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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Reading List: The Manchurian President

Klein, Aaron with Brenda J. Elliott. The Manchurian President. New York: WND Books, 2010. ISBN 978-1-935071-87-7.
The provocative title of this book is a reference to Richard Condon's classic 1959 Cold War thriller, The Manchurian Candidate, in which a Korean War veteran, brainwashed by the Chinese while a prisoner of war in North Korea, returns as a sleeper agent, programmed to perform political assassinations on behalf of his Red controllers. The climax comes as a plot unfolds to elect a presidential candidate who will conduct a “palace coup”, turning the country over to the conspirators. The present book, on the other hand, notwithstanding its title, makes no claim that its subject, Barack Obama, has been brainwashed in any way, nor that there is any kind of covert plot to enact an agenda damaging to the United States, nor is any evidence presented which might support such assertions. Consequently, I believe the title is sensationalistic and in the end counterproductive. But what about the book?

Well, I'd argue that there is no reason to occupy oneself with conspiracy theories or murky evidence of possible radical connections in Obama's past, when you need only read the man's own words in his 1995 autobiography, Dreams from My Father, describing his time at Occidental College:

To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully. The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and the structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets. We smoked cigarettes and wore leather jackets. At night, in the dorms, we discussed neocolonialism, Frantz Fanon, Eurocentrism, and patriarchy.

The sentence fragments. Now, certainly, many people have expressed radical thoughts in their college days, but most, writing an autobiography fifteen years later, having graduated from Harvard Law School and practiced law, might be inclined to note that they'd “got better”; to my knowledge, Obama makes no such assertion. Further, describing his first job in the private sector, also in Dreams, he writes:

Eventually, a consulting house to multinational corporations agreed to hire me as a research assistant. Like a spy behind enemy lines, I arrived every day at my mid-Manhattan office and sat at my computer terminal, checking the Reuters machine that blinked bright emerald messages from across the globe.

Now bear in mind that this is Obama on Obama, in a book published the same year he decided to enter Illinois politics, running for a state senate seat. Why would a politician feigning moderation in order to gain power, thence to push a radical agenda, explicitly brag of his radical credentials and background?

Well, he doesn't because he's been an overt hard left radical with a multitude of connections to leftist, socialist, communist, and militant figures all of his life, from the first Sunday school he attended in Hawaii to the circle of advisers he brought into government following his election as president. The evidence of this has been in plain sight ever since Obama came onto the public scene, and he has never made an effort to cover it up or deny it. The only reason it is not widely known is that the legacy media did not choose to pursue it. This book documents Obama's radical leftist history and connections, but it does so in such a clumsy and tedious manner that you may find it difficult to slog through. The hard left in the decades of Obama's rise to prominence is very much like that of the 1930s through 1950s: a multitude of groups with platitudinous names concealing their agenda, staffed by a cast of characters whose names pop up again and again as you tease out the details, and with sources of funding which disappear into a cloud of smoke as you try to pin them down. In fact, the “new new left” (or “contemporary progressive movement”, as they'd doubtless prefer) looks and works almost precisely like what we used to call “communist front organisations” back in the day. The only difference is that they aren't funded by the KGB, seek Soviet domination, or report to masters in Moscow—at least as far as we know….

Obama's entire career has been embedded in such a tangled web of radical causes, individuals, and groups that following any one of them is like pulling up a weed whose roots extend in all directions, tangling with other weeds, which in turn are connected every which way. What we have is not a list of associations, but rather a network, and a network is a difficult thing to describe in the linear narrative of a book. In the present case, the authors get all tangled up in the mess, and the result is a book which is repetitive, tedious, and on occasions so infuriating that it was mostly a desire not to clean up the mess and pay the repair cost which kept me from hurling it through a window. If they'd mentioned just one more time that Bill Ayers was a former Weatherman terrorist, I think I might have lost that window.

Each chapter starts out with a theme, but as the web of connections spreads, we get into material and individuals covered elsewhere, and there is little discipline in simply cross-referencing them or trusting the reader to recall their earlier mention. And when there are cross-references, they are heavy handed. For example at the start of chapter 12, they write: “Two of the architects of that campaign, and veterans of Obama's U.S. senatorial campaign—David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett—were discussed by the authors in detail in Chapter 10 of this book.” Hello, is there an editor in the house? Who other than “the authors” would have discussed them, and where else than in “this book”? And shouldn't an attentive reader be likely to recall two prominent public figures discussed “in detail” just two chapters before?

The publisher's description promises much, including “Obama's mysterious college years unearthed”, but very little new information is delivered, and most of the book is based on secondary sources, including blog postings the credibility of which the reader is left to judge. Now, I did not find much to quibble about, but neither did I encounter much material I did not already know, and I've not obsessively followed Obama. I suppose that people who exclusively get their information from the legacy media might be shocked by what they read here, but most of it has been widely mentioned since Obama came onto the radar screen in 2007. The enigmatic lacunæ in Obama's paper trail (SAT and LSAT scores, college and law school transcripts, etc.) are mentioned here, but remain mysterious.

If you're interested in this topic, I'd recommend giving this book a miss and instead starting with the Barack Obama page on David Horowitz's Discover the Networks site, following the links outward from there. Horowitz literally knows the radical left from inside and out: the son of two members of the Communist Party of the United States, he was a founder of the New Left and editor of Ramparts magazine. Later, repelled by the murderous thuggery of the Black Panthers, he began to re-think his convictions and has since become a vocal opponent of the Left. His book, Radical Son (March 2007), is an excellent introduction to the Old and New Left, and provides insight into the structure and operation of the leftists behind and within the Obama administration.

Posted at June 24, 2010 22:42