when we did. The founder of the Benedictines was Benedict of Nursia (480-547 A.D.). He arrived in the world only a century after the birth of Augustine (354-430 A.D.) and the Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.), which, among other things, affirmed the literal belief in the Trinity (no small thing).
Picking up with the Dominicans and their influence: Dominic died in 1221, only to be followed by Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) and the Scholastics. Aquinas himself was a Dominican. Also seizing the torch at the time were the likes of Bonaventure (1221-74) and the great writer Dante (1265-1321). They all not only fought the heresies of their day, from Gnosticism to Albigensianism, but they were the teachers of their day, holding forth in historic universities from Oxford to Paris.
Secularists need not approve of these things, but they ought not be embarrassingly (and even deliberately) ignorant of them.
Needless to say, college students will not learn any of this in their courses on “Transgender Studies“ or “Gay Autobiography.” The progressive professors running these courses are championing the thoughts of Harry Hay (the Marxist gay-rights pioneer) rather than Francesco Bernardone. And I assure you that to the legion of contemporary American progressives, “progress” is indeed a vigilant sophomore more attuned to suspecting a klansman than recognizing a friar.
In the ashes of the Judeo-Christian values and timeless absolutes they have set ablaze, our modern progressives in the academy have instead fashioned a molten calf of politically and culturally correct nostrums. They peddle false faiths full of contradiction and selective application, such as their “tolerance” and “diversity” heresies — carefully applied only to things they want to tolerate. It is tolerance and diversity for me but not for thee. They denounce the “bigots” who oppose transgender bathrooms while they resist the Christian teachings that have beautifully transformed and redeemed the lives of billions. And thus, when these late-adolescent products of contemporary academia look at a Dominican brother with confused fear, we shouldn’t be surprised. This is a direct extension of their “higher” education. This is what they and their parents have paid for at great financial and moral cost.
May I point to what has been a light in the darkness? Here at my college, Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania, we not only respect Western civilization but teach it. It is the root of our five-course Humanities curriculum, which every student is required to fulfill—covering art, music, literature, history, and sacred ideas and texts — and one of the courses is even unashamedly titled, “Western Civilization.”
We are striving to maintain Western Civ, not kill it. How counter-culture is that these days? It is indeed. As our college president, Paul J. McNulty, observes, “We are the counter-culture at Grove City College.”
Yes, we are. In the 1960s, the campus “counter-culture” had decidedly different overtones than it does now, fifty years later. To be counter-culture in the twenty-first century means to fight to retain the best of the timeless Western Judeo-Christian values that got us here. And it certainly means knowing the difference between a priest and a klansman.
The Communist Party Feels the Bern — U.S. Communists Couldn’t Be Happier About the Democratic Party’s Direction
As it has for months now, The People’s World again this past week carried a headline hailing Bernie Sanders’ “revolution.” As the successor to the Soviet-funded and directed The Daily Worker, and as the ongoing house organ of Communist Party USA, The People’s World is pleased with the long march of “progress” in the Democratic Party. The far-left lurch of today’s Democratic Party is lovingly in line with what the comrades have long desired. These inheritors of the Soviet experiment see Bernie Sanders as an exciting culmination of what they have been fighting for. And they view Barack Obama’s “fundamental transformation” of the Democratic Party as having made a candidate like Bernie possible.
If you think this is hyperbole on my part, you should educate yourself by reading what today’s Communists are writing. As the latest exhibit, consider the instructive words of John Bachtell, Communist Party USA chair, in the latest valentine to Bernie in The People’s World:
The campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders is making a unique contribution to defeating the Republican right and has the potential to galvanize long-term transformative change. The campaign is also a movement. Millions are fed up with the same old establishment politics tied to Wall Street and the one percent. It’s reminiscent of the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns. . . . Seeds of change are being sown and foundations are being laid for deeper-going changes in the future. . . .
The campaign is expanding the collective political imagination and injecting radical ideas into the body politic. It has legitimized democratic socialism in the national conversation. Sanders is also influencing Hillary Clinton to adopt more progressive positions on a wide range of issues.
Note the Obama-speak in Bachtell’s rhetoric, from the invoking of “transformative change” and “seeds of change” to pointing to the very model of Barack’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns. And observe the excitement about Bernie having “legitimized democratic socialism in the national conversation” and influencing Hillary to adopt “more progressive positions.”
The head of Communist Party USA continued:
But Sanders understands if he is elected his radical economic and social agenda including breaking up the big banks, universal health care, tuition-free university, massive jobs creation, expanding Social Security, and repealing Citizen’s United will go nowhere given the vise grip the GOP and extreme right has on Congress.
The only way to realize a radical agenda is through a “political revolution. . . .” Sanders sees his campaign as part of a much bigger movement that must be built.
A political revolution rests on building a broad coalition. A political revolution will be fueled by ongoing shifts in public attitudes. Majorities of Americans now favor taxing the rich, raising the minimum wage, immigration reform, abortion rights, marriage equality, criminal justice reform, and action to curb the climate crisis. New social movements are influencing millions at the grassroots including the Fight for 15, Black Lives Matter, The Dreamers, reproductive rights, marriage equality, and climate justice activists.
A political revolution is based on the idea that majorities make change. It is not enough for majorities to believe in an idea, they must actively fight for it. Movements are acting both within and outside the Democratic Party and comprise many of the key forces in the anti-right alliance.
This pitch for Bernie in The People’s World by the head of Communist Party USA employs the rally cry “political revolution” a dozen times in under a thousand words, plus repeated use of the words “radical” and “progressive.” Make no mistake: the comrades are jazzed for Bernie Sanders. They want, as another The People’s World writer likewise puts it, nothing short of a “Bernie Sanders political revolution.”
Bachtell looks with hope at how Bernie’s struggle could transform the political landscape and further remake the party of Kennedy and Truman:
A political revolution can transform politics if labor, its allies, and the broad left put their stamp on the multi-class alliance, shape its politics and frame the issues debated for the elections. The Sanders campaign is helping do this. . . . It will be transformative if the anti-right coalition is united and mobilized. Polls show that 86 percent of Clinton supporters will support Sanders in the general election if he is the nominee, and 79 percent of Sanders’ supporters will support Clinton if she wins. Sanders will need Clinton’s supporters in order to win.
Note, remarkably, the vast support for Sanders that exists not only among his own comrades but among Hillary Clinton backers. This is support, of course, for a man who has long been an avowed, unapologetic socialist, who was fully sympathetic to the Communist universe.
Also revealing is how today’s Communists have hopped aboard the bandwagon of the new left’s cultural agenda, including on sexual-gender issues. I’ve been pointing this out for some time (see my book on the left’s takedown of family and marriage). The emergent Bernie-Democrat-socialist-Communist-progressive-liberal coalition, advises Bachtell,
. . . must fight uncompromisingly against racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant attacks and all efforts to divide.
Workers of the world, unite — against “transphobia”! Who would have foreseen that one? Karl Marx, call your office.
Some Democrats reading this will lash out at me, as the messenger. But I urge them to again carefully read the words I’m quoting. They come directly from the head of the Communist Party USA, a man who is the successor to Gus Hall, to Earl Browder, to William Z. Foster, writing in the house organ of CPUSA, The People’s World, successor to The Daily Worker. I ask Democrats: Does it not concern you that your number two for the presidential nomination so fires up these literal Communists? Does that not bother you?
Unfortunately, I fear that many of today’s Democrats couldn’t care less, especially the Bernie millennials educated into pro-socialist imbecility by our public schools and universities. As one reader of The American Spectator put it after reading my previous post on Bernie
I informed my son, now over forty, that Bernie was a Communist. He replied, “So what!”
Indeed, the Sanders campaign could mass-produce bumper stickers boldly touting “Bolsheviks for Bernie” sandwiched between grinning faces of Marx and Lenin and our contemporary products of the American university would shrug and cheer.
Returning to the appraisal of Communist Party USA, John Bachtell finished with this:
A political revolution will help establish the foundations for a real people’s party, whether it results in a breakaway from or a takeover of the Democratic Party. Regardless of whether Sanders wins or not, the politics of the nation will never be the same and the fight for a political revolution will continue.
There we are, ladies and gentlemen. The new political revolution that “will continue” must come either with a breakaway from the Democratic Party or with a “takeover of the Democratic Party.” Once upon a time in America, it seemed it could have only come with a breakaway. But now, in the Obama-Bernie America, a takeover of the Democrats has greater promise than ever. Just ask the literally millions of modern Democrats pulling the lever for a 74-year-old socialist as their next president. And just ask Bernie Sanders’ advocates in the Communist Party USA. They, too, feel the Bern.
