The 15 Best Books for Understanding Barack Obama’s Mysterious Political Theology
Which intellectual cult leaders and secular religions have most influenced the 44th president's ideology?
November 4, 2012 - 9:20 am
Political theology, as defined by Wikipedia:
Political theology or public theology is a branch of both political philosophy and practical theology that investigates the ways in which theological concepts or ways of thinking underlie political, social, economic and cultural discourses.
Writing amidst the turbulence of the German Weimar Republic, Carl Schmitt argued in Political Theology that the central concepts of modern politics were secularized versions of older theological concepts.
Center-Left polemicist John Avlon at The Daily Beast claims that “Over the past four years, no less than 89 obsessively anti-Obama books have been published.” This isn’t true — and Avlon knows it — as a casual stroll through “Interactive Hate: The Great Obama-Loathing Canon” reveals. Many of the titles he calls “books,” those who made them understood as short pamphlets. I recognize several that I helped edit and produce for a conservative 501(c)3. Others come from obscure, self-published authors with no influence.
Avlon’s big number of anti-Obama “books” hides the reality: plenty of titles with scary Obama pictures on the cover filled the market since 2008 but few offered little more than a polished collection of what you could find for free doing anti-Obama google searches. To understand the president one must look beyond the new release shelf.
Here are the 15 books I’ve found most useful in grasping the intentionally confusing worldview of our commander-in-chief: 4 recent books focused on Obama by conservative critics, 6 historical books on movements and ideologies, and 5 titles by the president, his supporters, mentors, and influences.
To grasp Barack Obama we need to understand the books he read when he first began his community organizing journey three decades ago. We have to put ourselves in the head of the young, college-age Barry to understand how ideological seeds grew into the disastrous public policy of his administration. To know where to begin we start with the two books by Barack Obama’s best, most underrated analyst, Stanley Kurtz.
Since its publication in October of 2010, Radical-in-Chief has served as my primary map for navigating the stormy media waters of the Obama presidency. I reviewed it here for the publication I edited at the time, instructed all my writers to read it, and applied a blunt headline to summarize its importance: “Case Closed: Barack Obama is a Socialist Working to Destroy America.”
My progressive friends laugh their heads off when I argue this with a straight face. They see Obama as a corporate sell-out still carrying on most of Bush’s war policy. Obama’s just a wimpy, moderate liberal and party hack beholden to Wall Street. To which I respond,
That’s what Obama wants you to think. In his memoir he admits attending Socialist Scholars conferences in New York City in the early 1980s. Stanley Kurtz has verified which ones he attended, who spoke there, and what ideas were argued. It’s there that Obama learned about what community organizing really is all about. And when you read these people’s books — like Saul Alinsky — they admit it quite openly that they are just pretending to be centrist pragmatists in order to dupe do-gooder liberals like I was and you still are so they can gradually implement a European social welfare state. There’s a reason why over 90% of Europeans would vote Obama. He’s one of them.
That’s when my friends usually change the subject.
How do we know for certain that Obama’s ideology is still the same as in the early 1980s when he began his career as a stealth socialist community organizer? It’s not just because his administration draws from the ranks of community organizers and employs the movement’s tactics on the national level. It’s because Obama still works with the same people who are still pursuing the same goals. All that’s changed is now Obama’s the “good cop,” a friendly politician, instead of the hardball activist “bad cop.”
In Spreading the Wealth: How Obama is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities, Kurtz shows Obama’s second term plans. He reveals that the exact same community organizing mentors who trained Obama now work for him. Their goal? To quietly, as no one pays attention at the national level, use regulatory boards to implement “Regionalism.” The objective: create regions based around metropolitan areas that can swallow up and redistribute tax money from the richer suburbs to the poor inner cities. They would also seize control of schools, lower educational standards, and implement regulations to stop the growth of suburbia. Kurtz describes it as replicating the collapsing system of the European Union here in the United States. This is the “fundamental transformation.” And Kurtz unearthed documents within the archives of these stealth socialist community organizing groups irrefutably identifying Obama as a partner in the effort.
Barack Obama may have begun as a minor figure within the world of community organizing but by the mid ’90s he was a major player, responsible for directing millions through his position on the boards of numerous charitable foundations. The paper trail Kurtz assembles between his two books of Obama’s deep associations with this ideological movement to transform America lies too deep for any of the president’s defenders to explain. So they can only follow the president’s lead, a favored tactic of Alinsky, and obfuscate.
