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Ron Radosh

Monthly Archives: November 2012

Governor Mick Huckabee, now a TV and radio talk-show host, seems to be a nice guy. He is kind to everyone and seemingly wants everyone to like him. Unlike other media hosts, he regularly features as guests those with whom conservatives disagree. When The Iron Lady came out in 2011, Huckabee invited on actress Meryl Streep to discuss her performance of Margaret Thatcher. I recall her nervousness as she clearly feared being the guest of a well-known social conservative with whom she had profound disagreements. The Governor quickly put her at ease, and showed that he truly wanted to make her welcome.

Sometimes this works. But yesterday, Huckabee revealed the dangers of such a stance. He had as guests on his radio program none other than Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, there to give their TV series, The Untold History of the United States, more publicity and attention. Listen to the interview, and you will find one of the most disgraceful interviews by a conservative that you will ever hear.

One might expect that Huckabee or his staff would have done some homework, and if he chose to have these two advocates of what Roger L. Simon rightfully calls “Stalin porn” on his program, ask them challenging questions. You will be waiting a long, long time. Instead of asking them any tough questions at all, Huckabee allows them to use their assigned time to spout leftist propaganda without any objection or disagreement. Indeed, at one point, historian Kuznick praises Joseph Stalin and chastises the United States during World War II for not doing Stalin’s bidding, arguing that the U.S. could have come to their aid earlier and not refused a second front in Europe when Stalin wanted it. After all, Kuznick said, Stalin was “anti-fascist” when no other powers were.

Clearly, Kuznick does not realize that in fact Stalin was preparing his alliance with the Nazis during the period of the Nazi-Soviet Pact way before it was announced, and the nature of his anti-fascism was spurious to the core. Indeed, as Foreign Minister Molotov had said in a famous statement, “fascism is a matter of taste.” The NKVD gave advice and aid to the Gestapo, among other things, and the two totalitarian leaders easily accommodated their ideological differences to work together against the West.

Did Huckabee challenge this statement? Not once. Nor did he object when the two repeated their argument about the unnecessary A-bombs dropped on Japan and the United States true purpose as a permanent militaristic power based on hegemonic domination of the world on behalf of American corporations.

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Oliver Stone and his co-author Peter Kuznick are not going to be happy this week. After making scores of media appearances in which he heralded the supposedly great reception for his new TV series and accompanying book, Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States, which airs each week for 10 episodes on the CBS-owned network Showtime, Stone is finally getting the negative response he feared.

First, Stone was hit hard by Michael Moynihan at Newsweek/The Daily Beast. Declaring Stone and Kuznick’s film “junk history,” Moynihan called Stone’s work “swivel-eyed, ideological history,” based on “dubious quotes and sources,” a veritable “marvel of historical illiteracy.” Coming on the heels of my own debunking of Stone, “A Story Told Before: Oliver Stone’s Recycled History of the United States,” Stone and Kuznick received two substantive critiques in one week.

Stone, of course, completely ignored my own substantive article, alluding to it without naming me as an example of “a few far-right diatribes” that do not warrant response. Stone bragged that “the majority of reviews and articles have been positive,” until that is – the piece by Moynihan that he had to answer since it appeared in what he considers a mainstream media venue. Since the original author has the last word, Moynihan hit Stone hard in his own answer, that appears after Stone’s response as an update. Moynihan easily further demolishes Stone and Kuznick, concluding after presenting more evidence that their work “is activism masquerading as history.”

This Sunday, however, Stone and Kuznick will be even more upset. The New York Times Magazine features a story by editor Andrew Goldman, “Oliver Stone Rewrites History-Again.” Goldman’s story, which summarizes Stone’s theory behind the TV series and has many vignettes based on his own interview with the director, notes among other things that Stone never really took back his incendiary comment that there is “Jewish domination of the media” and that Israel’s “powerful lobby in Washington” controls U.S. foreign policy. The apology he supposedly made to the Anti-Defamation League was forced on him to avoid cancellation of “Untold History,” and Stone now told Goldman that he should not have used the word “Jewish,” but that Israel has “seeming control over American foreign policy” and that AIPAC has “undue influence.” He accuses them of “militating for the war in Iraq,” completely ignoring that in fact, Israel did not favor the war, considering Iran its major enemy, and that AIPAC in particular never lobbied on its behalf. Each time Stone explains himself, he further puts his foot in his mouth.

