Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Dr. Paul Kengor, a professor of political science at Grove City College. His books include The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor and Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century. His latest book is 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative.
FP: Paul Kengor, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
I would like to talk to you today about Valerie Jarrett, her background, her relationship with Barack Obama, and her influence in the Obama White House.
Let’s begin first with who Valerie Jarrett is — and her relationship with Barack Obama.
Kengor: Thanks Jamie.
Valerie Jarrett is President Obama’s single most important and influential adviser. No one else in the White or the entire administration is as close to Obama. She has been described as everything from his “right-hand woman” to like a sister and even a mother to Obama. To cite some mainstream/leftist sources: The New York Times says she’s Obama’s “closest friend in the White House,” his “envoy,” his “emissary,” and his “all-purpose ambassador.” The Times calls her the “ultimate Obama insider.” Dana Milbank says her connection to Obama is “deep and personal” and that she’s “the real center of Obama’s inner circle.”
Obama himself calls her one of his “oldest friends” and says “I trust her completely.”
As for Jarrett, she says that she and Obama have a “shared view of where the United States fits in the world.” She says they “have kind of a mind meld.” She’s says that “chances are, what he wants to do is what I’d want to do.”
FP: Ok, so that begs the next question: What is it exactly that they want to do?
Kengor: That’s a very good question. I think the best I can say, which is admittedly at times vague from a policy standpoint, is that both favor some form of leftist “fundamental transformation.”
In domestic policy, we can expect them to desire and pursue the kinds of policies that Obama was able to implement in 2009-10 when he had a leftist Pelosi-Reid Congress. The current Republican majority in Congress gets a lot of heat from conservatives, but at least it has slowed the radical push to the left that occurred under Obama, Pelosi, and Reid during those first two years of the Obama presidency. Those first two years were an Obama-Jarrett policy fest. That what an Obama-Jarrett agenda looks like.
In terms of foreign policy, here again it’s difficult to track down precise ideological statements and actions from Jarrett, though she has said unequivocally that her worldview fully reflects Barack Obama’s. It may even be worse than Obama’s, if the reports of her intervention on Osama Bin Laden are correct.
My sense is that both Obama and Valerie Jarrett prefer a weaker America on the world stage. The pandering to Putin in the first term was probably a reflection of Obama-Jarrett thinking, and thus so is the humiliation at the hands of Putin in the second term.
I’m also suspicious of Valerie Jarrett’s possibly having provided negative input into Obama’s statements on Iran, including his terrible Carter-like reaction to the initial uprising in the Iranian “street” in June 2009. Did Obama’s behavior in that period, which was initially so weak that even Democrats were aghast, reflect Valerie Jarrett’s input? I can’t say, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
FP: How much influence does she actually have on policy?
Kengor: Her influence is highly significant. She has her hands in every major decision, if not every small one. She’s constantly monitoring things, inserting her input and protecting her Barack. I could give a bunch of examples, but here are two.
Valerie Jarrett pushed for the HHS mandate requiring all religious believers and groups, including institutional churches such as the Roman Catholic Church, to fund abortion drugs and contraception. According to the New York Times and Politico, she did so even as the likes of Joe Biden and Obama Chief of Staff Bill Daley urged the White House to carefully consider the backlash from the Catholic Church. Biden and Daley lost out to Valerie Jarrett and Kathleen Sebelius. No surprise. Obama usually sides with Jarrett.
Especially interesting to readers here, it was reported some time ago that Jarrett repeatedly urged Obama not to take out Osama Bin Laden, prompting Obama to cancel the mission as many as three times. That has been reported by a number of sources, most notably in a book by Richard Miniter. About a year before Miniter’s book, I had written a lengthy feature article for American Spectator on Valerie Jarrett. One piece of information that was out there, but I couldn’t confirm, was this Obama-Osama report.
FP: Jarrett is clearly a leftist, but you have stated that some of the mainstream media sources have tried to suggest otherwise.
Kengor: Yes. When I first researched her, trying to pin down her politics was very difficult. The liberal media’s job is to first and foremost protect Barack Obama. They are reporters second and partisan Democrats first. And so, reporters portrayed Valerie Jarrett in soaring, gushing, hagiographic tones, exalting her as Solomon-like in her almost-unearthly wisdom. Her reasoning skills and mind were the world’s finest ever assembled in a woman (other than, perhaps, in the person of Hillary Clinton). When she and Obama sit together in the Oval Office, it’s like having all the accumulated knowledge in human history right there at once. Naturally, too, of course, the same media portrayed her as a centrist, a moderate. Here’s one of my favorite examples, from a February 2011 Chicago Tribune profile: “She is a consensus builder who reinforces Obama’s tendency toward centrism.”
