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Dreams From Frank Marshall Davis

Meet the hard-core Communist who mentored the future 44th President of the United States.

By From the October 2012 issue

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LET’S CUT TO THE CHASE: Frank Marshall Davis was a literal, card-carrying member of Communist Party USA (CPUSA). His card number was 47544. He was pro-Soviet, pro–Red China. He edited and wrote for Party-line publications such as the Chicago Star and the Honolulu Record; contributors to the former actually served as secret agents to Stalin’s Soviet Union. Davis did outrageous Soviet propaganda work in his columns, at every juncture agitating and opposing U.S. attempts to slow Joseph Stalin and Mao Tse-tung. He favored Yalta and Red Army takeovers of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Central and Eastern Europe. He urged America to dump the “fascist” Chiang Kaishek in support of Mao’s Red forces. He wanted Communist takeovers in Korea and Vietnam. He was adamantly, angrily anti-NATO, anti–Marshall Plan, anti–Truman Doctrine. He argued that the U.S. under President Harry Truman—whom he portrayed as a fascist, racist, and imperialist—and under secretaries of state George Marshall and Dean Acheson, was handing West Germany back to the Nazis, while Stalin was pursuing “democracy” in East Germany and throughout the Communist Bloc. He portrayed America’s leaders as “aching for an excuse to launch a nuclear nightmare of mass murder and extermination” against the Soviets and the Chinese— as eager to end all civilization.

In short, Frank Marshall Davis’ writings were outrageous. A Jeremiah Wright sermon or Bill Ayers lecture is tame by comparison.

The federal government certainly took notice. In December 1956, the Democrats who ran the Senate Judiciary Committee summoned Davis to Washington to testify on his activities. He pleaded the Fifth Amendment. No matter, the next year, the Democratic Senate, in a report revealingly titled, “Scope of Soviet Activity in the United States,” publicly listed Davis as “an identified member of the Communist Party.”

Even more remarkable, Frank Marshall Davis’ political antics were so radical that the FBI placed him on the federal government’s Security Index, which meant that he could be immediately detained or arrested in the event of a national emergency, such as a war between the United States and USSR. Davis’ 600-page FBI file includes reports that he had been observed repeatedly photographing Hawaiian shorelines and beachfronts with a telescopic lens. There was (and remains) suspicion that he might have been doing so for foreign intelligence—that is, Soviet intelligence.

And this is just the tip of a list of activities as chilling as a Siberian iceberg.

Oh, and Davis also happened to be a mentor to the current president of the United States of America, one Barack Obama.

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

FRANK MARSHALL DAVIS WAS BORN in December 1905 in Kansas, where he would endure serious racism that spawned justified resentment. No matter conservatives’ horror at the man’s politics, they ought to hold sympathy for the very real racism that young Frank endured. Here was a little boy who was literally nearly lynched one day walking home from school.

Davis’ politics developed slowly and unevenly. Like most black Americans at the time, he initially considered himself loyal to the party of Lincoln—the Republican Party. His evolution to the left was a long, winding road. Ultimately, however, he moved toward “progressivism” and, by World War II, to the farthest extreme of the left: the Communist Party. This development took place during his time in the 1930s and 1940s in Chicago, where, not unlike Barack Obama decades later, he would find himself politically and professionally.

Davis joined the Party during World War II—notably, after the signing of the Hitler-Stalin pact that precipitated not only the war but the Holocaust. Many American Communists (especially Jewish– American Communists) bolted the Party after the signing of the pact; to the contrary, Davis joined up. And from then on, he toed the Soviet/Stalinist line unflinchingly, unerringly, flawlessly. He was the prototype of the dedicated CPUSA foot soldier and loyal Soviet patriot who dutifully served the Motherland.

Davis’ unflagging support of Stalin’s Soviet Union is apparent in a poem he wrote, lovingly titled “To the Red Army.” In this ode to Stalin’s tanks, Comrade Davis exhorted the Soviets to show the West’s “rich industrialists” and political “experts” what Communism could do: 

Smash on, victory-eating Red warriors!
Drive on, oh mighty people’s juggernaut!

Show the marveling multitudes
Americans, British, all your allied brothers
How strong you are
How great you are
How your young tree of new unity
Planted twenty-five years ago
Bears today the golden fruit of victory!

