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2008 Election &Conservatives Susan Freis Falknor on 08 Oct 2008 11:05 am

Is Barack Obama a “Red Diaper Baby”?


Barack Obama—writer, sometime community organizer, leftmost member of the United States Senate, and Democratic presidential candidate—is he a red diaper baby? An important question in view of his history. Readers will have to come to their own conclusions. Whatever one’s take, it is clear that senator Obama is, and has been from the beginning, close to some deeply anti-American figures.

The red diaper term refers to children of Americans who were either members of the Communist Party (CPUSA) or were “fellow travelers,” or espoused the parallel strains of hard Marxism that emerged in the last century here. The generations that actually joined the party tended to be most active in the 1930s and 1940s. Their politically precocious children were most active in the “New Left” of the 1960s and later. These descendants provided hard-left ideological backbone to their idealistic, peace-and-love, hippy peers.

Although this new generation was much less likely to join the CPUSA, as the public image of the Party fell with the passing decades, the seeds of the “radicals” and “progressives” were already firmly planted. Many moved to teaching, the media, and philanthropic organizations – to the so-called “New Class.” Others, as a kind of inherited priesthood, followed leftist elective politics camouflaged under the label of the traditional, anti-Communist Democratic Party.

Cliff Kincaid points us to an example of a modern-day red diaper baby here. That is Chesa Boudin, son of Weather Underground members Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, both of whom went to prison for their role in a 1981 robbery and assault in Nyack, New York. The crime took the lives of two police officers and a security guard.  Chesa Boudin, now in his 20s, was a Rhodes Scholar and is author of Heading North, Looking South: Reflections on a Year in Venezuela here. He is also the grandson of “secret Community Party strategist Leonard Boudin,” who, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune here, “masqueraded as a civil rights lawyer during the years the Weathermen killed, robbed and bombed but was really a contact man for such hostile foreign powers as the Soviet Union and Cuba.”

Just a toddler when his parents began serving time, Chesa Boudin was raised by fellow Weather Underground members and unrepentant terrorist bombers William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn. Ayers and Dohrn, of course, are Barack Obama’s Hyde Park neighbors and were fellow movers-and-shakers within the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, formerly a leftist foundation with radicalizing solutions to improving the Chicago public schools. 

Reds on Surfboards?

To consider whether the red diaper term fits Barack Obama, we need to look at his mother, father, and grandfather, as well as the black writer Frank Marshall Davis, who became a mentor to the teenage Obama in the mid 1970s.

There were already communists in Hawaii, where Barack Obama was born in 1961. In their Communism in Hawaii and the Obama Connection, Herbert Romerstein and Cliff Kincaid explain that in 1935 a directive came down from Moscow for American Communists to establish a Party apparatus in what was then the Territory of Hawaii here

Romerstein has outstanding credentials, having been a senior investigator for the House Committee on Un-American Activities, Senate Committee on Internal Security, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the U.S. Information Agency’s Office to Counter Soviet Disinformation. Romerstein and Kincaid’s on-line reports here include facsimiles of pages from original documents, such as the just-mentioned 1935 directive, news clips, congressional testimony, and FBI reports.

During the next several years, a number of American communists migrated to Hawaii, to organize and to promote, as Romerstein writes, the “withdrawal of the U.S. armed forces” from Pearl Harbor. One was Harry Bridges of the Communist-dominated International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union (ILWU). Another was Jack Hall, ILWU regional director and CPUSA official.  In 1948, Koji Ariyoshi, a Communist originally from Hawaii, established a party-line weekly, the Honolulu Record, which was largely bankrolled by the ILWU, with 80 percent of its originating stock purchased by Party members, according to the 1953 and 1954  Reports of the Commission on Subversive Activities of the Territory of Hawaii. Portions are reproduced and sourced in Kincaid and Romerstein’s Hawaii report here

When World War II broke out, Ariyoshi joined Karl Yoneda, a California Communist, to infiltrate the just-launched Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the CIA’s predecessor agency. Sent by the OSS, Ariyoshi lived in wartime Yenan with the Chinese Communists. After the war he returned to Hawaii where he became leader of the Maoist US China People’s Friendship Association.