Having a “Trump Talk” with Your Kids
I was watching a Republican presidential debate as my eight-year-old, John, sat next to me. Donald Trump, the front-runner, looked left and ripped Ted Cruz as a “liar” before seamlessly pivoting right and skewering Marco Rubio as a “sweating choke artist.” “Lying Ted!” Trump barked. “Choking Marco!” he shouted.
My eight-year-old son laughed at the buffoonish spectacle, as if we’d just tuned into the Cartoon Network. “No, John,” I told him. “That’s not funny. We shouldn’t treat people that way.”
“Is that man going to be our president?” John asked. “I don’t know,” I replied.
I decided to turn off the TV while John was in the room with Donald Trump. Who knows what might come next?
In addition to Trump mocking Rubio and denouncing Cruz, he labeled George W. Bush a “liar” and Jeb Bush a “joke.” As for Mitt Romney: dumb, stupid, “loser.” Megyn Kelly: a “bimbo” with “blood coming out of her eyes.” He doesn’t like her. And if Donald Trump doesn’t like you, he lets you know.
The American Founders extolled the virtue of prudence to our leaders and citizenry. They underscored the cardinal and theological virtues. Trump eschews virtue, embracing vice instead, and his supporters reward him by the millions.
And thus, Trump excoriates his detractors: liars, losers, morons.
“Look at that face!” yapped Trump of Carly Fiorina, a successful businesswoman. “Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that the face of our next president?”
Again, push the children away from the TV.
Yet another occasion: I check the latest headlines. The cable news station shows a Trump rally. Protesters speak up. This wasn’t the organized protest in Chicago, which Trump blamed on professional left-wing agitators; no, this is a typical political event. But Donald Trump is no typical candidate. Not one for criticism, Trump instructs his supporters how to respond to the dissenters: “Knock the crap out of them!” Don’t worry, the millionaire ensures: “Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees, I promise. I promise.”
The cable news station shows repeated examples of such Trump bombast. Then follow clips of Trump supporters roughing up protesters in what could be a superb DNC ad against Trump in November.
One Trump supporter, 78-year-old John McGraw, sucker-punched 26-year-old Rakeem Jones, with no regrets. “You bet I liked it,” McGraw growled to the press. “Knocking the hell out of that big mouth.” (Note how McGraw used Trump’s exact words: “knock the hell.”) Asked if Jones had it coming, McGraw affirmed, “Yes, he deserved it. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him.”
Again, I turn off the TV before the kids see. Even more unsettling, the man behaving this way could be my kids’ next president, and from my own political party — the party of Lincoln and Reagan.
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg with Donald Trump. I was talking to my friend Mark, a Hollywood evangelical. He has five daughters. I asked how he intends to explain Trump to his girls. Trump is not only repeatedly divorced, but left his wives for mistresses and brags about his sexual conquests (including with married women). The casino mogul has strip clubs under his belt. We thought Bill Clinton was bad. At least Bill had the political discreetness to deny his escapades. (How’s that for a new standard?) Trump boasts.
Mark told me that he has had the “Trump talk” with his daughters. He has told them that, sadly, all morality could be out the window this election. Among the Republicans, there still are solid family men in Ted Cruz and John Kasich (as was “Choking Marco”). Unfortunately, with Trump, the moral character that Republicans have demanded in their leaders has become an utter non-issue to angry advocates. This year, Democrats will be able to tell Republicans that all their past talk of family values and criticisms of Bill Clinton was a bunch of rotten hypocrisy.
The presidency is preeminently a position of moral leadership. “Morality,” said our first president, George Washington, is an “indispensable support” to political prosperity. That has not changed. What is changing is the huge number of Americans who suddenly don’t care about moral behavior in their leader, or excuse or justify it.
And so, my advice to parents, especially on the Republican side: If Donald Trump gets the nomination, be prepared to sit down with your kids to have a frank “Trump talk.” Teach them not to be like that man. And always be ready to quickly change the TV channel. *
Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004), The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007), The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007) and The Communist - Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).
Some time ago, a former student emailed me a video clip that I now show my Major European Governments course. It's a five-minute news piece by Dale Hurd of CBN News, a conservative Christian outlet - the rare kind of place where you see reports like this. The piece was on radical Islam in Europe, specifically in Belgium, and it was based on Hurd's interview with a Muslim leader in Brussels, the very heart of modern Europe, of secular Europe, of the European Union, and of everything Islamic fundamentalists despise about Europe.
"Allah makes the laws and tells us what is allowed and what is forbidden," Abu Imran told Hurd.
Imran is leader of Shariah for Belgium, and insists there's no such thing as a "democratic Muslim." Such a notion, he maintains, is as absurd as a "Christian Jew" or "Jewish Muslim." "It's impossible."
Imran says that real Islam and Shariah law are "inseparable."
Imran's group wants what it calls "Belgistan," and foresees Brussels as an "Islamic capital" within mere decades. He cites numbers to back his optimism. Imran says that in some cities in Belgium, such as Antwerp, 40 percent of the children in schools are Muslim. And though Muslims compose only 25 percent of religious believers in the country, that is enough to make them the largest religious group, given that Belgium, like most of Europe, has rapidly de-Christianized. Imran's group expects Muslims to be the majority in Belgium within 20 years.
Notably, that rise is coming from nothing unusual among Muslims. They are simply reproducing, whereas natives of Belgium, like natives of Europe, are not. For many modern Europeans, sex is about recreation, about fully separating intercourse from reproduction, about having as much sex as possible without the undesired outcome of a child. For faithful Muslims, sex is still about babies.
Like many major European cities, from London to Oslo, the most popular baby name in Brussels last year was "Mohammed." In fact, reported Dale Hurd, "Mohammed" was the most common baby name in Brussels each of the last four years. I do not see that trend changing anytime soon.
Dale Hurd noted in his report that Shariah for Belgium is a "small group that a lot of people do not take seriously." I bet they are now.
Obviously, I'm sharing this with readers now because the ringleaders of the terrorist assaults in France last week - the worst attacks inside France since World War II - were reportedly based precisely in Brussels.
Unlike Mr. Imran and his group, the ISIS-affiliated Muslims who attacked last week are blatant jihadists. They aren't patient enough to wait for their babies to grow to adulthood. They're not awaiting a demographic time bomb to bring Islam to Europe. They want "victory" now. They are happily (yes, happily) willing to detonate themselves at this very moment. Their method is bombs rather than babies. They don't want victory via life by outgrowing native Europeans. They want victory via death by killing native Europeans.
Regardless of those violent methods, Islam is poised to triumph in Europe in the long run. Over time, a native population that fails to do the most rudimentary thing of any native population - that is, give birth to the next generation - will by sheer sex and math give way to the outsiders who have entered the country and are giving birth to the next generation. Muslims in Europe can make love, not war - love that brings babies rather than blocks babies.
The clashes we are witnessing between ex-Christian Europeans and current Muslim Europeans is just the start. The Europe of the 21st century is going to be extremely chaotic.
While papal visits to the United States are increasingly common, what is uncommon is to see political-ideological battle lines drawn around a pope. The tendency this time is especially acute among liberals, who eagerly frame Francis as one of them - a categorization Francis has resisted. "I'm sure that I haven't said anything more than what's written in the social doctrine of the Church," he said as his plane approached U.S. soil.
To some degree, liberals are certainly justified in linking Pope Francis to many of their concerns - climate change, wealth redistribution, poverty. And even many conservatives seem to concede this pope to the political left. In truth, however, both sides lack a full picture. To illustrate the point, I'll focus on the subject area that [brought] Pope Francis here to America to begin with: a major international Catholic Church synod on family and marriage.
Though Francis is absolutely forgiving and charitable and merciful, including to homosexuals, when it comes to marriage and family, this pope has been unflinchingly orthodox in support of historic Church teaching. Some of his language has been even stronger than his predecessors. The extent to which that is true is at times shocking. Here are just a few examples:
Last January, as nations from Ireland to America looked to redefine marriage, Francis gravely warned of the "forms of ideological colonization which are out to destroy the family" and "redefine the very institution of marriage." Echoing his predecessor, he warned of the forces of "relativism" that would alter family, marriage, and "threaten" society and humanity.
Shortly before that, in November, he insisted that all "children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother." This followed a vocal statement after the previous synod on the family in Rome, where Francis asserted: "What they are proposing is not marriage; it is an association, but it is not marriage! It is necessary to say things very clearly and we must say this!"
He has always been very clear in saying this. When he was a cardinal in Argentina, he declared same-sex marriage a diabolical effort of "the Father of Lies" (i.e., the devil). This was July 2010, and Cardinal Joseph Bergoglio blasted a bill to legalize same-sex marriage and gay adoption in Argentina. He said:
Let us not be naive: this is not simply a political struggle, but it is an attempt to destroy God's plan. It is not just a bill (a mere instrument) but a "move" of the father of lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God. . . . At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God.
