This post continues the series of chapter summations of Radical-In-Chief by Stanley Kurtz.
The book takes the reader into the world of Barack Obama prior to his emergence as a national figure. The Preface makes a bold opening statement. The chapters that follow are evidential arguments that substantiate the statement. The author’s documentation is exhaustive and the source attribution is impeccable. The source notes alone number 1,119 and take up 63 pages.
From New York to Havana
Reliable information about Obama’s activities during his stay in New York is difficult to come by. However, there is ample evidence on which to make some reasonable assumptions. An examination of the content of the Socialist Scholars Conferences he attended is an indication of what interested Obama at the time.
Jesse Jackson. The conferences occurred during the period when Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition was in the forefront of the news. In Dreams, Obama speaks of attending a large Jackson rally while in New York. Jackson thought “it was time for blacks to ‘re-negotiate our relationship with the Democratic Party’ and force Democrats to the left.” The Democratic Socialists of America did not consider Jackson to be a socialist but the militant faction within the DSA supported him as a means to transform the Democratic Party.
Martin Luther King. The 1984 SSC promoted the idea that Dr. King converted to socialism toward the end of his life. The claim was made the he had come to believe “America is much, much sicker than I had realized” and that “the whole structure of American life must be changed.” Kurtz doubts this assertion is correct.
James Cone. Cone is credited with being the father of black liberation theology in America. Cone promotes the notion that “black church people need to be open to the need for a ‘total reconstruction of society along the lines of Democratic socialism’ and that Capitalism is ‘a system that offers no hope for the masses of blacks’.”
Kurtz reasons that (a) knowing Cone’s views from hearing him speak at the 1984 SSC and (b) knowing that Cone was Jeremiah Wright’s mentor, Obama would have been aware of Wright’s radical message before he chose him as his pastor.
Havana. Following the Socialist Scholars Conventions, Cone, Wright and Jesse Jackson travelled together to Cuba in a show of support for Castro in his struggles with America during the Reagan presidency. Jackson made headlines when he ended a speech with chants of “Long live Castro! Long live Martin Luther King! Long live Che Guevara!” The Rev. Wright was proud of his trip and mentioned it from time to time in the Trinity Church bulletin. Obama had to be aware of it.
Nader. In May of 1985 Obama took a job as an organizer for Ralph Nader’s NY Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG). Earlier, Nader’s Brooklyn office was one of the first groups to pressure banks into lending into high-risk neighborhoods with sub-prime loans.