There was resistance to the Party’s organizing. The local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Hawaii successfully fought a takeover by the Communists, mirroring a similar struggle between the national NAACP and the CPUSA. Ichiro Izuka, who joined the party in Hawaii in 1938, regretted his “days of blindness” in a memoir he published in 1947:  The Truth About Communism in Hawaii.

In 1948, Barack Obama’s future mentor, the black writer and organizer Frank Marshall Davis, arrived in Honolulu with his wife, white socialite Helen Canfield Davis, 19 years his junior. Both Helen and Frank, who married in 1946 (divorcing in 1990), had been active members of the CPUSA in Chicago as related in Who Was Frank Marshall Davis? by Cliff Kincaid and Herbert Romerstein here.   

Born in Kansas, Davis worked in Chicago for several party front groups, “the Communist-line Chicago Star and the following Communist-front organizations: American Youth for Democracy, Abraham Lincoln School, National Association for Constitutional Liberties, League of American Writers, and National Negro Congress,” according to 1953 and 1954 Reports of the Commission on Subversive Activities of the Territory of Hawaii.

Frank and Helen Davis almost certainly made the move from Chicago under the direction of the CPUSA. Or, as Davis himself put it, he moved to Hawaii on the “suggestion” of Harry Bridges and “my friend Paul Robeson”—the Black American athlete, actor, and supremely moving concert singer. Although the gifted Robeson posed as an idealistic fellow traveler, the Lenin-Peace-Prize winner was in fact a secret CPUSA member. In Honolulu, Frank Marshall Davis operated a paper-supply business and wrote a column “Frank-ly Speaking,” for the Honolulu Record.  

The year 1951 saw the FBI arrest of the Hawaii 7. These were “[Jack] Hall, ILWU regional director; John Reinecke, the former teacher; Koji Ariyoshi, editor of the Honolulu Record; Jack Kimoto, Honolulu Record employee; Jim Freeman, a mechanic; Charles Fujimoto, announced chairman of the Communist Party of Hawaii; and Eileen Fujimoto, Charles’ wife and an ILWU secretary,” according to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, here.

The Hawaii 7 were convicted under the Smith Act, which makes it illegal to “advocate, abet, advise or teach the duty, necessity, desirability or propriety of overthrowing the Government of the United States or of any State by force or violence, or for anyone to organize any association which teaches, advises or encourages such an overthrow, or for anyone to become a member of or to affiliate with any such association.” But the seven defendants remained free on appeal until their “convictions were reversed January 20, 1958 after the Supreme Court re-interpreted the Smith Act,” according to Cliff Kincaid here.

Although Frank Marshall Davis was not included among the Hawaii 7, the 1953 and 1954 Reports of the Commission on Subversive Activities of the Territory of Hawaii named Davis and his wife as members of the active groups that the party formed in Hawaii when it went underground in 1950. Davis invoked the Fifth Amendment when called before a December 1956 Honolulu U. S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on the “Scope of Soviet Activity in the United States.”  

A gray-haired Frank Marshall Davis may have touched the sensibilities of a young bi-racial Obama by flaunting a multicolored dashiki, but underneath Davis’ colors were pure red. The FBI file on Davis here, covering the years 1944-1963, is 601 pages long.

All in the Family?

Barack Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961. How did Stanley Ann Dunham, Obama’s Kansas-born mother, come to be there?

In 1960, Stanley Ann’s father Stanley Dunham suddenly pulled the family out of the Seattle area where they had settled and took them to Honolulu, pursuing an opportunity to manage a furniture store. A few years earlier, Stanley had moved the family from the city of Seattle to nearby Mercer Island, where a new high school was scheduled to open. There Ann had been formally exposed to leftist ideas by two teachers, according to the Seattle Times here.