When Goldman eventually gets to the new Showtime series, readers learn that Stone’s accolades come mainly when he presents his film to sympathetic viewers from the far left Nation magazine, as in a forum held in New York after the annual New York Film Festival. Referring to the magazine as “the left’s beloved 147 year-old weekly,” Goldman quotes its editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel, as saying that Stone’s film “is what we try to do at The Nation,” which if anything, is more of a giveaway about its reliability than she imagines. That she sees the film as challenging “the orthodoxy” and the “conformity of our history” is a statement that should, if anything, be very embarrassing to those who think she has any credibility.

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Thoughts on Conservatism at Restoration Weekend

November 19th, 2012 - 8:49 am

At Restoration Weekend in West Palm Beach, Florida — the annual gathering of the David Horowitz Freedom Center — I heard the leading conservative analysts and many political leaders present their views of what led to the disastrous defeat of Mitt Romney one short week ago. Politicians were represented by Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and others, and the roster of prominent speakers included Charles Krauthammer, Bret Stephens, Steve Moore, Pat Caddell, Monica Crowley, Michael Reagan, Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter, and scores more. Everyone addressed the issues of what happened and what can we do in the future. Eventually, all the videos of the events will appear on Frontpagemag.com. When they do, watch Charles Krauthammer’s analysis, to me the highlight of the weekend, and Bret Stephens’ very important presentation on foreign policy and the Middle East. Both were brilliant and essential.

The event did lead me to think anew of the reasons for our defeat, and to consider the question once more of what reforms, if any, conservatism and the Republican Party in particular must make. The speeches reminded me of the old Jewish aphorism — that when you hear two Jews arguing, you are listening to 20 different opinions. Michael Reagan began by talking about the need to build an inclusive movement and party that do not leave out scores of Americans that many conservatives seem to believe are beyond hope. His father, he reminded us, began as a liberal Democrat and knew how to speak to those whose ranks he had left. The next morning, Santorum argued for putting the social issues many call divisive front and center, and denied that he and other candidates hurt Romney’s chances by seeking to destroy him during the primaries. And so it went, the entire weekend long.

So now, here are some of my own thoughts from after the weekend’s conclusion:

1. The Republican Party has to moderate its policy on immigration.

This is not simply because it needs to win the votes of Hispanic Americans. It is because a less harsh policy is in our country’s interest, and to treat or appear to treat a growing percentage of our country’s citizens as somehow anti-American means that our movement is doomed to oblivion. To some extent, this is already being done. In last week’s New Yorker, the political reporter Ryan Lizza spent much time with Texas Republicans, and showed how the largest state Republican Party in our country has rejected its once tough restrictionist policy.  As Ted Cruz, the senator-elect from Texas, told him, “‘If Republicans do not do better in the Hispanic community,’ he said, ‘in a few short years Republicans will no longer be the majority party in our state.’ He ticked off some statistics: in 2004, George W. Bush won forty-four per cent of the Hispanic vote nationally; in 2008, John McCain won just thirty-one per cent. On Tuesday, Romney fared even worse.”

This demographic truth, however, does not mean that a policy based on self-deportation, mass arrests of illegal immigrants, or building a complete barrier to illegal immigration via a fence or more border agents is the answer. The Texas Republicans once held such a tough approach, but this past year, at its state convention, the party voted overwhelmingly to change its policy. Lizza writes:

In 2010, the platform of the Republican Party of Texas included some of the country’s most restrictionist language on immigration. It referred repeatedly to “illegal aliens” and called for an “unimpeded deportation process,” elimination of all government benefits to unauthorized immigrants, and the adoption of policies that would mirror the controversial “Show me your papers” provision of Arizona’s immigration law.