Just like the youtube deception with Benghazi, and just as we see in the next two books, focusing on the methods of ACORN and Eric Holder’s Department of Justice…
Related from Ron Radosh: The Book to Defeat Obama: Stanley Kurtz’s Spreading the Wealth
3. Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice Department by J. Christian Adams
4. Subversion, Inc.: How Obama’s ACORN Red Shirts are Still Terrorizing and Ripping Off American Taxpayers by Matthew Vadum
Kurtz’s books take a big-picture survey of Obama’s overall plans, connecting all the dots. These two by my colleagues J. Christian Adams and Matthew Vadum focus more on his method for accomplishing it. To summarize in one word: crime.
Reading Vadum’s and Adams’s books, and editing their articles, has contributed heavily toward my reevaluation of this abstraction we casually call “the Left.” Is this a political movement with a few criminals in it, or a criminal movement with politicians and activists in it? Read their books, glance at the Obama administration and their supporters, and decide for yourself.
In Subversion Inc, investigative journalist Vadum compiles his years’ worth of research into the Alinskyite community organizing group ACORN to create an authoritative 400-page tome. He reveals a corrupt, urban terrorist organization that operates to shake down businesses and government. This is what community organizing looks like in practice: thuggish intimidation disguised as advocacy for the disadvantage, aided and abetted by both the Democratic Party and mainstream media. And Obama made his career representing and defending them, acting the good cop. And what did he get in exchange?
Adams’ Injustice reveals the community organizers’ secret weapon: voter fraud. As an attorney with years of experience investigating and prosecuting voter fraud cases, Adams knows the Alinskyite’s criminal methods first hand. The mere fact that this goes on isn’t the scariest part, though. Barack Obama’s Department of Justice is complicit in it. Eric Holder enforces the Democratic Party line with the full force of his department: vote fraud doesn’t exist, but suppression of minority voters is real and the requirement of a photo ID is racist. Who dominates the DOJ? See Adams and Hans Spakovsky’s “Every Single One” series here at PJM, revealing the far left resumes of the new hires in Holder’s DOJ. Do I sound crazy to my progressive friends when I tell them that the president has allowed Marxists to infiltrate our government so they can facilitate voter fraud to ensure his reelection?
Well, one crazy turn deserves another: what if I said that the heroic civil rights icon the president modeled his life on was an antisemitic con artist who changed his name each time he switched cults?
5. The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley
6. Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
7. Dreams from my Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama
8. Barack Obama: The Story by David Maraniss
Why do so many Democrats insist on giving Islam the benefit of the doubt? Even amongst many Republicans, the establishment narrative, set by George W. Bush, endures: Islam is “a religion of peace,” Al Qaeda is a fringe group of misinterpreters, Allah is the same god worshiped by Jews and Christians, and the Koran is just the Bible in Arabic, teaching universal love and compassion.
I bought this Big Lie about Islam for years. And looking back I wonder how much of it had to do with how my progressivism led to an unquestioning embrace of the mythology of Malcolm. In high school I loved The Autobiography of Malcolm X and watched Spike Lee’s film adaptation multiple times. Recall the ending: Malcolm doesn’t fully reject racism and become complete as a human being until he escapes the Nation of Islam, takes his hajj to Mecca, and renames himself El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. Once outside of the evil, racist America Malcolm can see that within Islam whites could gain their humanity and become his brothers. Islam really could bring peace. Just look at Malcolm.
But multiple authors have debunked The Autobiography as fictional. (See my friend David Forsmark’s review of Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention and Bruce Perry’s Malcolm: The Life of a Man Who Changed Black America.)
Once one learns the truth about who Malcolm X really was, what the Nation of Islam preached then (and still does today), and the contents of the orthodox Islam Malcolm believed at death, then the only moral response is shame. And that’s what I feel today as I reflect back on the fact that for years a poster of an antisemitic conspiracy theorist hung tacked to my walls like a religious icon.