Truman, Churchill, and the “Pontius Pilates”

But though Frank Marshall Davis was gung ho for Stalin and the Soviets, he was brutal to Harry Truman. Davis’ peak period of pro-Communist, pro-Soviet propaganda work was 194651, when Stalin’s Red Army was rampaging through Eastern Europe and erecting an Iron Curtain in front of a path of conquest, blood, and destruction. Standing in Stalin’s way was a former Missouri farmer and haberdasher-turned-politician named Harry S. Truman, president from 1945 to 1953. This means that Davis’ most bitter foe, whom he tarred and feathered and eviscerated in his writings, was not a Republican but a Democrat. Likewise treated were leading members of Truman’s administration, from Secretary of State George Marshall to Attorney General Tom Clark.

Davis’s Communist Party newspaper, the Chicago Star, for which he was the founding editor in chief, trashed Truman with headlines like “White house to white hoods: KKK hails Truman’s policy as its own” and “TRUMAN KNIFES HOPE FOR PEACE.” In his columns, Davis excoriated the Democratic president as trigger-happy Truman, eager to launch World War III against the USSR and its affiliated “new democracies,” the Party-line phrase that Davis used to describe the captive nations of the Communist Bloc choking under the jackboots of the Red Army. He insisted that Truman was pursuing “a new world war,” a “program for World War III.” He claimed that Truman wanted to invade, nuke, and even “rule Russia,” and that his administration’s anti-Communism was really just veiled “racism” and “fascism.” The Truman administration, said Davis, “talks like an angel” but “acts like the devil.” Truman was seeking “full war mobilization,” rushing toward his final “crowning act,” which was to kill “almost the whole world” and to “write finis to civilization!”

According to Davis, this was a trait that Truman shared with all anti-Communists, who, by Davis’ reckoning, were the “new Pontius Pilates.” In fact, he insisted that anti-Communism was un-Christian. He imagined Judgment Day, when anti-Communist Christians would be called to account for their transgressions. And the Catholic Church especially deserved a good scourging. “The Christian churches, and the Catholic church in particular,” preached Davis in one column, “are making a grievous error in their shortsighted belief that the major enemy of Christianity is Communism.”

Davis insisted that “The evidence of logic and history should align the deeply religious with believers in socialism and communism.” He proclaimed that a genuine Christian should be a genuine Communist. And given that most Christians in America were anti- Communist and anti-Soviet, he questioned whether America was thus really a Christian nation. True Christians, Davis declared, “should be working together as one” with Stalin and the Communists.

Not only was Soviet Russia not anti-religious, he amazingly asserted, but it had saved the world from Hitler’s “anti-Christian paganism.” Really, Christians Worldwide should have paid homage to Stalin. Instead, they were blinded by their anti-Communist bigotry.

Speaking of anti-Communists, Davis harbored a special hatred for Winston Churchill, who, like Truman, opposed Stalin’s Soviet Union—the country to which Davis dedicated his heart, his mind, his soul, and his pen. His assessment of Churchill was out of sync not only with Americans at the time but through the ages, as most still consider Churchill a great hero, a national treasure to the United States as well as to the United Kingdom, and even “the man of the century.” And yet, Davis charged that “the only people Churchill gives a rap about are the white people of the British Empire,” and that Churchill wanted America to join him in bludgeoning “all other countries into submission.” He bemoaned that Churchill envisioned a postwar U.S.-UK alliance that excluded the USSR. Churchill desired a two-nation alliance because of “a pattern for Anglo-American world domination, for super-imperialism.” He foresaw that America and Britain would greedily “divide up Asia and the Pacific islands as they see fit” and establish “semi-fascist governments all over Europe.” He warned not of a Soviet menace but “Anglo-American imperialist domination.” Davis portrayed the Marshall Plan as a form of “racism,” “slavery,” and “colonial imperialism”—again, the Kremlin line—and as part of this Anglo-American conspiracy.

When Churchill came to Fulton, Missouri, in March 1946 to warn the world that an “Iron Curtain” was closing across Europe, Davis was livid. He and his CPUSA comrades mocked Churchill’s claims; to the contrary, they maintained that the only “Iron Curtains” were those being erected by anti-Communists in the American press and General Motors. The problem was not Stalin’s Iron Curtain, Davis scoffed, but “G.M.’s iron curtain,” being raised by “General Motors’ Hitlers.” 

The Chicago Crew

DURING THIS post–World War II period, when his Communist agitation was at its peak, Frank Marshall Davis became involved in seemingly every Communist front in Chicago—and there were plenty of them. 

