The Obama Watch

Ho Chi Minh, Obama’s Freedom Fighter

Our president echoes the Party line on Vietnam.

By 8.7.13

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All I wanted to do last week was enjoy my vacation. Instead, I was assaulted by another breathtaking statement from the president of the United States, provided courtesy of an official White House press release. The occasion was a July 25 meeting between President Obama and the leader of communist Vietnam. Obama stated: “President Sang shared with me a copy of a letter sent by Ho Chi Minh to Harry Truman. And we discussed the fact that Ho Chi Minh was actually inspired by the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and the words of Thomas Jefferson.”

This, of course, is utter nonsense. Ho Chi Minh was a committed Marxist-Leninist revolutionary who cut his teeth at Moscow’s Lenin School. He became one of the Soviet Comintern’s most successful agents. Among the testimonies to his efforts are the countless boat people from Vietnam who now live in America (many of whom voted for Obama).

But not only is Obama’s statement nonsense; it’s also the product of communist propaganda.

In 2010, I published a book called Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century. There, I shared numerous lines cooked up by Communist Party USA (CPUSA) to dupe liberals. One of them was precisely the line Obama echoed on July 25. CPUSA and its mouthpieces regularly compared Ho Chi Minh to the American Founders, claiming he was fighting for the ideas not of the Bolshevik Revolution but of the American Revolution. This line was employed constantly, and it worked magically with wide-eyed liberals. In Dupes, I gave several examples, including Dr. Benjamin Spock, a leftist dupe easily manipulated by American communists. To wit:

In 1968, Spock published an influential screed against the Vietnam War, titled simply, Dr. Spock on Vietnam, and co-authored with Mitchell Zimmerman, a Princeton grad student and anti-war activist. They consistently referred to the Vietcong as “communist patriots,” literally akin to the American revolutionaries. “The Vietnamese people declared their independence from France,” the authors stated, “much as we declared our independence from England in 1776.” More so, “Their war of independence was fought by a united front of various political groups and was led by the communist patriot Ho Chi Minh…. Ho is sometimes called the George Washington of Vietnam.”

According to Spock’s book, these were glorious patriots in North Vietnam, not totalitarian Marxists. These (unelected) modern incarnations of Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin had earned the support of the population: “The motivation for revolution is the same today as it was in 1776: the desire for justice and a better life.”

Naturally, Dr. Spock’s book was a smash among “progressives.” Yet, the book had another unsuspecting audience, this one deep inside Vietnam. An eyewitness was Lt. Robert Frishman, a decorated POW held by the Vietcong for two years. Once released, Frishman testified to Congress about the propaganda that he and other POWs were fed. In addition to closing and ending each day to the radio sound of “Hanoi Hannah,” they were allowed certain limited reading, so long as it was in the form of anti-American indoctrination. Frishman told Congress: “Dr. Spock on Vietnam, I got to read that four or five times.”

So did untold numbers of American moms who had nursed and reared their babies according to earlier Spock books. Imagine them naively wondering why America was not fighting with, rather than against, Ho Chi Minh and the communists. Why would Uncle Sam be at war with George Washington?

One of those young moms might well have been Barack Obama’s leftist mother. She surely had that same view of Vietnam.

In addition to Obama’s mother, there was also Obama’s mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, an actual member of Communist Party USA (card number 47544). This, too, is a subject I know well, having written a book on Davis, The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor.

Davis did full-time propaganda work for the communist cause. I have a chapter documenting how Davis portrayed various global communist revolutionaries as reincarnates of the American Founders. Davis did this incessantly. Trying to quantify the exact number is impossible, but during a short window of 1949-50 alone, I counted seven examples of him in the Honolulu Record (the CPUSA Party-line publication in Hawaii) citing the “Founding Fathers,” primarily Thomas Jefferson and George Washington; one case of him pointing to the Declaration of Independence; two instances where he invoked the Declaration’s inalienable rights; over 30 references to “liberty” or “freedom;” and nearly 70 citations of the First Amendment, the Bill of Rights, or the words “Constitution,” “constitutional,” or “unconstitutional.”

For Davis, it was old hat to hitch his (red) star to the wagon of the American Founders. He did so in his kick-off column for the first edition of the Chicago Star, the CPUSA publication for the Windy City, of which Davis was the founding editor-in-chief. In that July 6, 1946 piece, titled, “Those Radicals of ’76,” Davis insisted that he and his comrades were the true “spiritual descendants of … 1776.” Preaching an Obama-like mantra of “fundamental change,” Davis averred: “If history teaches us anything, it teaches that any fundamental change advancing society is spearheaded by strong radicals.” These were radicals, presumably, like Jefferson and Jay and Madison and Hamilton and … Lenin and Stalin. “So it was in 1776; so it is today,” summed up Davis. As “this nation’s forefathers in the 18th century” had done, it was time to “force into effect a modern Declaration of Independence.”

Alas, Frank Marshall Davis applied this angle to Ho Chi Minh and Vietnam. Like his cohorts at CPUSA, Davis had been way out in front on the Vietnam issue, urging America stay out and let these modern Jeffersonians pursue their “freedom and independence.” As early as an April 1954 column in the Honolulu Record, Davis contended that Vietnam merely wanted “freedom and independence from the yoke of French imperialism,” but Washington was standing in the way. Why? According to the Party line pushed by Davis, it was because of capitalist greed and American economic exploitation: “Our leaders have decided that economic control of this area rich in natural resources must be maintained by what is called the ‘free world.’”

Davis first met a young Obama in the fall of 1970, the height of opposition to the Vietnam War. I have no Davis columns from the 1970s, as the Record was defunct, but he remained on the extreme left throughout the decade, throughout which he met with Obama.

Did Davis share any of his views on Ho Chi Minh and Vietnam with Obama? We don’t know. We can only speculate.

That said, I have an idea: Might someone somewhere in our illustrious media dare to ask our president, the leader of the free world, where he got his views on Ho and Vietnam? Some of us are interested.

Don’t hold your breath. Just like every instance of radicalism in Obama’s life, this one likewise is being ignored by the mainstream media. Yet another curious Obama-ism destined for the howling winds of Siberia. 

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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.