Obama's Latest Appointment: A Reflection of his Radical Past

Victor Davis Hanson, in his PJM post today,  perfectly delineates where Obama and company come from. But I think Hanson misses one clear link that had been identified during the campaign, but generally ignored. This is Obama’s clear ties to the socialist movement, particularly the cadre of both the so-called Committees of Correspondence, a breakaway split from the Communist Party U.S.A. that still adheres to Marxist-Leninist thinking, and the Democratic Socialists of America, the group started by the late Michael Harrington.


The information is featured today in a left-wing blog post on the 1960s that provides evidence from Carl Davidson, once a leader of Students for a Democratic Society, and author of an old book that provided a far left perspective for social change. The blog post by Aaron Klein offers new information about Obama’s obtaining the support of the New Party during his State Senate campaign in 1996. That political party was created from both the COC and DSA, and had links to ACORN as well. It was founded by a University of Wisconsin socialist activist, Joel Rogers. Details about him may be found here.

Klein writes:

Obama’s campaign last year denied the then­ presidential candidate was ever an actual member of the New Party.

But the New Zeal blog dug up print copies of the New Party News, the party’s official newspaper, which show Obama posing with New Party leaders, listing him as a New Party member and printing quotes from him as a member.

The party’s spring 1996 newspaper boasted: “New Party members won three other primaries this Spring in Chicago: Barack Obama (State Senate), Michael Chandler (Democratic Party Committee) and Patricia Martin (Cook County Judiciary).”

The paper quoted Obama saying, “These victories prove that small-‘d’ democracy can work.”

Klein then continues to bring forth new information he gathered from the DSA Chicago newsletter, which revealed that on April 11, 1996, Obama attended a New Party meeting. At that event, Obama expressed his gratitude for the group’s support and “encouraged (New Party members) to join in his task forces on voter education and voter registration.”  It continues to quote an e-mail from Carl Davidson, who revealed the following:

“A subcommittee met with (Obama) to interview him to see if his stand on the living wage and similar reforms was the same as ours,” recalled Marxist activist Carl Davidson.

“We determined that our views on these overlapped, and we could endorse his campaign in the Democratic Party,” Davidson said.


Davidson was a Chicago member and activist within the New Party. He told WND he handled some of the New Party member databases and attended most of the party’s meetings.

But Obama was a shrewd politician. He was able to bypass New Party rules, which required any candidate seeking their endorsement to formally join the organization. Davidson recalls that they decided “there was no need for him to do so…since the stand of his campaign and the New Party reform planks were practically the same.”  Their program included traditional redistributive socialist goals: “full employment, a shorter work week and a guaranteed minimum income for all adults; a universal ‘social wage’ to include such basic benefits as health care, child care, vacation time and lifelong access to education and training; a systematic phase-in of comparable worth and like programs to ensure gender equity.”

All of the above are a representative amalgam of pie-in-the-sky socialist economic programs that would ignore completely how a modern economy works, and that would quickly bankrupt the nation and destroy the creation of jobs and the ability of business to function.

It also had been revealed during the campaign- by Newsweek no less- that Obama had gone during the 1980s to the annual Socialist Scholars Conference at Cooper Union in New York City. The conference, which took a name from a group created much earlier by genuine socialist scholars (of which I was originally a part), was transformed into an activist socialist get-together from virtually every existing socialist sect in America and held panels on scores of political topics.

So we know that Barack Obama came not only from the world of rough and tumble Chicago politics, which Fred Siegel has written about both for The Weekly Standard and National Review many times during the campaign, but also from the world of radical black  nationalism exemplified by Rev. Jeremiah Wright and the church he ran and which Obama attended regularly.

This past, I think, explains Obama’s propensity to keep appointing rather low-level officials who can operate under the radar and who come from a similar radical or left-wing past. The latest appointment, perhaps not as low level, is that of Hannah Rosenthal, who started her new job last week in the State Department as the special envoy to monitor and report on anti-Semitism. With the growth of anti-Semitism in countries like Britain and France, the job  sounds important and necessary. But what was Ms. Rosenthal’s first salvo aimed at?