But Barack Obama never felt that embarrassing epiphany of realizing he’d based his life on a lie. According to Dreams from my Father, Obama discovered The Autobiography as a teenager. He then used the myth of Malcolm during his community organizer days as a symbol:
“Power! X Register to Vote Here”
“It’s a POWER thing! X Vote Tues Nov. 3″
That’s what the symbol of Malcolm X means and Obama knew how to use it: the misunderstood, oppressed proletariat can take power away from the corrupt conspiracy at the top that’s enslaved everyone. It’s a message that appeals to both the impoverished in the ghettos, and the spoiled, angsty, idealistic, upper-middle class high schooler growing up in white suburbia. And it too was a Big Lie. Power doesn’t come through voting in politicians who will give you healthcare and other free stuff.
Even Malcolm X’s admirers admit that The Autobiography is a lie. That’s why I picked Manning Marable’s more apologetic biography instead of Perry’s warts-and-all. And it’s why I insist every Barack Obama supporter really dig into the sympathetic Barack Obama: The Story by David Maraniss. Even the president’s admirers admit that Dreams from my Father bears little resemblance of Obama’s actual life.
What kind of man does that? Who writes an autobiography that’s not true in order to further their career? (Reminder: Benghazi.) What does that say about the man’s grasp of right and wrong that he would publish a book-length smashing of the 9th commandment to launch his Chicago political career?
It says that just like the pathological liar Malcolm X he rejects ethical monotheism, the foundation of Western civilization. As defined by Dennis Prager:
Ethical monotheism means two things:
1. There is one God from whom emanates one morality for all humanity.
2. God’s primary demand of people is that they act decently toward one another.
If all people subscribed to this simple belief—which does not entail leaving, or joining, any specific religion, or giving up any national identity—the world would experience far less evil.
11. The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America by Andrew C. McCarthy
12. Why the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism by Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin
13. Marxism: Philosophy and Economics by Thomas Sowell
Who is America’s enemy?
For the Democratic Party the answer to this question remains unchanged since I cast my first ballot for John Kerry as an undergraduate in 2004: the criminal conspiracy Al Qaeda, an organization of fringe extremists hijacking Islam, “a religion of peace” practiced by a billion friendly Muslims. “The War on Terror” is a propaganda term created by Islamophobic conservatives to scare bigoted idiots into voting Republican so they can continue to waste tax dollars on their fat cat friends in Halliburton and the rest of the military industrial complex. The fight against terrorism should be understood as a police matter, in no way comparable to the fight against Nazis or the Soviet Union. Osama bin Laden was just like Tim McVeigh. Through the Democrats’ multicultural eyes any Islamist group that isn’t directly engaged in terrorism could be a friend. Including the Muslim Brotherhood. So what if some of them have multiple wives?
The idea that a cabal of Republicans have allied together to create false wars in order to make money for themselves originates in another Big Lie, the traditional blood libel. In Among the Truthers, Jonathan Kay digs into America’s conspiracy theory culture to demonstrate that the New World Order narratives of today alleging powerful, shadowy figures behind the scenes “pulling the strings” all descend from the same thematic structure that first appeared in the antisemitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Antisemitism and its secularized manifestation, the Conspiracy Theory mentality, glue together the Democratic Party’s ideological coalition. They also fuel the fire of the so-called Arab Spring, a movement supported by the president, the mainstream media, and secular progressives:
The Arab Street embraces the narrative of The Protocols outright; unlike modern Democrats, they don’t bother replacing “Jews” with “fat cat bankers” or “the 1%” to try and appear less hateful. To understand why this antisemitic culture has come to dominate the Middle East, we turn to a 2010 publication from Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy: Shariah: The Threat To America: An Exercise In Competitive Analysis (Report of Team B II).
The report from some of the field’s top analysts rebuts the Democratic Party conspiracy theory. What if Osama bin Laden’s ideas weren’t so fringe after all? What if he was just doing what the Koran and centuries of Islamic scholars said? What if a hatred of Jews and a corresponding rejection of the ethical monotheist principle of Rule of Law actually kept Islam alive?
