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Ron Radosh

Monthly Archives: July 2012

What Stanley Kurtz has accomplished in his new book Spreading the Wealth: How Obama is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities, to be published on August 2, is nothing less than the complete exposure of President Barack Obama’s secret plans for his second term in office — plans that in reality amount to an assault on the values, well-being ,and quality of life of the very middle-class voters he claims to represent.

The unfortunate title — not an attention-grabber in bookstores —does not covey the breadth of his research, the scholarly yet readable and comprehensive analysis of where the president is coming from, and the nature of the social policy Obama will put into practice if he wins a second term. They amount to an entire gamut of initiatives, some well underway, to redistribute wealth not from the fabled 1% — who really do not have enough to save us from fiscal Armageddon even if the government took 80% of their profits — but from the average, middle-class, hardworking citizens who sought better lives and realized the American dream by moving to the suburbs, where the air is cleaner, the schools are decent, and life is peaceful and integrated.

These citizens are the very swing voters Obama is now courting; his many TV commercials about helping the middle class target them. What Kurtz reveals in chilling detail is that the group of radicals surrounding the president — names most of us (including me) are not familiar with — are nevertheless as dangerous and extreme in their goals as Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, and Reverend Jeremiah Wright. While those three are persona non grata in the White House, these unknown radicals are just as important, and they are planning social policy with Obama’s approval.

Here are their names, and when Kurtz’s book is published, they will hopefully become household names and what they advocate will be there for anyone to see. They are: Mike Kruglik, Obama’s boss and his trainer when Obama was a community organizer in the 1980s; Myron Orfield, a University of Minnesota law professor; John Powell, a law professor at Ohio State University who believes America suffers from structural racism; David Rusk, a former mayor of Albuquerque, NM, who favors annexation of the suburbs by the cities; and Linda Darling-Hammond, a proponent of a politicized curriculum for schools, a close associate of Ayers, and a leader in the administration’s effort to create new national standards and tests for our schools.

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You know that when hosannas of praise rise up for a journalist who died, simply described in the New York Times obituary as a “left-wing writer,” that a great deal remains unsaid. The writer who passed away a few days ago is Alexander Cockburn, and the piece by Colin Moynihan says that he became known as an “unapologetic leftist, condemning what he saw as the outrages of the right but also castigating the American liberal establishment when he thought it as being timid.” He is described by a former colleague at the Village Voice as having “a remarkable mind.”

One could say his mind was remarkable, if one chooses to use that word to describe someone who once wrote that the Soviet Union in Leonid Brezhnev’s day was “the golden age of the Soviet working class,” and who regularly reprinted Soviet and Cuban disinformation from their intelligence agencies as unadulterated truths.

In many ways, Alex Cockburn was the true successor of Walter Duranty, a man who wrote to serve the enemies of the United States and to glorify what he saw as the great achievements of the Bolsheviks and their successors.

So let us turn now to what others have said about him. The Washington Post obituary writer refers to him as “an avowed liberal — even a radical,” which is like saying Pat Buchanan is just another conservative, even one possibly on the far Right. Ralph Nader, we learn, called Cockburn a man of the Left “who defined the frontiers of candid progressive ideas.” What one can learn is that Cockburn could be judged by the views of his admirers.

One of them is Justin Raimondo, the proprietor of Antiwar.com, the website that tried its best to forge a Red-Brown alliance of the Right and the far Left in the cause of opposition to “American imperialism and interventionism.” He reminds us, because he was Cockburn’s comrade in opposition to the NATO war against the Milosevic regime during the Clinton presidency, during which Cockburn shared the platform at rallies with Pat Buchanan. Raimondo thinks Cockburn was not of the Left, but was a populist anarcho-syndicalist, whatever that may be, and later, he thinks that Cockburn was having a “paleoconservative moment,” since he was “a paleo-radical who had had survived long enough to be considered a reactionary.”

Raimondo and his friends on the paleocon Right of course would be happy to have Cockburn as an ally, but to exonerate Cockburn of Stalinism simply ignores all the evidence of the many times Cockburn — like his father Claud, who served the NKVD during the Spanish Civil War as Stalin’s favorite toady journalist in Spain – lied on behalf on totalitarians.

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You all recall the following quote from Alvy Singer, Woody Allen’s character in Annie Hall:

You, you, you’re like New York, Jewish, left-wing, liberal, intellectual, Central Park West, Brandeis University, the socialist summer camps and the, the father with the Ben Shahn drawings, right, and the really, y’know, strike-oriented kind of, Red Diaper, stop me before I make a complete imbecile of myself.