As an article in Haaretz reports, her first statement, issued in Israel, was a public blast at Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, for criticizing J-Street and refusing to attend its convention. This is an unprecedented act, since she made her views known on an official trip to Israel on behalf of the administration, and may be the first time an American official has attacked the personal views of an Ambassador to the US from an American ally. Rosenthal’s position is meant to stand up to anti-Semitism; yet, her first headlines have resulted instead from a defense of J-Street, the unrepresentative American Jewish left-wing group that purports to speak on behalf of the mainstream American Jewish community.

The article goes on to report that Rosenthal served on the Board of J-Street before her appointment, and previous to that, was on the Board of Americans for Peace Now, another would-be pro-Israeli group that was highly critical of Israel’s policies and was on the left-wing of the political spectrum.  Rosenthal, it notes, first met Obama in Chicago when he was a state Senator.

What the article does not go on to note,(as Aaron Klein points out on his blog)  however, is that Rosenthal’s husband, Richard Phelps, was a three-term Madison, Wisconsin, executive who worked closely with Joel Rogers, one of the founders of The New Party. Clearly, she met Obama in 1996 when he was gaining the support of The New Party for his campaign.

So once again- as with the appointment of Van Jones- Obama has put in a major position of influence a person from the left-wing of the political spectrum who, as an official whose office monitors anti-Semitism, is using her position to support J-Street, on whose Board she previously sat. Conflict of interest, anyone?  Are the statements she gave to Haaretz, uttered in her official capacity, likely to help or harm the ability of Israel to defend itself against its enemies, or once again work instead to cast doubt among Israelis about the view of Israel really held by the Obama administration?

Ms. Rosenthal notes, parenthetically, that criticism of her appointment comes “from a very few people who blog a lot.” Add this blogger to that list!


UPDATE: Friday, Dec.25th

I was honored to find that I was attacked by the leading conspiracy theorist in America for my pody on the appointment of Hannah Rosenthal by President Obama, and my tying of her appointment to Obama’s contacts during his Chicago years to the Old and New Left.  Writing on his own site, Andrew Sullivan calls my own blog “a petri dish of aging neocon obsessions.” Instead of dealing with the meaning of Obama’s relationship with the left wing in Chicago , he dismisses it as something that took place “over a decade ago,” as if this relatively recent period of time has no effect on the President’s current thought.

I would refer Andrew Sullivan to the post appearing on FrontpageMagazine.com by John Perazzo, who details the influence on Obama’s views of health care he learned from a Communist Party activist, (who later on moved to the terrain of other Marxist and socialist groups) Dr. Quentin Young. Young told Amy Goodman in a 2009 interview that “Barack Obama, in those early days [as a state senator]—influenced, I hope, by me and others—categorically said single payer was the best way, and he would inaugurate it if he could get the support, meaning [Democratic] majorities in both houses, which he’s got, and the presidency, which he’s got. And he said that on more than one occasion….”

As Perazzo writes, Obama’s denial that he ever held that position and never favored a public option is typical of the tactics advocated by Saul Alinsky, “who counseled revolutionaries to conceal their real motives; to say and do whatever is necessary to allay the fears and suspicions of the middle class; and to pursue incremental change where overnight transformation is not possible—knowing they can always agitate for additional change at some point in the future.”

Indeed, contra Sullivan, Obama’s old ideas are most relevant to understanding his actions today.

Next, Sullivan goes on to engage in his own form of McCarthyism, in which  he accuses me of being part of a “throng of Likudniks” who want her out. “Likudnik” becomes the word to throw around like old Joe used “Red” in the 1950s. Sullivan thinks we neo-con Likudniks accuse anyone of anti-Semitism just for being critical of Israeli policy. The issue, however, is not what I or others think of Israeli policy, but the wrongheadedness of Ms. Rosenthal’s most inappropriate comments.