Obviously, liberals will find this extremely troubling. And yet, that's nothing compared to Francis' condemnation of "so-called gender ideology," which would scandalize liberals. "Gender ideology is demonic!" Francis shouted at one interviewer. He has compared gender theory to "the educational policies of Hitler."
Here, too, Francis sees this as another threat to the family. In this, Francis has taken an activist role, serving as the spiritual inspiration for a gigantic June 20 demonstration at St. John Lateran, the official church of his Rome diocese. Its purpose was to halt the introduction of gender theory into Italian public schools. This massive "Family Day" rally was a reflection of Pope Francis' Year of the Family, and it came only four days after the pope's environmental encyclical, Laudato Si. They were marching not against global warming but gender ideology.
This is a mere snapshot of Francis' statements. He has done almost two-dozen general audiences on the family. Tellingly, right before leaving Rome for the synod on the family in Philadelphia, he again affirmed the "image of the family - as God wills it, made up of one man and one woman," which, he said, "is deformed through powerful contrary projects supported by ideological colonizations."
Alas, what I've laid out here on Pope Francis and marriage likewise could be done for the cause of unborn children. His forceful denunciations of the "throwaway culture" of abortion are equally emphatic, as is his belief in forgiveness for those who repent of abortion.
What does this mean? It means you shouldn't cherry-pick this pope. You can't grab this or that statement that fits your personal political-ideological preferences and think you have the full picture.
This pope is neither liberal nor conservative. The Francis picture has many shades.
Pope Francis has returned to Rome after a historic trip to the United States. It was a fascinating endeavor. There have been many papal visits to America in my lifetime - in fact, nearly all have been in my lifetime, the first occurring in 1965, the year before I was born. None of these, however, were so heavily marked by political-ideological battle lines among liberals and conservatives. Really, those lines have been drawn boldly on the left, with liberals eagerly claiming this pope as one of them, and many conservatives granting that concession.
Yet, neither side, in truth, watches this pope carefully enough. If they did, both sides would be surprised, shocked, and one side - liberals - would be horrified.
I'm referring specifically to this pope's remarkably staunch criticisms of the things he sees as threatening the family: What he calls the "throwaway culture" of abortion, the "ideological colonization" and "deforming" of marriage, the "Satanic" adoption of children by homosexual couples, and the "demonic" cult of gender theory.
Yes, those blistering descriptions all belong to Pope Francis.
I could detail any of these here at length and shock liberal sensibilities and claims that this "leftist pope" is one of them. After all, I've yet to meet a liberal who thinks that same-sex marriage is the work of "the Father of Lies."
But I'd like to expend a few words on this pope's ongoing war against gender theory specifically, and namely its attempted introduction in Francis' home diocese of Rome and throughout Italy. This has greatly upset Francis, the extent to which we Americans (Francis' critics and admirers alike) are completely unaware. Now that he is back in Rome, Francis' battle against gender theory will recommence with zeal.
Of course, gender theory, gender ideology, gender studies, even entire gender programs, have been all the rage in American academia for decades. Pope Francis, for one, despises the very concept. He has argued constantly, consistently, that men and women are not only vitally different, but that these differences - ordained by nature and God - constitute an essential complementarity that husbands and wives bring to marriage and family relationships and responsibilities. Under Francis' direction last year, the Vatican held an international-ecumenical conference solely on this complementarity. In a world and culture that argues - and, in fact, teaches - that men and women and husbands and wives and dads and moms are interchangeable, if not inconsequential, Francis insists just the opposite. To say he is adamant is an understatement.
"Gender ideology is demonic!" Pope Francis insists. He says that it militates against "the order of creation." He sees it as so toxic, so destructive, that he has compared gender ideology to "the educational policies of Hitler."
In Italy, Francis has become the spiritual inspiration for a nationwide movement to banish gender theory. This culminated in a huge demonstration in Rome this summer. As one article reported:
Hundreds of thousands of people from all over Italy responded to Pope Francis' repeated warnings about gender ideology, by taking part in an enormous demonstration in the square of St. John Lateran in Rome on Saturday. The "Family Day" was aimed at defending the traditional family and stopping the spread of gender ideology in schools.
Some estimates were higher, as organizers hoped to draw a million marchers. "It's fantastic," said one attendee, a father of six from northern Italy. "Finally, people have gathered to fight this terrible ideology." One organizer celebrated from the stage, "The Holy Father is with us," as indeed he was.
"Just existing became what was important."
So said Frank Kravetz, World War II veteran and former captive of Nuremberg Prison Camp, or what Frank called the Nazi "hell-hole."
"Yet even as I struggled with the day-to-day sadness and despair," said Frank, "I never once had any regrets that I signed up to serve."
An extended tour of Nazi camps as a wounded POW scratching for survival wasn't what Frank had in mind when he signed up to serve his country in World War II. The kid from the smoky steel-mills of East Pittsburgh enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He became a tail-gunner.
Frank's life took a dramatic turn on November 2, 1944, in a bomb-run over Germany. He crammed into the tail of a B-17, wedged inside a flak jacket. The target was Merseberg, a major industrial area. He flew amid an air armada of 500 heavy bombers - each carrying eighteen 250-pound "general purpose" bombs - escorted by 900 fighter planes.
While the Americans were ready for business, so was the Luftwaffe. Frank's plane came under hot pursuit by German fighters. Frank took them on with a twin .50 caliber machine gun. It was a dogfight, and Frank was badly wounded. His B-17 was filled with holes. The crew had to bail, quickly.
Frank was bleeding profusely and could barely move. His buddies tried to get a parachute on him, but it opened inside the plane. They wrapped it around him, taking care not to cross the chords, and tossed him out. To Frank's great relief, the chute opened. Instantly, the deafening chaos quieted, and Frank said he floated like he was on the wings of angels.
The tranquility halted with a rude thump as Frank hit the ground. German soldiers immediately seized him.
Thus began "Hell's journey," as Frank dubbed it. Destination: Stalag 13-D.
Liberation finally came April 29, 1945, by General Patton's Third Army. Frank described the jubilant scene:
After the flag was raised, General Patton rolled in, sitting high in a command car. His very presence was awe-inspiring. I stood there staring at General Patton, our liberator, appearing larger than life.
Thousands of emaciated, ecstatic POWs chanted, "Patton! Patton! Patton!" Some fell to their knees, overcome with emotion. Patton seized a bullhorn and spoke:
Gentlemen - you're now liberated and under Allied control.... We're going to get you out of here.
It finally hit Frank and his remaining 125 pounds: "I'm going home. I'm really going home!"
Frank eventually arrived in New York City and hitchhiked all the way to Pittsburgh. He unceremoniously arrived at his folks' front door - no trumpets, no dramatic music, no parade. He hugged his mom and dad and sat down. He found and married his sweetheart, Anne.
How did Frank survive this Nazi "hell-hole?"
"All I can say is that the good Lord was watching out for me," wrote Frank in a riveting memoir, Eleven Two: One WWII Airman's Story of Capture, Survival and Freedom. There, Frank provided the secret to his survival and success: "Pray. It helps."
It's a message that Frank shared with young people every chance he had: "I prayed throughout my ordeal, asking Him for help." He shared it with me, my sons, and a classroom of my students four years ago.
As Frank prayed, he promised God that he would never complain about anything again if he survived. That's a promise he kept. Our blessings are so bountiful that we need to be grateful, especially compared to the deprivations others have faced - like a Nazi prison camp. We need to be always grateful, said Frank, and always faithful.
That was Frank Kravetz, winner of the Purple Heart.
I've told Frank's story before. I tell it again now for two reasons: First, Veterans Day falls again this November (as does Thanksgiving), a time to remember men like Frank. And second, sadly, this will be a Veterans Day without Frank Kravetz.
Frank died in August, at age 91. He joined his beloved wife, Anne, who died just four months prior. They were married for 68 years.
A mutual friend attended Frank's funeral and the luncheon that followed at the local VFW in East Pittsburgh, of which Frank was a founder. He told me that of the 100 original founding members, only two remain.
Yes, only two.
This Veterans Day, let's take a few minutes from our insanely busy lives and from this insane culture and country - one that those vets would not recognize - to remember men like Frank Kravetz who served with no regrets. The freedoms we have today, many of which we merrily abuse today, are possible only because of the abuse they suffered at the hands of hellacious enemies 70 years ago. *
Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004), The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007), The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007) and The Communist - Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).
Ecumenism at its best was recently demonstrated at the Vatican, where dozens of faith leaders worldwide assembled to remind us of the essential complementarity of men and women in life, marriage, and parenthood. It was enough to prompt a high-five between Pope Francis and evangelical pastor James Robison.