Allen’s co-writer Marshall Brickman once quipped that these camps were places in which you scored points if your father was going to jail for violating the Smith Act.

Woody’s character was talking to his girlfriend, whom he easily identified as a bona fide Red Diaper baby, and who went to “socialist summer camps.” So what were these camps all about, anyway?

The issue has gone viral since The Daily Caller ran a story yesterday about President Obama’s nominee for head of The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Erica Groshen, who evidently sent her own children to  Camp Kinderland sometime in the 1990s.

Sometimes some on the American Right like to make a fool of themselves, and this is one of those times. Her husband made the mistake in May 2011 of giving the gigantic sum of $20 to the Working People’s Party, an electoral spinoff of ACORN and company. But as for Ms. Groshen, as another story reveals, she has the backing of Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute who has stated for the record: “[Groshen is] a very, very good economist and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with her,” and adding “no-one could be more Republican than I am.”

She also said that no BLS commissioner could by herself skew the agency’s research or products. The BLS is “a vast bureaucracy with one person at the helm. … It’s just very difficult to change that vast group of technocrats,” she said.

If Ms. Groshen is good enough for Furchtgott-Roth, she’s good enough for me. Sure, Ms. Groshen is undoubtedly a leftist of some sort, but whom do you expect Obama would appoint to the BLS post, Mel Leffler? Any president is entitled to appoint someone he wants, and she has the solid credentials for what is essentially a bureaucratic management position.

But because Americans for Limited Government wants her investigated because she sent her own kids to Commie camp, the camp’s prettifiers have gone all out making jokes about how nutty the right is to think anything but camping went on there.

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Just when I thought I had made a convincing argument that Obama was a politician whose outlook is akin to that of Europe’s left-wing social democrats and that the modern Democratic Party is the equivalent of Europe’s social-democratic parties, along comes director Milos Forman to argue the opposite in the op-ed pages of the New York Times.

Forman, most well-known in this country as the director of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Amadeus, is a Czech émigré who lived in Czechoslovakia from 1932 until 1968, thereby gaining first-hand experience of both Nazi and communist totalitarianism’s opposition to freedom. He presents vivid anecdotes of what it was like to experience the jackboot of the secret police in his native land. He knows first-hand its horrors. Even TV interviews, he learned, had to be scripted, when one was interviewing a leader of the Communist Party or the state.

No one can gainsay Forman’s knowledge of totalitarian regimes. He speaks the truth. But then he performs an agile sleight of hand that goes like this: Totalitarianism of the communist fashion worked in a certain way. That was socialism. What took place in communist Czechoslovakia does not occur in the U.S. Our president is not the equivalent of any of the Czech communists he knew so well. Therefore, Obama is not a socialist.

Forman accuses conservatives — he names Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh — of calling Obama a socialist. He writes:

They falsely equate Western European-style socialism, and its government provision of social insurance and health care, with Marxist-Leninist totalitarianism. It offends me, and cheapens the experience of millions who lived, and continue to live, under brutal forms of socialism.

In making that argument, Forman reveals his own confusion, and in effect says that to say Obama is a socialist is to say he is a Marxist-Leninist totalitarian. Of course Obama is NOT a communist. He is an elected leader of a politically democratic republic. He is constrained in policies he would like to implement by a Congress and a vigorous Republican opposition. Nevertheless, a strong case has been made — here at PJM and in other conservative journals of opinion and in various serious books — that Barack Obama favors and pursues policies that are indeed the equivalent of redistributionist socialist measures favored today, for example, by François Hollande and his new government in France.

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Writing in the New York Times last Sunday, the paper’s Paris bureau chief Steven Erlanger asked the question: “What’s a Socialist?” The question was undoubtedly raised because of the recent electoral victory in France of Francois Hollande, the country’s first socialist chief since 1988. His party also garnered a “whopping majority in Parliament.” Erlanger continued: “What does it mean to be a Socialist these days, anyway?”

A good question indeed, since so many conservatives have tried to make a case that Barack Obama is a socialist. Erlanger does not write anything to directly answer that question, but cites a conversation he had with the most well-known Parisian intellectual, writer Bernard-Henri Levy, whom he quotes as saying the following:

‘There are no more socialists — if they were honest they would change the name of the party,” he told me.  Socialism “evokes the nightmare of the Soviet Union, whose leaders named themselves socialists.” Today, he maintains, European socialists are essentially like American Democrats — there has been no ideological left in France that matters since the effective demise of the Communist Party, which was “the true ‘exception francaise.’” (emphasis added)

Levy, in making that comparison, has let the cat out of the bag. It may not call itself socialist, but the type of policies the Democratic Party advocates are in effect the same kind of statist positions favored by the socialist left in France.