Yes, of course!
I had to really dig to find examples of her early policy influence. Since then, I’ve found more. She’s precisely what we’d expect of someone who is an Obama kindred soul: a leftist.
FP: Speaking of being a leftist, what are her roots?
Kengor: She was born in Shiraz, Iran in November 1956, the time of the Suez crisis. She was born Valerie Bowman to American parents—Dr. James E. Bowman and Barbara Taylor Bowman. Her father was a pathologist and geneticist at a children’s hospital in Shiraz as part of a U.S. aid program to assist developing countries. The family eventually returned to America, specifically Chicago, in 1963. Her mother was a child psychologist who helped establish the Erikson Institute, which (Hillary Clinton-like) specialized in “child advocacy.” The Erikson Institute got funding from the Woods Charitable Fund. If that sounds familiar to readers here, it’s because Barack Obama and Bill Ayers eventually served together as board members at Woods.
Now her Chicago roots are more disturbing — and indicative of her ideology. They also connect her to Obama and his ideological roots.
Valerie’s maternal grandparents were Robert Rochon Taylor and Dorothy Taylor. Robert was the first African-American head of the Chicago Housing Authority. Dorothy, a native of Berkeley, was active in early Planned Parenthood. That’s ironic, given Margaret Sanger’s “Negro Project,” her 1926 speech to a KKK rally in Silverlake, New Jersey, and her championing of racial-eugenics. Then again, Sanger’s penchant for “race improvement” has never halted liberals’ veneration of her.
FP: There is a fascinating connection that you’ve detailed between Jarrett’s grandfather and Frank Marshall Davis, Obama’s mentor, who you’ve written a book about.
Kengor: That’s correct.
The book is titled, The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor. Frank Marshall Davis was an African-American born in Kansas in 1905 who eventually moved to Chicago and joined Communist Party USA. Notably, he joined the party after the signing of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, a time when many American communists, particularly Jewish-American communists, left the party. They left because Stalin’s signing of the pact facilitated and enabled Hitler’s invasion of Poland and start of World War II. Frank Marshall Davis, however, was undeterred. He joined after the pact.
Worse, Davis, in Chicago, worked for one of the most egregious communist fronts in the history of this country: the American Peace Mobilization. Congress called the American Peace Mobilization “one of the most notorious and blatantly communist fronts ever organized in this country” and “one of the most seditious organizations which ever operated in the United States.” The group’s objective was to stop the United States from entering the war against Hitler—again, because Hitler and Stalin were allies. American communists were allows loyal Soviet patriots. They literally swore allegiance to the USSR and its line.
In my book Dupes, I publish the original Soviet Comintern document acknowledging that the American Peace Mobilization was founded on the Comintern’s initiative in Chicago in September 1940. There, the Comintern and Communist Party USA attempted to organize a coalition of leftists and “progressives” who would keep America out of the war and out of any support for Britain or anyone opposing Hitler and Stalin—who, again, were allies.
Okay, how does this involve Valerie Jarrett? Jarrett’s grandfather, Robert Taylor, was involved with the American Peace Mobilization, as was Frank Marshall Davis.
Taylor also served with Davis on another communist front, the Chicago Civil Liberties Committee, whose members masqueraded as civil-rights crusading “progressives.” The two served on the board together.
And there’s more. Valerie Jarrett has additional family roots in these things. Both Taylor (Jarrett’s grandfather) and Frank Marshall Davis—who would one day meet and become a mentor to a young Barack Obama in Hawaii in the 1970s—would have often encountered another politically active Chicagoan, Vernon Jarrett. In fact, Vernon Jarrett and Frank Marshall Davis worked together on the very small publicity team (a handful of people) of the communist-controlled Packinghouse Workers Union.
Who was Vernon Jarrett? He would one day become Valerie Jarrett’s father-in-law.
So, to sum up, Obama’s mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, worked with the literal relatives of Valerie Jarrett—her grandfather and future father-in-law—in Chicago’s Communist Party circles in the 1940s.
FP: Amazing. And it was in Chicago, of course, that Valerie Jarrett and Obama eventually met?