Among them was the Abraham Lincoln School, located on the top floor of a building in the heart of Chicago’s Loop. Davis first hooked up with the school in 1944, the same year Congress correctly listed it as “Communist.” Run by well-known Party members like Davis’ good friend William L. Patterson, the school was notorious for its Marxist instruction. The Chicago Tribune labeled it the “little Red school house.” Davis taught a history of jazz course there. More than that, he served on the board of directors.

Davis was also intimately familiar with the Citizens’ Committee to Aid Packing-House Workers. A surviving April 12, a member and among the small group of journalistically inclined individuals who comprised the group’s publicity committee. Joining him in both capacities was Vernon Jarrett.

Jarrett would become a major name in Chicago and known nationally. He wrote syndicated columns for the Chicago Tribune before joining the Chicago Sun-Times, on whose editorial board he later served. When Jarrett died in May 2004, he was hailed in a Washington Post obit titled “Vernon Jarrett, 84; Journalist, Crusader.” 

The Post’s tribute neglected to note that in his youth Jarrett was elected to the Illinois Council of American Youth for Democracy, the CPUSA youth wing, at the group’s 1946 national convention. He also wrote for the left-wing Chicago Defender. In any or all of those capacities, Jarrett would have met Frank Marshall Davis.

In April 1948, Jarrett and Davis put their minds together for the Packing-House Committee and their pens to joint service defending Chicago’s oppressed proletariat. “The duty of this Committee,” declared their statement “is to give publicity to…the plight of the workers.” 

Today, their political heirs put their minds to joint service at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In 1983, Jarrett’s son, Dr. William Robert Jarrett, married a young woman named Valerie Bowman. Valerie Bowman became Valerie Jarrett, who today is Barack Obama’s top adviser. (See my profile of her, “Letting Obama Be Obama,” TAS, July/August 2011.)

If that’s not eerie enough, there is another connection between Valerie Jarrett’s and Obama’s political ancestors. His name was Robert R. Taylor, and Davis worked with him at a CPUSA/ Comintern “antiwar” rally in Chicago in November 1940. The group behind the rally was the hideous American Peace Mobilization, later described by Congress as “one of the most seditious organizations which ever operated in the United States.” This “instrument of the Communist Party line” was “one of the most notorious and blatantly Communist fronts ever organized in this country.” The goal of the American Peace Mobilization was to keep the U.S. out of World War II, because, at the time, Hitler was allied with Stalin via the Hitler-Stalin pact. And so, the good comrades at CPUSA saluted the red flag. Davis and Taylor worked together on an event billed as “Negroes and National Defense.” 

Robert Taylor was the first African American head of the Chicago Housing Authority. He also appears in the major 1944 congressional report “Investigation of Un-American Propaganda Activities in the United States.” 

Taylor was the maternal grandfather of Valerie Jarrett.

The Canter Family—and David Axelrod

COLLABORATING WITH Barack Obama and Valerie Jarrett at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is David Axelrod, who, in another bizarre twist of political fate, likewise has roots in this same Chicago crowd and period. (See my profile, “David Axelrod, Lefty Lumberjack,” TAS, March 2012.)

Architect of Obama’s “hope and change” message and presidential campaigns, Axelrod is a native New Yorker who, like Obama and Frank Marshall Davis, found his political and professional calling in Chicago. In the 1970s, while Obama was being mentored in Hawaii by Davis, Axelrod was being mentored in Chicago by people with connections back to that same Chicago crew.

Axelrod had enrolled at the University of Chicago in the fall of 1972, majoring in political science and writing for the student newspaper. He soon secured a nice job as a very young political columnist for the Hyde Park Herald. Through his work at the Herald, Axelrod met David Canter and Don Rose. Canter and Rose mentored Axelrod and helped set him on a path that led to Barack Obama and the White House.

David Canter was the son of Harry Jacob Canter. Harry had been secretary of the Boston Communist Party. In 1930, he ran for governor of Massachusetts on the Communish Party ticket. Harry was so progressive that in 1932 he received a special invitation to Stalin's USSR, which he eagerly accepted, bringing along his entire family. Fluet in Russian, he taught printing techniques to the Bolsheviks, translating major volumes of Lenin's writings.

In 1937, Harry and family suddenly left Moscow and landed in Chicago. Close to Harry not just biologically but ideologically was his son, David Simon Canter, born in Boston in 1923, and nurtured in the USSR under Stalin's collectivization, mass wealth redistribution, and five-year plans.

Like Axelrod, whom he would mentor, David Canter attended the University of Chicago, writing for the college newspaper and other publications. He eventually edited the Packinghouse Workers Union newsletter.