Of course, do we really need reminding that male and female are different? Absolutely, especially with the advent of same-sex marriage, which is prompting assertions that it "doesn't matter" whether two men or two women parent a household.
Ask any parent if males and females are different. My wife and I have eight children under our roof, and the boy-girl differences are dramatic.
Here's a typical Saturday morning exchange at our house: "Daddy!" my 7-year-old son yells, running toward me in camouflage hunting clothes. "I had a dream last night that I stabbed Bigfoot nine times with a spear!" Not missing a beat, his 3-year-old sister prances and dances toward me in a flowered pink dress: "Daddy, I had a dream about a ladybug!"
The 3-year-old goes by "Princess Cupcake." She's of the age where she dresses up and displays herself in front of me waiting for me to gush, "Wow, you look like a princess!" She beams. Her older sisters did the same thing. The first time I said that to her oldest sister, she calmly glowed to her mom, "He said I look like a princess."
Needless to say, the boys have never done that - not once in 20,000-plus days of combined lives.
My wife and I have nothing to do with these differences, other than providing the chromosomes.
My 7-year-old boy, long before fancying himself a Bigfoot slayer, declared himself "Wolfboy." My wife and I certainly didn't come up with that one. She will tell you that she did not give birth to a wolf boy. No, it was he alone who transmogrified himself into this half-beast, half-boy.
Wolfboy sauntered around the house creeping, preying. We attempted to keep these wild manifestations at, shall we say, bay - a more restrained Wolfboy. One day at the home of friends, he politely asked my wife if he could go outside to "howl," to the giggles of my friend's teenage girl.
Fortunately, the Wolfboy thing eventually cooled. One afternoon he grabbed two chopsticks for fangs, shoving them into his throat. Wolfboy had to be taken to the hospital. We've since had several full moons with no reappearances.
That brings me back to the differences in the sexes. These traits follow us into adulthood, marriage, and parenting. There are things my wife does that I just can't. She happily jumps up in the middle of the night at the slightest cry. I lay there groaning. On the flip side, she has no yearning to take the teenage boys hunting in 20-degree weather with rifles and crossbows to shoot and gut and hang and skin and butcher a deer. My boys crave that, and they're utterly mystified at their sisters' insatiable interest in the Duggar family's weddings.
In short, all of this is obvious, observable. Really, to deny it is to be warped by ideology, culture, politics, or some agenda.
That brings me back to the ecumenical gathering at the Vatican, where these gender differences in married and family life were acknowledged and celebrated.
"The biggest threat to marriage is that people have forgotten its purpose," said Pastor Rick Warren, the 28th speaker at the conference:
Children who grow up with the presence of a mother and father are more successful in life, are healthier, are stronger, are less likely to be involved in crime, are less likely to go to prison, are less likely to be involved in drug abuse, are less likely to live in poverty. If you really want to support children, we need to support two-parent families, a husband and a wife, a mom and a dad.
The Bishop of Rome didn't disagree with the Saddleback Church pastor.
"Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother," said Pope Francis. Such households are best "capable of creating a suitable environment for the child's development and emotional maturity."
Of course, not all children get that ideal, but it's an ideal our culture should strive for rather than against. We were made male and female, and from birth to death and childhood to parenthood, those differences have a distinct and complementary purpose.
Editor's note: The following is part one of a series of Q&As with Professor Paul Kengor about his new book, Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage.
V&V: Dr. Kengor, you're an established bestselling author who has written over a dozen books on the Cold War, Communism, socialism, conservatism, progressivism, as well as biographies of figures as diverse as Ronald Reagan and Hillary Clinton, Why this topic in this book? Why wade into this Culture War issue?
Kengor: The answer is precisely because of my background in those areas. I know from decades of research, study, writing, and lecturing that the political left - first with Communists, socialist utopians, and then on to secular "progressives" - have sought to reshape, redefine, and effectively take down natural-traditional-biblical family and marriage for two centuries. They've long looked to alter the so-called "nuclear family," which they saw as an outright menace. I know that ideological past. I know how it fits into the present. Most people don't, including those today who are willing to redefine the historic Western/Judeo-Christian conception of male-female marriage. The vast majority of those who are willing to do that have no idea of the deeper, darker ideological-historical forces long at work in this wider movement. They are signing on to something that, whether they know it or not - most do not - have important links to much older and more sinister attempts by the far left to redefine family and marriage.
V&V: Could you expand upon your point on the lack of understanding by the "vast majority" advocating same-sex marriage today?
Kengor: Yes. The typical American who supports same-sex marriage has friendly motives, looking to extend what the current culture deems a new "right" or new "freedom" to a new group. I get that. I don't agree, but I understand. Unfortunately, these Americans don't realize that, for the far left, gay marriage is a vehicle, a kind of Trojan horse, to achieve what the earliest radicals on the far left, and specifically Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto, called the "abolition of the family." Marx and Engels noted then, way back in 1848, that the abolition of the family - this bold ambition to redesign the original Designer's conception of marriage - was already "an infamous proposal of the Communists." To many Americans, gay marriage is about "marriage equality," but to the far left, it's about the final takedown of the family that it has long desired.
By the way, I must underscore up front that gay people are absolutely correct in noting that heterosexuals - Christians included - have done an excellent job themselves in hurting marriage, which, for Christians, is supposed to be sacred. Through divorce, infidelity, abortion, men and women have pounded marriage and family mercilessly. But even with these self-inflicted wounds, which are recent on the historical-social radar, marriage as an institution survived and was never redefined. Same-sex "marriage" will forever redefine marriage's once-established boundaries. It's the breach that changes everything. That's the difference.
V&V: You state clearly and repeatedly at the start of your book that you're not alleging that today's gay-marriage advocates are part of a grand Communist conspiracy. Why are you so sensitive about making that clear?
Kengor: Because I know how easily these things get caricatured by opponents. Yes, I very carefully state that this isn't a conspiracy. I want to be clear on this. I implore people not to caricature me and this important reality that needs to be understood. We do a disservice to the truth when we boil down complex things to simple caricature.
However, just as we can easily overstate things, we can also easily understate them, and to do the latter likewise would be a mistake here.
What the left has steadfastly said and written and done to marriage and the family over the last two centuries cannot be ignored. Those actions have been undeniable contributing factors - along with many other factors - that in part help explain where we are today.
Same-sex marriage is not a Marxist plot. It is, however, a crucial blow to marriage - the only blow that will enable a formal, legal redefinition that will open the floodgates to all sorts of new configurations beyond our multi-millennia Western standard based on natural law and the laws of God. It has distinct origins traceable in part to the far left's initial thrusts at this once unassailable monogamous, faithful male-female institution.
V&V: At the opening of the book, you further caution: "I am not laying the entirety of the culture's collapse at the feet of Communists. I am not asserting that Marxists have given us gay marriage."
Kengor: That's correct. And yet, as I note after that quotation, what the left has steadfastly done to marriage and the family over the last two centuries - from Marx and Engels and early utopian socialists like Robert Owen and Charles Fourier to modern cultural Marxists and secular progressives - cannot be ignored. The current rapid redefinition of the male-female marital and parental bond that has undergirded civilization for multiple millennia is the end-road of a steady evolution that should not be viewed entirely separate from some very successful attacks by the radical left. The journey had many prior destinations. A people do not just one morning wake up and ditch the sacred and natural character of the male-female marital union that served their parents, grandparents, and great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents. Ground had been plowed to ready this soil.
V&V: And it was the far left that helped ready the soil?
Kengor: Absolutely. No question.
V&V: As you note, however, the likes of Marx and Engels and the many socialist utopians that you detail were not advocating homosexuality or certainly gay marriage.
Kengor: Of course, not. Sure, some of them, especially the cultural Marxists, were pushing sexual intercourse within the same gender, but anyone advocating something as culturally unthinkable as male-male or female-female "marriage," in any time other than ours, would have been hauled off by authorities as dangerous public menaces. Marx and Engels were under surveillance by the governments in their countries simply for arguing for non-monogamous marriage. Even gay people weren't thinking they'd soon live in a culture where not only was the mainstream population supportive of gay marriage but where liberals - in the name of "tolerance" and "diversity" - would be suing, picketing, boycotting, demonizing, and dehumanizing a Baptist grandma who begs them not to force her to make a cake for a gay wedding. Marx and Engels and even wild cultural Marxists like Herbert Marcuse and Wilhelm Reich - who broke down sexual barriers in areas like homosexuality and bisexuality - would be rolling over in their graves. Nonetheless, they would be thrilled to see that everyday (non-Communist) Americans have finally found a vehicle to assist the long-time Communist dream of "the abolition of the family."
V&V: But you do emphasize one important source of clear commonality, from the early 19th to early 21st centuries that unites these old left-wing extremists with modern liberals in their general willingness to redefine marriage and family. What is it?
