About a week after President Obama gave a Medal of Freedom to Dolores Huerta, the honorary chair of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the Associated Press (AP) wire service ran a story casting doubt on the claim that Obama himself was a socialist. This is the same news organization which in 2008 carried a story that failied to mention the smoking-gun evidence that Obama’s childhood mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, was a Communist Party member.
If you are suspecting at this point that the AP found Obama not guilty of being a socialist, you would be correct. This kind of whitewash is what we have come to expect from this influential news organization. It is fairly typical of a media that love Obama but don’t want to tell the truth about him or his associates and allies.
The Medal of Freedom happens to be the nation’s highest civilian honor. So Obama’s giving the award to a DSA figure is not an insignificant event. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis issued her own statement describing Huerta as a “mentor, adviser and wonderful friend.”
The White House described Huerta as “a civil rights, workers, and women’s advocate,” ignoring her association with DSA. For an inquisitive media, which mostly don’t exist these days, the natural question is: Is there some reason why the White House would want to avoid mentioning Huerta’s DSA connection?
It could be that Obama wants to avoid the term “socialist,” in the same way that AP protected him from it. It could have something to do with the fact that a former leader of DSA, Kurt Stand, is currently serving a long prison sentence for his 1998 conviction for spying for Communist East Germany and the Soviet Union. The case is old but not forgotten among those who monitor threats to U.S. security. It was a major case of espionage against the United States.
As such, would it raise too many eyebrows for the President to favorably mention an organization that had produced an enemy agent? And would it raise questions as to whether or not the President himself had ever associated with such a group?
All of this demonstrates the fact that the talk about Obama and socialism goes far beyond philosophical or ideological questions about one’s economic ideas. This is not just an academic discussion. The term “socialism” is associated with organizations, some benign but some openly hostile to the United States. Stand received a sentence of 17 years and six months for espionage.
Stand had two criminal associates—his wife, Theresa Squillacote, who had worked at the Department of Defense as an attorney with high-level security clearances, and James Clark, a private investigator who at one time had a secret Department of Defense clearance. An official summary of the case from the Office of the Secretary of Defense & Defense Intelligence Agency is interesting and notes that their radical days began in—of all places—Wisconsin. It says, “Clark, Squillacote, and Stand attended the University of Wisconsin in the 1970s where they were affiliated with leftist groups, specifically the Progressive Student Forum and the Young Workers Liberation League, the youth arm of the Communist Party U.S.”
Stand is also described by the U.S. as a “regional labor representative.” There is much more to this affiliation. The great journalist, Eric Breindel, had written about the case, noting that Kurt Stand became a left-wing labor activist who’d helped John Sweeney unseat AFL-CIO chief Lane Kirkland, a staunch anti-communist. Sweeney was a member of DSA as well. We have pointed out that when John Sweeney became president of the AFL-CIO, the communists and their fellow travelers were officially welcomed in. He hired veterans of the Venceremos Brigades such as Karen Nussbaum and Karen Ackerman. These were the groups of radical young people who had gone to Communist Cuba for indoctrination sessions back in the 1970s. Some went for training in guerrilla warfare. The trips were arranged by Bernardine Dohrn of the terrorist Weather Underground.
The AP story by David Crary about Obama and socialism didn’t examine any of that. Instead, he began by noting the questionable claim by some conservatives that the “Forward” slogan of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign has a deliberate socialist connotation. Crary was correct to question this assertion. Indeed, Republican Governor Scott Walker had used the same slogan, which was visible on the podium during his victory speech on Tuesday night, to signify his campaign of defeating liberal policies in Wisconsin. “Moving Wisconsin Forward,” with “Forward” in big letters, was clearly seen on Walker’s podium.
At the time of the controversy over Obama’s use of the term, Professor Paul Kengor said he was inclined to think that “Forward” is a “left-wing platitude” that simply shows up regularly on the political left. On the other hand, he said that Obama and his adviser David Axelrod are geniuses at coming up with words and phrases that seem vague and benign to the larger population “but which resonate with a hard left that understands the deeper meaning completely.”
Since Scott Walker is not a closet socialist and cannot be considered to be under the sway of David Axelrod, those interested in Obama’s socialist roots have to look elsewhere for evidence of the charge. The AP’s Crary decided to look at the Socialist Party, not the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). These are two separate organizations. Indeed, Crary never mentioned DSA at all, a major flaw in his lengthy article. The DSA is the key to understanding Obama.
If Crary had done any elementary research, he would have soon discovered Obama’s long-standing relationship with the DSA. We wrote about this in a column more than four years ago entitled, “Obama’s International Socialist Connections.” We noted, “Obama’s socialist backing goes back at least to 1996, when he received the endorsement of the Chicago branch of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) for an Illinois state senate seat. Later, the Chicago DSA newsletter reported that Obama, as a state senator, showed up to eulogize Saul Mendelson, one of the ‘champions’ of ‘Chicago’s democratic left’ and a long-time socialist activist.”
Researcher Trevor Loudon uncovered more evidence of this relationship, recently reproducing an advertisement that ran in the Hyde Park Herald in 1996, which listed Obama on a panel sponsored by the Chicago Democratic Socialists of America, University of Chicago Democrats, and University of Chicago DSA.
In another column, we explained that “DSA describes itself as the largest socialist organization in the United States and the principal U.S. affiliate of the Socialist International. The Socialist International (SI) has what is called ‘consultative status’ with the United Nations. In other words, it works hand-in-glove with the world body.” The Socialist Party of Francois Hollande, the new Socialist president of France, is a member of the SI.
None of this, of course, made it into the AP story casting doubt on Obama’s socialist credentials.
For their own reasons, the DSA wants to keep a distance between their organization and Obama. “Obama is no socialist, but we are” was a banner hanging outside the DSA’s national convention, held November 11-13, 2011, in the Washington, D.C. area. This was done mainly for show, in order to push Obama in a more “progressive” direction. Discussions at the conference included how socialists can work inside the Democratic Party. I attended the conference and heard prominent “progressive” writer and activist John Nichols say that the progressive movement was on the move, citing Big Labor’s organizing efforts in Wisconsin and several states, and predicting that the 2012 elections would continue this process of revolutionary change.
That was before Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker put the brakes on the revolution in Wisconsin. Nichols’s new book, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street doesn’t look so prophetic or like much of a “blueprint for progressives” any more.
Obama was clever not to set foot in Wisconsin, in order to keep his distance from the far-left and their losing campaign, but it remains to be seen whether he and his media and labor union allies can keep the lid on his numerous socialist and communist connections.
Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism, and can be contacted at [email protected].