It is amusing to watch the furies unleashed in both the White House and the liberal media over former Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s citing of the Communist Frank Marshall Davis as an influence on the young Barack Obama. And Giuliani’s insistence that, partly as a direct result of that influence, the president doesn’t “love America the way we do.”
On Sunday, Davis biographer Paul Kengor wrote a terrific piece laying out the history of the Davis-Obama relationship in detail. The full title of Mr. Kengor’s book, notably is The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor. As Kengor points out in detail, Rudy was right. But well aside from that is the larger issue of the influence of Communism itself on the modern Democratic Party and its ideas. Far from being the province of supposedly nutty, frothing far-right zealots, this issue was discussed years ago by none other than Ronald Reagan.
So let’s begin with the specifics. As is well recorded, both in the day and ever after in Reagan lore, on October 27, 1964 actor Reagan gave a nationally televised speech at the end of the presidential campaign on behalf of GOP nominee Senator Barry Goldwater. Goldwater was fighting a losing battle against LBJ in a moment that turned out to be the high-tide of American liberalism. The Reagan speech, eventually titled “A Time for Choosing,” pulled no punches on the subject of ties between the Democrats and communism. The speech was a rousing success. Not only did it raise a stunning (in the day and even now) $8 million for Goldwater’s last few campaign days, it not so coincidentally launched Reagan’s own political career as a twice elected California governor and president of the United States — all four victories coming in landslides. Said Reagan:
Last February 19th at the University of Minnesota, Norman Thomas, six-times candidate for President on the Socialist Party ticket, said, “If Barry Goldwater became President, he would stop the advance of socialism in the United States.” I think that’s exactly what he will do.
But as a former Democrat, I can tell you Norman Thomas isn’t the only man who has drawn this parallel to socialism with the present administration, because back in 1936, Mr. Democrat himself, Al Smith, the great American, came before the American people and charged that the leadership of his Party was taking the Party of Jefferson, Jackson, and Cleveland down the road under the banners of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin. And he walked away from his Party, and he never returned til the day he died—because to this day, the leadership of that Party has been taking that Party, that honorable Party, down the road in the image of the labor Socialist Party of England.
Now it doesn’t require expropriation or confiscation of private property or business to impose socialism on a people. What does it mean whether you hold the deed to the—or the title to your business or property if the government holds the power of life and death over that business or property? And such machinery already exists. The government can find some charge to bring against any concern it chooses to prosecute. Every businessman has his own tale of harassment. Somewhere a perversion has taken place. Our natural, unalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation of government, and freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment.
Our Democratic opponents seem unwilling to debate these issues. They want to make you and I believe that this is a contest between two men—that we’re to choose just between two personalities.
Catch that approving Reagan citation of Al Smith, the Governor of New York who was the 1928 presidential nominee for the Democrats? Reagan said up-front in a prepared speech on national television that modern Democrats had come under the influence of Communists — and specific ones, “Marx, Lenin, and Stalin.”
A year later Reagan elaborated. In 1965, he wrote a autobiography titled Where’s the Rest of Me? that told the story of his life to that point, including the tale of his battles with Hollywood Communists and his conversion from liberal Democrat to conservative Republican. Included were his thoughts on Whittaker Chambers, the famous ex-Communist whose revelations in the late 1940s of Communists inside the U.S. government had brought down State Department aide and liberal icon Alger Hiss, with Hiss eventually proved to be just what Chamberlain said he was — a Soviet spy. Wrote Reagan:
The tragic and lonely Whittaker Chambers wrote that in turning his back on Communism he knew he was leaving the winning side, but he preferred to go down with the losers rather than continue supporting a cause he knew to be so evil. Commenting on the aftermath to his decision, he said, “When I took up my little sling and aimed at Communism, I also hit at something else. What I hit was the force of that great Socialist revolution which in the name of liberalism, spasmodically, incompletely, somewhat formlessly, but always in the same direction, has been inching its ice-cap over the nation for two decades. I had no adequate idea of its extent, the depth of its penetration, or the fierce vindictiveness of its revolutionary temper.”
I am too optimistic to agree with his first statement [about freedom being the losing side], but I learned for myself the bitter truth of the latter. As my talks gained circulation, they didn’t go unopposed.
Indeed they did not go unopposed. Reagan goes on to tell of an appearance in a Winter Carnival Parade in St. Paul, Minnesota. While there he had agreed to speak at a local high school assembly. When he arrived in St. Paul Reagan suddenly realized he was at the center of a controversy when the local newspaper was thrust into his hand. Reagan recalled:
But there in the paper I read where the Teachers Federation had passed a resolution the night before, demanding that I not be allowed to speak to the students because I was a “controversial personality.” This is the new gimmick: it isn’t enough to meet you in debate and try to refute your ideas. There are campaigns to block you from being allowed to speak at all, and to that end there are compiled a whole list of speakers who are to be silenced by almost any means.
Reagan went ahead with his speech. But he notes that a few weeks later the liberal teachers who had protested his appearance had a new demand. A “…demand was made that Central High School allow the U.S. Communist party secretary, Ben Davis, to speak — the basis of the demand being that he was entitled to equal time because I had spoken.”
Got that? The “equal time” spokesman selected for local liberals to oppose Ronald Reagan was an official of the U.S. Communist Party.
In other words? Ronald Reagan had not the slightest hesitation in connecting the liberal movement and the Democrats specifically to Communism — just as Rudy Giuliani did the other day when he said of President Obama: “From the time he was 9 years old, he was influenced by Frank Marshall Davis, who was a communist.”
For whatever interesting reason, directly connecting the ideas of the American Left to communism is now seen as a hugely controversial thing. To say that President Obama doesn’t “love America” is in fact nothing more than an acknowledgment of his progressive ideology. As Kevin Williamson noted over in National Review:
For the progressive, there is very little to love about the United States. Washington, Jefferson, Madison? A bunch of rotten slaveholders, hypocrites, and cowards even when their hearts were in the right places. The Declaration of Independence? A manifesto for the propertied classes. The Constitution? An artifact of sexism and white supremacy. The sacrifices in the great wars of the 20th century? Feeding the poor and the disenfranchised into the meat-grinder of imperialism. The gifts of Carnegie, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Morgan, Astor? Blood money from self-aggrandizing robber barons.
In a fusillade of what can only be called either willful ignorance or a finely tuned sensitivity to protecting not merely Mr. Obama and his policies but American progressivism itself, one liberal media ally after another has tried to shred Mayor Giuliani.
The White House spokesman Josh Earnest pronounced with faux-sorrowfulness that he felt “sorry” for Rudy. Over on CNN Gloria Borger slammed the former mayor for his “hateful” comments. Over at the Washington Post liberal columnist Dana Milbank fumed of Giuliani’s “outrageous allegation” about the President.
Well, gee. Call me skeptical. But if all these Obama defenders taking such umbrage really believe this topic of the ideological influence of Communism inside the highest ranks of the Democratic Party wasn’t mainstreamed decades ago by Ronald Reagan himself — and more to the point is even more relevant after six years of a presidency run by a man whose major childhood mentor was in fact a distinctly famous card-carrying communist? Then one suspects there is an agenda at work here. An agenda so visceral to these people as directly measured by the decibel level of their outrage.
One suspects that the sensitivity here is not because Rudy Giuliani got it wrong — but that he got it right. Just like Ronald Reagan.