Kengor: Yes, it is this: As modern liberalism/progressivism and the Democratic Party have become increasingly secular, often anti-religious, or certainly dismissive of traditional notions of morality, this striking willingness of individuals to redefine marriage has become possible. For Communists, two centuries ago and still today, that requisite anti-religious secularism has been there all along. That disregard if not outright rejection of Christian ethics has brought all of these forces full circle in a joint willingness to permanently alter the historic Western/Christian understanding of male-female matrimony.
They share the fatal conceit first expressed in the Garden of Eden: Ye shall be as gods.
V&V: What do you mean by that?
Kengor: They are their own determinants of truth, of morality, of what is right and wrong. They render unto themselves the right to determine everything from what is marriage to what is life. These things used to be the province of nature and nature's God. Now, each and every individual renders that right unto himself or herself. And when someone disagrees with them, they are often attacked with fire and brimstone.
V&V: Clearly, you're coming at this from a religious perspective.
Kengor: My position is 100 percent consistent with my faith. But I come at this issue not only spiritually but with numerous other influences that have shaped society's position on marriage and family for, oh, several thousand years. It has long been common sense and experience that the best thing for a society and for children is a home with a mother and father. Pope Francis says that every child has a "right" to a mother and father. To be sure, not all children will get that. But when they don't, it hasn't been because the culture and state are creating a new form of "marriage" that is motherless or fatherless. A fatherless or motherless home has never been what society has strived for as a matter of deliberate policy. That is now changing with this fanatical, no-second-thoughts push for gay marriage.
V&V: We're going to pick up this conversation in our second interview, but tell readers what you describe as the "ultimate kicker" in this rapid willingness to redefine what you call "the laws of nature and nature's God," because it really sums up what you've said here today.
Kengor: It's really a rather stunning development: The radical left could never have achieved this ultimate takedown of marriage without the larger American public's increasingly broad acceptance of gay marriage. The public has been the indispensable handmaiden to the radical left's ability to at long last redefine marriage and the family. That is a realization that ought to give the public pause.
V&V: One additional stunning development, a crucial point we'll pick up in the next interview. You note that today's Communist movement is "gung ho" for gay marriage.
Kengor: That's correct. People's World, the flagship publication of Communist Party USA (CPUSA), is constantly pushing gay marriage. As I write, it has posts celebrating "LGBT" Pride Month. You can see this at the CPUSA website, in speeches of CPUSA leaders, and even in places like the once militantly anti-gay Cuba. This is a big deal. CPUSA once expelled gays like Harry Hay. Not anymore. Why such a shift? A major reason is that Communists are anti-tradition, anti-God, anti-family, anti-marriage, and all about fundamentally transforming society. They see same-sex marriage as a major opportunity.
V&V: What do you say to those who dispute your thesis?
Kengor: Well, I hope this doesn't sound arrogant, but it's not something that is disputable. Look, the facts are very simple: for some two centuries, extremist elements, from radical socialist utopians to Communists to secular progressives, have sought to redefine and reshape and fundamentally transform the natural, traditional, Biblical, nuclear family. In gay marriage, they finally have a vehicle with mainstream public support to enable that redefinition, that reshaping, that fundamental transformation. There's no disputing that. People may not like to hear it. I don't like it either. But it's not a matter of dispute.
V&V: So, which side are the bad actors, or the ones acting in bad faith?
Kengor: Again, it isn't usually gay Americans or the typical millennial stumping for gay marriage; they're motivated by what they believe are beneficent and entirely unsinister forces: their notions of love, freedom, tolerance, "equality." I get that. I do not agree with their applications, but I fully understand that (for most of them) their intentions are not malicious. They do not see themselves as working on the same page as Communists or whatever other type of left-wing radicals. And indeed, this isn't a willful conspiracy. Nonetheless, the far left could care less how the rest of the culture gets there, with whatever slogans or well-intended notions, so long as it gets there.
V&V: You mention in Takedown having received an important email about a year ago from someone responding to an article you did on gay marriage. He was once part of the "gay left." Tell us what he said and how it motivated you.
Kengor: He noted that most gay people, who are either not especially political or certainly nowhere near the extreme left, have no idea how their gay-marriage advocacy fits and fuels the far left's anti-family agenda, and specifically its longtime takedown strategy aimed at the nuclear family. He is exactly right, and inspired me to begin collecting the material that became this book. Most of the gay people I have known are Republicans, not leftists. Generally, I have always had no problem dialoguing with them, though it is now getting more difficult, as liberals are doing their best to convince gays that I, as a conservative, hate them. It's an uncharitable smear, based on great crudeness and ignorance, which utterly misunderstands conservatism.
That kind of nasty intolerance by liberals is terribly divisive, destroying real dialogue and civil debate.
But as for gay people, even when they're socially liberal - and, even then, mainly on matters like gay rights - the gay people I've met have been economic conservatives, not to mention pro-life on abortion, which I always especially appreciated. But in signing on the dotted line for gay marriage, they have, whether they realize it or not (again, most do not), enlisted in the radical left's unyielding centuries-old attempt to redefine the family.
V&V: So, you believe that unlike the older leftist extremists who sought to deliberately undermine the traditional family, the vast majority of today's proponents of same-sex marriage have friendly motives?
Kengor: Yes, I think that's largely true for the typical supporter of same-sex marriage - though there are, admittedly, some supporters who candidly admit that they're looking to take down marriage. They're very open about it. I quote them in the book.
V&V: You write that you, as a Christian, have no right to redefine marriage.
Kengor: I believe that marriage is not ours to redefine. Christians like myself believe that creating our own definition of marriage would blaspheme God, who "created them male and female." "What God joined together man cannot tear asunder." That's in Genesis (Old Testament) and Matthew (Jesus himself speaking in the New Testament). And beyond that, words have meanings. A cat is a cat, a dog is a dog, a tree is a tree, and marriage is marriage. If gay-marriage advocates would like, they can call their new spousal arrangements something else, but I personally and religiously cannot concede to join them in designing new configurations of "marriage." To me and billions before me, marriage is a male-female creation determined by nature and nature's God.
V&V: In fact, in the previous interview, you said that those eager to redefine marriage were acting as their own gods, with their own definitions of morality, of right and wrong, of marriage.
Kengor: Correct. In my faith tradition, marriage was instituted as a male-female bond by Christ and is literally sacramental. It would be downright heretical to arrogate unto myself the extraordinary ability to define what is marriage. Liberals can happily take up that task to themselves, but I will not. I already have enough to answer to God for. It's funny, liberals accuse same-sex marriage opponents of arrogance. That's hardly the case. We have humbled ourselves to an absolute Creator's position that we believe we have no right to change.
V&V: Let's get back to your historical treatment. Give us the three main points that you want people to take away from Takedown.
Kengor: First, people need to understand that, for two centuries, the far left - from Communists to socialists to various self-styled "progressives" - have sought to reorder the natural-traditional-Biblical understanding of family and marriage. From the likes of Marx and Engels to Herbert Marcuse, Kate Millett, Betty Friedan, the Bolsheviks, the Frankfurt School of cultural Marxists, to a host of 1960s radicals and many others still, they created their own definitions of marriage, family, parenting, education, sexuality, even gender. They spoke openly and candidly of what some called "abolition of the family." In fact, those are the exact words of Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto. Marx once wrote to Engels, "Blessed is he who has no family."
Second, for the first time ever, the far left has finally found a vehicle to enable this long-sought takedown of family and marriage: gay marriage. This 21st century novelty is utterly without precedent in the ancient sweep of Western/Judeo-Christian history. Though Communists, socialists, and even early progressives could have never conceived of the idea of same-sex marriage, they are now firmly on board for this fundamental transformation of marriage and family.
And third, the American mainstream and even the gay community itself have no idea that their support of same-sex marriage actually enables the far left to achieve this takedown. Most chillingly, their support of gay marriage also allows the far left to successfully attack religion - its long-reviled foe - in a way it never thought possible with such wide public acceptance.
V&V: That part is indeed chilling, and a major part of your book. You give numerous examples of how the far left has used these ideas on remolding family and marriage as a tool to hammer religion.
Margaret Sanger is a saint in the feminist church. She is a charter member of the Progressive Hall of Fame. Liberals revere this woman who preached "race improvement" and denounced what she called "human weeds," "morons," "idiots," "imbeciles," and the "dead weight of human waste."
Hillary Clinton glows that she is "in awe of" Sanger. She said so in 2009 upon receiving Planned Parenthood's "highest honor" that year: its coveted Margaret Sanger Award. Likewise, effusive was Nancy Pelosi when she proudly accepted the award in 2014.