The Grand Jihad provides the best summary I’ve yet encountered of the real nature of the enemy today, one that mirrors the tactical evolution of the community organizing socialists. Just as Saul Alinsky taught his disciples the good cop/bad cop methods, Banna’s criminal cult also plays both sides of the law simultaneously. On the terrorist left hand the Muslim Brotherhood founded Hamas, on the pseudo-legitimate right hand the Brothers fund charities, schools, and masquerade as “civil rights” organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR.) And they support careers, as McCarthy wrote here at PJM:
Ms. Abedin, of course, is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s deputy chief of staff. When concerns about her Muslim Brotherhood connections were first raised by five conservative House members, there was great gnashing of teeth from both Democrats and the Brotherhood’s growing squad of Republican cheerleaders. Soon, however, it was demonstrated beyond cavil that Abedin herself, like other members of her family, has a disturbingly close association with Abdullah Omar Naseef – a wealthy Saudi financier of al-Qaeda and Brotherhood eminence. At that point, most of the craven GOP emirate stuck its head back in the sand with hopes that the issue would just go away, while the Left reverted to its knee-jerk “McCarthyism” shrieks — along with the demeaning characterization of Abedin, who is actually a top policy adviser, as a flunky who merely helps Madame Secretary decide which “handbag” goes best with that day’s outfit.
Ms. Abedin’s Naseef connection centers on an entity the al-Qaeda backer established and recruited Abedin’s parents to run: the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs. Since its founding in the late seventies, the IMMA’s main purpose has been to publish the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs. Naseef remained closely involved in the JMMA for decades after its founding in the late 1970s — he was removed from the masthead in 2003, right around the time he was named as a defendant in the civil suit brought by victims of the 9/11 atrocities.
Abedin was assistant editor of the journal for a dozen years — from the time she started interning at the Clinton White House in 1996 until right before she joined the State Department in 2009. During seven of those years, she overlapped with Naseef, who was then on JMMA‘s advisory board.
To comprehend this modern manifestation of antisemitism in its historical context pick up Why the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism. In seven chapters Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin provide historical evidence documenting the recurring themes from ancient, Christian, and Islamic antisemitism to the modern reinventions in Secular Enlightenment, leftist, Nazi, and anti-Zionist antisemitisms. They also demolish the common explanations for antisemitism until only one remains: hatred of the Jewish foundation that underlies ethical monotheist religion. Antisemites hate the idea that there is One God with one moral standard. They hate that this leap of faith means we are all equal, that we are are all responsible for creating our own lives and our own happiness — and that no one has the right to murder or enslave another. They hate that each man must struggle on his own to figure out how to live. They reject the Bible’s call that the founders of America followed, for each of us to be Israel. They have refused the challenge to wrestle with the angels of our better nature and instead submitted to the demons of our animal brains.
In the most enlightening chapters in Why the Jews, Prager and Telushkin lay out the antisemitism of Karl Marx and its influence on his intellectual cult. In the foundational mythology of Orthodox Marxism we see a reinvention of the original antisemitic conspiracy theory: the reason the “proletariat” are poor is because the evil “bourgeoisie” have conspired together to enslave them.
In understanding Marxism the most straightforward guide I’ve yet encountered is Thomas Sowell’s Marxism: Philosophy and Economics. Sowell brings his trademark straight talk to untangle the often confusing and contradictory concepts of the Orthodox Marxists. Cutting through the jargon that Marxists use to dress up their simpleminded political theology we can begin to see with renewed clarity how their modern descendents repackage very old ideas.
We know where Barack Obama received his foundation in these ideas: from his teenage mentor Frank Marshall Davis, a card-carrying member of the Communist Party. Dr. John C. Drew met Obama during his Occidental College days and has written extensively how the future president embraced a traditional, Bourgeoisie vs Proletariat, Old Left Marxism.
We see it slip out when Obama talks about profits in the same way as Marx, as some frivolous extra. Consider this moment from the debates:
“And let me tell you exactly what Obamacare did. Number one, if you’ve got health insurance, it doesn’t mean a government takeover. You keep your own insurance. You keep your own doctor. But it does say insurance companies can’t jerk you around. They can’t impose arbitrary lifetime limits. They have to let you keep your kid on their insurance — your insurance plan until you’re 26 years old. And it also says that you’re going to have to get rebates if insurance companies are spending more on administrative costs and profits than they are on actual care.“
Apart from providing a Rosetta stone for Marxist jargon and myths, Sowell’s book also links the personal with the political. The chapter I most appreciated was the biographical narrative of Marx’s often shocking personal life and obnoxious personality.