Early this year, Martinez de Vara and his allies from the Texas Federation of Hispanic Republicans decided that they would rewrite the state Party platform on immigration. “There was a minority in the Party that was vocal and basically hijacking that issue,” he said. “And so we took it to the convention.” The Republican Party of Texas’s convention includes some nine thousand delegates. They met in early June, in Fort Worth. Martinez de Vara pushed new language through a subcommittee on immigration that he chaired and then through a full committee. Munisteri, the Party chairman, made sure that the issue received a thorough hearing, a move that angered a significant faction of his party. The debate came down to a contentious floor fight in which the new language was challenged four times. Martinez de Vara rose at one point and delivered the soliloquy that he gave me about how building a wall and confiscating property was big government. “When I said that on the floor of the Republican Party of Texas convention,” he said, “with nine thousand of the most diehard conservatives, people who paid two or three thousand dollars to go to Fort Worth and participate, I got seventy-five per cent of the vote. Because they all know it’s true!”

The platform no longer refers to “illegal aliens” and no longer has any language that could be construed as calling for Arizona-style laws. Instead, it proposes a “common ground” to find market-based solutions and “the application of effective, practical and reasonable measures to secure our borders.” Rather than expelling eleven million immigrants, it says, “Mass deportation of these individuals would neither be equitable nor practical.” Most significant, Martinez de Vara won adoption of language calling for a temporary-worker program. At around the time that Mitt Romney was winning the primary by attacking his opponents for being too soft on immigration, the largest state Republican Party in America was ridding its platform of its most restrictionist immigration language and calling for a program to allow unauthorized immigrants to stay in the U.S. legally and work.

[My emphasis]

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Academic Malpractice: The Case of Grover Furr

November 13th, 2012 - 4:47 pm

I was not going to write about Prof. Grover Furr of Montclair State University. I did not want to call more attention to him, which he obviously craves. But now that the video of his speech at a recent forum has gone viral on the internet, thanks to the Washington Examiner, and is being featured on other sites as well, I have decided it is time to speak out about this particularly imbecilic member of the Academy.

Professor Furr is a professor of medieval English literature, but what has led to all the hullabaloo about him is his decades-long defense of the old Soviet Union, and in particular of the years in which one of the 20th century’s most horrendous monsters, Josef Stalin, wreaked havoc on the lives of the people living under his reign of terror. Professor Furr has been in the business of Stalin worship for quite some time.

So shameful is this man that he actually tried to lead a protest against a speech by one of the most brilliant contemporary scholars, Timothy Snyder of Yale University. Snyder is the author of the magisterial and highly acclaimed book Bloodlands, which the Economist rightfully chose as its “Book of the Year.” Professor Furr, it seems, cannot countenance any scholar who engages in rigorous research. “Instead of studying Nazi atrocities or Soviet atrocities separately, as many others have done,” Anne Applebaum writes, Snyder “looks at them together,” revealing that “the two systems committed the same kinds of crimes at the same times and in the same places, that they aided and abetted one another, and above all that their interaction with one another led to more mass killing than either might have carried out alone.” Applebaum’s accolades are among many Snyder has rightfully received. His book is one of lasting value that not only informs, but leads one to see the past in a new way.

Without engaging in the kind of real scholarly work that Timothy Snyder and Anne Applebaum have both done in their respective works, Furr simply takes to his computer to put out blast after blast at anyone who dares to tell the truth about Stalinism or to cast aspersion on the years in which the USSR existed. He actually writes that “Snyder is a most unsuitable speaker for any discussion of the Holocaust, or of Eastern European history generally.” As most sane people realize, that judgement applies more accurately to Furr himself, rather than to a major historian like Timothy Snyder. That Furr can even write these words about Timothy Snyder is itself an indictment of Furr, and reveals to anyone with an  ounce of intelligence what a fraud he is.

What has now created the storm that has made Furr visible are his statements at the recent forum at Montclair, where he called it a “big lie” that Stalin killed millions of people. “I have yet to find one crime — yet to find one crime — that Stalin committed,” Furr said. “I know they all say he killed 20, 30, 40 million people — it is bullshit. … [Nazi propagandist] Goebbels said that the Big Lie is successful and this is the Big Lie: that the Communists — that Stalin killed millions of people and that socialism is no good.”