Speaking to Planned Parenthood a year earlier, Barack Obama, America's first African-American president, hailed the organization founded by this racial eugenicist committed to creating a "race of thoroughbreds" and purging America's "race of degenerates." "Thank you, Planned Parenthood," and "God bless you," said Obama to a giddy crowd of ecstatic pro-choice women. The president commended Planned Parenthood's "extraordinary" and "remarkable work."
The love by liberals for Planned Parenthood and its founder knows no bounds. A professor blogging at The New York Times argues for placing Margaret's mug on the $20 bill.
And alas, no less than the Smithsonian, America's museum, boasts a handsome bust of Sanger in its stately National Portrait Gallery. Margaret is there enshrined in the Smithsonian's vaunted "Struggle for Justice" exhibit.
This brings me to my reason for writing here today: a group of African-American pastors are demanding the removal of Sanger's bust from the Smithsonian.
Perhaps the Gallery is unaware that Ms. Sanger supported black eugenics, a racist attitude toward black and other minority babies, an elitist attitude toward those she regarded as "the feeble minded"; speaking at a rally of Ku Klux Klan women; and communications with Hitler sympathizers . . .
states the letter from Ministers Taking a Stand. "Also the notorious 'Negro Project,' which sought to limit, if not eliminate black births, was her brainchild." The pastors quote an infamous December 1939 letter from Sanger to Dr. Clarence Gamble of the Eugenics Society where, in the context of discussing the Negro Project, Sanger wrote:
We do not want word to get out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out the idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.
The succinct, powerful statement from the pastors adds: "Despite these well-documented facts of history, her bust sits proudly in your gallery as a hero of justice. The obvious incongruity is staggering!"
Amen to that.
Liberals must be baffled by this. This isn't the esteemed Planned Parenthood founder they learned to admire in their college classrooms. Margaret Sanger, a racist? Huh? They never heard that in American History 101. Where could these crazy charges possibly come from?
The answer is a myriad of authoritative sources. For starters, one might consult Sanger's own words. On pages 366-367 of her 1938 autobiography, published by W.W. Norton, one of the leading New York publishing houses, she spoke warmly of her May 1926 speech to the women's chapter of the KKK in Silverlake, New Jersey. Sanger seemed eager to speak to the group. After getting off the train, she was escorted by car along winding roads to a barn hidden in the country. There, the undeterred Planned Parenthood matron waited patiently for nearly three hours while her white-hooded sisters engaged in their incendiary routine. She observed "figures parading with banners and illuminated crosses. I waited another twenty minutes. It was warmer and I did not mind so much." "Eventually," recorded Sanger of the toasty atmosphere, "the lights were switched on, the audience seated itself, and I was escorted to the platform, was introduced, and began to speak."
Sanger was tight-lipped regarding what she shared with the Klanswomen at their rally, though apparently she was extremely successful and satisfied with herself:
I believed I had accomplished my purpose. A dozen invitations to speak to similar groups were proffered. The conversation went on and on, and when we were finally through it was too late to return to New York. . . . It was nearly one before I reached Trenton, and I spent the night in a hotel.
The Planned Parenthood founder's KKK talk was a smash hit. Not only did it go very late, after a long wait, but it earned Sanger a dozen new invitations from the Klan sisters. The KKK was quite excited about the work of Planned Parenthood's founder.
Thus, it hardly comes out of nowhere when a group of African-American pastors today asks the Smithsonian:
How can a person like Sanger, who found common cause with the racial agenda of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), be ranked among true champions of "justice?"
Precisely. Such words pierce the liberal heart like a dagger. As many conservatives have experienced, when you point out to liberals that Planned Parenthood aborts (by far) a disproportionate number of unborn African-American babies, they go wild with rage and name-calling. You're apt to be reflexively called every name in the liberal playbook for raising this one. As we watch weekly the ghastly Planned Parenthood video expose released by the Center for Medical Progress, in which Sanger's organization's "medical personnel" nonchalantly discuss dissecting baby parts while sipping Chianti and nibbling Caesar salad, bear in mind that most of these babies are African-American. Which among them might have been another Rosa Parks, Ben Carson, Martin Luther King Jr., Arthur Ashe, or even Barack Obama?
These African-American pastors know that. Indeed, they show (with a map included) that 70 percent of Planned Parenthood abortion clinics are located in minority neighborhoods. Thus, they're undertaking their own expos. Their letter, they say, will be but one "in a series of actions we will be taking to expose the evil of honoring Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood."
Again, amen to that.
If liberals genuinely care about justice, they should join these African-American pastors in seeking the removal of Margaret Sanger's bust from the "Struggle for Justice" exhibit at America's preeminent museum. *
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.
Speaking on Fox News Channel's "The Five," pundit Greg Gutfeld said that "gay marriage, in my opinion, is a conservative idea." He noted that the left "generally hates traditions" and is all about "breaking with traditions," and that gay marriage offers conservatives an opportunity to "embrace a tradition" that strengthens families and communities.
I should acknowledge that Gutfeld spoke without notes, unscripted, live and off-the-cuff. I often talk with inexactness when I'm speaking live. Live speaking is a perfect venue to make mistakes. It's easier to type your thoughts and have the benefit of reflection, revision, and a word processor.
That said, let's go with Gutfeld's words, because they do represent a position held by some conservatives, and especially younger conservatives.
With all respect to Greg Gutfeld, who I usually agree with, gay marriage is absolutely not a conservative idea. Not unless, as liberals do with marriage, one redefines conservatism.
How is that? What is conservatism? That itself can be problematic. If you ask ten self-identified conservatives for a definition, you might get ten different answers. This much, however, can be said:
Conservatism aims to conserve the time-tested values, ideas, and principles that have been sustained over time by previous generations and traditions. (Here, a crucial correction to Greg Gutfeld: gay marriage is not a tradition.) These are values, ideas, and principles - usually with a Judeo-Christian basis - that have endured for good reason and for the best of society, citizens, country, culture, and order. That's a brief summation that the late Russell Kirk, probably conservatism's preeminent philosophical spokesman, would endorse - as would Ronald Reagan, the face of modern conservatism.
In an important speech at CPAC in February 1977, Reagan stated this:
Conservative wisdom and principles are derived from willingness to learn, not just from what is going on now, but from what has happened before. The principles of conservatism are sound because they are based on what men and women have discovered through experience in not just one generation or a dozen, but in all the combined experience of mankind. When we conservatives say that we know something about political affairs, and that we know can be stated as principles, we are saying that the principles we hold dear are those that have been found, through experience, to be ultimately beneficial for individuals, for families, for communities and for nations - found through the often bitter testing of pain or sacrifice and sorrow.
That's a solid definition of conservatism. Gay marriage, merely by its total newness alone, fails that rudimentary definition. Gay marriage has never been done before. One would never expect a conservative to rush into something as utterly unprecedented - and that directly repudiates the laws of nature and nature's God - as this completely novel concept called "gay marriage." Same-sex marriage not only revolutionizes marriage but also human nature generally and family specifically, the latter of which conservatives have always understood as the fundamental building block of civilization.
One would expect a progressive to support redefining marriage, because for progressives, everything is always in a state of never-ending, always-evolving flux. Progressives have no trouble rendering unto themselves the ability to redefine human life itself. Redefining marriage is small potatoes. A progressive can wake up tomorrow and conjure up a new "right" over a grande skim latte at Starbucks. For secular progressives especially, there is no absolute, set standard for things like marriage or, really, even for right or wrong. They are relativists who don't subscribe to established absolutes. Redefine marriage? Sure, says the progressive. Redefine family, parenthood, motherhood, fatherhood, womanhood, manhood, gender? Sure, says the progressive.
For conservatives, however, this is unthinkable. Indeed, a conservative cannot even "conserve" when it comes to gay marriage, because gay marriage is an untried idea unimaginable by any people until only very recent days.
To be sure, conservatives, especially those whose conservatism springs from religious underpinnings, should recognize and respect the inherent human dignity of all gay people - being fellow human beings made in the image of God - and should not mistreat them. But those conservatives cannot, in turn, blatantly violate (if not blaspheme) the teachings of their faith and their God on the sanctity of male-female matrimony.
As I write this, I implore readers to please understand that I've dealt with this issue at length. Last year, I did a book called 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative. When I did the speaking tour, I spoke to many young conservatives. Gay marriage came up constantly. My latest book, just released, explores the deeply disturbing ideological history of those who sought to abolish marriage and family outright. In that book, Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage, I detail how the goal of fundamentally transforming family and marriage has been a staple of the far left for two centuries, from Marx and Engels to cultural Marxists in the Frankfurt School, to '60s radicals, to progressives today.