David’s surviving son, Marc, recalls “all sorts of wild memories of being the son of one of the organizers of the meatpackers union. Don’t get me started!” David Canter’s politics, like his father’s, became especially bold—and pro-Soviet. He was eventually subpoenaed to testify before the Democrat-run House Committee on Un-American Activities, where he refused to answer any questions about past or present membership in the Communist Party.

The committee was especially interested in an operation called Translation World Publishers. The committee had evidence that “the Soviet Government advanced to Translation World Publishers…the sum of $2,400” for a specific set of books to be produced.

The committee concluded that Translation World Publishers was “an outlet for the distribution of Soviet propaganda,” was “subsidized by Soviet funds and was created by known Communists to serve the propaganda interests of the USSR.” Canter, according to the committee, had thereby failed to comply with the provisions of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. To clarify: This is the same Canter who directly mentored David Axelrod.

Frank Marshall Davis would have met the Canters in any number of functions. At the Abraham Lincoln School, Harry taught the Monday evening class, 8:45–10:15 p.m., titled “Wartime Trade Union Problems.” Further, the Canter family was very Much acquainted with and appeared in Davis’ Chicago Star.

To cite a couple of examples, Harry Canter is listed in the April 28, 1947, edition, wishing “May Day Greetings” along with other “Friends” of the Star. The May 15, 1948, “Inside Labor” column spotlighted Canter, who was a candidate for delegate to the International Typographical Union’s 90th convention, as a “leader in the fight against the Taft-Hartley Act” who “calls himself a ‘non-partisan Independent-Progressive.’” That would be a progressive who happened to have run CPUSA in Boston and worked in Moscow as a Soviet translator and editor.

Davis eventually sold his Chicago Star in 1948 to something called the Progressive Publishing Company. A look at the officers and stockholders for the company revealed the usual suspects, including Harry Canter, secretary of the four-man board of directors.

Again, the overlapping orbits are fascinating. The ghosts of Chicago’s frightening political past are alive and well in Washington today.

Davis Called to Testify

WHEN FRANK MARSHALL DAVIS sold the Star in 1948, he suddenly made his way to Hawaii, a move almost certainly dictated by the Party. There, as his declassified 600-page FBI file shows, his bread would be buttered by Harry Bridges’ Communist- controlled International Longshore and Warehouse Union. The ILWU bankrolled a Communist newspaper called the Honolulu Record, for which Davis immediately began writing a regular column that lasted through 1957. Those columns picked up where Davis left off at the Star, with the same incendiary pro-Soviet themes and Party agitprop.

It is no surprise that these columns at the Honolulu Record, on top of everything Davis had written for the Star and elsewhere, were read not so much by Joe Sixpack but by the boys in Washington. The Democrats running the committees at the U.S. Capitol wanted to talk to Davis. Things reached a critical mass in late 1956, when Davis was summoned to Washington to testify on a decade and a half of work and association with Communists, Communist fronts, and Communist causes.

Liberals today—including the leading Obama biographers— try to portray Frank Marshall Davis as a benign civil rights fighter who was an unfair victim of McCarthyism, of ol’ Tail Gunner Joe and his rapid Republican smear-mongers. To the contrary, Davis did not deal with Joe McCarthy; it was Democrats, especially those on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who pursued him and his friends. Democrats who controlled the U.S. Senate included intense anti-Communists like John F. Kennedy (D-Mass.), Pat McCarran (D-Nev.), and, among others, Thomas Dodd (D-Conn.), father of recent Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.). Most ironic, the Republican who questioned Davis was Utah Senator Arthur Watkins, the nation’s top anti-McCarthyite. It was Watkins who was the namesake of the 1954 Watkins Committee, the special Senate committee that censured Joe McCarthy.

In other words, Davis was hardly being questioned by McCarthyites.

Interestingly, though the Democrats targeted Davis, and he them, in the end, Davis would seek to blend in among them. After all of his blistering attacks on their party, Frank Marshall Davis hopped in bed with the Democrats—but only to use them, just as he and fellow Communists had long exploited the “progressive” label. With Henry Wallace’s Progressive Party having collapsed, Hawaii’s Reds changed their tactics. They went underground and concentrated instead on infiltrating the Democratic Party, even running their members in local elections to seize delegate positions. One of those who not only urged this tactic but was himself elected to a Democratic precinct was Frank Marshall Davis.

For America’s Reds, it was the start of a long march to operate within the Democratic Party, transforming it from the party of Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy to the party of Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama.