His field might be medieval literature, but if you consult his own website, it is readily apparent that what most interests him, and the cause to which he is singlemindedly devoted, is defense of Stalin’s reputation. Evidently a member or follower of the 1960s era Maoist group the Progressive Labor Party — a breakaway movement from the Communist Party U.S.A. that saw fit to defend China during the years of the Moscow-China split and to try to build a new Marxist-Leninist communist organization to replace what they called the “revisionist” official American Communist group — Furr now appears as its only remaining public face.

Think for a moment that someone like this is actually teaching at an American public university.

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If we can turn away from the elections for a moment, and the future of the Republican Party, a more fundamental problem exists. It is nothing less than the nature of the American culture. By the term “culture,” I am not referring to the social issues that usually come up when one talks about culture wars; i.e., abortion, gay rights, religion, etc. Rather, I am talking about the perception and outlook that stand beneath the way our American public define the very nature of civic life in our democratic capitalist society.

That is why I regularly borrow from the Left, as some astute observers of my previous column noted in some comments, the works of the Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci, and particularly his theory of cultural hegemony. As I wrote in my concluding paragraph, we have to “wage a war of position on the cultural front and to do all possible to challenge the ascension of a failed intellectual liberal ideology, whether it is in the form of Progressivism, liberalism or socialism.” I’m referring to the kind of work Fred Siegel carries out in a new book he has just finished writing, and which I had the pleasure of reading in manuscript form, on the nature of American liberalism. When it is eventually published, I believe it can have the kind of impact that great works of history like Richard Hofstadter’s books had in the 1940s and ’50s.

Siegel shows that from its very inception, liberalism was a flawed ideology whose adherents substituted its would-be virtues as a way of distancing themselves from most Americans and their workaday lives; an ideology based on a view whose believers saw themselves as superior to most Americans, including those who were merchants, workers, or regular folk, who could not be counted on to comprehend the backwardness of their beliefs.

Continuing on through the post-war decades, Siegel deals with liberalism’s failure to accurately confront the issue of race; its love affair with the New Left and its moral collapse in the face of its anarchism and nihilism; the effects of McGovernism on the political collapse of the Democratic Party, and the resulting politics of “rights-based interest groups” and the new power of public sector unionism, a far different breed than that of the old labor movement of Walter Reuther and George Meany. If we want a different kind of social polity than the one we have now — based on catering to the power of competing interest groups that compose the core strength of the Democratic party — we have to address first the essential question of the kind of social order that liberalism has built.

I’m also referring to the work the intellectuals who edit National Affairs and those who edit The Claremont Review of Books — solid theoretical and analytical work on social policy, education, and law, all of which challenges the intellectual foundations of contemporary liberalism.

If you doubt that this intellectual work is necessary, you might ponder the question of why college-educated Americans are overwhelmingly liberal Democrats or among those even much further to the political Left. An answer appears in this article by Richard Vedder, which appears today in Minding the Campus. Vedder shows that the majority of professors who teach our young people in the humanities are primarily on the Left, as he writes, “62.7 percent of faculty said that they were either ‘far left’ or ‘liberal,’ while only 11.9 percent said they were ‘far right’or ‘conservative.’ The notion that universities are hot beds for left-wing politics has a solid basis in fact. Moreover, the left-right imbalance is growing — a lot. The proportion of those on the left is rising, on the right declining.” The latest research reveals that there are 5.7 professors on the left for each one on the right!

The irony is that this occurs only in the academy, since studies also show that more and more Americans define themselves as basically conservative rather than liberal. So it should come as no surprise that the suburban middle-class and university-educated Americans, having learned their liberalism and leftism at college, vote the way that they do. One study shows that 41 percent of Americans call themselves conservative while only 21 percent call themselves liberal. Thus, as Vedder says, the university faculties are truly “out of sync” with the country at large.

Why is it, he asks, that the faculty are so leftist? He answers:

Regarding politics, while some devise esoteric theories how the inquisitive mind leads to non-mainstream political views, historically intellectuals have sometimes been largely oriented to what today would be called “conservative” views. I think today’s leftish-faculty orientation is easily explained: the academy, even at so-called private schools, is heavily dependent on public funds, and liberals tend to be more disposed to larger government. Liberals like big government, and big government means a better, more secure life for more faculty.