The point: a radical leftist is eagerly willing to remake marriage and family in his own image, but a conservative is not. To the contrary, the task of the conservative is to fight that rebellion, to affirm and defend and preserve and conserve the natural-traditional-biblical family - i.e., that time-tested institution that Reagan called "the most important unit in society," "the most durable of all institutions," "the nucleus of civilization," "the cornerstone of American society." And children, said Reagan, "belong in a family" with a mom and dad. In fact, Reagan maintained that it is in a family that children are not only cared for but "taught the moral values and traditions that give order and stability to our lives and to society as a whole." America's families must "preserve and pass on to each succeeding generation the values we share and cherish." Above all, Reagan stated that our "concept of the family" "must withstand the trends of lifestyle and legislation."
And yet, gay marriage is no mere trend of lifestyle and legislation. By breaking the ancient Western standard of marriage between one man and one woman, it will forever alter our concept of family that has formed the nucleus of civilization.
I'll wrap up with a key question that I get asked all the time by conservatives on this issue: Can one still be a conservative and support gay marriage?
I'd have to say that if someone is conservative on 90 out of 100 issues, but gay marriage isn't one of them, that person probably ought to still be regarded as a conservative - albeit with a really skewed misunderstanding of how gay marriage fits their conservative worldview.
But while some conservatives will support gay marriage, gay marriage is flatly not a conservative position.
This time last year [Memorial Day] I did a commentary on five brothers who served in World War II. Very impressive. Imagine my surprise when someone who caught the commentary sent me a package with this note:
Dear Professor Kengor: Your [commentary] about the family whose five sons served in WW II was interesting. You might be interested to know about families who had more than five sons who served in WW II.
Well, Ted Walters of Uniontown, Pennsylvania certainly had my attention. He continued:
My mother, Stella Pietkiewicz, had seven sons serve in WW II. She had the honor to christen the plane, Spirit of Poles, because she had the most sons who served in WW II.
Yes, seven sons.
Along with Ted Walters' letter was an old newspaper clipping that showed six Pittsburgh-area mothers, all of Polish descent, who had thirty-three sons in service. Anna Lozowska, Maryanna Sawinska, Katarzyna Antosz, and Mrs. Joseph Wojtaszek each offered five boys to the cause. Honorta Lachowicz provided six sons. Stella Pietkiewicz took the prize with seven.
Bless their souls. These moms gave their boys to the cause of freedom.
The ladies were brought together by an organization called the Central Council of Polish Organizations in Allegheny County for a fundraising effort called the "Spirit of Poles" bomber campaign. The campaign sold over $500,000 worth of war bonds, a lot of money at the time.
The Polish influence is a big part of the story. World War II started in Poland in September 1939, first with the Nazis invading from the West and then the Soviet Red Army invading from the East. Ultimately, Poland suffered a higher proportion of death than any country in the war. It also had a huge Jewish population, which was corralled into dens of unspeakable evil, such as Auschwitz and the Warsaw Ghetto. When the Nazis were finally defeated, Poland's reward was four decades of brutal occupation by totalitarian Communists headquartered in Moscow.
And so, these Pittsburgh-area Polish women knew this battle was worth fighting. Their sons did, too. And Stella Pietkiewicz gave the most.
I don't know the fate of all thirty-three boys, but Stella's sons, remarkably, all returned home safely. For the benefit of their one hundred-plus descendants reading now, here were the boys' names: Edmond, Walter, Wilfred, Roderick, Vitold, Leon, and Stanley. Some of the boys later took on their father's first name, Walter, as their last name (they added an "s," making it "Walters"). It was much easier to pronounce and work with.
Their father was no slacker either. Walter Leon Pietkiewicz, born March 25, 1883, immigrated to America and thrived. By age 23, he graduated from the University of Pittsburgh's pharmacy school. He became a pharmacist in Pittsburgh's Polish Hill section.
The boys were all over the map during this terrible war: Europe, the Philippines, Okinawa, Tokyo Bay, Morocco, Africa, the Middle East. Wilfred was decorated for invading and occupying Iwo Jima. His ship bombed the Japanese mainland. Edmond fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Five of the seven brothers went overseas.
Stella was apparently pretty tough herself. She gave birth to 14 children, nine boys and five girls. (One boy was born stillborn.) Ted was the only boy who didn't serve in World War II; he was too young. He later volunteered for and served in the Korean War. Of the entire clan, only Ted and one sister, Hope, are still alive.
It's quite a story of quite a family. And the Pietkiewicz family wasn't the only family that lent multiple sons to the cause. The Pietkiewicz family was fortunate enough, however, to have them all return home.
But while that part of the story has a happy ending, there's a definite tragic component: Stella did not survive the war. She died of cancer before the war ended. She didn't live to see all her boys come home.
All that time, she kept a stoic silence. "There wasn't talk about it [the war] around the house," remembers Ted, who was 12 years old when the war ended. His parents "didn't talk about it much." The same was true for the brothers once they came home. Ted says he never heard any war stories from his older brothers. Ted's wife, Pat, adds: "And we were with them a lot! But we never heard any war stories from them."
They did their duty, came home, raised families, and served their country in other ways.
Seven boys. Seven boys in World War II.
How can we repay families like these for their sacrifices 70 years ago? We can start by not destroying the America they were willing to die for. *
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.
As soon as a conservative Republican emerges as a serious presidential frontrunner, liberals in the media suddenly yank out the microscopes they've been keeping away from Barack Obama since 2007. They couldn't care less what Obama did in college, how he got into college, who paid for his college, who wrote his letters of recommendation, what his grades were, and on and on - but we already know everything about Scott Walker and college. Obama's media protectors couldn't give a rip that he had a mentor who was a literal card-carrying member of the Communist Party in the Stalin era. But as soon as someone like Scott Walker starts gaining ground, wow, "journalists" lunge for the magnifying glass and became real reporters again, profusely digging and questioning, looking for mole holes to make into vast mountains of scandal.
On Walker, there will always be a new scandal as long as he remains viable. I don't want to be regularly drawn into defending the man, but here are two recent episodes I've been asked to weigh in on, specifically, because of their parallels to Ronald Reagan:
First, there was Walker's comment at CPAC (I was there) on fighting ISIS and fighting government unions. Asked how he would handle a foe like ISIS as president, Walker said, "If I can take on a 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world."
The answer was immediately blasted. It shouldn't be.
Obviously, the public-sector unions that Scott Walker faced in Wisconsin are not equivalent to ISIS. They're not beheading anyone. They're not killers. We know this, and we know that Scott Walker knows this. In fact, the day after his CPAC comments, he explained:
My point was just, if I could handle that kind of a pressure and intensity [in Wisconsin], I think I'm up for the challenge for whatever might come, if I choose to run for president.
It's fully appropriate and necessary for Walker to clarify that he was not equating Wisconsin public employees with ISIS, and to apologize for any such ridiculous misunderstanding, and it's also appropriate and necessary for his opponents not to abuse his point.
Abuse his point? Yes, because he made a good one. The truth is that it isn't easy to do what Scott Walker did as governor in Wisconsin. That's the main reason he so impresses conservatives. The enmity and utter hatred that he and his family and extended family (including his elderly parents) felt constantly, from union members and their militant "progressive" allies in his own backyard, at the state house, in the halls, at his office, in his neighborhood, at his church, at the grocery story, at Starbucks, at the car wash, on the street, at Boy Scouts meetings, at soccer games, at dance practice, at baseball games, at theaters and musicals, and on and on and on, is something awful that people can scarcely imagine enduring. Public-sector union thugs can be brutes and can make your life miserable. For Walker, it equated to a nasty pressure that was omnipresent. In a way, it really would be more personally distressing than a president dealing with ISIS because the president, fully protected, never gets anywhere near an ISIS killer. That's not true for Governor Walker.
It's a point that Ronald Reagan could have related to. Asked about dealing with the Soviets, or Brezhnev, or Gorbachev, Reagan often told reporters that he could handle them because he still had "scars on my back" from fighting unions.
"I know it sounds kind of foolish maybe to link Hollywood, an experience there, to the world situation," he said from the White House, "and yet, the tactics seemed to be pretty much the same." When aide Lyn Nofziger cautioned him about the Soviets at Reykjavik, he responded: "Don't worry. I still have the scars on my back from fighting the communists in Hollywood." He judged this Hollywood experience "hand-to-hand combat."
Was Reagan thereby insulting, say, the boys who invaded Normandy and fought at Iwo Jima who experienced true hand-to-hand combat? Of course not. We know that.
Consider another moment that Ronald Reagan never forgot: As an actor and president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), he was on location in an isolated rural area when told by a crew member that he had a telephone call waiting at a nearby gas station. At the time, Reagan was preparing an important report for SAG relating to a major 1946 strike. Spearheading the strike was the Red-dominated Conference of Studio Unions (CSU), led by a thug named Herb Sorrell, who Reagan charitably described as "a large and muscular man with a most aggressive attitude."