Kengor: They first met in Chicago in the early 1990s. During her stint as deputy chief of staff to Mayor Daley (the second Mayor Daley), Jarrett met a young lawyer named Michelle Robinson, who worked for the firm Sidley Austin. They hit it off. Michelle told Jarrett she should meet another young lawyer named Barack Obama, her fiancé. They agreed, and the rest is history.
By the way, David Remnick, a top Obama biographer, reported that Valerie said of that meeting: “Barack felt extraordinarily familiar.” How so? She said that she and Barack “shared a view of where the United States fit in the world.” As David Remnick translates, this was a more “objective” view of an America that was not “the center of all wisdom and experience.” This was not an exceptional America. Of course it wasn’t.
FP: One final question on the Chicago roots. This gets even crazier. Tell us how David Axelrod’s roots tie into this.
Kengor: David Axelrod is the political consultant who made Barack Obama president. He coined the very terms “hope and change.” He is a native New Yorker who ended up attending college and then working in Chicago in the 1970s and 1980s and on. Like Obama, and like Valerie Jarrett, he found his political calling in Chicago.
In Chicago, Axelrod was mentored by the Canter family, namely David Canter. The Canter family has not only deep communist roots in Chicago but also in Stalin’s Soviet Union. David and his family had lived in Moscow just before coming to Chicago. His father, Harry Canter, had literally worked for Stalin’s government as an official translator of Lenin’s writings. He was a hardcore American Bolshevik. Before going to Moscow, Harry had been secretary of the Boston Communist Party and ran for governor of Massachusetts on the Communist Party ticket.
When this duty to Stalin was finished, the Canter family moved on to Chicago, which was (second only to New York) a hotbed for communism. The American Communist Party was founded in Chicago in September 1919, six months after the Comintern was founded in Moscow.
The Canters got involved in all sorts of Chicago-based communist activities and fronts: big May Day parades, the Packinghouse Workers Union, the communist Abraham Lincoln School, and in the pages of the Chicago Star, the communist newspaper founded and edited by Obama’s mentor, Frank Marshall Davis. In fact, Harry Canter was one of the small group of board members that bought the Chicago Star from Davis in September 1948 as Davis bolted to Hawaii to do communist work there (and eventually meet Obama). Canter’s group of purchasers was called the Progressive Publishing Company.
Eventually, Harry’s son David Canter, who himself was involved in all kinds of wild far-left activities, met and mentored David Axelrod.
FP: So, all of these folks knew each other in Chicago?
Kengor: Obama and David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett all have common political ancestors who knew and worked with each other in communist activities and fronts in Chicago in the 1940s. The ancestors are, respectively, Frank Marshall Davis, the Canters, and Vernon Jarrett and Robert Taylor. We are today being governed by ghosts from Chicago’s Communist Party haunts of the 1940s. It’s scary.
By the way, then and still today, they call themselves “progressives.”
FP: This information is remarkable. Tell our readers where you have documented all of this.
Kengor: I’m meticulous in tying all these things together. In my books, The Communist and Dupes, especially the former, I provide copies of original materials and documentation. Nothing that I said is exaggerated. Besides, who could make this up?
The American public voted for “change.” This is a change alright.
FP: Ok so crystallize us what the “change” is exactly that Obama and Jarrett have ushered in and are ushering in. And summarize for us: Who is Valerie Jarrett and what is the meaning and significance of her close friendship with, and enormous influence, on the president?
Kengor: I think the “change” is this thrusting of America to the left, this “fundamental transformation.”
Here’s a crucial added insight into Valerie Jarrett’s thinking: There’s a video clip of her on You Tube, from early in the first Obama term, where she’s gushing about Van Jones. She lights up, aglow, as she mentions him—and as the lefties in the crowd howl in approval. She speaks of being “so delighted” with Jones’ “creative ideas” and talks of how her and Obama’s White House hopes to “capture” those ideas. She has a giant smile. That 30 seconds or so of uncensored, unfiltered Valerie Jarrett speaks volumes. At long last, there’s the real Valerie Jarrett, without the doting protection of the mainstream media that coddles her and Barack Obama.
So, in short, the meaning and significance of Valerie Jarrett’s close friendship and enormous influence on the president is an America that increasingly moves left domestically and, I suspect, becomes weaker in the world internationally.
FP: Professor Kengor, thanks for your time.
Kengor: Anytime, Jamie. I thank you, Front Page, and David Horowitz for your time and courage.