Sullivan  implies that there are no grounds whatsoever for attacking the appointment of Hannah Rosenthal as the State Department point woman for monitoring anti-Semitism. I am simply part of the vile group that wants to get her scalp. What could be wrong for her taking offense at Michael Oren’s condemnation of J-Street? He asserts that I and others think anyone who does so is arguing that to criticize Oren makes one a “closet anti-Semite.”

Well, here are some responses to her views from leading mainstream Jewish organizations—-none of them Likudniks or on the right-wing of the Israeli political spectrum. (Sullivan, of course, simply uses that phrase to intimidate any critics from speaking out, since they will fear being associated with the Israeli right-wing.)

First: From Alan Solow and the Conference of Presidents, the umbrella group of Jewish organizations in the United States. Solow writes:

As an official of the United States government, it is inappropriate for the anti-Semitism envoy to be expressing her personal views on the positions Ambassador Oren has taken as well as on the subject of who needs to be heard from in the Jewish community. Such statements have nothing to do with her responsibilities and, based upon comments I am already receiving, could threaten to limit her effectiveness in the area for which she is actually responsible.

Second: It turns out that among those most embarrassed by her comments was our own State Department, which released this statement from Asst. Secretary of State Jeff Feltman:

The Department of State values its close relationship with Ambassador Michael Oren and his staff at the Embassy of Israel in Washington. The United States and Israel enjoy extraordinarily close ties based on shared values, interests, and history, as well as the deep bonds between the Israeli people and the American people. Ambassador Oren plays an indispensible role in maintaining and strengthening our relationship through his day to day interaction with the Administration and Congress on issues of vital importance to both countries and his vigorous outreach to Americans of all origins and points of view.


It is clear that Feltman’s statement came because, as Politico reported, mainstream Jewish groups were “burning up the lines to the White House” in response to Rosenthal’s interview. And on his fellow blogger Jeffrey Goldberg’s site on The Atlantic, Goldberg makes the very same point I do: “Talk about sticking your nose in places where it doesn’t belong. The Obama Administration official charged with monitoring worldwide anti-Semitism makes her first target… the Israeli ambassador to the United States? I’ll be taking bets now on how long Hannah Rosenthal lasts in the job.” Perhaps Sullivan should read his colleague’s blog before shooting his own mouth off. Or is Goldberg too a neocon Likudnik?

Finally, here are some wise words of wisdom from Shmuel Rosner, a former Haaretz correspondent in Washington, D.C., for many years. He writes:

Rosenthal, a problematic pick for this job to begin with, proved to be more disastrous for the Obama administration than I expected. I didn’t write about her much when she was appointed, because I don’t know her personally, and because some Jewish friends who do know her told me that I should be careful. They told me she’s smart. They told me she’ll be great at this job. They told me that I should hold judgment.

But now it seems quite obvious that Rosenthal isn’t smart – or maybe she’s smart, just not careful, or maybe she’s smart just not the kind of smart needed for this delicate job of anti-anti-Semitism tzar. She was definitely not smart when she sacrificed her ability to execute her mission efficiently for a newspaper headline. And no – she can’t be a successful anti-anti-Semitism tzar. First, because she will hardly be able to cooperate with most major Jewish organizations – something that might become a liability for an official charged with battling anti-Semitism. But more importantly, because Rosenthal is now officially a member of the look-at-them-and-you’ll-know-why-we-don’t-trust-Obama team. Instead of being an asset to Obama, she’s a burden. An unnecessary and unwelcome distraction. Not a healthy position for an official who was just recently appointed for a job that can be easily marginalized.


I suspect that when Rosenthal either apologizes or is forced to resign- a la Van Jones-Andrew Sullivan will blog that the Likudnik neocon bloc forced her out. So I say in advance; I didn’t know we had such power and influence with the Obama  administration. But if she goes, Andrew, I take all the credit due me for helping them move her out to greener pastures.


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