The Obama What’s The Facts blog leads us to this Chicago Tribune-originated article here.

“At Mercer High School, two teachers — Val Foubert and Jim Wichterman — generated regular parental thunderstorms by teaching their students to challenge societal norms and question all manner of authority…

“Wichterman taught philosophy. The hallway between the two classes was known as ‘anarchy alley,’ and students pondered the challenging notions of Wichterman’s teachings…

‘I had them read ‘The Communist Manifesto,’ and the parents went nuts,’ said Wichterman, adding that parents also didn’t want any discussions about ‘anything to do with sex,’ religion and theology. The parental protests were known as ‘mothers’ marches.’

“‘The kids started questioning things that their folks thought shouldn’t be questioned — religion, politics, parental authority,’ said John Hunt, a classmate. ‘And a lot of parents didn’t like that, and they tried to get them [Wichterman and Foubert] fired.”

The Dunhams attended the East Shore Unitarian Church in Bellevue, nicknamed the “the little red church on the hill” for its left leaning.

Ann’s fate came down on her so fast.

She graduated from high school in 1960 (Obama’s autobiography must be incorrect in stating that the family moved to Hawaii in 1959). She gave birth on August 1, 1961. Barack’s father, a black Kenyan of a prominent family in the Luo tribe was a self-described socialist studying econometrics, with a resonant speaking voice and a winning, big-as-all-outdoors personality. He must have bowled Ann over when they met in Russian class at the University of Hawaii. One wonders, however, why had Ann been drawn to study Russian at the height of the Cold War? Could it be that she saw by learning Russian a way to be closer to the socialist ideals purportedly being realized in the USSR? Could she have discerned a soul-mate in the third-world socialist Barack Obama senior, whom, according to Obama’s autobiography, she never ceased to represent to her son as a hero?

At any rate, Obama’s father left Hawaii when his son was two. A second divorce from another third-world man (Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian ) and a baby daughter later, Ann reinvented herself as a Ph.D. anthropologist working as a Ford Foundation program officer in Indonesia. There, as Time noted in a biographical sketch here, “her home became a gathering spot for the powerful and the marginalized: politicians, filmmakers, musicians and labor organizers.”

How did the adolescent Barack Obama meet Frank Marshall Davis? According to Obama’s autobiography, Davis was one of a number of “black male friends” with whom his grandfather played poker and bridge. When Barack was living with his grandparents, with Ann away doing field work for her Ph.D., grandfather Stanley would bring the 11- or 12-year old Barack to Davis’s “dilapidated house in a run-down section of Waikiki” where the two older men would drink whisky, have a reading of Davis’ poetry, and engage the young Obama in “composing dirty limericks.”  Writes Obama:

 “The visits to his house always left me feeling vaguely uncomfortable, though, as I were witnessing some complicated, unspoken transaction between the two men, a transaction I couldn’t fully understand. The same thing I felt whenever Gramps took me downtown to one of his favorite bars, in Honolulu’s red-light district.”

There is a revealing story about his grandparents which Obama related in his autobiography, also pressing the anecdote into service during the presidential primaries in an attempt to soften the verbal excesses of his pastor Jeremiah Wright. Grandmother Madelyn Dunham had asked for a ride to the bank where she worked, in order to avoid a possible meeting at the bus stop with an aggressive panhandler. Stanley Dunham had angrily refused. As Obama writes, a “shaking” Dunham also rejected the boy’s offer to drop his grandmother off, saying:

“’It is a big deal. It’s a big deal to me. She’s been bothered by men before. You know why she’s so scared this time? I’ll tell you why. Before you came in she told me the fella was black.’  He whispered the word. ‘That’s the real reason why she’s bothered. And I just don’t think that’s right.’”

