Before I say anything more about Stanley Kurtz’s description of President Obama as a “socialist” and “radical,” I want to underscore that I have no personal animus towards Kurtz. I’ve never met him, and he came to my attention via a friend who has a high regard for Kurtz’s intellect. I am not here to attack him, but his argument. Kurtz seems irritated that, like countless writers over the centuries, I choose to write under a pseudonym. He wants to know why I do that, and why I chose Eugene Debs. But whether I write under a pseudonym or not has nothing to do with the efficacy of my argument. It must stand or fall on its own merits, just as Kurtz’s must. As the lawyers say, the only thing relevant here is what is between the “four corners of the document.”
The key question here is this: Let’s stipulate that all of Kurtz’s research into Barack Obama’s antecedents is precisely correct. Let’s imagine that Kurtz has accumulated audio and video tapes of Barack Obama consorting/bonding with known socialists and articulating a fully elaborated theory of American socialism’s march to power. Let’s stipulate further that Kurtz has a smoking gun video of Obama sitting around with Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright in 1990 and saying, “Well guys, how should we map out the next 30 years of the “transition” to socialism? Just for starters, I think it would be helpful if I were elected president. From that position, I could really expedite the program, don’t you think?” What would this prove exactly?
Imagine a Stanley Kurtz of the 1980s, unearthing old Ronald Reagan speeches from the 1940s, back when Reagan was an Americans for Democratic Action liberal. What would those speeches tell us about the Reagan presidency? What would Hillary Clinton’s Goldwater activism of the 1960s have told us about a Hillary Clinton presidency?
We are what we do. The way to know the Obama presidency is to watch what the Obama presidency does, how it is staffed, what priorities it chooses.
Stanley Kurtz disagrees with this—it’s all happening by “stealth”, you see. I asked Kurtz and others over the weekend why a purported socialist like Obama would surround himself with such mainstream figures in the Democratic Party, and even one rather prominent Republican, Robert Gates. Kurtz apparently sees nothing unusual or inefficient about Obama’s appointments to influential positions. It’s all part of the plan, I guess. Indeed, Kurtz is “amused” by my Ockham’s Razor remark that Obama has never publicly advocated socialism. Of course not, writes Kurtz: it is a deliberate tactic of American socialists to eschew explicit, public advocacy of their deeply held world view. Rather, “Obama’s policies do fit the model of what socialists call a ‘transitional program’, (i.e. a plan to bring about more complete socialism incrementally, over the long term).”
In other words: while Obama does not act like a socialist now, with a big Democratic majority and in the full flush of his mandate, he might act like one later, when he’s weaker. Or maybe not. Maybe the transition is so precise and slow that Obama won’t act like a socialist at all, and leave that to subsequent Democratic presidents and congressional majorities. So when Obama rejects his party’s left and takes the most incremental available path on universal health care – that confirms his socialism. When he declines to temporarily nationalize the banks – that proves it too. And when he does temporarily nationalize the auto companies—that also proves it! Omitting real socialists to key positions in his administration – all part of the plan.
So, Obama’s scheme is a stealthy one, and it will lead not to a sudden explosion of socialism, but to an “incremental” “transitional program.” This sounds very clever indeed, but it creates an insuperable obstacle for Kurtz’s analysis: if Obama’s plan for socialism is incremental and transitional, how are we to tell the difference between it and the mainstream liberalism that every major figure in the Democratic Party supports? Does Obama send out a secret hand signal when he doesn’t nationalize the banks to those who understand that it means, “Don’t worry, comrades—socialism is coming—I’ve got this under control.”?
Click here to read Part 2.