Since the gateway to the professoriate is through professors themselves, right-leaning prospective faculty are sometimes turned off by the usually correctly perceived need to suppress their views in order to get an appointment and tenure. Those who do not share the affinity for big government are often shunned, leading conservative/libertarian groups such as the Charles Koch Foundation to fund little campus enclaves where right-minded professors can teach and do research without harassment. Attempts to form those enclaves are often bitterly fought by the faculty. Promoting “diversity” in higher education means supporting relatively trivial variations in physical attributes of humans (such as skin color or gender differences), not the far more important differences of the mind manifested in verbal and written expression.

Another realm of mis-education is that of the popular media. This week, I have written about this in an article published in The Weekly Standard, which fortunately the editors have not put behind their firewall. It is titled “A Story Told Before: Oliver Stone’s recycled leftist history of the United States.” Stone’s TV weekly series premiers Nov.12th on the CBS-owned network Showtime, and will eventually be used by leftist professors in their own history courses on our campuses. It is, I show, nothing less than a rehash of old Communist propaganda from the 1950s offered up as both something new and as the true hidden history of our country’s past.

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Why Obama Won — and What Conservatives Must Do

November 6th, 2012 - 10:15 pm

There are no ways to get around the facts. For Republicans and conservatives and independents who wanted a new direction for our country, the victory of President Obama is sad — and for many of us, unexpected. Those conservatives who assured us with statistics, theories, and arguments about Romney winning the White House, even in a landslide, should be eating their hats.

In the past week, conservatives who usually disagree with each other about many things, including Fred Barnes, Peggy Noonan, Dick Morris, my PJM colleague Roger Kimball, George F. Will,  Karl Rove, and Michael Barone, among others, provided analysis and arguments, all of which led to predictions of an inevitable Romney victory. Instead of the outcome they all looked forward to and assumed would be inevitable given Obama’s failures and the state of the economy, they found that their theories collapsed as the returns poured in. Instead of a long night, by 11:30 p.m. even Fox News had called the election for the president. Yes, Karl Rove thought their statistics desk called it too early, but 15 minutes later he too agreed that Ohio had gone for the president.

So what happened? I had been trying to warn my optimistic friends in recent days that I thought Obama would win, and was regularly greeted with a slew of polls meant to prove I was wrong. So here are some of my thoughts and reactions, written before I can be influenced by the pundits who will be writing in tomorrow morning’s newspapers and appearing on TV talk shows.

First, the Obama campaign’s decision to frighten women worked. Republicans did not wage a campaign on social issues, but the Obama team ran commercials in all the major swing states emphasizing how Romney would try to outlaw contraception and prohibit their right to choose abortion if they felt there was no alternative, and that half the population would be threatened were a Republican elected.

Republicans lost the Senate with the two candidates who made outrageous statements that Romney simply dealt with by saying he did not agree; he refused to take away his endorsements, which would have indicated he meant business. No one expected the unpopular Claire McCaskill to win, but Todd Akin’s ridiculous statements led even her to win, and Richard Murdock’s outrageous views on rape as something God intended resulted in victory for his Democratic opponent. Without the Republican Party sticking to support for both these candidates, the Republicans might have been able to gain the Senate. With friends like these, conservatives became their own worst enemies, providing the ammunition for the Democratic charge that Republicans were waging a war on women.

Second, there is the hurricane factor. The nation saw Obama in his bomber jacket, accompanied by Republican keynoter Gov. Chris Christie as he visited the devastated areas of New Jersey hit by Hurricane Sandy. For the Democrats, it became the perfect storm that allowed the nation to believe what it wanted desperately to think — that Barack Obama had become a leader whom even the conservative governor of New Jersey worked with and praised for his leadership. The news coverage of Obama and Christie, and the governor’s effusive over-the-top praise of the president, hurt Romney in a significant fashion. Christie’s stance even led Bruce Springsteen to talk on the phone with the governor on Election Day, and to praise him for his working relationship with the president. Christie finally got the call from his hero that he had been yearning for. Gone, I think, are his chances to run for the White House as the Republican candidate four years from now.

