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Ron Radosh

A day or so ago a conservative website called SayAnythingBlog.com set off a firestorm with a blog post.  It was posted by a conservative talk radio host named Rob Port, who with a group from the C-PAC convention took a tour of the White House. The original heading on the post screamed out: “Photo Evidence: Michelle Obama Keeps Socialist Books In The White House Library.”

Much to his consternation, what Port found when they stopped at the small room containing the White House Library were two books that he assumed were chosen by First Lady Michelle Obama, and that proved to him that she and the President were indeed socialists. What Port spotted on the bookshelf, and which he took pictures of, were two books, The American Socialist Movement:1897-1912, written by Ira Kipnis, and what he thought was an even more telling volume, The Social Basis of American Communism, by Nathan Glazer.

“Lookie what I found,” he wrote on the posted blog. Shocking! Two books which by themselves, he admitted, “wouldn’t be a big deal,” but in “the context of Anita Dunn saying Chairman Mao is her favorite political philosopher?  In the context of the Mao ornament on the White House Christmas tree? In the context of Obama’s economic policies? Well, I’ll let you make your own call.” Among the over 300 comments was this rather typical one: “I wonder if the liberals who mock conservatives who refer to Obama as a socialist still find it funny?”

Almost immediately, the press went to town. The British Guardian promptly investigated, and quickly found that the two books had been picked by the First Lady — not the current one, but by Jackie Kennedy, during her husband’s presidency. In 1963 a Yale University Committee had chosen the books to represent different aspects of the American past.

Port quickly backed down, posting a blog update in which he wrote: “According to the Washington Post it was First Lady Jackie Kennedy who oversaw the placing of the books in the White House library, and they’ve been there since 1963.  Apparently no administration since has changed the contents of the library. So the guide I was with didn’t give me the whole story. Either that, or we misunderstood one another.”

But he also added that this misunderstanding did not invalidate the fact that “the Chairman Mao Christmas ornament, the Obama adviser who idolizes Mao and the nationalizations of the banks, car companies and attempted nationalizations of student loans and health care are all, unfortunately, still very true.”

What Port’s comment reveals, however, is the rather simplistic view that his spotting of the books provided further proof of the White House’s secret socialist agenda. It also raises yet another point. These two volumes are considered early classics in the attempt of scholars to explain the growth in America at certain times of both vibrant socialist and communist movements and to understand why they ultimately failed.

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