Reagan arrived at the gas station and answered the phone. "I was told," he said later:
. . . that if I made the report a squad was ready to take care of me and fix my face so that I would never be in pictures again.
Specifically, the caller threatened to splash acid upon Reagan's unsuspecting million-dollar face - the source of his livelihood.
Such fears were nothing new for Reagan. Police began guarding Reagan's home and children, and he began packing a Smith & Wesson revolver, which he took to bed each night.
I bet that Scott Walker had a gun for protection, or at least a security guard always near his side.
The vituperation and dripping, red-hot anger directed at Walker by unions in Wisconsin was a sight to behold. What he endured in Wisconsin was extremely distressing. But don't expect Walker's opponents to try to understand that.
Second, another Walker-Reagan comparison/clarification is in order. It began with a January 28 item in PolitiFact that stated:
As momentum builds for a possible 2016 presidential run, Gov. Scott Walker has spent more time speaking on foreign policy.
One of his talking points: Leadership trumps experience when it comes to managing affairs overseas. Look at Ronald Reagan.
That was Walker's response Jan. 21, 2015 when he was asked on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" about the importance of foreign policy experience. First, the governor criticized the secretary of state record of Hillary Clinton, the leading potential Democratic candidate for 2016.
Then he turned to Reagan, one of his political heroes, and one of the Republican president's early acts in office - the mass firing of most of the nation's air traffic controllers. . . .
In his MSNBC interview, Walker asserted that the move was one of the most important foreign policy decisions "made in our lifetime," showing allies and adversaries around the world "that we were serious."
Then he added this:
"Years later, documents released from the Soviet Union showed that that exactly was the case. The Soviet Union started treating (Reagan) more seriously once he did something like that. Ideas have to have consequences. And I think (President Barack Obama) has failed mainly because he's made threats and hasn't followed through on them."
So, Walker goes beyond stating an opinion about the foreign policy implications of Reagan's move. He states as fact that there are Soviet documents showing the Soviets treated Reagan more seriously because he fired American air traffic controllers.
That's a bold claim.
A bold claim? Gee, those of us who have written about or followed Reagan have heard this account many times. What is PolitiFact so upset about? It explained its beef with Walker's assertion:
When we asked for evidence to back the claim, both the governor's office and Walker's campaign cited statements from a variety of people. Each essentially said the firings showed Reagan meant what he said, and that he was to be taken seriously.
PolitiFact then listed the examples that immediately came to my mind, apparently getting them from Walker's office and campaign. Here they are:
Reagan special assistant Peggy Noonan wrote in her White House memoir that George Shultz, who became Reagan's secretary state a year after the firings, had called the firings the most important foreign policy decision Reagan ever made. Joseph McCartin, the author of a book on the strike, wrote that when House Speaker Tip O'Neill, a Democrat, visited Moscow not long after the strike, "He learned that the Soviet leaders had been deeply impressed by Reagan's actions." And Reagan biographer Edmund Morris wrote: "Former Soviet apparatchiks will tell you that it was not his famous 'evil empire' speech in 1983 that convinced them he meant strategic business, so much as photographs of the leader of the air traffic controllers union being taken to jail in 1981."
Precisely, PolitiFact. That's exactly what I remember. I don't get it? Why are we having this conversation? What's wrong with what Scott Walker said? PolitiFact provided its answer:
Those are perceptions of Americans, however. [Actually, no, it was Americans reporting Soviet perceptions.] Walker's claim was the Soviets treated Reagan more seriously after he fired the controllers, and that Soviet documents prove it.
But he did not provide us anything referencing Soviet documents. ?And apparently there are no such documents that have been made public.
Ah, that's the issue? The lack of "documents?" That's the big deal? But why? Tip O'Neill apparently talked to "Soviet leaders" and Edmund Morris's sources were "former Soviet apparatchiks." And George Shultz dealt with the Soviets daily. Surely that's a solid-enough measure of evidence.
But the issue, apparently, is "documents." No documents. Frankly, I hadn't even noticed in my initial read that Walker used the word "documents," even when I first read his statement on MSNBC. It went right by me. And I specialize in dealing with Cold War documents.
Nonetheless, PolitiFact continued on that point, quoting experts adamantly and testily objecting to this apparent lack of "documents."
Five experts told us they had never heard of such documents. Several were incredulous at the notion.
McCartin, a Georgetown University labor history expert who wrote the book about the strike that Walker cited, said: "I am not aware of any such documents. If they did exist, I would love to see them."
Svetlana Savranskaya, director of Russia programs at the National Security Archive at George Washington University, told us she "had to listen to the Walker interview twice, so ridiculous is the statement about the air traffic controllers. There is absolutely no evidence of this. I would love to see the released Soviet documents on this subject that he has apparently seen."
James Graham Wilson, a historian at the U.S. State Department, also told us he was not aware of any Soviet documents showing Moscow's internal response to the controller firings. He speculated that there could be such records, given how some Soviet experts characterized the firings.??
Wilson and other have noted the perspective of Richard Pipes, professor emeritus of Russian studies at Harvard University. Pipes said the firings showed the Soviets that Reagan was "a man who, when aroused, will go to the limit to back up his principles."
. . . In any case, the lack of Soviet records described by Walker is clear.?? Reagan's own ambassador to the Soviet Union, Jack Matlock, told us: "It's utter nonsense. There is no evidence of that whatever."
Nonsense? What is nonsense? Walker's general point isn't nonsense but apparently the lack of "documents" is being judged a gigantic faux paus by Walker. PolitiFact thus concluded by applying a "rating" to Walker's statement:
Walker cited no Soviet documents showing that the firings made the Soviets treat Reagan more seriously. And experts, several of whom felt Walker's claim is outrageous, told us they are not aware that any such documents exist. For a statement that is false and ridiculous, our rating is Pants on Fire.
The minute that this PolitiFact item was released, I got an email from a fellow Reagan expert who was really steamed. "Paul, you've got to take this on!" he wrote.
Because a politician in an unscripted TV interview referred to documents rather than reports by biographers, he's a liar with his pants on fire? Should we hold a governor to the standard that we do scholars because he used the word "documents" in an off-the-cuff remark to a TV guy? Do we expect our politicians to be archival experts in Cold War documents in order to make general points with the utmost academic-scholarly precision?
Walker had indeed correctly read that the Soviets were impressed by Reagan's actions, and just as clearly assumed (understandably) that the authors he remembered writing about the incident (being authors) probably had used some sort of "documents" for their research.
But because he used a work like "documents" instead of, say, "biographers" we're going to denounce him, "Liar, liar, pants on fire?!"
I guarantee you that I could start digging in archives, and especially the voluminous Soviet media archives that I've collected over the decades, and find an example of Moscow officials communicating about Reagan and PATCO. It might take me hours or days or even weeks, but I could find them. I have read hundreds of Soviet memoirs, and I could go back through and start checking those, too. If PolitiFact wants to pay me for my time (by the hour, please), I'll start looking. But I warn them: Finding actual "documents" is never easy. It always takes a lot of time. So, this could cost them.
Another warning: Such "documents" probably will not be a big deal. They would likely simply offer a written communication of what we already knew, a mere hardcopy communication from one Soviet official to another. That's all that "documents" often are.
Peggy Noonan, at the end of her long piece on this, writes:
I have never heard of such documents. No one I spoke to for the book referred to them. If Walker got it wrong, he should say so. Though I'm not sure it matters in any deep way. Of course the Soviets saw and understood what had happened with Reagan and the union. Of course they would factor it in. They had eyes. They didn't have to write it down.
That's right. I've shared thousands of perceptions from people in articles and books I've written. The vast majority, I'm sure, were never recorded in documents. Bill Clark, Reagan's closest aide in the attack on the Soviet Union, had an explicit policy of not writing down sensitive information that he and Reagan feared could be leaked. Boy, if I could've had just one of the many napkins or paper scraps that Clark scribbled on after his meetings with Cardinal Pio Laghi, John Paul II's apostolic nuncio in Washington, which Clark then took to Reagan to refer to while briefing the president. Unfortunately, Clark always dropped them in the trash.
The lack of those "documents" frustrated me as his biographer, but that was the way it was. It didn't mean that those communications didn't happen.
As Peggy Noonan details in her current piece, "So was Scott Walker right about the importance of Reagan and PATCO? Yes." It mattered on the international stage and especially to Moscow.
A final Walker-Reagan comparison: Scott Walker has unintentionally uncovered something else he shares with Ronald Reagan: the media's ability to place every inexact word of his under microscopic scrutiny and trounce him when he isn't perfect to the letter of his word. This is something the media does not do to Barack Obama - never has and never will.
As Scott Walker moves on, he can expect to get much, much more. Ronald Reagan certainly did. Don't let it bother you, governor, you're in good company. *
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).
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.
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.
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. *