Why was Dunham so passionate about the matter? Why was he impelled to teach his fearful wife a lesson in politically correct race relations? There is an old hard-left tenet that, because their forebears were held in slavery, blacks are America’s only “naturally revolutionary” class. Hence, blacks become revered icons to the revolutionary cause, and almost any criminal behavior by blacks becomes excusable from that perspective. Was Dunham speaking from this outlook, perhaps reinforced by his relationship with Davis? Was Dunham a “useful idiot,” or perhaps even a fellow traveler?   

In any case, one wonders if there was more to the relationship of Stanley Dunham and Davis. How had they met and become close? Why did the Dunhams trust him? Could there possibly have been some kind of CPUSA networking that directed Davis toward Dunham and his black grandson in the first place? One odd circumstance that could point to further connections: both Dunham and Davis grew up in Kansas, with Davis about 13 years older than Dunham. Had they met then? Had they known people in common on the leftist grapevine back home?

Obama recalls in his autobiography that, when counseling the boy about the incident, Davis took full advantage of the teachable moment in radicalizing the young Barack’s concepts of race:

“’What I’m trying to tell you is, your grandma’s right to be scared. She’s at least as right as Stanley is. She understands that black people have a reason to hate. That’s just how it is. For your sake I wish it were otherwise. But it’s not. So you might as well get used to it.’” 

On leaving Hawaii and coming to the mainland, Barack Obama gravitated to the left. Everywhere he seemed to seek out and embrace ultra-leftists. In college, he fretted that he might be mistaken for a “sellout,” and cultivated leftist professors and activists. He headed for Chicago to learn community organizing from the disciples of the master, the hardened Saul Alinsky who had died a decade earlier.

In 1995, Obama launched himself into Illinois politics at a party at the home of  Pentagon bombers William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn. There Democratic State Senator Alice Palmer introduced him as her chosen successor.

Ten years earlier, Alice Palmer had been an official of the U.S. Peace Council, a FBI-named Communist front group. In 1986 she wrote an article for the People’s Weekly World, a CPUSA house organ, “favorably recount[ing] her experiences attending the 27th Congress of the Community Party of the Soviet Union,” according to veteran reporter Wes Vernon here.

As Stanley Kurtz wrote just yesterday in National Review Online’s (NRO)  here:

“Previously we’d thought that Alice Palmer…was the moving force behind the party. Now it seems that Ayers and Dohrn were actually the folks who arranged the event and apparently planned it with Obama.”

At the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, an educational foundation, Obama gave funds to the Chicago-based Small Schools Workshop — its director was Michael Klonsky, a close associate of William Ayers. Klonsky was formerly active in Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) —a hard-left political organization of the 1960s; he became the head of the U.S. Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) (CP-ML) in the early 1970s. In a 2007 speech, Klonsky, boasted of being a red-diaper baby, recalling here that his father had been a member of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War.

“I was born into the Communist Party,” he declared.  Michael’s brother Fred Klonsky, now a member of Progressives for Obama, was also active in SDS. Indeed, Kincaid chronicles leftist after leftist in Obama circles: Askia Muhammad, Paul Booth, Carl Davidson, Todd Gitlin, Leslie Cagan, Robert Avakian, Tom Hayden, and Dr. Quentin Young. Click here for the background on these Obama supporters.

“Guilt by Participation”

After all this sifting and speculation, it is fair to ask: so what if Barack Obama may be a red diaper baby? So what if some of his allies and supporters are radicals and reds?

Well, here is why it does matter.

Red diaper babies tend to grow up with a fire in the belly against American social  “injustices” as perceived through the radical lens that they saw so passionately espoused as children in the family circle.

David Horowitz, now a prominent conservative, is a former red diaper baby and 1960s radical activist, who completely turned his politics around in the late 1970s. Horowitz wrote in his autobiography, Radical Son:

“I understood early that my parents’ political religion was really the center of their moral life. This meant—without they necessarily intending it—that the condition of their parental love was that I embrace their political faith.” 