Like Europe’s socialists, the American left-wing Democrats adopt the clarion call of “social justice,” which means the creation of redistributionist policies that “tax the rich” as the would-be answer to funding an ever-growing entitlement state.

Joschka Fischer, who moved from the far left in Germany to the reformist left-wing Green Party, calls the European model of socialism “a combination of democracy, rule of law, and the welfare state,” and he provides the sad example of the deeply flawed and sinking British National Health Service as an example of what he thinks should be adopted as a model elsewhere.

One could say, as my friend, historian Martin J. Sklar, has argued — especially in his book The United States as a Developing Countrythat the United States has long been a country based on “The Mix,” in which our system combines elements of both capitalism and socialism. Sklar explains it this way:

The developmental equivalent … in the United States … consisted of an outlook that we may call The Mix — that is, the mix of the public and private sectors as seats of authority and initiative in shaping, planning, regulating, and containing development, or to put it in baldly ideological terms, the mix of socialism and capitalism.

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Mitt Romney has a big problem, and it is one that he shares with many conservatives and Republicans who seem to believe that given the horrendous nature of Obama’s policies, he has to do very little to win. Unfortunately, a Romney victory in November is anything but a sure thing.

The polls right now show a very close race. And as most observers have noted, the outcome will be decided by a few voters in the swing states that Romney must conquer if he is to overtake the president. The latest Real Clear Politics compendium of all the polls shows Obama with a 3.5% lead in the general election,  47.6% for Obama compared to 44.1% for Romney.

When you break the polls down to look at the data in the critical swing states and see which candidate has more of the crucial Electoral College votes — the only thing that really count — the RCP data give Obama at present 221 and Romney only 181, with 131 a toss-up. So if the election were held today, there is more chance that Obama would get the necessary 270 electoral college votes. The swing states that are presently in neither man’s column include Michigan, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin. And Pennsylvania, that many thought would possibly now be a sure bet for Romney, is ranked as leaning to Obama.

Yes, Romney could, as undoubtedly his strategists are hoping, win some of those states with large enough Electoral College votes to come through at the end. Certainly Karl Rove, when he comments on Fox News and interprets Romney’s 3-2-1 strategy, is optimistic — and provides his spin on the polling data to show why he thinks Romney will win. So if you want to be an optimist and take Rove’s point of view, be my guest. But even if Rove is right — and I certainly hope that he is — I don’t think the outcome he foresees is certain unless there is a groundswell of enthusiasm for Romney.

On this score, my fear is that Romney is being too cautious. When it is time for him to show some independence, be specific on policy, and not just blast Obama, he is essentially weak. First, let’s take up foreign policy. In a major report, Eli Lake writes what is a very disparaging piece of journalism for those of us who hope Romney will show he can be a leader. We all know that Barack Obama has had an abysmal record in foreign policy, from the “Reset” with Russia, to the Middle East, and now, in particular, with the crisis in Syria. What does Romney propose to do if he were in the White House instead of Obama?

What Lake shows is that Romney prefers to ignore the issues and hammer relentlessly on one thing alone — the economy. He has no senior policy staffer who coordinates positions and talks regularly with the candidate, and only engages in rather meaningless conference calls. We all remember that Marco Rubio gave a brilliant foreign policy speech a few weeks ago at AEI, but Romney evidently cancelled a major foreign policy speech he was originally going to give in May or June. Most disconcerting is the report that Alex Wong, described by Lake as his main foreign and legal policy advisor, is  “a 32-year-old Harvard Law School graduate, [who] has no practical foreign-policy experience beyond a 2005 summer internship at the U.S. Mission to the U.N.”

In contrast, during the 2008 campaign, John McCain — although he is on top of the issues on foreign policy all on his own — “had Randy Scheunemann, a former national security adviser to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, performing this job during the 2008 race.”

On domestic policy, the situation is not much better. Thomas B. Edsall, one of the shrewdest political commentators,  accuses Romney of “playing it dangerously safe.” In previous campaigns, he writes, both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton took positions that challenged their own sides, thereby showing independents that they were capable of taking a stand opposite to their own base when they believed it was wrong. He quotes Bush as denouncing House Republicans in 1999 for wanting to cut the Earned Income Tax Credit and accusing them of trying “to balance their budget on the backs of the poor.” And Clinton worked with Republicans to dismantle the welfare system, and at a major campaign stop standing next to Jesse Jackson, attacked the rapper and activist Sister Souljah for her out-and-out racism.

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