Ron Radosh

Will the Real Barack Obama Stand Up?

As we reach the final days before the election, there has been much speculation about what Barack Obama actually stands for. Is he a closet radical, hiding his true agenda under a facade of moderation and pragmatism? Or is he a centrist, a man who opportunistically used radical connections to start his political ascent, only to ditch them when he got to real political power and influence?

Many analysts have already commented and given their answers. At NRO, Stanley Kurtz, who has done yeoman work uncovering Obama’s past in Chicago, makes the case that Obama was a solid radical of the far Left. On Frontpagemag.com, my friend David Horowitz notes that “for his entire adult life, Obama’s closest political allies have been pro-Soviet progressives like state senator Alice Palmer who chose Obama as the politically appropriate figure whom she chose to inherit her state senate seat; or anti-American radicals like Bill Ayers,” and of course, others like Louis Farrakhan and Rev. Jeremiah Wright.  Horowitz concludes that Obama is “a life-long radical posing as a political liberal to win the trust of a larger constituency.”

On the other hand, the MSM media has echoed Obama’s narrative that he is a mainstream centrist figure on economic policy, foreign policy and domestic policy.  Key advisors to his campaign reflect this stance and are doing their best to convince voters that their positions reflect those of candidate Obama.  Dennis Ross, a man whose defense of Israel and concern for its future is well known, is a major advisor on the Middle East. In the past few days, Ross has returned to Florida to campaign before the Jewish community. Apparently the revelations about the refusal of the Los Angeles Times to release the video they hold about Obama’s presence at and participation in the going away party for the Palestinian activist Rashid Khalidi has aroused doubts about Obama’s commitment to Israel among older Jewish voters.  Ross is now there to reassure Florida’s Jews about Obama’s love for Israel and shore up their vote.  

The question, then, is who is the real Obama? What will he do when he governs?  Will he  govern from the Center, using these same advisors and refusing to move the nation to the Left. But if his real views are those of the Chicago Obama, the man who made the now famous radio interview arguing for redistribution of wealth as a valid legislative goal, will he and the  Democratic majority in both houses of Congress pass the most extreme legislative agenda  that goes way beyond LBJ’s Great Society?

I frankly do not know which Obama will turn up. We will only learn that soon after his inauguration. I do not, however, hold any doubts as to what he once believed.  Most people have not noticed this, but in a few interviews, Obama has said that in the 1980’s, he attended the Socialist Scholars Conferences held yearly at Cooper Union. That sounds like a scholarly assembly of intellectuals who approach their fields from a socialist perspective. Its innocuous name, however, is more than misleading.

I know this, because I was a founder of the original Socialist Scholars Conference, a group started in the 70’s by actual Marxist and socialist scholars, that discussed intellectual issues. The group held a few meetings, and it soon faded into oblivion. A decade later, its name was taken over by a new group that held meetings that were anything but scholarly. They were, in fact, an assembly of left-wing activists from extreme far Left to moderate Left, with panels galore on political issues and activism, without much scholarship of any kind being discussed. In 1983, for example, after my book on the Rosenberg case came out, they convened a panel to attack it from various perspectives- a panel to which I was not asked to participate or given any chance to answer the slanders presented to the audience.  This was not an example of how scholars discuss serious and controversial works. There were also sessions attacking Israel, with no panels defending the Jewish state. I could continue, but the point is clear. I have often wondered which panels Obama attended, and what he got out of the meetings? No one has bothered to ask him.