Or, as Josh Kornbluth jocularly puts it here in his one-man show, Red Diaper Baby, his father:

“…believed there was going to be a violent Communist revolution in this country and I was going to lead it. [Pause.] Just so you understand the pressure.”

Red diaper babies lack the usual sense of what is normal, reassuring, and what should be preserved. Their focus is on what they consider alarming, despicable, and should be eradicated—targeting many of the same things, however, that most Americans revere. Their political center of gravity is far to the left.

No matter the rhetoric they adopt to dress up their aspirations, their values are not our values and their goals are not our goals.

To question Obama’s many leftist associations is more than a “birds-of-a-feather-flock-together” assertion of guilt by association.

Rather, as NRO’s Stanley Kurtz writes in the New York Times here, it is “guilt by participation.”

There is a complication to any inquiry like this. To most Americans, the story of the Left in the U.S. is simply arcane. And it has been made more obscure by Leftist efforts in the 1950s and 1960s to erase that history. Insofar as the Left is influential in setting intellectual norms in this country today, inquiries into the activities of American communists are made to seem bad form, shabby, unsporting. Even pointing to the role of CPUSA pressure in American politics since the 1930s makes you fair game to be smeared as a knuckle-dragging anti-communist—as repellent as they painted Senator Joseph McCarthy. Regardless of hard evidence of Soviet activities in the U.S., such as the Venona intercepts here, declassified in 1995, frank public discussion of the CPUSA remains largely taboo in “elite” circles. 

And the beat goes on with the mainstream media’s cover-up the long-term political relationship between Barack Obama and William Ayres, as well as pressure to silence critics of Obama more generally.

NRO’s Stanley Kurtz this summer was first given permission, then abruptly denied access here to the 132 boxes of Chicago Annenberg Challenge papers housed at the University of Illinois. Kurtz was smeared on the leftist blogs for even trying. In the Huffington Post, John K. Wilson described the scrupulously careful reporter as “right-wing hatchet man Stanley Kurtz [seeking] a forum to air his baseless, fear-mongering terrorist smears.”

The Obama campaign urged supporters to telephone Chicago WGN radio here to demand that investigator Kurtz not be allowed on the air. In September, blogger Jim Hoft reported (h/t Michelle Malkin) in his Gateway Pundit that St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce and St. Louis County Circuit Attorney Bob McCulloch threatened “to bring libel charges against those who speak out falsely against Barack Obama” here.

If senator Obama becomes president, particularly if the current Congressional majority increases, we are likely to see some sharp changes in America’s political rules and some White House decisions that might previously have seemed unthinkable. A presidential candidate who has kept company with the profoundly disaffected and occasionally violent may well be expected to keep such company in the White House.

. . . . .

TWO UPDATES SOME 14 MONTHS LATER! James Lewis in the American Thinker writes about “Obama the Red Avenger.” “What we haven’t understood is how deeply Obama was indoctrinated from childhood onward in the war against America. But every intelligence agency in the world has to have figured it out, because it’s all in the public record. Leftists around the world have also known it from day one, and that includes leading Democrats. Obama was not an unknown to Democrat Party apparatchiks. Or the media. Only the American people were kept in the dark. The media and the Democrats are still doing their Obama cover-up today and hoping they will get away with it.” (Underscoring Forum’s.)

National Review on Line contributor Andrew McCarthy reminded us here  “. . . [I]f you look at the sweeping changes that have occurred in the past five months, I think what I argued before the election about the significance of Obama’s Leftist background and radical connections was on the mark.” The former U. S. prosecutor declared “I don’t think he is weak at all. To the contrary, I think he has strategic goals that he pursues in highly disciplined, tactical pragmatism. He is a force to be reckoned with, and I don’t think you reckon with him by hopefully assuming that, on some level, he shares our ideas about what’s best for the country and the world. I credit him for wanting what’s best — but only as he sees it.” (Underscoring Forum’s.)

UPDATE October 23,2008! Please visit our post here on “Senator Obama and His Chicago Circle.”

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