When Davis Met Obama

ALAS, IT WAS IN HAWAII that Frank Marshall Davis eventually influenced Barack Obama, beginning in 1970 and continuing throughout Obama’s adolescence. It was Obama’s maternal grandfather, Stanley Dunham, who introduced the pair, seeking in Davis the father figure and role model that Obama lacked at home.

That initial introduction was witnessed by a woman named Dawna Weatherly-Williams, a friend and nextdoor neighbor to Davis, so close that she called him “Daddy.” It had been eagerly anticipated by all sides, suggesting the potential that Davis rightly saw in Barack. “Frank was also a great listener, which may be why Barack liked him, too,” Weatherly-Williams told Obama biographer David Remnick. “I am sure he influenced Barack more than Barack is saying. About social justice, about finding out more about life, about what’s important, about how to use your heart and your mind.”

Davis already knew Stanley Dunham. “He knew Stan real well,” Weatherly-Williams told Toby Harnden of the London Telegraph. “They’d play Scrabble and drink and crack jokes and argue. Frank always won and he was always very braggadocio about it too. It was all jocular. They didn’t get polluted drunk. And Frank never really did drugs, though he and Stan would smoke pot together.”

Here we see the distinctly non-Rockwellian upbringing of the young Obama, which, reportedly, featured two elderly male influences smoking pot while they received Social Security and advocated socialism and Communism.

Weatherly-Williams informed the Telegraph that Davis was introduced to Obama “in 1970,” and Harnden wrote that the young Obama spent the previous three years in Indonesia with his mother and her second husband, Lolo Soetoro. If this timeline is accurate, which it appears to be, then Obama knew Frank Marshall Davis not merely for a few years but a full decade—i.e., throughout the entirety of his adolescence.

It is fascinating that Davis and the Obama family shared an unlikely geographical path, with Davis moving from Kansas to Chicago to Honolulu, and with Barack Obama’s family living in Kansas before moving to Honolulu and then (for Barack) on to Chicago. Both Stanley Dunham and Davis grew up in Kansas in the 1920s, but they did not know each other.

Another source very familiar with these relationships is Kathryn Takara, a University of Hawaii professor and Davis biographer. She knew Davis for 15 years and was so close that she talked to him the day he died. She said that Davis “nurtured a sense of possibility” in Obama, which is evident “in the way that Barack Obama carries himself, walks, and talks.” Takara states that Frank handed on to Obama “a sense of believing that change can happen.”

Given that “change” became the one-word mantra of the entire Obama political movement, this is no small statement. The very title of the Obama team’s 2008 campaign book was Change We Can Believe In—words that precisely echo Takara’s description of Davis’s influence on Obama.

Takara and Weatherly-Williams are just two of over a dozen sources I cite—all favorable biographers and friends/associates of Obama and Davis—who describe Davis as a vital, lasting infl uence on the future president. Of course, the main reason we know of the relationship is compliments of his memoirs.

In Dreams from My Father, Obama himself notes that Davis offered him advice at several life-changing levels: on race, on college, on women, on his mind, on his attitudes, on life. “I was intrigued by old Frank,” writes Obama, “with his books and whiskey breath and the hint of hard-earned knowledge behind the hooded eyes.”

In one telling passage, Obama seeks Davis’ parting advice before he leaves Hawaii for college. Davis growls: “They’ll train you so good, you’ll start believing what they tell you about equal opportunity and the American way and all that s--t.” I found these words—first published by Obama in 1995—hauntingly similar to Davis’ words in Communist Party publications from 50 years earlier. To cite just one example, in a column for the Chicago Star, November 9, 1946, Davis growled: “I’m tired of being beaned with those double meaning words like ‘sacred institutions’ and ‘the American way of life.’” Davis didn’t exactly view America as a shining city upon a hill.

Though Frank Marshall Davis’ influence is acknowledged in Dreams, Obama wisely never once discloses his full name, surely knowing the political risk of admitting such a radical mentor, albeit knowing Davis had been too important to leave out. In Dreams, Obama refers to Davis merely as “Frank.” Even then, Obama directly mentions “Frank” 22 times (and far more via pronouns and other forms of reference) over the course of thousands of words and through every section. Frank is a recurring part of Obama’s life and mind, by Obama’s own extended recounting, from Hawaii—the site of visits and late evenings together—to Los Angeles to Chicago to Germany to Africa, from adolescence to college to community organizing. He is always one of the few (and first) names mentioned by Obama at each mile-marker on his historic path from Hawaii to Washington. When Davis is not physically there, Obama literally imagines him—pictures him there, visualizes him.