This seems to be another recurring theme amongst Obama’s influences and mentors…
14. Sex Rebel: Black, Memoirs of a Gash Gourmet by Bob Greene (pseudonym for Frank Marshall Davis)
15. Afrolantica Legacies by Derrick Bell
On October 28, Michael Ledeen asked “Why Is Obama so Nasty and Vulgar?”:
Rude, insulting language about Romney (“bullsh****r) from the president. Vulgar sexual innuendo, aimed at seducing young women to vote for him. The vice president asking a bereaved parent about the size of his murdered son’s testicles. It’s quite a spectacle. We’re a fractious people, and our politics have always been full of colorful language, but I can’t recall the current depth of vulgarity. The “politics of personal destruction” have gotten uglier. Does it mean anything? Should we try to understand it?
Perhaps a visual accompaniment will help articulate the nature of the movement that Valerie Jarrett anointed as the cultural vanguard of the President’s reelection campaign:
Does this hedonism manifesting in the campaign have anything to do with what Obama described in his memoir, about growing up hearing Frank Marshall Davis’s sexy stories and visiting the Red Light district with his grandfather? Or is it just a coincidence?
Translating the subtitle of Frank Marshall Davis’s sexual memoir puts the book into clarity: “Memoirs of a Gash Gourmet.” Davis lived to perform oral sex, primarily on women but occasionally on men. In Sex Rebel: Black Davis reviews his sex partners as though they were the jazz records he used to write about for Communist newspapers. That’s how Davis related to women: as objects to worship through sex. He describes the roots of his fetish in disgusting, scatological detail, revealing a broken psyche originating from an Oedipal obsession with his mother. Davis’s longing for his mother’s body translated into a primitive, hedonist promiscuity that he then integrated with his Communism. Rebellion to sexual norms — including breaking the law by having sex with 13-year-old girls — counted as another way of fighting the bourgeoisie conspiracy.
One can arrive at “feminism” through many routes — including through classical liberalism. For Davis, though, who thought of himself as a feminist liberating women from the oppressive norms of the patriarchy, he literally worshiped women as goddesses, in the same fashion as the Canaanite fertility cults the ancient Israelites fought against in the Old Testament.
Davis was not the only key Obama mentor who integrated Marxist politics with sex and goddess worship. In Derrick Bell’s Afrolantica Legacies the founder of Critical Race Theory who influenced Obama at Harvard cast his Radical activist lawyer protagonist Geneva Crenshaw as an alien goddess who visits him on earth to make sure he knows that his ideas about affirmative action will save humanity. In the Spring I blogged through every chapter of Afrolantica Legacies at the PJ Tatler.
What are we to make of A) Bell’s antisemitism, B) his fantasies of his political enemies in the role of sex slaves, and C) his understanding of American blacks as akin to enslaved wives? And how could this political theology connect with the Obama administration’s public policies? [...]
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah wasn’t about sex. It was about idolatry. When secular critics relate the war stories from the Old Testament of the Jewish conquests of Canaan, here’s what they don’t tell you: these other tribes the ancient Israelites went to war against practiced child sacrifice. That’s why they couldn’t be tolerated then and why we must win the war against them today.
Human sacrifice is the end result of any idolatry taken to its conclusion. Worship something other than a variant of the God of ethical monotheism and you’ll end up doing evil things. Worship nature, man-made images and ideas, people and politicians, Harvard professors, one’s own ego… and the result is that people become what they worship — they become death.
Sitting here on this Sunday morning before the election, the Sun now up, reflecting back on these years scouring through dusty old Marxist books, trying to understand a president who built his career on a mountain of lies, I confess a peace with either electoral result on Tuesday. A part of me almost wishes that Obama
steals wins reelection (as I anticipate he will). The thought of him quietly retiring to a mansion in Hawaii in January to live out the rest of his life in comfort and adoration should inspire nausea. Only if Obama wins reelection do conservatives have a chance to hold him accountable for Benghazi, Fast and Furious, and all the crimes we don’t even know about yet. The man has blood on his hands and we can’t let him get away with it.
An ancient dictum popularized in recent years by the late Christopher Hitchens on the path forward, should Tuesday disappoint:
Fiat justitia ruat caelum
Do Justice and Let the Skies Fall