Third: the Latino vote. The percentage of Latinos voting increased significantly, and although many are Catholic and socially conservative, the tough stance on immigration reform taken by Romney in the primary campaign hurt his chances of gaining enough of their votes. Republicans like Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, both of Florida, were serious about conservatives developing a position more flexible and less dogmatic than the anti-immigration position of many conservatives. Their views, supported by the Wall Street Journal and most of the business community, were not that of most conservatives. When the voting statistics are tallied, I think we will find that with more Latinos voting for Republicans, Romney might have been able to do much better, if not win. As it is, he will have won far less than George W. Bush, who tried to develop a different policy but lost his fight to gain conservative support on the issue.

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Thoughts on My 75th Birthday

November 1st, 2012 - 11:59 am

Today is my 75th birthday, and I thought instead of a regular column, I would write about my thoughts and feelings about reaching this milestone. To use the Yiddish vernacular, I’m now officially an alta cocker, which when younger we used as a term for those old Jews who sat on benches in the non-hip Miami Beach of yesteryear. Pretty soon I’ll be able to join — if only I could be funny — my brethren who post entries on “Old Jews Telling Jokes.”

In a slightly more serious vein, as I face the reality that I’m entering my twilight years, my thoughts turn to that which has seen me through both good times and bad. I’m fortunate to have had a wonderful marriage for some thirty-seven years to my wife Allis, with whom I now write books, and to have marvelous children and grandchildren. My son Daniel in Brooklyn and his wife Gina have three fantastic kids (Milo, Margalit and Seraphina), and my daughter Laura in Berlin and her partner Silke have two beautiful girls (Malka and Noemie). And our son Mike and his wife Jen, who live nearby us in Maryland, have an always-on-the-go, energetic one year old named Evan. As everyone knows, this is what life is all about, and it affords me great pleasure.

I still have friends not only from high school, but from elementary school as well. About two years ago, I went to New York City where at one of the clubs, a group of old friends from P.S.173 in Washington Heights, where I grew up, met for a wonderful dinner of talk and reminiscences. All four of us, I’m happy to report, were successful in life and have made great contributions in our chosen careers. One of them is a now retired top editor and writer, another a player in Democratic Party circles and a lawyer of renown, and the third a highly regarded New York character actor, whom you have undoubtedly seen on the stage or in various television programs. We all remembered vividly, as if it were yesterday, events from the days in our old neighborhood. Memories do stay with us.

Last week, while on a research trip to West Branch, Iowa, for the book Allis and I are writing on the presidency of Warren Harding, I was able to meet one of my best friends from high school, who works as an artist and is now retired from Cornell College in that state. Seeing old friends and remaining in touch with them is yet another blessing to be counted.

The passing of the years has also led me to reflect on what keeps me going with columns, articles, and books — instead of supposedly enjoying going to the golf course every day (a problem anyway — since I don’t play golf) or constantly traveling to exotic locales. One is supposed to slow down as time goes on, take it easy, enjoy simple reading, watch movies, and just enjoy oneself.

Instead, I find myself angry and as motivated as I ever was to try and tell what I consider to be the truth, and to take up and challenge all the charlatans that surround us. The past few days I have worked hard on an article to appear in the next issue of The Weekly Standard, a review-essay on the new TV documentary series and book by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick titled Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States. Watching the episodes literally made my blood pressure rise. I was quite simply infuriated at what I watched and heard Stone come up with.

I knew that others would not have the expertise and background to take up the misinformation he offers Americans who listen to him and think they are learning the truth about our past. My anger and disdain for a culture that allows Stone’s celebrity as a Hollywood filmmaker — to present himself as a historian who has anything to contribute to comprehending the American story — led me to realize that I had to deal with him, because in most likelihood no one else would.

That desire to answer the likes of Stone has a lot to do with my leftist childhood and adolescence. As readers of my memoir Commies know, my decision to become a historian in the first place came from the inspiration I had from a Marxist-Leninist history teacher at my high school, who told me that “Marx said history is the queen of the sciences.” I don’t know if indeed Marx said that, but I remember the teacher whom I regarded highly telling me that. (One can be influenced by high school mentors a great deal, which is why I think Paul Kengor is correct to call attention in his book to the influence on Barack Obama of the president’s mentor in Hawaii, Frank Marshall Davis. I reviewed it here.)

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