Consider Chicago: When Obama at last landed in the Windy City, where he would spread his wings and make his name, of all things and people that might enter his mind, he first thought of Frank: “I imagined Frank in a baggy suit and wide lapels,” Obama wrote in Dreams, “standing in front of the old Regal Theatre, waiting to see Duke or Ella emerge from a gig.”

In short, Obama always seemed to feel a connection to Frank Marshall Davis that he painfully concedes he was unable to find in his mother, father, stepfather, grandfather, grandmother, siblings, or anyone else who comprised his origins and life journey. Frank Marshall Davis is an abiding, permanent influence, an integral part of Obama’s sojourn.

And yet, never before has a president conceded such a radical influence only to have the dominant press ignore that influence, if not downplay or dismiss it altogether.

The Effect on Obama

AND NOW, THE MILLION-DOLLAR QUESTION: How much does all of this matter today? How does it reflect upon President Barack Obama?

That, unfortunately, is a more difficult thing to establish. In Dreams, Obama does not dare say that Davis taught him his politics. Obama pretty much strays from politics altogether in Dreams—a prudent move.

Nonetheless, the two met often (David Maraniss states upwards of 15 times, which is surely a conservative estimate), and typically for long hours at a time, one-on-one, into late evenings. And Davis was a thoroughly political man, given to political diatribes, even anti-American rants. It is hard to imagine that Davis did not influence Obama on politics to some degree.

So, what can we say?

Well, there are some truly remarkable similarities between the political actions of Obama and the ideas in Frank Marshall Davis’ columns: rejecting Winston Churchill; vilifying and targeting General Motors, a company Davis would have been thrilled to nationalize; advocating wealth redistribution from greedy corporations to health insurance and public works projects; favoring taxpayer funding of universal health care; supporting government stimulus; bashing Wall Street; trumpeting the public sector over the private sector; lambasting “excess profits”; warning God-and-gun clinging Americans about huckster preachers; seeking the political support of the “social justice” religious left for various causes and campaigns; excoriating the “tentacles of big business,” bankers, big oil, the “Big Boys,” corporate profits, fat cats and their “fat contracts”; lambasting tax cuts that “spare the rich” and that only benefit millionaires; singling out the “corporation executive” for not paying his “fair” share; and on and on. These thoughts and words of Frank Marshall Davis bear an uncanny resemblance to Obama’s thoughts and words and actions.

My general conclusion is that Frank Marshall Davis’ far-left extremism may help explain how and why America’s current president is further to the left than any president of our generation. I think Davis is factor in understanding Obama’s political, ideological, and intellectual development. More than that, Davis likely helps explain how and why our president, as a young man at Occidental College circa 1980, was probably once on the Marxist left.

In my book, I include a series of lengthy, exclusive interviews with Dr. John Drew, who knew Obama at Occidental, and knew him (at the time) as a fellow Marxist. Drew was a leading campus Marxist, and, remarkably, knew Barack Obama as a fellow believer. Obama was introduced to him as “one of us.” “Obama was already an ardent Marxist when I met him in the fall of 1980,” Drew told me.

“I know it’s incendiary to say this,” he cautioned, before explaining that Obama “was definitely a Marxist,” and that “it was very unusual for a sophomore at Occidental to be as radical or as ideologically attuned as young Barack Obama was.” Drew said Obama was preparing for “imminent revolution,” which Drew described as a “Frank Marshall Davis fantasy of revolution.”

If this account is accurate, and there is no reason to not believe Drew, then what—or, better still, who— explains Obama’s Marxist political thinking at the time, fresh out of Hawaii?

The obvious answer is Frank Marshall Davis. “I see myself as a missing link between Barack Obama’s exposure to communism with Frank Marshall Davis and his later exposure to Bill Ayers and Alice Palmer [another leftist] in Chicago,” Drew told me.

IN SUM, FRANK MARSHALL DAVIS surely helps shed light on how America’s current president developed into a man of the left, ultimately ranked by National Journal as the most left-leaning member of the U.S. Senate— to the left of Ted Kennedy, Barbara Boxer, Hillary Clinton, and everyone else—in the final year before he ran for president. The man now in charge of the mightiest economic engine in the history of humanity was influenced, to some notable degree, by a pro-Soviet CPUSA member who plainly stood on the wrong side of history—stumping for an ideology that took the lives of over 100 million people in the last century. This man planted his flag on the dark side of the Iron Curtain.

This man, and his relationship with the most powerful man in the world—our current president— at least merits our attention.

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About the Author

Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. His latest book is 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative.