Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004), The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007), The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007) and The Communist — Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).
Kengor Writes . . .
Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of The Institute for Faith and Freedom at Grove City College, in Grove City, Pennsylvania. These essays are republished from The Institute for Faith and Freedom, an on-line publication of Grove City College. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004), The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007), The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007) and The Communist — Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).
Homage to a Cold War Prophet
Both my country and I lost a great friend and freedom fighter this week: Herb Meyer, an unsung hero of the Cold War. He received the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal for his November 1983 memo predicting a Soviet collapse and victory for the United States. “If present trends continue,” wrote Meyer, “we’re going to win the Cold War.”
Meyer’s bosses, Bill Casey and Ronald Reagan, were all ears. In that endeavor, Meyer was the indispensable man to his beloved mentor and CIA director, Bill Casey.
Sad as I was to hear of his death, it was no surprise. I had been praying for Herb and dreading the news for months, ever since a terrible bike accident last September 25 left this brilliant man, of excellent mind and body, and barely into his 70s, unconscious and incapacitated. Herb’s son, Tom, of whom he was so proud, told me months ago that his dad’s life effectively ended that day. I feared that was the case.
The piece that The American Spectator published from Herb in July 2018 might have been his last, one of many articles he penned in rare moments of down-time when he wasn’t flying everywhere giving lectures on the state of intelligence and the world.
Herb liked to note that he got his start writing obituaries. They were so good that wags would tell him they regretted they hadn’t died when Herb was writing obituaries. I always regretted the day I would write Herb’s obituary, because I knew it wouldn’t be adequate. Besides, he used to rib me that I’d be writing his biography one day. I’d ask about some historical gem or try to yank some secret from his CIA days, only to have him (half) joke: “I’ll tell you when you write my biography.”
I told him that, no, he needed to do that — that is, write his story. He told me he didn’t have the time to start memoirs. I told him he’d better, before it’s too late. I’m sure he figured he had plenty of time. He didn’t.
I have written tributes to Herb in the past, at The American Spectator, in other sources, in my books on Reagan and the Cold War, for which his insights were invaluable. There were countless occasions when he would email or call in response to articles I wrote. I’ve missed that witty correspondence over the last 10 months. It will be hard to reconcile myself to the fact that those communications are permanently finished, and that he’s no longer available to tap for information. That’s what happens when we lose great minds like Herb’s — storehouses, irreplaceable repositories of information. He often told my students that our biggest problem as a nation and culture, in America and the West, is that we’ve forgotten what we already knew.
To that end, I want here to disclose something historically significant, compliments of Herb, and which I’ve long known I could fully divulge only upon his death, though I figured that wouldn’t come for many years.
It was from Herb that I learned that we had learned — specifically, Bill Casey, Ronald Reagan, and a very small group around Casey and Reagan — that the Soviets were behind the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II, and that Casey and this tight-knit crew reached that dramatic conclusion in an extraordinarily classified CIA report that still has not been released.
It took time for me to extract that information from Herb. Going back through my notes these last couple days, I found my first record in an August 6, 2007, email, in which he responded to my inquiry about the shooting of the pope: “Yeah, I know a lot about this subject. I was in it up to my elbows.” That was the limit to what he could put in writing. He told me to call to discuss. He was traveling the next three weeks. We finally connected on August 31, from his home.
“Look, I know what happened with the pope,” he told me, again tight lipped.
That began many days of digging before it was clear to Herb that I had figured out what happened with the pope. Still, because of the extreme secrecy, he would not confirm anything by email or phone.
Finally, that changed on February 5, 2009, when Herb was on our campus of Grove City College, at my invitation, to give our third annual Ronald Reagan Lecture. It was a typical freezing Western Pennsylvania February day. We were about to hop into my conversion van to drive from a private dinner of about 30 people, held at a dining room that the college refers to as “Old MAP,” on our way to the pre-lecture reception at 5:45 at Pew auditorium. It was only the two of us.
By this point, we had become friends. Amid numerous emails and phone calls, I didn’t badger him about what he knew on John Paul II. If he wanted to tell me, he would. I left it in the hands of Herb, and perhaps Providence.
With a grin, Herb suddenly noted that we had not resolved the “pope issue.” As we stepped into the car, I smiled and said I was quite aware of that. I told him that I was confident I had figured it out, laying out the pieces of the puzzle I had been assembling. He nodded with an impressed “Hmm.” As we pulled out to drive across campus, Herb said to me flatly: “The Russians did it.”
He had heard my argument and knew that I knew — or at least as much as I could know without confirmation from one of the individuals who personally read the CIA report that Herb had read over 20 years ago. He also knew that the Italian Parliament had recently come to the same conclusion in an official report.
“The Soviets did it,” he told me. “They shot the pope.” That was the conclusion of the CIA’s investigation. He quickly added that I could not quote him.
Herb then told me about the moment they all learned the truth for the first time. He was in a room with a handful people: Bill Casey, Bob Gates, Jim McMahon — a CIA establishmentarian who, Herb noted, was “stunned” by the reality that the Kremlin could have been so vicious as to try to murder the pope. Herb reiterated that the finding is contained in a still-classified report, located somewhere, and that he had “never, ever seen anything that classified.” Herb quipped of the report’s sensitivity: “The last thing I saw, we were burning out the eyes of the girl who typed it.”
Herb would continue to tell me more on later occasions. Most notable, he said it was the Soviet GRU, military intelligence, that carried out the hit on the pope. It was not a KGB job.
“That’s what threw off everyone,” Herb said, “because everyone looking into whether the Soviets did it looked at the KGB, and pinged their KGB contacts for information, but found nothing. In fact, the KGB knew nothing because it wasn’t involved.”
I ultimately weaved together this information for my 2017 book, A Pope and a President, carefully not mentioning Herb Meyer as my key source. Intensely interested parties wanted to know who told me about the CIA finding of Soviet culpability. Most figured it was Bill Clark, Reagan’s closest aide, who was like a grandfather to me (I was his biographer). It wasn’t Clark. It was Herb Meyer.
One wonders what other gems Herb was keeping to himself, maybe for those elusive memoirs one day. We’ll never know.
The last time I saw Herb was at my good friend Bo DiMuccio’s house, when Herb returned to Grove City for our 10th annual Reagan Lecture. A group of us smoked cigars, had drinks, and talked about life and the world. The conversation continued to the front porch of the house where Herb was staying in Grove City, though Herb was tired out and went to bed early. It was a special night. It was the last.
Herb Meyer: Cold War prophet; agent of victory in the epic defeat of an Evil Empire; man of great stories; knowledge; and secrets. And a really good guy. Requiescat in pace.
What Lenin Said about Christians and Socialism
“If someone calls it socialism,” said Rev. William Barber at the August meeting of the Democratic National Committee, “then we must compel them to acknowledge that the Bible must then promote socialism, because Jesus offered free health care to everyone, and he never charged a leper a co-pay.”
Barber’s statement brought secular progressives to their feet in thunderous applause. That included DNC chair Tom Perez, who says that democratic socialists like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez represent “the future of our party.” That’s a party once headed by men like John F. Kennedy, who warned of the “fanaticism and fury” — the “ruthless, godless tyranny” — of the “Communist conspiracy.”
Describing the U.S. Constitution and the Bible as “socialist documents,” the Rev. Barber exhorted the faithful: “If you want to have a moral debate, bring it on, baby!”
A moral debate on socialism and Christianity, pastor? Sure, let’s have it.
But there’s no need to pick on Rev. Barber. He’s interchangeable with any number of “social justice” proponents on the Religious Left. His statement actually pales to what was published in the Jesuit-run America magazine a few weeks ago — a stunning piece titled “The Catholic Case for Communism.” The column, which was written by an America staff writer named Dean Dettloff, came with a defense and explanation by America’s editor-in-chief, Fr. Matt Malone, S.J., called “Why we published an essay sympathetic to Communism.”
The spectacle prompted one reader to comment, “What will America publish next, ‘The Catholic Case for Atheism’? or ‘The Catholic Case for Satanism’?”
That’s no laughing matter. The Roman Catholic Church in the 1937 encyclical Divini Redemptoris referred to Communism as a “satanic scourge,” a “truly diabolical” instrument of the “sons of darkness.”
Can you imagine a publication in 2019 defending such an ideology? What did Communism produce in the interim, between 1937 and 2019? Only 100 million corpses or so.
But back to this democratic-socialism infatuation by many on the modern Religious Left. I dealt with this not long ago in a recent piece laying out at length what the Catholic Church has taught about socialism and even its alleged more “democratic” variants. Here, too, this article could run thousands of words with endless examples, including some from the very founders of socialism, Marxism, Marxism-Leninism, and past democratic socialists and Social Democrats refuting this stuff. Socialism is, in Marxist theory, the final transitionary step to Communism.
Here today, I’ll offer merely a snapshot from Vladimir Lenin himself — who, for the record, was a Social Democrat. Yes, you heard that right. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union began life in 1898 as the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party. In 1903, at the party’s 2nd Congress, Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin split their Bolshevik faction from their rival Mensheviks. The Bolsheviks were self-professed Social Democrats.
And what did Lenin say about religion? “Religion is opium for the people,” wrote Lenin in December 1905, echoing his hero, Karl Marx. “Religion is a sort of spiritual booze.” That was a mild assessment from a man who wrote that “there is nothing more abominable than religion,” and “all worship of a divinity is a necrophilia.” Yes, necrophilia.
Sticking to this 1905 statement, Lenin saw socialism as incompatible with religious belief: “Everyone must be absolutely free to . . . be an atheist, which every socialist is, as a rule.” He declared: “Complete separation of Church and State is what the socialist proletariat demands of the modern state and the modern church.” Sounding like a 21st-century secular progressive in America, Lenin insisted that “religion must be declared a private affair.”
Of course, once Lenin and his Bolsheviks took over a decade later, they refused to tolerate religion even as a private affair. In fact, even in that 1905 letter, Lenin conceded as much: “We demand that religion be held a private affair so far as the state is concerned. But by no means can we consider religion a private affair so far as our Party is concerned.” In his Soviet state, the Party was the supreme, infallible authority, and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union would relentlessly pursue what Mikhail Gorbachev called “a wholesale war on religion.”
Lenin continued, stating that in order “to combat the religious fog . . . we founded our association, the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party, precisely for such a struggle against every religious bamboozling of the workers.” Lenin wanted a political system “cleansed of medieval mildew.” He wanted to halt “the religious humbugging of mankind.”
Other examples from Lenin? I could go on and on. These are tame examples taken from a decade prior to when Lenin came to power and began murdering by the thousands. This is the restrained Lenin. Still, one can see the absolute repudiation of religion vis-à-vis Communism, socialism, and democratic socialism.
Four years later, in May of 1909, Lenin repeated: “Religion is the opium of the people — this dictum by Marx is the cornerstone of the whole Marxist outlook on religion.” Here, Lenin was writing explicitly on behalf of fellow “Social-Democrats.” What he wrote is worth quoting at length, given what our Christian “democratic socialist” brethren now assert:
“It is the absolute duty of Social-Democrats to make a public statement of their attitude towards religion. Social-Democracy bases its whole world-outlook on scientific socialism, i.e., Marxism. The philosophical basis of Marxism, as Marx and Engels repeatedly declared, is dialectical materialism — a materialism which is absolutely atheistic and positively hostile to all religion. . . . Marxism has always regarded all modern religions and churches, and each and every religious organization, as instruments of bourgeois reaction that serve to defend exploitation and to befuddle the working class . . .
“Marxism is materialism. As such, it is as relentlessly hostile to religion. . . . We must combat religion — that is the ABC of all materialism, and consequently of Marxism. But Marxism is not a materialism which has stopped at the ABC. Marxism goes further. It says: We must know how to combat religion.
“This combat must be waged in order to reverse religion’s hold on the ‘backward sections of the town proletariat’” — that is, the town idiots.
Could a pastor (perhaps the Rev. Barber) or a priest who subscribes to America magazine be a fellow Social-Democrat and member of the Party? Apparently, even in Lenin’s day, a peculiar priest or two must have occasionally considered hooking up with Lenin and his Social-Democrats. Lenin himself reflected on the absurd thought:
“The question is often brought up whether a priest can be a member of the Social-Democratic Party or not, and this question is usually answered in an unqualified affirmative, the experience of the European Social-Democratic parties being cited as evidence. But this experience was the result, not only of the application of the Marxist doctrine to the workers’ movement, but also of the special historical conditions in Western Europe which are absent in Russia . . . so that an unqualified affirmative answer in this case is incorrect.
“It cannot be asserted once and for all that priests cannot be members of the Social-Democratic Party; but neither can the reverse rule be laid down. If a priest comes to us to take part in our common political work and conscientiously performs Party duties, without opposing the program of the Party, he may be allowed to join the ranks of the Social-Democrats; for the contradiction between the spirit and principles of our program and the religious convictions of the priest would in such circumstances be something that concerned him alone, his own private contradiction. . . . But, of course, such a case might be a rare exception even in Western Europe, while in Russia it is altogether improbable. And if, for example, a priest joined the Social-Democratic Party and made it his chief and almost sole work actively to propagate religious views in the Party, it would unquestionably have to expel him from its ranks.”
If a left-wing priest were foolish enough to join the Party, Lenin and the boys would accept his help (Lenin is infamous for allegedly referring to such people as “useful idiots”). But if the strange priest ever tried to share his faith with the comrades, well, he would be shown the door and the boot.
Lenin knew better. So, too, did Marx: “Communism begins where atheism begins,” he asserted.
Once the Bolsheviks took over Russia, atheism was required of Party officials. Any lingering religious sentiment by the Party member must be purged. This was likewise true for the American Communist apparatchiks. “Many workers join the Communist Party who still have some religious scruples, or religious ideas,” conceded William Z. Foster, head of the Communist Party U.S.A., in testimony to Congress:
“. . . but a worker who will join the Communist Party, who understands the elementary principles of the Communist Party, must necessarily be in the process of liquidating his religious beliefs and, if he still has any lingerings when he joins the Party, he will soon get rid of them.”
This is why religious people generally have historically understood Communism and socialism to be antithetical to religion: the Communists and socialists told us they were.
I know that some Religious Left Christians will take issue with this article focusing on the likes of Lenin and William Z. Foster. Fair enough. But that’s my focus here in this article (just one of numerous I’ve written on socialism and Communism), and it isn’t irrelevant. These things have been thought about for a long time. This isn’t new.
This is crucial history that the modern Religious Left surely doesn’t know, no doubt because it was never learned. Our universities have failed to teach this material, instead criticizing anti-communism and anti-socialism. We are now reaping what we’ve sown. You know you’re in spiritual darkness when not even the religious can be counted on to refute the anti-religiousness of Communism and socialism.
The Last of the Bailey Brothers of World War II
Five years ago, for Memorial Day 2014, I wrote about the five Bailey brothers of World War II. This year, I’m writing about them maybe for the last time.
Yes, there were no less than five Baileys who served in WWII. That fact is known to those who attend the annual Memorial Day parade in Mercer, Pennsylvania. The parade is pure Americana: local rotary club, high-school bands, church groups, veterans of wars.
The veterans marching today largely wear the camouflage of distant regions like Iraq and Afghanistan, or uniforms from Vietnam and Korea. Veterans from World War II, unfortunately, are a dwindling sight. I wonder if we’ll see any this year.
One exhibit has long been part of the procession: a classy old car with a placard announcing the “Five Bailey Brothers.”
Back in 2013, after several years of watching the Bailey car ride by, I took the time to track down the last surviving brother: Dick. I was pleasantly surprised to learn he lived in my town — Grove City. I called and asked if he’d give me some time to hear and write about him and his family. He agreed.
Born Christmas Eve 1922, Dick served in World War II along with his brothers Fred, Alphonse (known as “Fonnie”), Jim, and John. All five volunteered after Pearl Harbor and were dispatched into enemy territory. “All had combat,” says Dick — in Europe, the Pacific, Northern Africa; land, sea, air.
Fred was shot and taken prisoner by the Nazis. “The Germans didn’t treat him well,” Dick told me. “Fred said it was horrible. . . . He was only 110 pounds when he came home.” He won a purple heart.
Dick was in the Army Air Corps. He and his brother John were in the war the longest. Dick served on six Pacific islands. In the Schouten Islands, the Japanese bombed almost every night, typically two hours at a time, throughout Dick’s eight-month stay. “You didn’t sleep very much,” remembered Dick.
In all, Dick served continuously from December 1942 until January 1946: “I was never home the whole time until January 1946.”
I asked Dick about the moment he finally got home. It was the winter of 1946. For weeks, he sojourned from the other side of the earth, only to encounter a terrific snowstorm as he neared Western Pennsylvania.
He took the train from Pittsburgh to Grove City. Unbeknownst to Dick, his parents had moved to the nearby little town of Harrisville. Dick arrived very late, consigned to a 24-hour diner by a foot-and-a-half of snow. His parents had no idea he was headed home. Amazingly, they hadn’t heard from him in years, and he hadn’t heard from them — such were the dreadful lines of communication and secrecy. Dick hadn’t been in touch with his brothers either. For all he knew, they might all be dead. He had no clue.
Dick also had no clue of his parents’ new address. At the diner, he saw an old buddy, who informed him where his parents were living. With this useful new information, Dick made his way. He showed up at his parents’ house at 5:00 A.M. His half-asleep mother scurried to the door and saw her son for the first time in four years. She cried, he cried.
Dick’s parents then informed him of something he yearned to know: all of his brothers had survived. He was the last one they were waiting on.
Unfortunately, all of Dick’s brothers now lived elsewhere, two of them newlyweds. His two sisters had also gotten married. In 1942, Dick had left a happy, vibrant home of nine. The war had emptied the Bailey household. But at least all were alive.
Dick would go on to outlive them all.
Over the last couple of years, I was curious about Dick’s situation. I often drove by and looked toward his house, the one with the giant flagpole in the front yard, with Old Glory always raised high. He lived across the street from the fire hall, between two churches. Lately, the house looked like it might be vacant. It turns out it was.
A few months ago, I unexpectedly got an email from Dick’s grandson, Kody, noting that his grandfather had passed away a few days shy of his 95th birthday.
And so, with Dick Bailey’s passing, so ends an era. The five Bailey brothers are all gone, and there will no longer be a car in the Mercer Memorial Day Parade with a Bailey boy wearing World War II badges. They have left us, but they leave us with the eternal hope that the entire Bailey family is united again at last. *
Kengor Writes . . .
Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of the Faith and Freedom at Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004), The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007), The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007) and The Communist — Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).
On Ronald Reagan’s “Racism” — A Single Mistake Does Not a Racist Make.
There’s a provocative article by NYU professor Tim Naftali in the Atlantic titled “Ronald Reagan’s Long-Hidden Racist Conversation With Richard Nixon.” It reports an insulting statement made by Gov. Ronald Reagan to President Richard Nixon in October 1971. Naftali lays out the context and the exchange:
“The day after the United Nations voted to recognize the People’s Republic of China, then-California Governor Ronald Reagan phoned President Richard Nixon at the White House and vented his frustration at the delegates who had sided against the United States. ‘Last night, I tell you, to watch that thing on television as I did,’ Reagan said. ‘Yeah,’ Nixon interjected. Reagan forged ahead with his complaint: ‘To see those, those monkeys from those African countries — damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!’ Nixon gave a huge laugh.”
The statement is bad. No question. As you can imagine, it’s getting a lot of traction among race-obsessed liberals who discern white-hooded “dog whistles” in endless remarks from Republicans but can’t find space within their mental-ideological makeup to even mention something as shameful as, oh, Margaret Sanger’s May 1926 speech to the Silverlake, New Jersey, women’s chapter of the KKK, or any number of racially offensive zingers from a President like Lyndon Johnson or Woodrow Wilson. Their hypocrisy never ceases to outrage.
Make no mistake: They will never let Ronald Reagan escape this one. This line will be hoisted on a progressive petard as an eternal symbol of his views on race. Liberals will apply it unforgivingly and uncharitably in a manner they’d never do with their Democrat pals.
That said, as a Reagan biographer and historian, one who has published eight books and countless articles on the man, I’ve been asked to respond. What to make of this? How to interpret it?
To begin with, I personally cannot defend that statement. It needs to be condemned, certainly as written.
It’s very important to know, however, that Ronald Reagan was not a racist. This is the only — and I mean only — statement that I’ve ever read from him like this (and I’ve read just about everything). It’s so out of the norm that I find it hard to believe. Unlike nasty statements from the likes of L.B.J. and Harry Truman and Woodrow Wilson or even from Hillary Clinton (who jokes of Cory Booker and Eric Holder: “I know, they all look alike”) and Bill Clinton.
Naftali himself concedes, “Reagan’s racism appears to be documented only once on the Nixon tapes, and never in his own diaries.”
Why did Ronald utter this on this one occasion, which was completely out of character for him amid a very public life in which we have billions of on-the-record words from him, including thousands of private letters? Naftali says that Reagan was angry and frustrated in this instance, and thus expressed himself in a way that was insensitive and offensive. He says that Reagan “vented his frustration at the [African UN] delegates who had sided against the United States.”
I can’t say that I fully agree with that interpretation. I’ve carefully listened to the audio multiple times. Reagan doesn’t sound angry at all. It sounds like he might be mocking a racist stereotype. I honestly can’t tell for certain. Given that Reagan never spoke this way, and didn’t think this way, one ought to be inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.
To repeat, Ronald Reagan was absolutely no racist. This can be demonstrated at length in actions and statements literally from the time of his childhood. There are so many actions and statements that I’ve considered doing a book on Reagan and race, simply to show how unusual he was for his times — i.e., there wasn’t a racist bone in his body. I have a box, stuffed with folders, labeled “Reagan and race.” It’s loaded with examples that show Reagan to have been completely against racial prejudice and highly supportive of black Americans and their struggles, especially black actors in Hollywood when he ran the Screen Actors Guild. The problem, frankly, with responding to charges like this in a single article is that you just can’t begin to sufficiently respond, especially when the jury is packed with emotional liberals who want to see a racist under every Republican bed. Where to start? Where to end?
“I’ve lived a long time,” President Reagan told the National Council of Negro Women at the White House in July 1983, “but I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t believe that prejudice and bigotry were the worst of sins.”
He meant that literally. Racism, to Ronald Reagan, was a sin. Reagan learned that at home, as a boy, from his devout Christian mother and from his father.
Any Reagan biographer can tell you of an anecdote from a cold evening in Dixon, Illinois, in the early 1930s, when a young “Dutch” Reagan brought home two African American teammates from his college football team. The boys, William Franklin “Burgie” Burghardt and Jim Rattan, had been denied access to a local hotel because of the color of their skin. Burgie was Reagan’s best friend on the team; he played right next to Reagan on the offensive line. Reagan assured them they would be welcomed at his home. The two boys weren’t so certain. Sure, their friend seemed like an amiable guy, but these boys knew what it was like to be black in those days of rampant discrimination. Would the parents of this nice kid, Dutch, be as kind as he was?
“Come in, boys,” said Reagan’s mother, Nelle, with a warm smile as she greeted the boys. They spent the night. I doubt that the typical home in America was like that. The Reagan home was.
“She was absolutely color-blind,” said Reagan of his mom, recounting the story. “These fellows were just two of my friends. That was the way she and Jack [Reagan’s father] had always raised my brother and me.”
Ronald Reagan had learned racial, ethnic, and religious tolerance from his parents. It had been part of him since his early childhood.
While this anecdote about the two young black men, of which many more could be given from Reagan’s rich life and experiences, reflects Reagan’s hatred of racism, it also underscores his respect for the inherent humanity of all people, regardless of their skin color, their ethnic background, their religious beliefs. For Reagan, these were matters of basic human dignity.
I promise you that I could go on and on with heartwarming stories of Reagan’s love and kindness toward African Americans. There was his relationship with the likes of celebrities from Muhammad Ali to Rosie Grier to Meadowlark Lemon, to name only three off the top of my head. I could name names you’ve never heard of, with stories that would make you cry — Reagan and Rudy Hines, Joe Bullock, Willie Sue Smith, Mildred Jefferson. Again, there are too many to adequately describe here. These are touching relationships that few self-righteous liberals or any of us have experienced.
Even in his Evil Empire speech, famous for calling out the USSR, Ronald Reagan paused to call out his own country, the United States of America, for its past sins of racism.
“There is sin and evil in the world,” said Reagan, “and we’re enjoined by Scripture and the Lord Jesus to oppose it with all our might.” That applied, he said, to “our nation,” which had a “legacy of evil with which it must deal. . . . There is no room for racism, anti-Semitism, or other forms of ethnic and racial hatred in this country.”
This wasn’t something that Reagan was expected to say in a foreign-policy speech. He expressed it because he felt it; he believed it.
Ask anyone who knew Ronald Reagan and they will tell you that he was not a racist, period.
As for the author of the piece in the Atlantic, Tim Naftali, he deserves some criticism, not for reporting this remark from Reagan, but for how, in turn, he thus speaks conclusively of “Reagan’s racism” (a phrase he used twice), as if this one comment can allow us to judge Reagan as a whole and as a person. The fuller picture of the man shows the opposite. In fact, I would advise Naftali to be careful about constructing such a standard. Naftali, a biographer of John F. Kennedy, notes, “As I write a biography of J.F.K., I’ve found that this sort of racism did not animate President Kennedy.”
Naftali seems to have chosen his words carefully there, prompting me to ask him here: Has he encountered racially offensive remarks from J.F.K.? Or other Kennedy family members?
Hey, I like J.F.K., too. Naftali better be careful, however. He may well come across something similar from the annals of the Kennedy clan that he doesn’t like — and far more than one example. Liberals create such standards to apply them mercilessly to Republicans, not realizing that such standards will come back to bite them when they find untidy skeletons among their progressive icons. This they learned with their black-face campaign. Beware the Democrat, dear progressive — who donned black-face?
As for Reagan, it is really unfair to take one statement from a man’s past — one that goes against every statement he ever made about black people — and try to argue that it makes him a racist, especially when the man is no longer alive to explain the remark. It’s a bad remark, but it’s far from the total picture. It’s like looking at Harry Truman’s offensive statements about Jews (more than one of those) and ignoring his wonderful work ensuring that America recognize the new nation of Israel, which Truman pursued against his entire cabinet. (For a genuinely ugly track record of statements and actions against Jews and a homeland for them in Palestine, see Franklin Roosevelt.)
To liberals, I say this: Don’t be hacks. Don’t smear a decent man and his long life of decency, including on race, because he’s a Republican and not one of your Democrat buddies. Have the decency to treat a decent man with decency.
To Reagan admirers, I say this: Let your hero — a man who is a human being, not without sin — take his falls. No one is perfect. Ronald Reagan wasn’t, and this remark from October 1971 certainly seems like it’s probably an indicator of that.
Review of Mark Levin’s Unfreedom of the Press
The opening words of the Bill of Rights, i.e., the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, spell out these freedoms:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press. . . .”
Ask many conservatives today, especially religious conservatives, and they’ll tell you that freedom of religion is the freedom most under assault by the political-cultural left. Ask conservatives suffering on the typical college campus, and they’ll add freedom of speech to the targets of today’s fundamental transformers.
And yet, those threats wouldn’t have the strength they have if a free press wielded its freedom properly, fairly, apolitically, and non-ideologically. Unfortunately, America has a dominant press that for decades has freely acted as an arm and agent of the Democratic Party and of liberalism. What the press reports — and, equally important, what it fails to report and willfully omits — shapes America, its politics, its culture, and does so dutifully according to the Democratic Party’s ongoing and evolving ideological agenda. Make no mistake: So many of today’s “news sources,” from CBS and CNN to the Washington Post and New York Times, primarily serve as propaganda organs for Democrats. With occasional exceptions, they toe the party line. This has been true for a long time, and it constituted a near-monopoly until the advent of Fox News, talk-radio, and web technology that has opened other avenues, even as the “mainstream media” remain dominated by left-wing sources.
The fact that this mess exists, and has long been the case, is the subject of Mark Levin’s latest book, Unfreedom of the Press, which has rapidly become Levin’s biggest seller — which itself is telling.
It must be stated here from the outset that Mark Levin’s books stand out among books by major media personalities. Many pundits, particularly in talk-radio, bang out books written by ghostwriters. I’ll always remember a moment with a well-known media figure who asked me in the TV studio to sign a copy of one of my books. “How much of that did you write?” he asked. A little stunned, I said, “Well, all of it.” He replied that he didn’t write a word of his recent bestseller. Sadly, that’s not unusual. Mark Levin is the complete opposite. He does his own writing and research, and his books are testimony to his considerable knowledge and mind. Unfreedom of the Press is the latest case in point. The writing is cogent, the research is exceptional, as is the marshalling of facts in support of his arguments.
“Unfreedom of the Press is about how those entrusted with news reporting in the modern media are destroying freedom of the press from within,” Levin begins, underscoring a theme of his book, namely: the liberal press consistently undermines its own credibility. He notes that the problem isn’t one of government oppression or suppression, but the dominant media’s political and social activism, its “progressive group-think, Democratic Party partisanship, opinion and propaganda passed off as news, the staging of pseudo-events, self-censorship, bias by omission, and outright falsehoods,” too often substituted for “old-fashioned, objective fact gathering and news reporting.”
Levin gives countless examples, and I could as well, where liberal reporters and editors come up with endless reasons not to report something damaging to a liberal or the liberal cause but then do little to no serious fact-checking to rush out the flimsiest claims about a conservative or the conservative cause. The common assertion from liberals that news organizations first and foremost care about headlines and selling newspapers is hogwash. It’s not about dollars but the cause. If the story hurts liberalism, they’ll do back flips to not report it, and at least not report the story more than once. (A common tactic I’ve experienced: liberal reporters will claim they don’t need to write a follow-up story because newspaper X already did the story, as if the story is now forever closed. To the contrary, if the story is against a Republican politician, then the opening salvo by newspaper X is a signal to the entirety of the remainder of the liberal media to open the floodgates.)
“This book could easily have been ten times its current length,” writes Levin. That’s no exaggeration. And unfortunately, adequately summarizing the book here could require ten times the length of this review. Chapter three alone is worth the price tag. Titled, “The Modern Democratic-Party Press,” an apt description coined by Levin, the long list of bulleted examples of the media’s trashing of Donald Trump runs seven pages long. Even if you detest Donald Trump, you’ll agree that the vicious hyperbole towards the man laid out here is a remarkable collection. That’s a contemporary example of outrageous media bias. The chapter that follows, titled, “The Real Threat to Press Freedom,” chronicles real abuses of presidential power against the media — not by President Trump but by presidents like Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt. These are abuses that make Trump look like a lefty journalism professor by comparison, and they are abuses that progressives through the ages have kept assiduously silent about.
Throughout this book, F.D.R. rears his head. Chapter six, titled, “The New York Times Betrays Millions,” is an indictment of Franklin Roosevelt toward the plight of Jews in the Nazi era as well as the Times for its terrible coverage of the Holocaust. Levin quotes Dr. David S. Wyman: “It seems almost unbelievable that in Roosevelt’s press conferences (normally held once a week) not one word was spoken about the mass killing of European Jews until almost a year later.”
It does indeed, but if you know about F.D.R.’s ugly record toward Jews and Israel, this will not surprise. Levin quotes Emory University professor Deborah Lipstadt on how F.D.R. and his administration (in Levin’s words) “whitewashed or deemphasized the Nazi eradication of Jews,” particularly F.D.R.’s Office of War Information (which was likewise lousy on the Soviet threat). Lipstadt cites the 1943 Moscow declaration by F.D.R., Churchill, and Stalin, which denounced almost every wartime human-rights atrocity except for those against Jews. “Nowhere in the declaration were the Jews even obliquely mentioned,” Lipstadt noted, “a phenomenon the press simply ignored.”
The same press that served as sycophants to F.D.R. Here again, the press had the freedom to cover the story otherwise, but instead it followed the lead of the Democrat president. Yet again, “journalists” marched in lockstep with their party leader.
Dedicated listeners to Mark Levin’s radio show have heard him speak about the New York Times’ tragic failures on the Holocaust. What they likely haven’t heard about is the Times’ likewise awful coverage of Holodomor — Stalin’s forced famine in the Ukraine, where 5-10 million men, women, and children starved to death in the early 1930s.
To that end, Levin spends considerable time on the infamous work of Times’ journalist Walter Duranty, who would (unforgivably) be awarded the Pulitzer Prize, despite his woefully misleading and inaccurate reporting on the Ukraine. Duranty would report, including in articles with titles like, “Russians Hungry, but Not Starving” (March 31, 1933, New York Times), that:
“Here are the facts. . . . There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation, but there is widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition. . . . These conditions are bad, but there is no famine.”
This was not simply erroneous reporting. Levin recounts what scholars of this period and colleagues said of Duranty, namely: he knew otherwise. Duranty told William Strang at the British embassy on September 26, 1933 that as many as 10 million people had already died. He also personally told Eugene Lyons (UPI’s Moscow correspondent, who would become a leading ex-communist, particularly via his memoir The Red Decade) that he estimated the total number of famine victims around seven million. Malcolm Muggeridge (another onetime leftist reporter who would become a leading anti-communist) would later call Duranty “the greatest liar of any journalist I have met in fifty years of journalism.” Even the esteemed man of the left, Joseph Alsop, would denounce Duranty as a “fashionable prostitute” in service of Communists.
As Levin shows, the Kremlin wined and dined Duranty, who licked it all up. Not only did the Soviets lavish him with food and booze (as Ukrainians tried to eat grass), but with a chauffeured car, assistants, and a handy cook-secretary-turned-mistress named Katya, who put her full self at the disposal of the Times’ feted “Man in Moscow.” She bore Duranty a son in the process. Eugene Lyons suspected that Duranty was flatly on the Kremlin’s payroll; at the least, he was a recipient of the Bolsheviks’ generous subsidies.
For Walter Duranty, apparently the perks were too good to give up for inconvenient facts on trifling things like the mass starvation of millions at the hands of the dictator that F.D.R. lovingly dubbed “Uncle Joe.”
Speaking of which, F.D.R. tapped Duranty for advice on whether or not the Democrat president should do what every previous president from Woodrow Wilson to Herbert Hoover had refused: extend diplomatic recognition to Stalin’s totalitarian slave state. F.D.R. did just that. When recognition was granted, Duranty traveled with his pal, Stalin henchman and foreign minister, Maxim Litvinov, to F.D.R.’s jubilant signing ceremony. As Levin notes (citing Douglas McCollam), at a banquet at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York to celebrate the event, Duranty was introduced as “one of the great foreign correspondents of modern times,” as 1,500 dignitaries leapt to their feet in a standing ovation.
Not only had Duranty not paid a price for his shameful misreporting and disinformation, but he was a journalistic celebrity, loved by the likes of stalwart pro-Soviet dupes such as George Bernard Shaw and Sinclair Lewis.
Levin covers this excellently and concisely. All of his chapters follow that pattern, whether dealing with liberal-press vagaries of years gone by or newer instances of shameless media shenanigans to this day. Again, this review cannot due them all justice.
Mark Levin concludes his study of the media with some sober, measured advice. He pleads with reporters to try to muster some integrity in performing their duties, to not deceive the audience, to be transparent, to exercise humility, to not be partisan hacks. The problem, however, as Levin notes, is that “most partisans” — that’s indeed what many journalists are, with partisanship their driving impetus for entering the field of journalism — “are unable or unwilling to put aside their personal ideological and political perspectives or, even worse, they consider them essential to moving and improving society through activism.”
Precisely. They are activists first and foremost — for the political left and for the Democratic Party.
Does that leave us with much hope? Well, not really. But Levin’s candid diagnosis at least helps us understand what we’re dealing with. By knowing what the press is like, we can have a better sense how to respond. That includes creating alternative forms of media to communicate the truth, to circumvent the likes of the New York Times and the prevailing partisan press. It also includes publishing and reading crucial books like Unfreedom of the Press.
Offending Christians: The Bladensburg Cross Case
Editor Note: In June the Supreme Court held that the Bladensburg Cross in Bladensburg, Maryland, did not violate the First Amendment’s “no establishment” clause, reversing a lower court’s ruling.
One of the major Supreme Court decisions we’ll soon hear about is the Bladensburg cross case. This is the case in which secularists are demanding the removal of a large cross that memorializes veterans in the town of Bladensburg, Maryland, because the cross resides on public property.
It’s crucial to realize that the cross wasn’t erected yesterday. The “Peace Cross” was constructed in 1925 in honor of 49 fallen veterans of World War I. It was designed by the Gold Star mothers and erected by the local post of the American Legion.
The case is known as The American Legion v. The American Humanist Association. The “humanists” argue that the memorial is unconstitutional because it’s fashioned in the shape of a cross on government property, and thus stands in violation of “separation of church and state” — a phrase, of course, not found anywhere in the U.S. Constitution. That language was expressed by Thomas Jefferson in his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists, and has been badly abused and misinterpreted ever since.
The fact that the cross is a cross is what makes it unacceptable. (Replace it with a statue of Barney the purple dinosaur and the humanists would withdraw their objections.) Secularists appeal to the First Amendment of the Constitution, which says, in part, that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Obviously, allowing the old cross to continue to stand would not create a congressional “establishment of religion.” Anyone who thinks allowing this cross to remain means that the feds are conspiring to implement a national theocracy needs to have his head examined. As they invoke a select handful of words from the First Amendment, the secularists misleadingly do what they always do, namely — avoid the remainder of what the First Amendment says about freedom of religion: the government “shall not prohibit the free exercise thereof.” The American Legion and Gold Star mothers of Bladensburg exercised their freedom of religion in 1925 to honor their fallen brothers and sons. They naturally commemorated them with the cross that represents their faith.
The secularists, however, refuse to view it that way. And that’s quite unfortunate. They would never view themselves and their actions as hostile, but, in reality, that’s what they are. This is hostility toward religion. They likewise would never view themselves and their actions as intolerant, but, in reality, that’s likewise what they are. This is yet another remarkable example of their intolerance. How can people who preach diversity be so blatantly intolerant of the beliefs of others?
For a sense of the lack of respect, consider one of the worst affronts in the case:
A federal appeals court in October 2017 had ruled the cross unconstitutional, asserting that it “excessively entangles” the government with religion. This verdict was rendered in a 2-1 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Virginia, which argued that the Peace Cross “aggrandizes the Latin cross” and thereby constitutes a U.S. government endorsement of Christianity. So said a 33-page opinion written by Judge Stephanie Thacker, and joined by Judge James A. Wynn Jr.
Thacker’s overall opinion demonstrated a troubling lack of historical-theological awareness. Worst of all was the insensitivity displayed during oral arguments. Thacker, an Obama appointee approved by the U.S. Senate in 2012 by a vote of 91-3, offered a truly novel solution. During oral arguments, Thacker asked the attorney defending the memorial: “What about . . . my suggestion of chopping the arms off?”
Yes, the judge offered a compromise: slice off the horizontal arms. You heard that right: slice off the arms from the cross of Christ.
Can you imagine? Can you picture it? Grab a photo of the memorial and do your own airbrush. How does it look?
For the record, the Peace Cross, mercifully, does not have a corpus. Thus, the demolition crew wouldn’t be sawing off the arms of Jesus. Nonetheless, imagine the precedent proposed. Presumably, using the Thacker Solution, similar large memorial crosses on government property could all be targeted for arm-removal.
In fact, that prompts this thought: in the interest of fairness and equality, why stop with crosses? Shouldn’t we thus also target the horizontal parts of the Star of David — another religious symbol — if we find them as similarly large memorials on government property? Should they be hunted down? Should they be permitted to remain only if we sawed off the horizontal parts? Of course, the star would no longer be a star, but apparently dismembering it would be a triumph in this greater good of not “entangling” government with religion.
Do we go down this road?
I pose a serious question to Judge Thacker and the secularists: Do you not see how your objections to the cross of Christ might be offensive? In the name of not offending, you’re offending. In the name of inclusion, you’re excluding. In the name of tolerance, you’re engaging in intolerance.
It isn’t like this cross was planted yesterday or is being scheduled for construction in 2020. It has been there for nearly a hundred years. It’s as much historical as spiritual. Can’t you leave it alone at least for that reason? This isn’t a bronzed statue of a Confederate general who whipped slaves on a plantation. This is a testimony to the faith of the men who died for their country in World War I — for peace. Do you not see the aggression in your actions? Why go on the offensive with bulldozers? Leave it alone.
If this was a giant Star of David on public land, I’d be the first to stand with a group of rabbis demanding that secularists back off and respect a century-old memorial. I will fight for the rights of every Christian and Jew, and cross and Star of David. The same isn’t true for secular liberals. They pick and choose. They’re the first to harass, fine, sue, shut down, and toss in jail the Christian baker, florist, or marriage clerk. I will defend the liberty of a Muslim baker in Dearborn, as well as a Christian baker in Colorado. I will defend the right of an Orthodox Jewish caterer to decline a wedding on the Sabbath just as I’ll defend the right of a Christian florist in Washington state to decline a same-sex wedding ceremony that violates the teachings of her faith and her freedom of conscience.
Far too many secular liberals, however, will not. To this day, Jack Phillips, the Christian baker in Colorado, is hounded with new legal challenges. Militant secularists will not back off from badgering him.
And yet, a colleague of mine who’s an attorney on religious-liberty cases tells me he’s unaware of a single case in which a same-sex couple has sued a Muslim baker for declining a same-sex wedding ceremony. Progressives will not pursue Muslims, even as Muslim bakers likewise openly refuse homosexual couples. They leave them alone. It’s a double standard they impose against Christians.
If they insist there’s no double standard, then let’s see it. Prove otherwise by having the decency to leave the Bladensburg memorial cross alone. *
Kengor Writes . . .
Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004), The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007), The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007) and The Communist — Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).
Joe Biden and the Democrats’ Racist Abortion Position — They Couldn’t Be Prouder of Their Genocidal Commitments.
Imagine if Donald Trump announced he would change his longtime opposition to public funding of abortion in order to ensure that black, Hispanic, and poor women can abort their babies. Would liberals need even 10 seconds before foaming at the mouth screaming that he’s a racist?
Last week in Atlanta, Joe Biden, Democrat presidential frontrunner for 2020, said:
“For many years as a U.S. senator, I have supported the Hyde Amendment as many, many others have because there was sufficient monies and circumstances where women were able to exercise that right [to abortion], women of color, poor women, women who were not able to have access. . . . But circumstances have changed.”
Thus, said Biden,
“I can’t justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need and their ability to exercise their constitutionally protected right. If I believe healthcare is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone’s zip code.”
In response, the crowd of liberal women went wild, applauding ecstatically.
It was an incredible moment. A sick moment. Think about what Joe Biden said, to liberals’ roaring approval: He’s reversing his long-held position so “women of color, poor women” can get abortions — that is, have their abortions publicly paid for. He’s changing specifically because of women of color and poor women. He wants them to be able to have their abortions. He wants to make sure money isn’t an issue. He wants no obstacles to them securing their desire to abort their child. This change is prompted wholly on their behalf: “women of color, poor women.” Even long-held religious objections should be no barrier. Your belief in God, and your conviction that God would shudder at you helping to finance others’ abortions, plays second fiddle to the greater goal of these women getting abortions.
Naturally, liberals will recoil when seeing Biden’s comments framed that way. Biden, after all, is their boy, and Roe v. Wade is their baby. The hallowed “right to choose” is a sacrament in the liberal church. That abortion far and away disproportionately annihilates minorities and especially African-Americans is dismissed in light of their ultimate highest good.
I’ve written here many times about the awful history of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger; her work with the “Negro Project”; her commitment to racial eugenics for what she called “race improvement”; and her May 1926 speech to the Silverlake, New Jersey, chapter of the KKK, which she openly wrote about in her memoirs. I’ve written on Hillary Clinton’s abortion hypocrisy and on liberal cult-hero Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s assessment to the New York Times Magazine:
“I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion.”
I also wrote here recently about abortion in Biden’s birth state of Pennsylvania, a state he hopes to take away from Donald Trump. The vast majority of Planned Parenthood clinics in Pennsylvania and throughout the nation are located among African-American populations. Looking strictly at Pennsylvania, the latest statistics show that 43 percent of abortions were to African-American women and 10 percent to Hispanic women. More remarkable is the sheer disproportionally: only 11 percent of Pennsylvania women are black and 7 percent are Hispanic.
Abortion in Pennsylvania, like everywhere else in America, victimizes minorities by leaps and bounds. The national figures show that abortions by black and Hispanic women outpace white women by 4.5 times. Some civil rights leaders, including Dr. Alveda King, have called this “Black Genocide.”
Well, America’s minorities should know how much Joe Biden has their back: he wants to make sure they get free abortions. In fact, it’s so important to Biden that he’s willing to suddenly abandon his three-decade-long support of the Hyde Amendment for this grand objective. And progressives cheer mightily.
Biden, of course, is hardly alone in this among liberals. Quite the contrary, he’s caving on the Hyde Amendment because not doing so is heresy in the liberal church. The Democratic Party once supported the Hyde Amendment, just as it once defined marriage as between a man and a woman. But progressives, you see, have since progressed. They’re now more enlightened. Hyde must be aborted, so Americans can support abortions for poor women, women of color, black women, Hispanic women.
“The problem is, the Hyde Amendment affects poor women, women of color, black women, Hispanic women,” says Patti Solis Doyle, who served as Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign manager in 2008, and who has also worked for Biden.
And whose lives are eliminated in this equation? The answer: Poor babies, babies of color, babies of black women, babies of Hispanic women.
Planned Parenthood, naturally, is thrilled with Joe Biden hopping on the progressive bandwagon. Minority women are its biggest customers.
“Happy to see Joe Biden embrace what we have long known to be true: Hyde blocks people — particularly women of color and women with low incomes — from accessing safe, legal abortion care,” said Leana Wen of Planned Parenthood.
You can’t make this up. And it’s no laughing matter. Just ask Elizabeth Warren. Choking back tears, filled with anger, she insisted to an audience of clapping, stomping women that Hyde be reversed: “Understand this,” said Warren, voice trembling. “Women of means will still have access to abortions. Who won’t will be poor women.”
This is the prevailing position of today’s Democratic presidential candidates and the party generally, with the party’s old men no longer summoning the intestinal fortitude to oppose the hysterical pack. Biden is merely the latest Democrat man without a chest, an ongoing line of lily-livered gutlessness that the late Pennsylvania Democratic Governor Bill Casey foresaw over two decades ago. The Joe Biden of 2019 is selling his soul for the political approval of today’s unhinged Democratic Party, which has completely lost its mind on moral-cultural issues.
What’s especially sad is that Democrats are hell-bent on this policy at a time when the number of abortions have been in decline. For those who hoped and prayed that the scourge of black abortion would likewise decline, well, too bad: the Democrats are doing their damnedest to ensure that when it comes to public funding of abortion, no child is left behind.
Liberal Democrats tell us they love blacks and the poor. They are just oozing with compassion for them. So much so that they will strive to ensure that you — as a taxpayer, and regardless of your religious or conscience objections — are forced by the state to help ensure that every black or poor woman who wants to terminate her child will not be financially prohibited.
Wow, what compassion.
Pretty sick, folks. Pretty sick, Joe.
The “Today Show” Celebrates Communist Holiday
On Friday morning I was sitting alone gumming a bowl of oatmeal in the breakfast area of a Hampton Inn in Pontiac, Illinois, when I was assaulted by an absurdity on the widescreen TV. There I was, calmly minding my own business, keeping my big mouth shut for a change, opening it only for the next scoop of tastelessness. Just then, a group of maniacs from the “Today Show” ruined my tranquility by babbling obliviously and ecstatically about International Women’s Day.
International Women’s Day? Seriously? Had I slipped back in time a hundred years ago to, er, Leningrad, March 8, 1919? Judging from the giggling guy and gals on the screen, I had not. I checked my phone. It was March 8, 2019. And I was in America.
Some “Today Show” dingbat gushed feigned excitement about the great holiday. Sitting to his left were two or three fashionable ladies likewise sharing his jubilation. The male host turned over the segment to a lady reporter outside the building, who was flanked by two young women prattling on about the liberation of the “music industry” from some sinister male dominance that obviously has deprived the likes of Madonna and Barbra Streisand of millions of dollars in riches. Behind them all was a gaggle of girls cheering about something else that had something to do with International Women’s Day.
It was confusing. All of these women and yet — and yet — no Comrade Clara.
That’s right. No Comrade Clara. Where was Clara Zetkin?
It was then that I realized that, no, I hadn’t slipped into a time-warp overnight somewhere along Rt. 55 on my way from Eureka College to the Union League Club in Chicago later that day — both places where, ironically, I would deliver lectures celebrating America’s defeat of international Communism in the last century.
I guess the celebration is premature.
Recall, dear leaders, that we Americans won the Cold War and defeated the likes of Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, and Clara Zetkin.
Because of the laws of nature, Clara wasn’t at “Today’s” studios on Friday. Never hopping an elliptical a day in her life, never doing a Pilates workout, and surely never prancing around in yoga pants, Clara died 86 years ago. She died in Moscow, of course. She was there in the rollicking 1930s, the cusp of Stalin’s wondrous five-year plans, and just missed his Great Purge and mass famine imposed upon the Ukraine.
But Clara was there in New York on Friday in spirit. And it seems unfair that the folks at “Today” offered no acknowledgment of this matron of International Women’s Day. Not even a photo!
Of course, let’s be honest, and sadly serious for a moment. Most of these modern products of our universities have no idea who Comrade Clara was, or would give a rip, and would surely hurl cries of “McCarthyism” at me for raising the specter of the old German socialist-Marxist. Clara will not be condemned. Communism will not be condemned. I will be condemned. As usual, anti-communism will be condemned.
Swimming along with the cultural tide, infused by the Zeitgeist, choked by what R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. calls the Kultursmog, they only know what they’ve been taught. More so, they are victims of their progressive professors’ many sins of omission — chief among them the utter failure to teach the lessons, the damage, and the outright horrors of Communism.
They’ve been duped.
Hence, as a public service, I’d like to here pause to enlighten them on the origins of the Communist holiday they commemorated last week.
Clara Zetkin was a big-time German pinko. A Marxist theorist and proud feminist-socialist, she also claimed the banner hoisted today by the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her charming congressional colleague from Dearborn, Michigan, Ms. Tlaib — that is to say, Clara was a “democratic socialist.”
And the International Women’s Day was Clara’s thing. If you doubt me, take a glance at the piece (including the accompanying photo of the women carrying the banner, “WOMEN OF THE WORLD UNITE”) on “The Origins of International Women’s Day” in People’s World, the longtime flagship publication of American Communism, and successor to the Daily Worker. Right from the horse’s mouth:
“Within the last twenty years, many thousands of women worldwide have begun to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD). However, the way in which the day is marked often bears little resemblance to the original IWD purpose and origins. This is a great misfortune.”
How so? What was the motivation for “IWD?” People’s World writer provides an accurate answer:
“IWD was founded at the beginning of the last century to both highlight and celebrate the struggle of working women against their oppression and double exploitation.”
“Today, this fight has not been won — their struggle is still our struggle. Thus, it is timely to remind women and men in the labor movement and elsewhere of the inspirational socialist origins of IWD in the hope that it will ignite again a progressive socialist feminist women’s movement rooted in an understanding of the class basis of women’s inequality. We can learn from our history, but first we must rediscover it.”
Assisting in that rediscovery, People’s World notes (correctly) that the first historic demonstration launching IWD took place on March 8, 1908 by “women workers” on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. From there, Clara and the European worker-masses rose up:
“Meanwhile, news of the heroic fight of U.S. women workers reached Europe — in particular, it inspired European socialist women who had established, on the initiative of the German socialist feminist Clara Zetkin (1857-1933), the International Socialist Women’s Conference.
This latter body met for the first time in 1907 in Stuttgart alongside one of the periodic conferences of the Second [Communist] International (1889-1914).
“Three years later in 1910, Zetkin proposed the following motion at the Copenhagen Conference of the Second International: ‘The Socialist women of all countries will hold each year a Women’s Day, whose foremost purpose it must be to aid the attainment of women’s suffrage. This demand must be handled in conjunction with the entire women’s question according to Socialist precepts.’
“The motion was carried. March 8 was favored.”
From there, notes People’s World, the Bolsheviks got into the full swing and adopted International Women’s Day as a national holiday that would last throughout the entirety of the USSR:
“In 1917 in Russia, International Women’s Day acquired great significance — it was the flashpoint for the Russian Revolution. On March 8, (Western calendar) female workers in Petrograd held a mass strike and demonstration demanding peace and bread. The strike movement spread from factory to factory and effectively became an insurrection.
“The Bolshevik paper Pravda reported that the action of women led to revolution, resulting in the downfall of the tsar, a precursor to the Bolshevik revolution. ‘The first day of the revolution was Women’s Day. . . . the women . . . decided the destiny of the troops; they went to the barracks, spoke to the soldiers, and the latter joined the revolution. . . . Women, we salute you.’
“In 1922, in honor of the women’s role on IWD in 1917, Lenin declared that March 8 should be designated officially as Women’s Day. Much later, it was a national holiday in the Soviet Union and most of the former socialist countries.”
There you go. That says it all, doesn’t it? It was a national holiday in Lenin’s and Stalin’s USSR.
Well, it looks like our intrepid “progressives” in the United States have picked up the torch. They are poised to make IWD a national holiday in the United States, too.
International Women’s Day marchers, unite! “Today Show” producers and hosts and reporters, unite! To borrow from Trotsky’s and Stalin’s Pravda, “We salute you!”
Where is Clara today, as the women of “Today” honor her legacy? Clara Zetkin is buried in the wall of the Kremlin, where she was placed nearest the rotting bosom of Vladimir Lenin. There for the red funeral with tears in their eyes were Lenin’s widow and Stalin himself.
That was the genesis of International Women’s Day.
Ladies, if you bite from the fruit of International Women’s Day, you are eating the fruit of a poisoned tree. You are a sucker.
What “Deep Christian Convictions” of “Democratic Socialism”?
Editor’s Note: This essay was first published in Crisis Magazine.
I do my best to avoid The New York Times. Truly, I try not to read it. Doing so invariably ruins my day and wastes my time. It not only frustrates me but pains me. On countless thousands of occasions I’ve found myself reading a Times piece that leaves me barking at the page about something utterly crucial that was magically excluded from the piece in order to advance whatever flawed thesis was being forwarded in the name of some left-wing position. It’s maddening.
This happened again when a friend this week sent me a widely circulated op-ed piece from last weekend’s Times, titled, “Can We Please Relax About ‘Socialism?’” It was written by David Bentley Hart, who — and this particularly caught my eye and prompted me to write here — is a scholar of religion and (according to the tagline) “an affiliated scholar of the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study.”
Ironically, I just spoke at Notre Dame, where I lectured on the differences and confusion regarding what is “socialism,” what is “democratic socialism,” what is Communism, Marxism, etc. Above all, I laid out what the Catholic Church has said about these things. Drawing the necessary distinctions is never easy, as they are constantly blurred by the very people advancing the terms, and telling us that those who are concerned about socialism and Communism are the big problem. Socialism and Communism aren’t the problem, you see — it’s the anti-socialists and anti-communists who are the menace.
Dr. Hart, in his defense, was raised under what he refers to as a “British variant” of socialism, which he defines as “exemplified by F. D. Maurice, John Ruskin, William Morris, R. H. Tawney, and many other luminaries (including, in his judiciously remote way, C. S. Lewis).”
I would unequivocally object to putting Lewis in any such category. (Lewis was a critic of progressivism, let alone socialism and Marxism.) As for British “socialism,” well, which variant — and how far back? How about the Fabian Society type, the H. G. Wells variant, the George Bernard Shaw slop, or the Labour Party’s 1918 Clause IV-style that called for “common ownership of the means of production,” which Tony Blair repudiated in 1995? What about the disastrous Attlee administration that nationalized everything under the English skyline between 1945-51 (much of which Margaret Thatcher mercifully de-nationalized)? Even today’s Labour Party, long the home to presumably the type of “socialism” that Dr. Hart approves (incidentally, what kind of “socialist” is Jeremy Corbyn?), will not dare re-do what Clement Attlee did. Maybe Dr. Hart sees Britain’s NHS as constituting the best of British “socialism,” but it would be simplistic to say that that makes Britain “socialist.” Certainly, when Marx and Engels and Lenin and Trotsky wrote of socialism and democracy (Lenin and Trotsky and Stalin were initially members of the Social Democratic Party of Russia before the party split between Bolsheviks and Menshaviks in 1903), they would not have considered contemporary Britain socialist.
And so, what is socialism? What is democratic socialism? Ask ten self-described socialists or democratic socialists and you’ll get ten different definitions, few of them grounded in a firm historical understanding of the term. What we tend to get from people on the left is ridicule of conservatives who legitimately fear what the left wants to do when it prattles on about the glories of “socialism” and “democratic socialism,” and how we should all take a deep breath and sit back and enjoy the vast fruits of what would await us if we would simply submit to taking the road to state utopia. Google the phrase “21st century socialism.” That’s what Hugo Chavez championed in Venezuela, and I could show you article after article from left-wing sources (People’s World especially) on how this was touted just a decade ago as the great new “democratic socialist” thing.
In that sense, none of what Dr. Hart wrote — in a snooty way that made fun of everything from Fox News and Ben Stein to conservatives understandably troubled by the rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — surprised me. (What’s troubling about Ocasio-Cortez is less her personality than what she represents: the sudden shocking support for a failed ideology now being blithely embraced by millions of millennials oblivious to its history.)
But what really got me about Hart’s piece, particularly given his affiliation with Notre Dame, was this passage:
“Democratic socialism is, briefly put, a noble tradition of civic conscientiousness that was historically — to a far greater degree than either its champions or detractors today often care to acknowledge — grounded in deep Christian convictions. I, for instance, am a proud son of the European Christian socialist tradition, especially in its rich British variant . . . but also in its continental expressions (see, for example, Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, with its prescient warnings against the dangers of unfettered capitalism).”
This demands a response — not the “British variant” part but the assertion that “democratic socialism” is “grounded in deep Christian convictions” and that “the European Christian socialist tradition” has “continental expressions” in the likes of “Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Quadragesimo Anno.”
Hart adds, in that same vein:
“Well — only in America, as they say. Only here is the word ‘socialism’ freighted with so much perceived menace. I take this to be a symptom of our unique national genius for stupidity. In every other free society with a functioning market economy, socialism is an ordinary, rather general term for sane and compassionate governance of the public purse for the purpose of promoting general welfare and a more widespread share in national prosperity.”
First off, that’s not actually socialism, traditionally understood or defined — i.e., market economies by definition are not socialist systems. This is a highly elastic and misapplied definition of socialism. So why call it “socialism”?
Getting Quadragesimo Anno Completely Wrong — But that aside, let’s focus on Hart’s other key claims: Only in America? Well, what about in Rome? What about at the Vatican? And indeed, what about Pope Pius XI and Quadragesimo Anno, not to mention numerous Church encyclicals dating back to Pius IX’s Qui Pluribus, published in 1846, two years before the Communist Manifesto? What about even modern (perceived) liberal popes, like John XXIII?
Let’s leave aside Communism and stick to “socialism.” The Church perceived socialism, too, as a menace. I could go on and on with examples, but here are just a few that stand out — again the kind of stuff that The New York Times has a maddening habit of leaving out of its left-wing op-ed pieces:
Section 120 of Pius XI’s Quadragesimo Anno states bluntly: “Religious socialism, Christian socialism, are contradictory terms; no one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist.”
This is stated quite clearly. Imagine then — truly, imagine the amazing affront — of a New York Times piece citing Quadragesimo Anno in defense of “democratic socialism” being “grounded in deep Christian convictions” and of a “European Christian socialist tradition” with “continental expressions” in the likes of “Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Quadragesimo Anno.” Could there be a more inappropriate source to have cited for that assertion?
Sure, Dr. Hart also cites Quadragesimo Anno for “its prescient warnings against the dangers of unfettered capitalism.” Fine, no problem there, but Quadragesimo Anno is completely against socialism. In fact, there are some fifty references to “socialism” or “socialist” in Quadragesimo Anno, and they’re pretty damning.
Quadragesimo Anno stated that the “characteristic of socialism,” including a more modern form that had developed since the time of Leo XIII, was “fundamentally contrary to Christian truth” (section 111).
Section 55 of Quadragesimo Anno spoke of
“. . . the Socialists who hold that whatever serves to produce goods ought to be transferred to the State, or, as they say ‘socialized,’ is consequently all the more dangerous and the more apt to deceive the unwary. It is an alluring poison which many have eagerly drunk whom open Socialism had not been able to deceive.”
The encyclical gives careful thought to this. Sections 113 to 124 of Quadragesimo Anno constitute an extended discussion of the “more moderate” form of socialism that some more recent “socialists” had sought to develop as distinct from Communism. Some of these socialists, states the encyclical, might even try to “incline toward” or “approach the truths which Christian tradition has always held sacred.” Nonetheless, the Magisterium here recommends that if one is seeking “demands and desire” consistent with Christian truth, these are not unique or “special to Socialism. Those who work solely toward such ends have, therefore, no reason to become socialists.” It advises:
“Those who want to be apostles among socialists ought to profess Christian truth whole and entire, openly and sincerely, and not connive at error in any way. If they truly wish to be heralds of the Gospel, let them above all strive to show to socialists that socialist claims, so far as they are just, are far more strongly supported by the principles of Christian faith and much more effectively promoted through the power of Christian charity” (sections 115-116).
This is a clear rejection of socialism, whether “moderate” or “modified,” and certainly of any conception of “Christian socialism.” Socialism, asserts Quadragesimo Anno, cannot be reconciled with Catholic teachings because its concept of society itself is “utterly foreign” to Christian truth.
I could cite example after example from official Church teaching, long before and after Quadragesimo Anno.
A Consistent Anti-Socialist Tradition — In his 1849 encyclical, Nostis Et Nobiscum, Pius IX calls both socialism and Communism “wicked theories,” “perverted theories,” “perverted teachings,” and “pernicious fictions.” They are linked together throughout the encyclical.
Pope Leo XIII, in his second encyclical, Quod Apostolici Muneris (On Socialism), issued December 28, 1878, lumps socialists and Communists together as part of a “wicked confederacy.” He writes:
“We speak of that sect of men who, under various and almost barbarous names, are called socialists, Communists, or nihilists, and who, spread over all the world, and bound together by a wicked confederacy, no longer seek the shelter of secret meetings, but, openly and boldly marching forth in the light of day, strive to bring what they have long been planning — the overthrow of all civil society.”
(A key point to dwell on: civil society as apart from “the state.”) He says, “They leave nothing untouched.” Not only do they attack the right of property, but they
“. . . debase the natural union of man and woman, held sacred even among barbarous peoples; and its bond, by which the family is chiefly held together. . . . Doctrines of socialism strive almost completely to dissolve this union.”
Quod Apostolici Muneris speaks of the “pest of socialism,” the “plague of socialism,” and the “evil growth of socialism,” warns of the “recruits of socialism,” and accuses socialists of “stealing the very Gospel itself with a view to deceive more easily the unwary.” These socialists “distort it (the Gospel) so as to suit their own purposes.”
So much, again, for “Christian socialism.”
In 1891, Leo XIII issued Rerum Novarum, which was the basis for Quadragesimo Anno 40 years later. This classic encyclical is a favorite of liberal Catholics, who seem to forget its staunch rejection of socialism. The encyclical chastises socialists for cultivating the “poor man’s envy of the rich” and depriving the worker of his just wages through redistribution schemes that violate the right to private property. These policies empower the state at the expense of the wage earner who ultimately suffers from the loss of his financial autonomy (sections 4-5).
Rerum Novarum notes that socialists “strive against nature in vain.” They even undermine the family and the home: “The socialists, therefore, in setting aside the parent and setting up a State supervision, act against natural justice, and destroy the structure of the home” (section 14). Rerum Novarum adds:
“Hence, it is clear that the main tenet of socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected, since it only injures those whom it would seem meant to benefit, is directly contrary to the natural rights of mankind, and would introduce confusion and disorder into the commonweal” (section 15).
Even more liberal modern popes, like St. Pope John XXIII, states in Mater et Magistra: “No Catholic could subscribe even to moderate Socialism.” That passage actually quotes Pius XI:
“Pope Pius XI further emphasized the fundamental opposition between Communism and Christianity, and made it clear that no Catholic could subscribe even to moderate Socialism. The reason is that Socialism is founded on a doctrine of human society which is bounded by time and takes no account of any objective other than that of material well-being. Since, therefore, it proposes a form of social organization which aims solely at production, it places too severe a restraint on human liberty, at the same time flouting the true notion of social authority.”
I could go on and on with such citations. Clearly, the teachings of the Church reject the notions of a moderate socialism that’s allegedly infused with or grounded in the Christian faith. The article by Dr. Hart not only leaves all of this absent but suggests something fully to the contrary, particularly by invoking Pius XI and Quadragesimo Anno. And again, his affiliation is with Notre Dame, which concerns me about the situation at Notre Dame.
Notre Dame recently lost a well-known professor, Joseph Buttigieg, father of Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Joseph Buttigieg was an expert in “critical theory” and was no less than president of the International Gramsci Society. Yes, the society is named for the infamous Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci. Notre Dame’s president, Fr. John Jenkins, not only accepted this but hailed Buttigieg as a profound scholar. In fact, Buttigieg ran the Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars Program at Notre Dame. Pius XI would roll over in his grave if he knew that the head of the International Gramsci Society was a tenured professor at a college named for Our Lady.
In sum, I intend no ill will to Dr. Hart. But it’s troubling to see assertions like this in major op-ed pieces that receive a lot of attention and have a significant impact. To see socialism described not only cavalierly, benignly, but even as a product of deep Christian conviction, and in the name of encyclicals like Quadragesimo Anno, simply should not stand without rebuttal. People are being terribly misinformed. We fail repeatedly to teach the truth about not only Communism but socialism. *
Kengor Writes . . .
Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004), The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007), The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007) and The Communist — Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).
The New Socialists — The Green Red Deal
Watermelons: green on the outside, red on the inside.
Leftist environmentalists hate that. And yet, they do little to eschew the label. Quite the contrary, they earn it in spades.
They have from the outset. Whether sheer coincidence or because the Devil has a sense of humor, Earth Day always marks Vladimir Lenin’s birthday. The first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, just happened to be the centennial of Lenin’s birth.
Given that interesting confluence of dates, it seems more than ironic that so many former Communists, when the Cold War ended, ran for the woods. It was the ideal ideological refuge. Rocks and frogs cannot tell the Commie “environmentalist” to go jump in a lake. They can’t tell the central planners to take a hike back to their air-conditioned offices in Manhattan or coffee shops in Berkeley. Thus, for socialists, here’s the perfect constituency to wield government power and manage people and property.
If Marx and Engels were alive today, they would be writing manifestos on ecological “social justice” at some silly university. Today, their disciples at People’s World urge left-wingers everywhere to “Get on board the . . . Climate Train.” The head of Communist Party USA hails modern ecological warriors as “climate justice activists” battling for a crusade of “green socialism.”
That brings us to, obviously, the latest manifestation of socialist ideology cloaked in green environmentalism: the so-called Green New Deal uncorked in February by its new champion in Congress, America’s “democratic socialist” star, Miss Socialist USA, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The entire spectacle was stunning to behold. And since the announcement at the end of last week, conservatives everywhere have teed off, taking their whacks at this ill-begotten creation.
Amid the many reports, one of the best distillations of this environmental swill was done by Americans for Tax Reform, which posted a PDF of Ocasio-Cortez’s talking points prior to the press conference for the February 7 morning launch. If you haven’t seen it, read it and weep. Actually, read it and laugh. It reads like something out of The Onion or The Babylon Bee.
One is tempted to call the proposal juvenile, but sophomoric seems a better word because it plays to the college-girl image that Ocasio-Cortez ironically wants to shed. Actually, the proposal may well forever torpedo her ability to be taken seriously. It makes one wonder if certain forces in the Democrat camp conspired against the young woman, perhaps one of the surprise Democrats who applauded Trump’s line denouncing socialism in the State of the Union — that would include Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and (it was reported in no less than the disgruntled Communist press) even Elizabeth Warren.
Did a Machiavellian Ms. Warren, perhaps working with her old Massachusetts colleague, Ed Markey, conspire to try to kill the presidential possibilities of Ocasio-Cortez? If not Warren, then maybe Schumer and Pelosi, who perhaps feel threatened by this young congresswoman that DNC chair Tom Perez calls “the future of our party”?
If that sounds over the top, well, take a look at Ocasio’s talking points from last week, which really ought to constitute political suicide:
“Build out high-speed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary.”
“Upgrade or replace every building in the U.S. for state-of-the-art energy efficiency.”
“A 10-year plan to mobilize every aspect of American society at a scale not seen since World War II to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.”
“National, social, industrial, and economic mobilization at a scale not seen since World War II.”
As for paying for this “massive transformation of our society,” look at this breathtaking display of economic illiteracy: “The Federal Reserve can extend credit to power these projects and investments, and new public banks can be created to extend credit.” No fear, says Ocasio-Cortez, “the question isn’t how will we pay for it, but what will we do with our new shared prosperity.”
The needed greenbacks from the Green New Deal will fall from the rejuvenated air like manna from Gaia.
Conservatives have lampooned the notion of attempting to lay a vast array of railways across the Pacific from California to Japan. It would be easier to invent Star Trek teleporters.
And yet, lest you think that Ocasio-Cortez and friends really want to ban airplanes, forget it. The jets will be there for the leisure of the limousine liberals, the champagne socialists, for the planners, for the rulers rather than the ruled, for the masters rather than the masses. The Proletariat, the rabble, what Marx called the lumpen proletariat — they will get sandwiched into the boxcars. The smart people, the party apparatchiks, they fly first-class.
Invoking FDR, JFK, Ike, and Kamala and Bernie, Ocasio-Cortez sums up her program in the name of “social and economic justice and security through 15 requirements.” The whole concoction reads like it was crafted at a corner Starbucks by college kids marshaled from Ocasio-Cortez’s Twitter following. And no doubt, this proposal by Ocasio-Cortez and allies is a mass indictment of our universities and education system.
The old Al Gore’s environmental manifesto was pretty extreme too. He likewise spoke of changing human nature and Americans undertaking a “wrenching transformation” of their society. Also evoking World War II, Gore warned of an “environmental holocaust” and “ecological Kristallnacht.” Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance betrayed an Al Gore not in balance.
But even Ozone Al’s ideas weren’t as excessive as this heap of ecological-ideological mumbo-jumbo dished by Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. This poor girl has embarrassed herself. This genuinely ought to be a career-killer.
Yes, I know that for liberals what matters most are intentions and identity. Identity politics is the altar at which they worship. They’ll vote for her. But vast numbers of Americans, including virtually anyone in the business world or private sector with a rudimentary sense of how stuff works, will judge this a disqualifier for higher office, especially the White House.
Again, one must wonder if Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has been set up.
That aside, the less laughable and more insidious aspect of this are the genuinely radical roots. To that end, interested observers should dig deeper into the origins of the Green New Deal. This thing didn’t just roll off the turnip truck when Ocasio-Cortez strolled into Washington a few weeks ago.
For a gander at the wider tentacles of this beast, check out the “About” section for the Green New Deal at the website of the Green Party. One sees instantly that this is far more about socialism than environmentalism. Below the tab for “Hands Off Venezuela” are the Four Pillars of the Green New Deal. Point one focuses on the Economic Bill of Rights:
“Our country cannot truly move forward until the roots of inequality are pulled up, and the seeds of a new, healthier economy are planted. Thus, the Green New Deal begins with an Economic Bill of Rights that ensures all citizens:
After that comes pillar two, on “A Green Transition,” followed by the remaining two pillars, on “Real Financial Reform” and “A Functioning Democracy.” Thus, only a quarter of the four pillars for the Green New Deal actually deals with green deals. The vast majority is old deal socialism. Among the remaining two pillars are calls for: “Establish a 90 percent tax on bonuses for bailed out bankers”; “enact the Voter Bill of Rights”; “making Election Day a national holiday”; “abolish the Electoral College and implement direct election of the President”; “restore the vote to ex-offenders who’ve paid their debt to society”; “protect local democracy and democratic rights by commissioning a thorough review of federal preemption law and its impact on the practice of local democracy in the United States”; “create a Corporation for Economic Democracy”; “repealing the Patriot Act”; “ending the war on immigrants”; “rein in the military-industrial complex by reducing military spending by 50 percent and closing U.S. military bases around the world”; etc. Get the picture?
What in the heck does this have to do with the environment? Nothing, of course. But this is how the left has long exploited the environment for its own purposes of revolution and radical transformation. Not a word of this is a surprise to anyone who has followed left-wing environmentalists.
Green on the outside, red on the inside. Welcome to American socialism’s new Green Red Deal.
Abortion Racism in Pennsylvania — Where Abortion Wears a White Hood
Democrats are losing it over abortion. Sure, they’ve long been bad on the issue, but they’re suddenly escalating the vitriol. And by “Democrats,” I’m referring to elected ones. You could always find unhinged “pro-choice” liberals doing vulgar things. Elected Democrats, however, have tended to show a little more restraint. Not any more.
Look at Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York, or Gov. Ralph Northam in Virginia, the latter of whom generously promises that an infant that survives an abortion will be “kept comfortable” amid final gasps without attempts at resuscitation. In Alabama, Democratic state rep. John Rogers accepts abortion with a shrug: “you kill them now or you kill them later.” Here in Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf is the nation’s first governor who was a Planned Parenthood escort — those macabre volunteers who ensure that distraught girls approaching an abortion facility walk in with cash and walk out without a baby. In fact, here in Pennsylvania, we have not only a governor who was a Planned Parenthood escort, but a state rep., Brian Sims, which brings me to the focus of this article.
In a breathtaking spectacle, Sims proudly filmed himself outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Philadelphia — the Locust Street Surgical Center — verbally accosting an older woman who was praying the rosary. For eight painful minutes, this former college football player turned angry LGBTQ activist, and he gives this woman an oral drubbing. He repeatedly tells her she is “shameful” and “disgusting.” “There is nothing Christian about what you’re doing,” he lectures. “There’s nothing loving or kind,” he says of her. He lambastes her “broken morality.” He asks for her address so people can “protest in front of her home,” as if hounding her there wasn’t sufficient. More must be done, with perhaps a larger and angrier mob.
I’m always amazed by the lack of charity and understanding by self-proclaimed “tolerant” liberals so intransigent that they can’t even concede that pro-lifers are motivated by a benevolent concern at least worthy of respect. They’re so hell-bent on the righteousness of their cause that they assume nothing but malice on the part of their opponents — whose primary objective is simply to try to save defenseless unborn babies. They rage against them. There’s something diabolical about it.
And make no mistake, a spiritual battleground wages at these clinics. I’ve witnessed it. I’ve watched the escorts engage the people praying. A few months ago, on a bitterly cold day, I joined a group outside the Planned Parenthood abortion center in Pittsburgh. Sims’ caricature could not be more inaccurate and viciously unfair. One of those praying told me that the previous week he stood beside an elderly woman who kneeled on a frozen sidewalk on her aching legs while a dude inside strummed a ukulele and grinned at her. “We’re freezing outside in the snow, with 80-year-old women praying and kneeling on payment covered with ice,” he told me, “and they’re inside, staying warm, and mocking us. You could feel the evil.”
The pro-lifers, particularly those from churches, are almost always a model of charity, sacrifice, and mortification. Moreover, it’s the pro-lifers, not the clinic workers or Planned Parenthood volunteers, that are there to comfort the crushed girl as she leaves the clinic and prepares for a life of emotional, spiritual, and, possibly, physical trauma because of what the abortion advocates did to her inside.
Sims’ nasty charges are wrong on so many fronts, but I want to underscore his most outrageous accusation against pro-lifers, namely: the “BLATANT RACISM they spew.” He leveled that surreal charge repeatedly in his video. This “old white lady,” he says of her dismissively, as if that label merits automatic denigration, is “extremely racist.” He accuses her of a “racist act of judgment.”
What in the world is Sims talking about?
If you’re looking to affix racism, you would be far more justified looking in the direction not of those defending the unborn babies, but of those terminating them. There’s far and away a disproportionate number of unborn African-American children killed by abortion. The escorts guide in and funnel their mothers. Sims’ wild claim has great irony given that Planned Parenthood is the spawn of Margaret Sanger, who I’ve written about frequently, including her work with the “Negro Project,” her gospel of “race improvement,” her May 1926 speech to the Silverlake, New Jersey chapter of the KKK.
The vast majority of Planned Parenthood clinics are located near African-American populations. The infamous Gosnell “House of Horrors,” a sick slaughterhouse of unborn black children, resided just down the street from where Sims engaged in his antics accusing pro-lifers of racism. It’s downright stunning that Sims either cannot see that or, in turn, casts the finger of racist shame in the complete opposite direction.
Well, given Sims’ claims to be worried about racism, and given that he’s a Pennsylvania legislator, I ask him this simple request as a fellow Pennsylvanian: Could he please ask the clinic for data on how many of its abortions have been of minority babies?
I asked that question of an analyst who does research on this issue in Pennsylvania.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have a breakdown for that particular clinic, or for just Planned Parenthood, on how many patients are African-American,” she told me. “Here are some statistics we do have statewide.”
According to the latest abortion statistics from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, in 2017 there were 30,011 abortions performed in Pennsylvania. Among them, 14,726 were to white women, 12,865 were to African-American women (43 percent), and 3,038 were to Hispanic women (10 percent).
Thus, 53 percent, or a majority of abortions, were of minority women and unborn babies. Even more remarkable is the sheer disproportion: only 11.9 percent of Pennsylvania women are black and 7.3 percent are Hispanic. Pennsylvania is 82 percent white. Abortion in Pennsylvania, like everywhere else in America, victimizes minorities by leaps and bounds.
If abortion was a person, it would wear a white hood, and be the deadliest Klansman in this nation’s history.
And who’s leading the assault? Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood performs half of the abortions in the state of Pennsylvania. It operates nine of the 12 largest abortion clinics in the state. The facility where Sims harangued that woman is the largest in the city of Philadelphia. Philadelphia is the fifth largest city in America. (The state’s second largest city, Pittsburgh, is 65th. Philly is the epicenter of abortion in Pennsylvania.)
And who does Brian Sims finger as the bad actor in all this? The “racist”? He points to the likes of the woman outside the clinic praying to God that this industry of death will stop — that this “black genocide,” as Dr. Alveda King calls it, will end. He says “shame” on her. She’s the one he finds “disgusting.”
And finally, aside from the race issue, that particular clinic that Sims stood in solidarity with isn’t good for women of any ethnicity. That Locust Street facility is guilty of many violations against the women whose babies it has ripped from their wombs. It has been cited for numerous code violations, failing over half of its last 23 patient-safety inspections. And yet, it has never been shut down.
Now that’s shameful and disgusting, Rep. Sims.
In fact, maybe we should be grateful to Sims. In bringing national attention to himself, he’s bringing national attention to this clinic and this scandal of abortion racism. *
Kengor Writes . . .
Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004), The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007), The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007) and The Communist — Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).
Women Who Lied About Sexual Assault
Remember the Scottsboro boys?
Over the weekend, a throng of angry protesters gathered outside the Capitol Building with signs and t-shirts touting a new battle cry: BELIEVE WOMEN. It’s a slogan that took off with the #MeToo movement, but it’s in hyperdrive right now.
The left found this slogan useful in serving its latest political purpose: an attempted takedown of Brett Kavanaugh. According to the new mantra, women never lie about sexual abuse, and thus anything and everything that Christine Blasey Ford alleged of Brett Kavanaugh was, ipso facto, accurate. Every charge she leveled must be believed, because women do not lie about sexual assault.
Well, here I would like to interject to remind liberals of one of their favorite historical morality tales: What about the case of the Scottsboro boys? And therein, what about Victoria Price and Ruby Bates?
Recall, liberals, that this has been one of your sacred cows for many decades. As a public service, I herewith share the story:
On March 25, 1931, two white women, Victoria Price and Ruby Bates, claimed that they had been gang-raped by nine black teens along the railroad from Chattanooga to Memphis. The boys had hopped a train ride, as had the two girls, who were with two white boys. A fight broke out inside the train car, with the white boys tossed off, leaving the white girls and black boys together. The white boys informed the nearest stationmaster that they had been in a fight with the black boys. The stationmaster took quick action. At the next stop, a town called Paint Rock, Alabama, a militia/posse took the law into their hands and “arrested” the black boys, transporting them to jail cells in nearby Scottsboro. The charge was that they had raped the white girls.
As news spread, enraged whites gathered outside the jail, ready to form a lynch mob. The governor of Alabama called in the National Guard.
Local authorities promised the seething vigilantes that justice would be hastily served, guaranteeing quick trials and verdicts. On cue, five days later, on March 30, 1931, an all-white jury indicted the nine boys, and the trial began shortly thereafter.
Thus ensued a whirlwind of complications, from miscarriages of justice to incompetence to retractions. The attorneys who defended the boys were judged too old or too drunk. The boys themselves did not always help their cause: one alleged that everyone was guilty except for himself; two others confessed but later withdrew their admissions, saying they had confessed under physical duress; and the remaining six pleaded innocence.
Not calming the storm was a racist jury, eager to execute the boys. Even as the prosecution argued that the youngest should get life in prison rather than capital punishment, the whites pressed for the gallows for the entire group. All were convicted and sentenced to death.
The story was far from over. A mistrial was declared, appeals were rapidly set in motion, and newspapers began reporting that the two girls were not pure lambs but, rather, Tennessee prostitutes. Yes, prostitutes.
A second round of trials commenced in March 1933.
In the most sensational development of the second trial, Ruby Bates recanted her earlier testimony, claiming she and Victoria Price had not been raped, and had concocted their story out of fear they might be charged for a federal crime because they had crossed state lines while practicing an “immoral” form of business with the white boys; the prosecution contended that Bates was lying, and had been paid off. The jury again voted for conviction, but the judge vetoed.
The case of the Scottsboro boys became a crusade and cause célèbre for the left, especially the Communist left. Communists adopted the Scottsboro case as a major campaign to recruit blacks to Communist Party USA. In one particular instance, their success was sensational: CPUSA’s cynical Scottsboro campaign caught the attention and began drawing into the Communist Party a young journalist and editor in Atlanta named Frank Marshall Davis, who decades later would become a mentor to a Hawaiian adolescent named Barack Obama. Yes, Barack Obama, America’s first black president. (I address this in great detail in my biography of Davis, The Communist.)
The American left insisted on the innocence of the black boys accused of sexual assault. The left insisted that the two women had lied about the sexual assault. You could not believe the women.
So, how does this square with the left’s BELIEVE WOMEN movement today? What does a righteous progressive do with the Scottsboro case now, given the new refrain that women never lie about sexual assault? How to reconcile the Scottsboro boys with the Ford-Kavanaugh case?
Well, truth be told, with the ideological perversities and pathologies of the left, this one can be (partly) tidied up with some nifty identity-racial politics. Here you go: the Scottsboro boys were black men, whereas Brett Kavanaugh is a white man, and a pro-life white man, and a conservative Catholic, and seeking to fill a crucial Supreme Court seat that could threaten the left’s holy grail: Roe v. Wade. Thus, Kavanaugh is a complete reprobate, never to be believed. By contrast, on the left’s ideological totem pole, the Scottsboro boys assume, by nature of their skin color, an elevated victim status that compels them to be believed, just as Kavanaugh’s position at the bottom rung of the pole (near the slimy pond scum) demands a verdict of presumed guilt.
For the confused, or unanointed, just ask a Millennial college grad. This is what your children learn in our universities with your life savings. This is the price you pay for their indoctrination.
But while those curious mental gyrations help a liberal navigate how and why Brett Kavanaugh must be presumed guilty and the Scottsboro boys presumed innocent, it does leave the messy problem of what to do with the left’s new dogma that women never lie about sexual assault.
Again, what about Victoria Price and Ruby Bates?
Yes, yes, I know — they were white southerners. That’s a definite bottom-dweller on the totem pole. But still, they were women. And women, we are told, quite categorically, must always be believed. And one of these two women admitted to lying. Both, at one point, reportedly lied about being raped.
So, liberals, especially those of you dominating our universities, how will you reevaluate the Scottsboro case in light of your new-fangled political sloganeering in October 2018? I’d like to be in the Gender Theory classroom at Swarthmore or Yale when the gals take up that one. Then again, maybe not.
Brett Kavanaugh’s Abortion Critics and Hypocrites
It’s shocking what forms of violence Christine Blasey Ford’s backers will accept.
Something undeniably bad happened to Christine Blasey Ford in the early 1980s. That seems clear. Whether the chief perpetrator was Brett Kavanaugh is something we may never know with absolute certainty, even as his alleged accomplice (named by Ford) likewise insists on Kavanaugh’s innocence. Still, Ford’s story, given in her compelling and emotional testimony, seemed heartfelt and believable. Likewise, Kavanaugh’s denial, given in his compelling and emotional testimony, seemed heartfelt and believable.
My earnest sympathies, at this point, are with both Ford and Kavanaugh, but they are not with the pro-choice Democrats and liberals reflexively backing Ford and reflexively excoriating Brett Kavanaugh as a presumed-guilty sex abuser.
The Senate Democrats and the abortion lobby opposing Kavanaugh vowed to oppose him long before Christine Blasey Ford came forward. Her allegations merely gave them ammunition for a character assassination (rightly or wrongly earned) to further back their pre-determined vote against Kavanaugh from the outset. Three weeks ago, before the public heard of Ford, nearly all Senate Democrats announced their intention to vote against him. And why? We all know the reason. There’s not a liberal or conservative in Washington who doesn’t know the reason.
Three words: abortion, abortion, abortion.
And therein lies something sick, perverse, wicked about the “pro-choice” left’s castigation of Brett Kavanaugh as an abuser. What Kavanaugh was accused by Ford of doing when they were teenagers — forcing himself upon her, covering her mouth, with her fearful of being raped — is an abusive act we all condemn and abhor. I’m the same age as Ford, and if I ever saw a guy doing that to a girl at a party, I would have been the first to pounce on the dirtbag. And I’d shudder to imagine him one day sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court.
But while such is a violent act that we all, conservatives and liberals alike, condemn and abhor, the same cannot be said about the thinking of conservatives and liberals toward unborn human life.
The pro-life position views unborn children as precious, innocent, and worthy of our intervention and protection. Pro-lifers defend the sanctity and dignity of each life in the womb. They seek to stop violence against unborn babies.
The pro-choice position, to the contrary, does not. It allows for — and, in fact, relentlessly fights for — the “right” of a mother and an abortionist to rip apart an unborn baby in the most destructive way imaginable, often into the third trimester.
A lot of people were crying when they listened to Christine Blasey Ford describe what she claimed happened to her: the pinning down on the bed, the escape from the clutches of her attackers, her “pinballing” (as she described it) down the stairwell, her dash outside, her never forgetting the cruel laughs of the attackers.
It’s indeed very sad. Well, here’s a newsflash: If a national audience of tens of millions of Americans sat and listened to a blow-by-blow description of what happens to an innocent child during an abortion, well, they would be more than weeping. They would be sobbing. They’d be in agony, asking how a supposedly humane country and culture could continue to permit such mass injustice. Why do you think liberal newspaper editors refuse to show even a cartoon rendering of a partial-birth abortion?
Both acts of violence are heart wrenching: against Ford, against some 60 million aborted babies in America since Roe v. Wade.
And yet, it is the latter — the feminist left’s holy grail, Roe v. Wade — that Ford’s most ardent defenders, and Kavanaugh’s most vociferous detractors, are seeking to protect and preserve at all costs. As they demand the protection of victims of sexual abuse, they also demand the preservation of abortion. They seek to undermine Kavanaugh in order to maintain Roe. To borrow from Nancy Pelosi, this is “sacred ground.” Abortion, abortion, abortion.
“The greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion,” said Mother Teresa. “By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems.” Abortion
“. . . is really a war against the child, and I hate the killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that the mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? . . . Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love one another but to use violence to get what they want.”
Sex abuse is violence. And abortion is violence, too.
And yet, and yet, that is ultimately what the political left and the Senate Democrats are battling for in resisting not just Brett Kavanaugh for the high court but each and every pro-lifer who will sit before the Judiciary Committee. They will continue to oppose all pro-life Supreme Court nominees, regardless of any alleged incidence of sex abuse in their background. And they will do so in the name of the single greatest abuse of unborn children in the history of America: Roe v. Wade.
Liberals, your opposition to violence in the ultimate cause of continuing the violence of abortion — long before and after Brett Kavanaugh — rings rather hypocritical.
George Cahill’s New Constellation
Editor’s Note: George Cahill was a much-appreciated long-time supporter of The St. Croix Review.
George Cahill was a man with a higher mission fixed to the skies.
He volunteered to fight in World War II at the earliest possible age: seventeen-and-a-half. Both parents signed off, and he headed to gunnery school in Las Vegas.
George met his crew in Lincoln, Nebraska. They flew to Newfoundland and then Iceland and England. And there, his mission would be a most daring one.
George flew on a B-17 with the Eighth Air Force. He was a togglier, a perilous position often alternately referred to as a “bombardier” or “nose-gunner” or “tail-gunner,” though George was a stickler for the differences. The togglier sat inside the cramped “nosecone” of the plane and released the bombs.
Earl Tilford, my retired colleague from Grove City College, who himself served in the Air Force, and who had George speak to his classes, told me this about toggliers:
“A B-17 togglier was responsible for arming and dropping the bombs in lieu of a bombardier. . . . The togglier had to flip a number of toggle switches to arm the bombs and activate the release mechanism and — above all — make sure your plane’s bombay doors were open, otherwise you’d blow yourself out of the sky. That happened on occasion.”
George flew 28 combat missions under intense fire, wedged into a tiny spot between two 50-caliber machine guns.
Over lunch one day in September 2015, I pushed George to describe what that was like. He wasn’t surrendering much. I got a few short sentences from him.
“Nothing but plastic between me and the atmosphere,” he told me of his vulnerability while bombing Nazi targets. I asked if the plastic could stop enemy bullets. “Oh, hell no!” he scoffed. “Bullets go right through it, and you hope they go out the other side!” Out the other side of the plane that is, not the other side of the togglier and crewmates.
I asked George if he had “any close calls.” He shot me a shocked look, with another, “Oh, hell!”
This time, the “Oh, hell” meant “Oh, hell yes,” though he didn’t care to elaborate. There were, I pried out of him, “at least a dozen” close calls.
I later learned that on one occasion George’s “Flying Fortress” was so shot up with holes that his crew of 10 had to do an emergency landing in Wales with only one of four engines still operating. As the plane coasted into a landing, the final engine stopped. They barely made it.
That was what George faced.
“Incidentally,” adds Earl Tilford, “more B-17 crewmen were killed in World War II than U.S. Marines. In 1943-1944, attrition rates were near 90 percent for 25-mission tour.”
For a visual, if you’ve seen the chaotic opening scene of the film “Unbroken,” about World War II bombardier and Olympian Louis Zamperini, that’s what George experienced.
“Oh, hell.” That’s about right.
But during our lunch, George wasn’t there to tell me about World War II. He had two other missions that day. First, he showed me around Flag Plaza in downtown Pittsburgh — his creation, pride, and joy. George was the founder and president of the National Flag Foundation, a terrific organization.
George was our flag-man at our American Founders luncheon events, held quarterly by the Center for Vision & Values, at the Rivers Club in downtown Pittsburgh. After saying grace, we would do the Pledge of Allegiance, which George always led, but first with an extemporaneous explanation of something about the American Founders’ understanding of their new flag as representing a kind of New Constellation.
And that brings me to the former togglier’s primary mission that day in September 2015. George took me to lunch to toggle my attention, to zero-in on a project close to his heart: something called The New Constellation.
An admirer of flags since his Boy Scouts days, George explained to me that the arrangement of the stars of the new flag envisioned by the American Founders represented a kind of New Constellation altogether. There was a divine Author to the heavens, who had set the stars in place. The men of the Founders’ era learned to navigate by the stars. Their country would be navigated by both a natural law and divine law — or, as Jefferson put it in the Declaration, by “the laws of nature and nature’s God.”
Nate Mills, a GCC alumnus and emerging expert on the topic, puts it this way: “The Founders believed that by structuring a government inspired by the laws of nature and nature’s God they could look to the night sky as a metaphor for their experiment in federalism.” In the Flag Act of 1776, the flag implemented a design of 13 stars “representing a new constellation.” The Founders saw each colony as a fixed star, set and living in harmony with one another and not interfering in the spheres of any other state’s place in the celestial order. “In understanding their experiment in self-government in terms of astronomy,” says Mills, “the Founders appealed to a powerful set of metaphors to help explain to the world the unique synthesis of ideas that the United States of America represented.”
The New Constellation was a stirring image grounded in the natural, the theological, the astronomical, the philosophical, and the political. The Founders did nothing without meaning, and their flag and New Constellation was no exception.
George loved this concept, and was anxious to convince the Center for Vision & Values to pick it up. He told me he was old and running out of time. It was the last best thing he wanted to do. Current and future generations needed to know. He wanted our group, the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College, to study it. One of my best students, Nate Mills, now with National Review Institute, jumped on it. He did not disappoint. We thrilled George with Nate’s paper and presentation on the topic at our American Founders event in March 2017.
Nate’s work and ours isn’t finished. We will continue to carry this flag for George, whose time has indeed now passed.
George Cahill passed away on July 2, at the age of 92. This unflagging champion of America’s New Constellation now joins the shining light of the brightest and best of all constellations — no doubt a heavenly one.
We salute you, George. *
Kengor Writes . . .
Today’s Progressives Have Completed the Takeover and Destruction Communists First Started Calling for More Than a Century Ago.
The title of this article will raise eyebrows even among conservatives, but read on. The title is accurate and undeniable.
The left has succeeded in driving a final nail in the coffin of the Boy Scouts as it once was. The organization is now a shell of itself. It capitulated first on “gay” scout leaders, then on “transgender” scouts, and now on girls joining the Boy Scouts.
Progressives bask in their triumph, dancing on the grave of an organization they never wanted to build up; it was an organization they wanted to take down. For the left, this is less about giving something to girls than taking something from boys. It’s another scalp on the cultural-ideological wall.
Lest anyone think this isn’t a take-down, or a fundamental transformation, well, consider that the Boy Scouts of America, founded in 1910, will now be called simply “Scouts BSA” for those ages 11 to 18 (a change openly celebrated with puffy propaganda pieces by PC-stylists at the BSA website). This is a coerced inclusion of gender-neutral “Cub Scouts.”
The Boy Scouts have been emasculated, neutered. The organization that prided itself on courage stands impotent, fearful in the face of feminists and LGBTQ militants. They’ve cowered to the forces of “diversity” and “tolerance.”
And for cultural revolutionaries, the defeat of the Boy Scouts is the end of a long march through yet another institution. This march began literally a century ago, not with the New York Times or Democrats, but with Socialists and Communists.
Surely that’s an exaggeration — a right-wing red herring? Grab the nearest liberal to howl accusations of Red-under-every-bed McCarthyism?
No doubt, the notion of a long Communist assault against the Boy Scouts will surprise even many conservatives. The ugly truth, however, is that American Communists have been after the Boy Scouts for over a century. Marxists were hell-bent on taking down the Boy Scouts prior to even the Bolsheviks taking down czarist Russia. Once again, here as well, it just took the wider liberal left a little longer to eventually align with the Marxist left.
I will not here lay out the full litany or extended paper trail of evidence, which can be found in the (less accessible) Comintern Archives on Communist Party USA at the Library of Congress or (easily accessible) simple searches of archives at the remarkable Marxist clearinghouse, www.marxists.org. What follows are several unmistakable examples beginning in 1911, with links to the original sources:
Exhibit 1 takes us way back to June 1911, only a year after the Boy Scouts of America was established. It’s an article by a Celia Rosatstein titled “Why Boys Should Not Join the ‘Boy Scouts,’” published in The Young Socialists’ Magazine. The article portrayed the Boy Scouts as gun-hungry, pro-war, bloodthirsty capitalist fanatics. The young socialists instead urged youth to sign up for the Socialist-Communist faith. The Young Socialists’ Magazine promoted “Socialist Sunday Schools,” not unlike the “Commie Camps“ to which New York City-based Marxist parents sent their children in the summers — a political-ideological substitute to what Christian parents commonly know as “VBS,” or Vacation Bible School. (Ex-Communist Ron Radosh writes of his commie-camp experiences in his fascinating memoir, Commies.)
This was the faith for the new school, for the new revolution.
“Especially you boys of the Socialist Sunday Schools, do not join the ‘Boy Scouts,’” urged Ms. Rosatstein. “Persuade your friends not to do so, but instead to join the Socialist Schools.”
Exhibit 2 is the March 1924 issue of The Young Comrade, an article titled, “Why We Are Against the Boy Scouts,” by Thelma Kahn. There, “capitalism” was fingered as the nefarious tool for training Boy Scouts not only to shoot guns, but to shoot their fathers and brothers (yes, seriously):
“Capitalism does not only train the Boy Scout to shoot and use a rifle for its own interest but to shoot down his own father and brothers when there is a strike.”
This penchant for violence ultimately marches the Boy Scout off to war: According to Ms. Kahn, “grown-up Boy Scouts” infested by the vagaries of capitalism become soldiers who go off to “fight England.” (Hmm, England?) “The Boy Scouts,” added Ms. Kahn with an added twist of the knife, “also learn how to stick people on the end of their rifles and other ignorant things.”
The delightful Ms. Kahn wrapped up with a pitch to youngsters to instead join the Junior Section of the Young Workers League.
Exhibit 3 is a full issue of Young Pioneer from July-August 1929, published by the Young Workers League of America in New York City. The lead piece focused on a shameful demonstration against 1,500 innocent boys from across America as they excitedly prepared to cross the Atlantic for an international Jamboree in England. The Young Pioneers came to rain on the parade.
The young commies denounced these boys as children exploited by their parents’ greedy factory “bosses.” As the Boy Scouts readied to board their ship for the trip of a lifetime, the Young Pioneers descended, unfurling banners that read “Down with the Boy Scout Jamboree,” “The Boy Scouts are supported by the bosses,” “Smash the Boy Scouts,” “Join the Young Pioneers of America,” and “Defend the Soviet Union.”
At the demonstration a young Red named Harry Eisman was arrested for what even the Communist publication described as “militant” behavior.
As for that Boy Scouts’ pledge to God and country, the Young Pioneer urged the youth to “Follow in Lenin’s Way.” And as an added kick in the rump of the boys, it accused the Boy Scouts of racism, publishing an alleged letter to the editor from a “Negro” boy named Leslie Boyd swearing his allegiance to the glorious Young Pioneers rather than the disgraceful Boy Scouts.
The bilious smears that I’m recounting here were standard fare from these Communist organizations, and I could give example after example, from campaigns against the Boy Scouts by New York Communists in the 1920s to Chicago Communists in the 1930s onward to the 1970s and on and on. Communists in the 1970s assailed the Boy Scouts for “being indoctrinated to emulate the Green Berets.”
This runs all the way to modern times, especially as American Communists vigorously embraced cultural issues. By the start of the new century — as seen, for instance, in a May 2001 issue of Party Builder — Communist Party USA was joining forces with the ACLU to openly condemn the Boy Scouts as “anti-gay.”
And alas, it was here that the far left found its formula. This tactic would work masterfully in redefining the Boy Scouts in the left’s own image. As cultural Marxists have taught in their universities, the trick to deconstructing America, especially its Judeo-Christian roots, is to go cultural, not economic, particularly through the perverting of sexuality and gender. The key was a cultural Marxist revolution rather than an economic Marxist revolution. That’s the ticket.
And yet, while the prime instrument against the Boy Scouts has been sexuality and gender, Communists have remained capable of wild cheap shots at the Boy Scouts that smack of the 1930s all over again. An egregious example is a piece published last summer in People’s World, the successor to the Soviet-backed Daily Worker. The author was John Bachtell, head of Communist Party USA. This piece was headlined, “Trump’s Scout speech likened by some to Hitler Youth rally.”
The piece lit up the “reprehensible” Donald Trump for a “hate-filled speech” that violated “every norm of decency and morality” before 40,000 Boy Scouts at their national Jamboree in West Virginia. In a moment of confession, Bachtell conceded to his comrades that he had once been a Boy Scout. But he saw the light through the darkness of the Boy Scouts’ militaristic, jingoistic, homophobic, and racist ways. Bachtell testifies to his moment of grace, when he left the Boy Scouts for good:
“This was during the height of the Vietnam War and all the militarism and the patriotic display was meant to whip up war fever and loyalty to country. Again, as someone coming from a progressive family opposed to the war, the entire show was a big turnoff.
“After that Jamboree I quit the Scouts and never regretted it. I felt like I was being indoctrinated to be a cog in the war machine.
“Later, I realized just how reactionary the Scouts were, including the whole ugly history of racial exclusion, segregation, and homophobia. It wasn’t until 2015, after a long struggle that the BSA adopted a resolution dropping restrictions against gay youth joining.”
There, in one piece, in 2017, is a summary list of Communist attacks in a protracted ideological war against the Boy Scouts. It took a century, but the Marxists and Socialists finally got them. They needed the help of the wider left, especially the thorough re-education in the universities. It took the wider liberal left some time to warm to the cause, but eventually liberals/progressives got there. As they typically do.
Fifty Years Ago: An Assassination That Shook America
It was 50 years ago that a shocking moment of violence rocked America: the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.
The tragedy erupted shortly after midnight June 5, 1968, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. It should have been a great night for RFK. He had just achieved a grand victory, having won California in the Democratic primary. He was on his way to the party’s presidential nomination.
But not everyone in that building had similar plans.
After giving a jubilant speech, Kennedy was led from the podium toward the hotel exit via a carefully preselected back route through the kitchen. But someone was lurking along that path.
A 24-year-old Palestinian-Jordanian immigrant named Sirhan Sirhan jumped out from behind a cart stacked with trays and began firing a .22 revolver. He lodged three bullets in his intended victim, one directly in the head, entering behind the right ear and piercing Kennedy’s brain. Kennedy went down. He would never stand again.
Why did Sirhan pull the trigger? The answer was simple: The young Palestinian was seeking vengeance for the New York senator’s support of Israel in the Six-Day War the previous June.
Sirhan was vehemently anti-Israel when the Jewish state had defeated the Arab states. He vowed revenge, with Bobby Kennedy the chosen outlet for his anger.
His rage at RFK went ballistic. He scribbled maniacally in his diary on May 18, 1968:
“My determination to eliminate RFK is becoming more the more (sic) of an unshakable obsession. R.F.K. must die. R.F.K. must be killed. R.F.K. must be assassinated. . . . Robert F. Kennedy must be assassinated before 5 June 68.”
Looking back, this was maybe the first major manifestation of Middle East terrorism in the United States, long before September 11, 2001.
And yet, it is crucial to understand that this was a deadly act prompted not only by the evil of Middle East terrorism but also — albeit quite forgotten — by the evil of Soviet Communism.
What did the Soviets have to do with this dirty deed? The answer: The Six-Day War had been shamelessly provoked by the Kremlin.
Looking to exploit divisions in the Middle East and further exacerbate America’s foreign-policy problems at the time (especially in Vietnam), Soviet officials in May 1968 had cooked up false intelligence reports claiming that Israeli troops had been moved into the Golan Heights and were readying to invade Syria. Moscow peddled the malicious disinformation to Egypt and other Arab states hostile to Israel. The Kremlin wanted to provoke a military confrontation with Israel. And it worked. On this, there is no debate. It is a historical certainty.
Moscow had precipitated the Six-Day War in June 1967, which, in turn, had prompted RFK’s assassin in June 1968. And the rest is history.
At the time of his death, Robert F. Kennedy was only 42 years old. Had he lived to win the presidency, he would have been 43 at his inauguration, the same age as his late brother at his swearing in. His shooter was 24 years old, the same age as Kennedy’s late brother’s shooter.
Today, 50 years later, the shooter is still with us. Bobby Kennedy is long gone. Who knows what might have been?
A Victory for Freedom and the Pro-Life Movement
The pro-life movement celebrates this Independence Day 2018 with a big victory at the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s a victory for freedom.
In yet another narrow decision, this one titled National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, the high court last week struck down a 2015 California law that forces pro-life crisis pregnancy centers to advertise abortions. These are centers established for the very purpose of not doing abortions and for providing an alternative to abortion. The California law compelled the centers — many of them religious, with conscientious objections to abortion — to hand out materials to their clients advertising state-subsidized abortion clinics.
As noted by the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the centers before the Supreme Court, the California law requires these approved and licensed pro-life medical centers, which offer free help to pregnant women, to provide phone numbers for local county offices that refer women to Planned Parenthood and nearby abortionists for free or low-cost “abortion services.”
What happens if the pro-life centers do not follow the abortion dictates of the state? The California law allows for a cumulative fine of $1,000 penalized against each pregnancy center for each instance in which the center fails to communicate the abortion option to a client.
Policing and enforcing the financial penalties alone would be a bureaucratic mess. And that’s aside from the obvious moral affront.
The pregnancy centers viewed the law as an unconstitutional infringement upon their rights of speech, not to mention their freedom of religion and conscience. As LifeNews.com described it:
“This law sabotages freedom of speech by forcing organizations to encourage actions that are in direct opposition to their religious beliefs and counter the mission and purpose of their organizations.”
It is indeed a direction contravention of the religious beliefs and missions of so many of these centers. It begs the question: What’s next? Requiring a synagogue to hand out materials promoting Islam? Requiring Baptist and Catholic churches to post or hand out materials to same-sex couples instructing them where to go for a same-sex marriage ceremony? And with state-leveled fines for non-compliance?
This is a clear intrusion upon the freedoms of these non-abortion centers.
The high court agreed, but barely. The slim 5-4 majority opinion was written by Justice Clarence Thomas, who was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Anthony Kennedy, the court swing-vote who in June 1992 preserved Roe v. Wade by writing the majority opinion in the infamous Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling. The Supreme Court’s four liberals walked in usual lock-step, with Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor insisting that non-abortion centers provide information on abortion as an option.
The 5-4 ruling was a victory for the pro-life cause, but the reality is that this unjust California law should have never gotten this far. The very notion that it did is another sad reminder of how militant the “pro-choice” side is.
To that end, the reactions to the court decision by the pro-choice movement are telling:
The Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Abortion Rights Action League insist that pregnancy centers “manipulate and deceive” pregnant women by not advertising the abortion option to them (as if these women had never heard of abortion prior to stepping into the center).
Planned Parenthood Action called these centers “deceptive” and “harmful” to women. It charged centers — the vast majority of which are run and staffed by women — with “lying to women, withholding medical information, and cutting off access to care.”
Abortion activist Heidi Hess protests that the high court has “voted to control women,” and has now “set the stage for even more attacks on our reproductive rights.” This was done by the court’s “anti-woman majority,” Hess fumes, and by “five male Supreme Court justices.”
That complaint seems the height of hypocrisy. Again, one of the five male justices, the court’s “moderate” Anthony Kennedy, is seen as a hero to the abortion cause. He wrote the dreadful June 1992 opinion that preserved Roe v. Wade. And, lest we forget, it was an all-male Supreme Court that gave America Roe v. Wade in January 1973.
No complaints about the seven male Supreme Court justices who gave us Roe?
Such reactions reveal not only the stridency of the “pro-choice” movement; they also reveal how far too many “pro-choice” activists merit the very label they detest: pro-abortion. Consider:
For decades, these same activists have adamantly refused to advertise or counsel non-abortion options in abortion clinics. There has long been a legislative and grassroots push by pro-lifers to have ultrasound machines installed in abortion clinics and to require that each woman evaluated for an abortion receive an ultrasound first. (That’s wise, if not essential, from a medical standpoint alone.) Pro-lifers are not deceptive about why they want ultrasound images: 80-90 percent of women considering abortions change their minds when they see a picture of their unborn baby in their womb. I know women who run crisis pregnancy centers and have told me story after story of women instantly changing their minds the moment they glimpse of a photo of their child.
In fact, one friend who runs a center told me that pregnancy help centers are proliferating at a rapid rate, and in direct proportion to the shrinking number of abortion clinics. That’s the real story that’s going on here. Follow the money. Abortion centers are losing business, big-time, to pregnancy help centers that give women alternatives to killing their unborn baby. Thus, pregnancy help centers are a mortal threat to abortion clinics. Abortionists and their defenders want to stop these centers in any way they can.
If an abortion clinic — take the Gosnell clinic in Philadelphia, for example — suddenly lost 80-90 percent of would-be abortions from clients changing their minds because of ultrasounds, the abortion clinic would go bankrupt. The entire abortion industry would be in jeopardy if ultrasound technology was required.
“Pro-choice” activists know this, which is why they refuse legislation requiring ultrasounds. And how does that refusal help a woman’s “choice”? Do pro-choicers want women to have maximum information for their best “choice” or not? The tragic truth is that far too many pro-choice activists want only information that leads to a choice in favor of abortion, not a choice against abortion.
That’s not a pro-choice position; it’s a pro-abortion position.
I’ve met women in tears who have told me about walking into Planned Parenthood clinics and receiving no option but abortion. One woman told me through sobs about her experience two decades ago. She was a college freshman terrified of her parents learning she was pregnant. She hoped that someone, somewhere, on her way to the clinic or inside, would provide her with options other than abortion. At the clinic, she was given no such option, nor a flicker of compassion. She said the nurses and “doctors” alike treated her with such cold routine. She was stunned to discover that the physical pain was immense (she said she felt “everything”), and the emotional pain has never gone away. Her baby was destroyed. She has never gotten over the trauma.
I frequently attend and speak at pro-life gatherings, and I meet these women constantly. Today, they are the backbone of crisis pregnancy centers. They staff the centers and they also give money to the centers to provide abortion alternatives, not to promote abortion. The California law sought to undermine that very purpose. Shame on the “pro-choice” movement and Supreme Court justices who refuse to understand that.
And for the pro-life movement, this is a July 4th to be thankful for a major court victory on behalf of liberty.
With God and Richard Pipes
The most respected academic authority on the Russian Revolution, 20th century Communism, and the Cold War has died. He was Richard Pipes, longtime professor of Russian history at Harvard, and a remarkable man.
Where to start with an adequate tribute to Professor Pipes? I’ll start with some biographical observations and then finish with personal reflections.
Richard Pipes was born in Poland on July 11, 1923. As a 16-year-old Jew at the time of Hitler’s invasion, Pipes mercifully escaped, thanks to a clever and shrewd father. He credited not only his father but also Providential intervention. That experience, and those that followed, taught Pipes several life lessons. In his memoir, Vixi: Memoirs of a Non-Belonger, he wrote, “The main effect of the Holocaust on my psyche was to make me delight in every day of life that has been granted to me, for I was saved from certain death.” Pipes observed:
“I felt and feel to this day that I have been spared not to waste my life on self-indulgence or self-aggrandizement but to spread a moral message by showing, using examples from history, how evil ideas lead to evil consequences. Since scholars have written enough on the Holocaust, I thought it my mission to demonstrate this truth using the example of Communism.”
Pipes would do exactly that.
Pipes earned a doctorate in history at Harvard in 1950. He spent the next 50-plus years there, as professor of Russian history, director of the Russian Research Center, and principal investigator of the Harvard Project on Cold War Studies. He was well-received at Harvard, with full classrooms, even as one of its few outspoken conservatives. In 1996, he retired, though his association with Harvard continued under emeritus status. Among his most important publications were Russia Under the Old Regime (1974), The Russian Revolution (1990), Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime (1994), The Unknown Lenin: From the Secret Archive (1996), and Communism: A History (2001). The latter is a concise go-to book for understanding Communism in theory, practice, and history.
But among Pipes’ greatest contributions were outside the classroom, as he helped win the Cold War at a practical-policy level. To that end, he joined President Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council in 1981, where he was the NSC’s senior Kremlinologist.
He did great work for Reagan, which means he was loathed by the Kremlin.
In January 1982, Pipes was described in Pravda as “one of the ideological mentors of the U.S. administration.” The Moscow Domestic Service excoriated this “odious figure” who “plowed the furrow of ardent anti-Sovietism and anti-Communism.” He was a “dyed-in-the-wool reactionary, hysterically fighting for nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union.” Pipes was a favorite bogeyman of the likes of the disgraceful disinformation artist Georgi Arbatov. He would confess satisfaction over arousing the contempt of such “vile people.”
Pipes certainly had Ronald Reagan’s respect, and vice versa. He was impressed at how Reagan had “grasped that the Soviet Union was in the throes of terminal illness” at a time when “nearly all the licensed physicians” — academic Sovietologists, the State Department, the CIA, journalists, ambassadors — “certified its robustness.” Pipes said that Reagan “instinctively understood, as all great statesmen do, what matters and what does not.” This quality, said Pipes, cannot be taught: “like perfect pitch, one is born with it.”
Pipes’ most lasting contribution to the Reagan team was his hand in writing one of the most critical documents in the take-down strategy against the USSR: NSDD-75. Released on January 17, 1983, it became probably the most important document in Cold War strategy under Reagan’s and Bill Clark’s NSC. As Pipes put it, the nine-page directive “said our goal was no longer to coexist with the Soviet Union but to change the Soviet system.” Norman Bailey would call NSDD-75 “The Strategic Plan That Won the Cold War.” Bailey’s NSC colleague, Tom Reed, called it “the blueprint for the endgame.”
The Soviets certainly saw it that way, as evidenced by an article in one Soviet publication in March 1983 which carried the telling title, “Pipes Threatens History.” It alleged (correctly) that NSDD-75 “speaks of changing the Soviet Union’s domestic policy. In other words, the powers that be in Washington are threatening the course of world history, neither more nor less.”
They were indeed.
Warnings About Putin — It was two decades after NSDD-75 that I met Pipes in person. It was September 27, 2005, and he came to Grove City College to give our annual J. Howard Pew Lecture. A few things from that day have stuck with me.
I’ve never forgotten Pipes’ assessment of Vladimir Putin, which has stood the test of time. I asked his opinion of Russia’s prospects for a democratic future. Pipes described what he called a “very discouraging picture”:
“I had high hopes that after the dissolution of the Communist regime, Russia would take the path of democracy — imperfect, but a democratic path nonetheless. Instead, they went right back to autocracy. I have no hopes now. . . . Russia 10 to 20 years from now will be a kind of a mild dictatorship. If Russians elect their leaders, they will likely do so in skewed elections. . . .
“Of course, Russia today is certainly better than it was under the Communist regime. . . . But it is not a democracy. It’s not what we hoped for. It’s an autocracy. Not a tyranny. Not a totalitarian regime. An autocracy. . . .”
According to the Russian constitution, the president can only serve two terms, but there is already talk in the Duma that he should be begged to run for a third term, that it is undemocratic to deny the people the right to vote for a man they want just because he has served two terms. Putin repeatedly says that he will not run for a third term, but I would not bet on that.
I argued with Pipes about that. At the time, I had a much more positive view on Putin and Russia, and I was surprised by Pipes’ pessimism. As usual, he was right.
Pipes and Ted Kennedy — Beyond that, two other things really struck me about that Pipes visit in September 2005.
I handed him two things that really piqued his interest: One was that March 1983 article from the Soviet press, “Pipes Threatens History,” which Pipes hadn’t seen. (I found it in Soviet press archives.) He loved it. It made him proud to so rattle the Kremlin.
The other document was unworthy of pride: it concerned Ted Kennedy’s private overture to the Kremlin.
I had been with Pipes all day, from the airport to dinner to the lecture and then getting him back to his room at Grove City College’s Cunningham House. Late that evening I showed Pipes the now-infamous May 1983 Ted Kennedy-KGB document of which I had recently come into possession. I was considering publishing it in my coming (2006) book on Ronald Reagan, but only if I could verify its authenticity. Given his expertise in Soviet archival work, Pipes was a perfect person to examine the document.
I handed Pipes the five-page memo in Russian, followed by an English translation. He sat in a chair in the corner, legs crossed, and began with the Russian version. I waited on the sofa, thumbing through a coffee-table book of Norman Rockwell illustrations. I impatiently headed to the entryway and then the kitchen in search of a piece of paper to jot down his conclusions.
Pipes calmly stared at the document and then muttered a curse word in reference to Kennedy. I immediately wrote down every word that followed. I’ve debated back and forth in writing this tribute whether I should quote Pipes verbatim. His reaction was visceral, and I implore readers to consider it in full:
After studying the document in silence, Pipes looked up at me and shared his immediate emotional reaction, “This is treason.” When I cautioned that it might indeed be close to treason, but not necessarily, Pipes nodded, retreated, and reevaluated, speaking more carefully, “Yes, at least very close to treason.” He then provided a rough summation of what he read: “He [Kennedy] was operating behind the back of the president of the United States, reaching out directly to a major head of state, to work against the president.” He paused and added simply, in his typical style: “Terrible.”
I implore people to interpret this in the proper spirit: Pipes’ initial reaction was to curse Kennedy and utter the “T” word. It’s a natural first-reaction I’ve seen many times. But after his initial anger cooled, he stepped back, thought more deeply, and assessed that, yes, at the very least, what Kennedy did was bad. Treason? Maybe, maybe not. Pipes knew that treason was a significant legal, technical, Constitutional matter. He knew that far more information would be needed to level such a formal charge. But it was bad.
I told Pipes my understanding of the provenance of the document. Before I could ask my main question, he affirmed, in his distinctive voice: “I’m sure it’s authentic.” I pressed him (and many others, incidentally) on that, inquiring whether the memo might be a forgery. “Oh, no,” he said. “I have no doubt that this is authentic.”
I told him that I felt history needed to know about the document and what it describes. He completely agreed: “Yes, yes. . . . I hope you can publish it.”
I shared with him my concern that Kennedy and his liberal admirers in the media would tear into me for questioning their vaunted “Lion of the Senate.” Pipes advised me on that and wished me luck. It turned out I had nothing to worry about it. Kennedy and his press sycophants simply ignored the document, and still do to this day.
“Fools and Useful Idiots” — I would remain in touch with Richard Pipes over the years. He was an invaluable expert and eyewitness. I could give example after example.
As I searched my email box today, the most recent Pipes’ email that I hadn’t deleted is dated April 7, 2014. I had asked him his thoughts on the role of the Soviets in the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II. He wrote:
“Thank you for your letter of April 3 which arrived while I was in Moscow. I certainly was not skeptical about Moscow’s role in the attempt on the life of John Paul II while working in the White House in 1981: I believed then and believe now that the assassination attempt was initiated and organized by the USSR. . . .
“I trust you are well. All the best, RP”
Like Ronald Reagan, like Bill Clark, like Bill Casey at the CIA, Richard Pipes never had any hesitation in thinking Moscow capable of all sorts of malice and mischief.
Another of my favorites was an email thanking me for exposing what Pipes called “the fools and useful idiots” among the American left who said stunningly ignorant things glowing about Lenin’s and Stalin’s USSR. It reminds me of when I saw Pipes at a Philadelphia Society conference in April 2012. I was speaking on dupes from the 1920s and 1930s, quoting the likes of George Bernard Shaw, and H. G. Wells, and Margaret Sanger, and their outlandish encomiums for Stalin’s Russia, as well as Malcolm Muggeridge’s bewildered amazement at the spectacle of Western progressives raving about Bolshevism. I lifted my eyes from my text and caught Pipes with an impish grin, loving every minute of the roast.
And then there was a correspondence we carried on over the prospect and possibility that Moscow considered a full-scale invasion of Poland in 1980-81, with President Reagan contemplating a military counter-response, which, as Pipes said dramatically, would have erupted into “World War III.”
Well, those discussions are gone now. In fact, each time I received an email from Dr. Pipes I wondered how much longer they would continue, because his email address included the year of his birth: 1923. Each year that date grew older.
It ended last week, at age 94.
In God’s Image — I’d like to finish with a favorite Pipes’ reflection, which I’ve shared every year with my Modern Civilization course at Grove City College. It deals with what matters most to Pipes now, at this very moment. It concerned keeping rather than losing the faith. Pipes wrote:
“Many Jews — my father among them — lost their religious beliefs because of the Holocaust. Mine, if anything, were strengthened. The mass murder (including those that occurred simultaneously in the Soviet Union) demonstrated what happens when people renounce faith in God, deny that human beings were created in His image, and reduce them to soulless and therefore expendable material objects.”
As noted, surviving the Holocaust made Pipes delight in every day that God had given him. There would be many such days. He felt a “duty” to defy Hitler by living a joyful and contented life. To be sad and morose and to complain would thereafter strike him as “forms of blasphemy” in light of his Providential gift of survival.
Above all, he would spend the remainder of his long and scholarly life exposing godless ideologies and the totalitarian tyrants who deny that human beings are made in God’s image. Few human beings in the academy did that as nobly and expertly as Richard Pipes. *
Kengor Writes . . .
Marx at 200: Classical Marxism vs. Cultural Marxism
This Saturday, May 5, marks the bicentennial of Karl Marx’s birth, a cause for literal celebration in certain quarters of the academy.
It’s often charged among the political right that America is going Communist, or at least socialist, or toward some form of Marxism. My concern is less classical Marxism than cultural Marxism, a strain of Communist thought that even most of those engaging in it aren’t consciously aware of. If you Google “cultural Marxism,” the first thing that pops up is a Wikipedia definition dismissing it as a “conspiracy theory which sees the Frankfurt School as part of an ongoing movement to take over and destroy Western culture.”
A conspiracy theory? Well, that merely affirms the point. The vast majority of those advancing cultural Marxism aren’t even aware they’re doing so. Tell them and they’ll either blankly stare or mockingly laugh at you as a conspiracy monger.
In truth, cultural Marxism not only exists, but exists as a dominant form of Marxism in America and much of the West today.
Classical Marxism’s Decline
Classical Marxism, by contrast, continues to dwindle.
Just this week I caught a rare admission that slipped from the lips of the current chairman of Communist Party USA, John Bachtell: He said that CPUSA has a mere 5,000 members.
Yes, only 5,000. You could find more members of Unicorn Party USA.
Even more pathetic is that CPUSA has been pounding its chest lately claiming a “surge” in membership under the siege of President Donald J. Trump. Really? Some surge.
Of course, CPUSA never had big numbers. At its heyday in the 1930s, it probably never had more than 100,000 members. That’s why Communists have always sought out dupes among the broader liberal left. It’s why Marxist ringleaders like Angela Davis show up at the Women’s March not quoting Lenin but stumping for same-sex marriage and condemning “climate change.” Davis didn’t dare openly agitate for the KGB at the March; she agitated for LGBT.
The Communist movement has always needed liberals as props to enlist at rallies. Rarely could CPUSA ever have filled Central Park with its own members. Bachtell’s cohorts today might not fill a sandbox at a Manhattan playground.
The reason for that is good news: The original ambition of an economic/class-based revolution has failed in America. And so, instead, today’s Marxists — including those in CPUSA, once the home of classical Marxism — have gone cultural.
It’s a form of Marxism so radical in its redefinition of human nature that Marx himself would blush and find it bewildering. As I write, the lead article at CPUSA’s website is titled, “The Capitalist Culture of Male Supremacy and Misogyny” — a piece breathtaking in its cultural radicalism. And it personifies the Communist movement’s thrust today.
Frankfurt School of Freudian-Marxism
So, what is this cultural Marxism, and how did it emerge?
It began not on May 5, 1818, with Marx’s birth, but over 100 years later with the birth of what came to be known as the Frankfurt School.
These 1920s and 1930s German Marxists were Freudian-Marxists. For them, orthodox/classical Marxism was too limiting, too narrow, too controlled by the Soviet Comintern that strong-armed national Communist parties. This rigidity prevented these more freewheeling neo-Marxists from initiating the cultural transformation they craved, including revolutionary changes in marriage, sexuality, and family. These Frankfurt-based theorists were left-wing intellectuals who looked to the universities as the home base from which their ideas could be launched. They spurned the church and looked to Marx and Freud as the gods they believed would not fail. Rather than organize the workers and factories, the peasants and the fields and the farms, they would organize the students and the academy, the artists and the media, and the film industry.
One can look at the Frankfurt school’s cultural Marxism not as a replacement for classical Marxism, but as the accelerator pedal that was missing from the wheezing, stalling vehicle. The cultural Marxist agrees with the classical Marxist that history passes through a series of stages on the way to the final Marxist utopia, through slavery and capitalism and socialism and ultimately to the classless society. But the cultural Marxist recognizes that Communists will not get there by economics alone. In essence, cultural Marxists shrewdly realized that the classical Marxists would utterly fail to take down the West with an economic revolution; capitalism would always blow away Communism, and the masses would choose capitalism. Cultural Marxists understand that the revolution requires a cultural war over an economic war. Whereas the West — certainly America — is not vulnerable to a revolt of the downtrodden trade-union masses, it is eminently vulnerable when it comes to, say, sex or pornography. While a revolution for wealth redistribution would be unappealing to most citizens of the West, a sexual revolution would be irresistible. Put the bourgeoisie in front of a hypnotic movie screen, and it would be putty in your hands.
The key figures of the Frankfurt School included Georg Lukacs, Herbert Marcuse, Wilhelm Reich — who literally wrote the book and coined the term, “The Sexual Revolution” — Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, and others. The formal school began in 1923 as the Institute for Social Research at the University of Frankfurt in Germany. Among its driving forces from within Moscow was Willi Munzenberg, the so-called Red millionaire. “We must organize the intellectuals,” exhorted Munzenberg.
And so they would. And how did they slide into America?
The threat of Hitler’s Germany drove the Frankfurt School out of Europe and into the welcoming arms of America’s left-wing academics. Most to all of the leading practitioners of the Frankfurt School were Jews who needed a safe haven from Hitler’s madness. So, they and their Institute came to New York City, specifically to the campus of Columbia University, already a hotbed of Communist thought.
Pleading the case for them at Columbia was John Dewey, founding father of American public education and Communist sympathizer. (Dewey described himself as a small “c” Communist, objecting only to “official Communism, spelt with a capital letter.”) Thus, their primary area of operation would be the educational system — the schools, the universities, and particularly the teachers’ colleges. It was no coincidence that Columbia housed the nation’s top teachers’ college — a creation of John Dewey.
From there, the cultural Marxists spread their ideas to campuses nationwide. Their extremist notions would sweep up the ’60s New Left, to which the likes of Herbert Marcuse became an ideological guru to the radicals who today are tenured at our universities.
Gramsci’s March Through the Institutions
Not to be forgotten in all of this was a critical figure, a non-German. At the age of 35, in 1926, Antonio Gramsci was arrested in his native Italy by Mussolini, and would spend the last 11 years of his life in prison. Samuel Gregg calls Gramsci perhaps “the most dangerous socialist in history.”
Whereas Marx and his original followers were all about class economics, seeing wealth redistribution and the seizure of the means of production as the key to their vision, Gramsci looked to culture. If the Left truly wanted to win, it needed to first seize the “cultural means of production:” the culture-forming institutions such as the media and universities and even churches.
Not until leftists came to dominate these institutions would they be able to convince enough people to support their Marxist revolution. “This part of his thesis was like manna from heaven for many left-wing Western intellectuals,” writes Sam Gregg. “Instead of joining a factory collective or making bombs in basements, a leftist professor could help free society from capitalist exploitation by penning essays in his office or teaching students.”
And in a really radical stroke — one too radical for its own time, but that would ultimately succeed — Gramsci and his heirs insisted that these leftist intellectuals needed to question everything, including moral absolutes and the Judeo-Christian basis of Western civilization. They needed to frame seemingly benign conventions as systematic injustices that must be exposed. This is where we got professors fulminating against everything from “the patriarchy” to “white imperialism” to “transphobia.” By the 21st century, even biological sex was no longer considered a settled issue. As I write, the New York City council offers public employees the option of choosing from 31 different gender identities. Of course, that’s nothing compared to Facebook, which at various times in the last three years has listed 51 gender options.
There was no traditional institution off limits to the cultural Left.
In fact, so “critical” was the cultural-Marxist left of anything and everything that it would brand itself as “critical theory.” Today, there are entire academic departments and programs dedicated to “critical theory.” Barack Obama’s alma mater, Occidental College, has a Department of Critical Theory and Social Justice, which at its website promises to instruct wide-eyed students in the principles of “Marxism, psychoanalysis, the Frankfurt School, deconstruction, critical race studies, queer theory, feminist theory, postcolonial theory. . . .” You get the picture.
For the cultural-Marxist left, “critical theory” is the zeitgeist, the prevailing spirit of the age. Michael Walsh calls it “the cult of critical theory,” the guiding force of what Walsh describes as “The Devil’s Pleasure Palace,” the instrument for what he rightly calls “the subversion of the West.” To quote the ’60s radicals, hey, hey, ho, ho, Western civ has got to go.
Gramsci himself foresaw societal transformation coming about by a “march through the institutions.” In this, he was prophetic.
Sam Gregg puts it well: “The worst part of Gramsci’s legacy is that it has effectively transcended its Marxist origins. His outlook is now blankly taken for granted by millions of teachers, writers, even churchmen, who have no idea that they are committed to cultural Marxism.” And so, adds Gregg, “the vast structures of cynicism which Gramsci’s ideas have built, which honeycomb Western society today, will prove much tougher to dismantle than the crude cement blocks of the old Berlin Wall.”
They will indeed. The people of Berlin had no problem recognizing the concrete wrongness of the wall that corralled them. But try to tell those redefining marriage that what they’re advocating is concretely wrong.
The Never-Ending Search for the Newest Victim Class
In a crucial respect, classical Marxism and cultural Marxism will always bear an essential, enduring commonality — one that explains a lot about today’s modern left.
Both classical Marxists and cultural Marxists see history as a series of struggles that divide the world into hostile/antagonistic groups of oppressors and the oppressed. Both seek out victim groups as the anointed group that will serve as the redeemer group. The victim group becomes the agent for emancipation in ushering in the new and better world. The Marxist must always, then, be on the search for the victim class that, in turn, must always be made aware of its victimization. Its “consciousness” must be raised.
In classical Marxism, this was simple: the victim group was identified by class/economics. It was the Proletariat. It was the factory worker.
In cultural Marxism, this hasn’t been so simple, because the culture is always changing: the victim group is constantly being searched for anew by the cultural Marxist. The group one year might be women, the next year a new ethnic minority, the next year another group. Today, there’s a hard push by cultural Marxists to tap the “LGBTQIA-plus” (People’s World frequently uses that label) movement as the championed victim group.
Thus, a cultural Marxist like Angela Davis — mentored by Herbert Marcuse — could stand at the Women’s March before a sea of young women in pink hats and recite a litany of popular grievances. In her casting about for victim groups, the former Communist Bloc cheerleader hailed Chelsea Manning, “trans women of color,” “our flora and fauna,” and “intersectional feminism,” and denounced “white male hetero-patriarchy,” misogyny, Islamophobia, and capitalist exploitation.
This is where today’s Marxists in America are toiling hard. They are working diligently on the cultural front. That’s where they are confident they can finally take down Western civilization and its Judeo-Christian bedrock.
From Factory Workers to “Cultural Workers”
In closing, consider this striking new term I recently encountered when perusing the latest “About” section of the website of People’s World, successor to the Soviet-funded Daily Worker and the leading mouthpiece of American Communism. It singled out a label I hadn’t heard before: “cultural workers.” It states:
“Today, People’s World offers a daily news platform for the broad labor-led people’s movement — a voice for workers, the unemployed, people of color, immigrants, women, youth, seniors, LGBTQ people, cultural workers, students and people with disabilities.”
They’re looking not for factory workers but for cultural workers. Forget the factory floor — that project failed long ago. Communists tried to organize the steelworkers, the autoworkers, the teamsters, the coalminers. It didn’t work.
Thus, the new recruiting ground is the classroom floor, the campus, the university, and the schools. That’s where the cultural workers who can usher in the fundamental transformation are being found. These modern cultural revolutionaries are succeeding magnificently in redefining everything from marriage and family to sexuality and gender. And most stunning of all, it’s the parents — many of them conservative Christians — who are paying for the grand indoctrination with their life savings.
And 200 years later, Karl Marx would be chuckling heartily at that irony.
Marx’s Apologists Should Be Red in the Face
May 5 marked the bicentennial of Karl Marx, who set the stage with his philosophy for the greatest ideological massacres in history. Or did he?
He did, but deniers still remain. “Only a fool could hold Marx responsible for the Gulag,” writes Francis Wheen in Karl Marx: A Life (1999). Stalin, Mao and Kim Il Sung, Mr. Wheen insists, created “bastard creeds,” “wrenched out of context” from Marx’s writings.
Marx has been accused of ambiguity in his writings. That critique is often justified, but not always. In The Communist Manifesto, he and Friedrich Engels were quite clear that “the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: abolition of private property.”
“You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property,” they wrote. “But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population.” And this: “In one word, you reproach us with intending to do away with your property. Precisely so; that is just what we intend.”
Marx and Engels acknowledged that their views stood undeniably contrary to the “social and political order of things.” Communism seeks to “abolish the present state of things” and represents “the most radical rupture in traditional relations.”
Toward that end, the manifesto offers a ten-point program, including “abolition of property in land,” “a heavy progressive or graduated income tax,” “abolition of all right of inheritance,” “centralization of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly,” “centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state” and the “gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equitable distribution of the population over the country.”
In a preface to their ten points, Marx and Engels acknowledged their coercive nature: “Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads.” In the close of the Manifesto, Marx said, “The Communists . . . openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.”
They were right about that. Human beings would not give up fundamental liberties without resistance. Seizing property would require a terrible fight, including the use of guns and gulags. Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and a long line of revolutionaries and dictators candidly admitted that force and violence would be necessary.
We’re told the philosophy was never the problem — that Stalin was an aberration, as were, presumably, Lenin, Trotsky, Ceausescu, Mao, Pol Pot, Ho Chi Minh, the Kims and the Castros, not to mention the countless thousands of liquidators in the NKVD, the GRU, the KGB, the Red Guard, the Stasi, the Securitate, the Khmer Rouge, and on and on.
Couldn’t any of them read? Yes, they could read. They read Marx. The rest is history — ugly, deadly history.
Remembering Barbara Bush — and Robin
Only two women were both wife to a president and mother to a president. One was Abigail Adams, who died 200 years ago, October 28, 1818; the other was Barbara Bush, who died yesterday, April 17, 2018. Mrs. Bush was 92 years old.
Barbara Bush will be remembered as simple and unpretentious, especially following Nancy Reagan as first lady. Mrs. Reagan was known for fancy clothes and fancy friends, as part of the Hollywood set. Mrs. Bush was known for being more homespun, more Texas, even though she was raised a blueblood with much fancier trappings than Nancy. She followed Nancy in many ways, including in death, as Nancy passed away in March 2016.
Still, Barbara humbly accepted the role of the older-looking and less-glamorous first lady. Her husband jokingly called her “The Silver Fox,” and she graciously smiled and accepted the ribbing. She was more Mamie Eisenhower than Jackie Kennedy.
We’ll hear all sorts of things about Mrs. Bush in the next few days. But there’s one story about her that I learned when researching and writing a biography of her oldest son — a story I think is well worth remembering. It’s probably the most human thing about this very human lady.
It was the fall of 1953. George W. Bush was seven years old. His parents’ green Oldsmobile pulled in front of Sam Houston Elementary School in Midland, Texas. George happened to be strolling down an outdoor corridor with his friend, carrying a Victrola record player to the principal’s office. The moment that he saw the car, he set down the phonograph and sprinted ahead to his teacher. “My mom, dad, and sister are home,” he shouted. “Can I go see them?
The little sister was Robin. To this day, George W. Bush swears he saw her. He says he caught her small head barely rising above the backseat. His parents had been in New York, where they were tending to George’s little sister. He knew Robin was sick, but had no idea how sick. The three-year-old was dying from leukemia.
George’s parents returned with an empty back seat and emptier news. “I run over to the car,” said Bush almost half a century later, “and there’s no Robin.” She was not coming home. “I was sad, and stunned. I knew Robin had been sick, but death was hard for me to imagine. Minutes before, I had had a little sister, and now, suddenly, I did not.” Bush says that those minutes remain the “starkest memory” of his childhood. When asked about the incident in an interview, his eyes welled with tears. He stammered his response.
Pauline Robinson “Robin” Bush started to show symptoms in February 1953, just after the birth of her baby brother Jeb. She simply wanted to lie down all day. Mysterious bruises began appearing on her body. The Bushes took her to Dr. Dorothy Wyvell, renowned in West Texas pediatrics. Wyvell was shocked by the test results. She told the Bushes that the child’s white blood cell count was the highest she had ever seen, and the cancer was already too advanced. She recommended they simply take Robin home and allow nature to take its course, sparing all of them the agony of futile treatments.
The Bushes couldn’t do that. George H. W. Bush had an uncle in New York who was president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering cancer center. They agreed to do everything they could in the hope of some breakthrough.
As for Barbara Bush, she was constantly at Robin’s side during the hospital stay. Her husband shuttled between New York and Midland. Each morning of Robin’s New York stay, her father dropped by the family’s Midland church at 6:30 a.m. to hold his own private prayer vigil. Only the custodian was there, and he let him in. One morning, Pastor Matthew Lynn joined him. They never talked; they just prayed.
Barbara was the strong one throughout the affair. When Robin received blood transfusions at the cancer center, her mother held her hand. Her father had to leave the room.
Robin never had a chance. Eventually, the medicine that labored to try to control the evil metastasizing in her frail frame quickly caused its own set of problems, and George H. W. was summoned from Texas immediately. He flew all night to get there, but by the time he arrived Robin had slipped into a coma. She died peacefully.
“One minute she was there, and the next she was gone,” remembered her mother. “I truly felt her soul go out of that beautiful little body. For one last time I combed her hair, and we held our precious little girl. I never felt the presence of God more strongly than at that moment.”
It all happened so fast. By October, Robin was dead, only weeks from her fourth birthday.
“We awakened night after night in great physical pain — it hurt that much,” Barbara recalled.
Alas, it is said that this was the reason Barbara Bush turned prematurely gray. There was a story — quite a story — behind that trademark hair of Barbara Bush. The story’s name was Robin.
May Barbara Bush rest in peace, reunited at long last with that little girl.
John Kerry: Reporting for Duty . . . From Vietnam to Iran
He hasn’t changed a lick in 47 years.
I’ve been asked a number of times about John Kerry’s unauthorized actions with Iran compared to Ted Kennedy’s unauthorized actions with the Kremlin. Kerry, this spring 2018, sought to undermine President Trump’s policies, whereas Kennedy, spring 1983, sought to undermine President Reagan’s policies.
Many people — including the president of the United States — want to know if Kerry’s actions constitute a violation of the Logan Act. It’s a question I’m frequently asked about Kennedy. The short answer, in both cases, is that I’m not the source to provide the answer. Congress is. The Democratic Congress in the 1980s didn’t hesitate to launch criminal proceedings against President Ronald Reagan and his staff (many of them fine men of great integrity) in a militant pursuit for impeachment over “Iran-Contra.” Liberal Democrats did so while turning a blind eye as their leader — House Speaker Jim Wright — buddied up to Sandinista dictator Daniel Ortega in his own negotiations.
And Wright wasn’t secretary of state, just as John Kerry wasn’t secretary of state when he conferred with Iranian officials in secret meetings in New York. In what the Boston Globe described as a “rare move” of “unusual shadow diplomacy,” Kerry met with the Iranian foreign minister (among other high-level foreign officials) “to discuss ways of preserving the pact limiting Iran’s nuclear weapons program. It was the second time in about two months that the two had met to strategize over salvaging a deal they spent years negotiating during the Obama administration, according to a person briefed on the meetings.”
That’s the very deal that President Trump was working to cancel just as Kerry was working to save it.
And that’s hardly the only Kerry outrage. No, this is old-hat. I’d like to remind everyone of Kerry’s affront decades ago. The date was April 22, 1971, 47 years to almost the exact day that Kerry met with the Iranians.
That moment, too, included yet another unsavory role by Ted Kennedy. Senator Kennedy helped arrange for the young Kerry, a Vietnam vet, to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, courtesy of Senator J. William Fulbright, hero to a young Bill Clinton, another vocal Vietnam War opponent. There, Kerry spoke of “war crimes committed in Southeast Asia” by American troops — war crimes that were “not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.” He charged that U.S. soldiers had:
“. . . personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam. . . .”
Kerry’s blistering testimony went on and on, filling two hours. The Senate room was packed with reporters and cameras. The testimony scandalized America and its soldiers.
Kerry claimed to speak on behalf of not simply the “small” group called Vietnam Veterans Against the War, of which he was the only representative to testify, but on behalf “of a very much larger group of veterans in this country.” And most damaging, his testimony came amid at least seven pending legislative proposals relating to the war; continued funding hung in the balance. That funding would signal whether the United States tried to win or opted for withdrawal, and whether the boys in the rice paddies got the weapons to defend themselves.
Kerry’s statement hit Vietnam vets like verbal napalm. His analogy to Genghis Khan, widely considered one of history’s worst beasts, was a damning indictment. His words made headlines worldwide. Overnight, his face was everywhere. He was inundated with media requests, an instant celebrity. He was discussed at the highest echelons of the Nixon White House, where the president dismissed him as a “phony.”
And speaking of phony, John Kerry’s testimony would be vigorously disputed from the outset.
One of the most dramatic such confrontations was a heated debate between Kerry and John O’Neill on the Dick Cavett Show on June 30, 1971. O’Neill had taken command of PCF 94, John Kerry’s Swift Boat, after Kerry’s departure. So incensed was O’Neill that over 30 years later he would co-author a bestselling book, Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry, laying out why he and other Swift Boat veterans judged Kerry “a liar and a fraud, unfit to be the commander in chief of the United States of America.” O’Neill and a group of roughly 200 “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” called a press conference in Washington on May 4, 2004. The group wasted no time with an extraordinary ad campaign that arguably cost John Kerry the presidency. He lost the presidency less in November 2004, than in April 1971.
As to the actual origins of Kerry’s information, that is likewise a controversy. One source disputes Kerry’s claim with a bracing suggestion — namely, that the origins were not American, nor Vietnamese, but Russian.
The Kremlin, primarily under Yuri Andropov’s lead at the KGB, had a nasty campaign of disinformation aimed at American servicemen. An eyewitness was Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa, who later became the highest-ranking intelligence official to defect from the Soviet bloc. Pacepa spoke to Kerry’s testimony of brutal U.S. “war crimes”:
“The exact sources of that assertion should be tracked down. Kerry also ought to be asked who, exactly, told him any such thing, and what it was, exactly, that they said they did in Vietnam. Statutes of limitation now protect these individuals from prosecution for any such admissions. Or did Senator Kerry merely hear allegations of that sort as hearsay bandied about by members of antiwar groups (much of which has since been discredited)?
“To me, this assertion sounds exactly like the disinformation line that the Soviets were sowing worldwide throughout the Vietnam era. KGB priority number one at that time was to damage American power, judgment, and credibility. One of its favorite tools was the fabrication of such evidence as photographs and ‘news reports’ about invented American war atrocities. These tales were purveyed in KGB-operated magazines that would then flack them to reputable news organizations. Often enough, they would be picked up. News organizations are notoriously sloppy about verifying their sources. All in all, it was amazingly easy for Soviet-bloc spy organizations to fake many such reports and spread them around the free world.
“As a spy chief and a general in the former Soviet satellite of Romania, I produced the very same vitriol Kerry repeated to the U.S. Congress almost word for word and planted it in leftist movements throughout Europe.”
Pointing to “peace” organizations that the KGB saturated with dubious anti-American propaganda, Pacepa stated:
“The quote from Senator Kerry is unmistakable Soviet-style sloganeering from this period. I believe it is very likely a direct quote from one of these organizations’ propaganda sheets.”
Andropov would proudly tell Pacepa that the KGB’s Vietnam campaign had been “our most significant success.” Thanks to the manipulation of the American peace movement.
One can debate where and when John Kerry got his information. What is undeniable, however, was its value to America’s enemy: the Viet Cong.
In Unfit for Command, John O’Neill recalls the experience of one his band of brothers, Bill Lupetti, a Navy corpsman who had treated injured Swift Boat soldiers. Lupetti was stationed at An Thoi, where both O’Neill and Kerry had served. For Memorial Day 2004, Lupetti returned to Vietnam, painfully visiting Ho Chi Minh City, wandering through the streets earnestly looking to find out whether certain Vietnamese friends had survived the merciless Communist takeover enabled by the American withdrawal.
Lupetti happened upon the War Remnants Museum. Inside, he came to an exhibit dedicated to “heroes” who had helped the Communists win the war. A wall plaque at the head of the exhibit stated: “We would like to thank the Communist parties and working class countries of the world.” This included the “wholehearted support” of various “progressive human beings.”
Among those progressives represented in pictures, Lupetti glimpsed American campus radicals from the 1960s. (In fact, Jane Fonda’s smiling face was captured in a photo in a separate Women’s Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, standing alongside Madame Binh.) And there, Lupetti was staggered by the sight of a photo of John Kerry — the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee that year. There he was, John Kerry, in a special exhibit honoring those whose “heroic” contributions had helped the Viet Cong defeat the United States.
The Communist Vietnamese never forgot John Kerry’s testimony in 1971. It had been a great help. And perhaps today, in Iran, Kerry’s words are again being heralded, this time by the world’s worst theocratic terror state. Perhaps if the nuclear deal gets resurrected, Kerry’s mug will find a frame on the wall of a “heroes” exhibit somewhere in Tehran one day: Another testimony to him saving America’s adversaries from the Republican in the White House. *
Kengor Writes . . .
Imagine if Stormy Daniels Were Bill Clinton’s Friend Gennifer Flowers.
CBS’s “60 Minutes” rounded out Palm Sunday yesterday with an exclusive interview with porn-star Stormy Daniels leveling salacious charges against President Trump. The interview was aired almost 20 years to the day of another surreal interview involving a president and sensational sexual allegations.
On March 24, 1998, the New York Times provided a platform for one Bernard Lewinsky, father of a lady likewise infamous for lewd antics. In an article titled, “He Accuses Special Prosecutor of ‘Trying to Torture’ His Daughter: Lewinsky’s Father Rips Into Starr,” Lewinsky exploded not at the man who employed his little girl — Monica — as a sexual play-thing in the nation’s most revered office, but instead unleashed his anger at, well, Ken Starr.
“I think this is just the drip torture technique that Ken Starr is using on her,” complained the Los Angeles cancer specialist, condemning not Bill Clinton’s grotesque techniques on his daughter. “He is just trying to torture her in every possible way.” Dr. Lewinsky said his daughter was being used as a political “pawn” by the slimy Starr. She was now “very depressed” and a “virtual prisoner in her apartment,” unable to talk or even see family and friends and her own brother.
It wasn’t his first slap at the independent counsel. In a piece the Times ran a few weeks earlier, “Intern’s Father Assails Starr Over Inquiry,” Lewinsky had barked at Starr: “Lay off!” These were words that surely would have been better spent hurled at Bill Clinton. But that wasn’t the mindset of Monica’s father; his villain was the independent counsel. Dr. Lewinsky surmised that what Ken Starr (not Bill Clinton) had “brought upon” his daughter was “unconscionable.” Displaying his liberal bona fides, Dr. Lewinsky said the nefarious Starr so repulsed him that the counselor made him think of the worst of humans: Joe McCarthy. The attorney was running a “McCarthy-era” investigation. In fact, said Dr. Lewinsky, this new era was actually worse than that: it was reminiscent not merely of the McCarthy era but “of the Inquisition” and even “the Hitler era.”
Yes, the Hitlerian Ken Starr was “completely out of control.” (Again, no charges of Bill Clinton being out of control.)
That was 20 years ago. And it’s worth noting today because Dr. Lewinsky’s comments weren’t solely representative of an enraged father who had gone bananas thanks to Bill Clinton and was lashing out. No, Lewinsky was a proud liberal, and his misdirected indignation was reflective of liberals’ misdirected indignation during the Clinton-Lewinsky affair. The liberal press wasn’t simply in denial mode; it, too, was in attack mode — attacking not Boy Clinton, but Bad Boy Starr.
Such it had been for two nutty terms of Bill Clinton. Above all, the left told us this sordid stuff didn’t matter, and the liberal mainstream press did everything to avoid the elephants in the Clinton bedroom — actually, in the Clinton Oval Office.
Monica’s dad was sadly symptomatic of Bill’s supporters throughout the media.
It wasn’t until deep into the second Clinton term that names like Monica Lewinsky and Juanita Broaddrick — the latter a two-decade old case of alleged rape by Bill Clinton — made their way into the media. The press had to be dragged kicking and screaming, and only then after exposés by Matt Drudge. As for Broaddrick and her rape claims, the story finally hit the mainstream media when NBC’s Lisa Myers bravely broke ranks and interviewed Broaddrick. Then, the mainstream press slowly followed, including a detailed report on the front page of the February 20, 1999 edition of the Washington Post. It was, alas, the seventh year of Bill’s presidency.
Broaddrick herself would confront Hillary Rodham Clinton with a letter to the sitting first lady demanding an explanation, a letter excerpted in the press. That story didn’t enter the mainstream media until October 2000, the final full year of the Clinton presidency.
The American Spectator as early as late 1993 had been breaking extraordinary stories based on stunning interviews with (among others) the Arkansas state troopers unluckily assigned to Gov. Bill Clinton. The troopers’ accounts were jaw-droppers, and credible — and yet the press assiduously ignored them. When Paula Jones or Gennifer Flowers attempted a press conference, they were openly mocked by the press; literally laughed at on the spot. (To its credit, “60 Minutes” did confront both Clintons on allegations of Bill’s marital infidelity during the 1992 campaign, an interview in which Bill and surely Hillary lied through their grinning lips.)
Recall, too, how all the president’s men joined the pack. Throughout 1998, the lieutenants in the Clinton camp were on a rampage against the special prosecutor’s office, which they openly portrayed as operated by fundamentalist-hayseeds, puritanical tyrants, sexual McCarthyites looking for a woman under every Clinton bed. Ken Starr was a modern Torquemada.
Especially adept at the art of vicious sliming was Clinton hatchet-man James Carville, who lampooned Starr for — heaven forbid — praying and singing hymns during walks along a creek near his home. “He goes down by the Potomac and listens to hymns, as the cleansing water of the Potomac goes by,” screeched a howling Carville, “and we’re going to wash all the Sodomites and fornicators out of town!” Sidney Blumenthal, White House aide and Clinton apologist extraordinaire, snarled that Starr fancied himself a “zealot on a mission derived from a higher authority,” and ripped Starr’s chief deputy in Little Rock, W. Hickman Ewing, who was obviously a “religious fanatic.”
Words like “bimbo” and “trailer-park trash” were tossed around brutally by Clintonistas to besmirch women who courageously stood up against the most powerful man in the world. Bill’s victims might have started the #MeToo movement, if only a single pro-choice feminist in Washington had been willing to stand at their side.
And now, 20 years later, it’s March 2018, barely a full year into the Trump presidency, and liberals are practically kicking down the door of the Playboy Mansion looking under couches for dirt on the Donald. It seems only a matter of time before CNN sets up a full-time bureau in a Washington strip club. Poor Anderson Cooper, a genuinely decent guy, seems to have been dispatched to the Porn Beat, where his duties include shoving microphones in the faces of X-rated film stars and former centerfolds. Turning on CNN in front of the kids is a risk nowadays.
Now, every new sexual allegation against Donald Trump is an instant headline. No hesitation — straight to the front pages, baby.
And as for me, for the record, I’m as troubled by the allegations in 2018 as in 1998. I’m not shrugging this off. Conservatives must stand on principle and care about and condemn such outrageously and scandalously bad behavior, especially to retain any credibility. As readers here well know, I voiced character concerns about Donald Trump during his campaign in 2016 — as I had about Bill Clinton in 1992. But my focus here is liberals, and this reality: Their hypocrisy is coming back to bite them.
When liberals protest that Trump supporters aren’t taking these charges seriously, or cry foul when Trump defenders point instead to Bill Clinton in the 1990s, well, they shouldn’t be surprised. Liberals, there’s a moral-political consequence to how you covered your ears and eyes in the 1990s. And now you’ll see it among a sizable segment of voters who will reject your remonstrations of moral outrage against Donald Trump. Frustrated? So were we.
Obama’s CIA Director Would Sooner Vacation in North Korea Than at Mar-a-Lago.
Obama CIA director John Brennan, recently uncorked an epic Twitter rant. Enraged by President Trump’s words aimed at FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, Brennan steamed at the president:
“When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America . . . America will triumph over you.”
More than one faithful reader emailed me about the irony of such words coming from a man who wanted Gus Hall to be president of the United States.
For those too young to remember, Gus Hall was the longtime hack and head of Communist Party USA, beginning in 1959 until his death in 2000. Not even Joe Stalin as a Party General Secretary came close to matching Gus Hall’s interminable tenure. Hall was unwaveringly dedicated to a global Communist revolution and a truly Evil Empire that was ultimately and blessedly consigned to “the dustbin of history.” Brennan’s loaded words echoed a phrase that Bolshevism made infamous: From the delightful Leon Trotsky to the charming Yuri Andropov, the exhortation evidently remains etched in Brennan’s comradely memory. “Go the place where you belong from now on,” Trotsky thundered at the Mensheviks in 1917, “the dustbin of history!”
Our former CIA director channeled Trotsky in the service of blasting Trump.
Of course, that’s precisely why the good reader emailed me. The reader graciously remembered my piece for The American Spectator in September 2016 in which I noted that the same Mr. John Brennan had supported Mr. Gus Hall for POTUS back in the Brezhnev era. Brennan literally cast a vote for the Kremlin’s man in Washington. Needless to say, the Kremlin in those days was a rather bad place that housed some nasty guys. Leonid Brezhnev’s KGB chief was Yuri Andropov. About the time that Brennan was registering a ballot for Moscow’s man in America to become America’s next president, Brezhnev and Andropov were giving the green light to one of the most shocking crimes of the deadly 20th century: the assassination of Pope John Paul II. Andropov gave the go-ahead to the Soviet GRU to hire Muslim-Turk Mehmet Ali Agca to murder the head of the world’s largest Christian church and inheritor of the Chair of St. Peter.
That ought to have raised a red flag to John Brennan, who, among other things, had been raised an Irish Catholic. His lurch to the far left occurred during his college years at the Jesuit-run Fordham University in New York. (Today, it’s unclear where Brennan stands faith-wise, with not a single mention at his official CIA page and other biographical sources and amid unproven claims that he converted to Islam. The Arabic-speaking ex-CIA director, who studied abroad in Cairo, has made very positive statements about Islam and the “privilege” of making pilgrimage to Mecca and paying homage to “the majesty of the Hajj.”)
In fact, if one studies Brennan’s admission that he voted for Gus Hall, it looks like he also suggested that he might have been a member of the Communist Party in 1980. Yes, a formal member.
Once upon a time in pre-Obama America, the possibility of CPUSA membership would have been a disqualifying factor to run the CIA. But not to the president that Americans elected in 2008 and reelected in 2012. To the contrary, Obama would have been highly sympathetic. It was likewise in 1980, at Occidental College, according to classmate John Drew, that the young Obama was an ideological Marxist, albeit not a formal CPUSA member. Only the most hardcore joined The Party — including Obama mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, whose underground code name for The Party was “The Church.”
But alas, that’s just the start of the irony in John Brennan’s Tweet about the corruption of Donald Trump. Observe that Brennan also blasted Trump for demagoguery, venality, and moral turpitude. Well, that took some gall for a Gus guy. Gus Hall was all those things, and worse.
I couldn’t begin to here lay out the full spectrum and spectacle (and disgrace, to borrow another Brennan description) that was Gus Hall, but here’s one particularly relevant item of interest: ol’ Gus was so corrupt that even the Russkies couldn’t trust him.
An eyewitness to that reality was Morris Childs, a remarkable individual whose story was told by the late John Barron in his fascinating book Operation Solo: The FBI’s Man in the Kremlin. Childs was Gus’s number-two at CPUSA. And all along, Childs was secretly working for the FBI.
The courageous Childs marvelously hoodwinked Hall and his Moscow cronies. The Soviets loved Childs like a brother, bestowing on him their celebrated Soviet Order of the Red Banner — a hilarious accomplishment for an undercover FBI agent.
What Childs learned from the Soviets was significant. But as to the point of Gus Hall’s corruption, consider this: The Soviet Union was secretly bankrolling CPUSA, including annual subsidies to the Daily Worker. It was illegal for CPUSA and Gus Hall to receive this money. Our government knew this was happening, but it kept the information quiet to protect Childs so he could continue providing crucial inside intelligence.
Morris Childs and his brother Jack (also working for our side) were conduits for the funding. The Kremlin gave CPUSA tens of millions of dollars. The total rose to $2,775,000 by 1980. The FBI knew the precise amount because it counted every dime at a half-way house prior to when Morris deposited it in a safe for Gus Hall.
To repeat: Hall and CPUSA were doing all of this illegally. They were a directly-subsidized arm of America’s chief adversary, a barbaric regime.
But that’s not the end of it — of, that is, Gus Hall’s corruption. As for the safe in which Moscow’s money was placed for CPUSA, Gus always pocketed a portion for his personal stash. Childs knew this, the FBI knew it. He wasn’t trustworthy. Then again, why would anyone trust a Communist General Secretary? Come to think of it, why would anyone vote for a Communist General Secretary to be their president of the United States?
That brings us back to John Brennan.
One might lend more credibility to Brennan’s crowing about Donald Trump if he had better judgment about presidents of the United States. And this article doesn’t begin to detail Gus Hall’s venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption. Where to start and finish with those? Here are merely a few Gus gems:
On vacationing in North Korea: “The world should see what North Korea has done. In some ways it’s a miracle. If you want to take a nice vacation, take it in North Korea.”
On the Party’s position on the Hitler-Stalin of 1939, Stalin’s purge trials, and the 1956 invasion of Hungary: “I never believed that we should dwell too much on the past. I have been much more interested in the future.”
On socialism’s inevitability in America: “There’s no question that the United States will become a socialist country. It’s as inevitable as the sun rising tomorrow.”
On the Party remaining committed to revolution: “We want to overthrow the capitalist system. But the means that we have chosen are ones of mass education and propaganda. We have our newspaper and we appear on talk shows and we will take part in elections.”
Well, John Brennan took part in those elections. He cast a vote for the cause.
Let’s Not Forget Bernardine Dohrn, Bill Ayers, and the Four-Finger Salute
Most articles on the death of madman Charles Manson opened by mentioning his role in the diabolical Tate-LaBianca murders. The AP story started this way:
“Charles Manson, the hippie cult leader who became the hypnotic-eyed face of evil across America after orchestrating the gruesome murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six others in Los Angeles during the summer of 1969, died Sunday after nearly a half-century in prison. . . .” The Manson Family, as his followers were called, slaughtered five of its victims on Aug. 9, 1969, at Tate’s home: the actress, who was 8½ months pregnant, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, celebrity hairdresser Jay Sebring, Polish movie director Voyteck Frykowski and Steven Parent, a friend of the estate’s caretaker. Tate’s husband, “Rosemary’s Baby” director Roman Polanski, was out of the country at the time. The next night, a wealthy grocer and his wife, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, were stabbed to death in their home across town.
Charles Manson led this cult of killers. After a sensational trial that truly shocked America, Manson and four genuinely scary members of his “family” — Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten, and Charles “Tex” Watson — were sentenced to death. But because the California Supreme Court had struck down the death penalty, all were spared execution and instead given life sentences.
Manson had directed his “family” members to go out into the dark of night to do “something witchy.” That they did. The way they killed Sharon Tate was especially gruesome. Shortly after midnight, they stabbed Tate at least a dozen times, mutilating the beautiful actress, who was due to give birth in two weeks. Tate had reportedly begged for the life of her unborn child but was told by one of the Manson girls:
“Look bitch, I don’t care about you. I don’t care if you are having a baby. You are going to die and I don’t feel a thing about it.”
The Manson girls repeatedly rammed forks into Tate’s belly to kill her child. The dead baby boy was later removed from his mother’s still womb and buried with her in her arms.
Manson’s acolytes took Tate’s spilled blood and used it to paint the word “PIG” on the front door of her home.
As for the murder of the LaBiancas the next day, Manson himself tied up the couple and ordered his devotees to do the kill. They brandished their knives and ferociously hacked away. They would leave a fork sticking out of the dead belly of Leno LaBianca, a supermarket executive. The fork was used to carve the word “WAR” on his belly.
Everyone knows that Charles Manson inspired those murders. None of that is being forgotten in reports of his death. But what also shouldn’t be forgotten was how the murders inspired Bernardine Dohrn, the ’60s militant Marxist who spearheaded the Weather Underground.
That surreal, cruel moment came at the appropriately titled “War Council” held in Flint, Michigan on December 27, 1969, two days after Christmas. It was attended by some 400 student radicals from the SDS-Weathermen cabal, who promoted this political-ideological-sexual gathering as a collective “Wargasm.” For the lovely ’60s hippies, it would be (as usual) a night of radical politics, unrestrained sex, and violence.
Among the ringleaders was the late John Jacobs, who had coined a fitting slogan for the evening and for the entire movement: “We’re against everything that’s good and decent.” That became obvious when the indecent Bernardine Dohrn grabbed the microphone. “We’re about being crazy motherf—ers,” Dohrn shouted, “and scaring the sh-t out of honky America!”
It was like a radical revival meeting, with the Rev. Dohrn at the political pulpit. Inspired by the spirit — that is, some sort of spirit — Bernardine fired up her brothers and sisters with her hideous ruminations on the vicious Tate-LaBianca murders. The future professor of child education at Northwestern University School of Law — no less than founding director of the university’s Children and Family Justice Center — thrilled over the scene in the bloody Tate living room:
“Dig it! First they killed those pigs. Then they ate dinner in the same room with them. Then they even shoved a fork into the victim’s stomach! Wild!”
One would like to think that this gory moment appalled even the hardcore in that room, but that wouldn’t be accurate. The faithful, from Bernadine’s sweetheart, Bill Ayers, to everyone else in the hall, knew Bernardine was serious — and they dug it. As reported by Mark Rudd, one of the core leaders of SDS and the Weathermen, the assembled “instantly adopted as Weather’s salute four fingers held up in the air, invoking the fork left in Sharon Tate’s belly.”
Imagine. Just imagine. A room full of highly educated young people from some of America’s most hailed colleges. United in a grotesque four-finger salute of diabolical death.
Bill Ayers has been asked to comment on the episode. The best face that Ayers has tried to put on the event is to claim that his sweetheart was being “ironic” or had employed “rhetorical overkill” (Freudian slip?) or was speaking “partly as a joke.”
Among the former ’60s radicals who later investigated the incident is David Horowitz, today a leading conservative. Horowitz set out to document the incident, interviewing his old comrades: “In 1980, I taped interviews with thirty members of the Weather Underground who were present at the Flint War Council, including most of its leadership,” he wrote. “Not one of them thought Dohrn was anything but deadly serious.”
I’ve likewise talked to witnesses. A few years ago I spoke to a Weather Underground cadre who was there. This witness was a good guy — a courageous Vietnam vet who offered his services to the FBI and had infiltrated the group at great personal risk. His name was Larry Grathwohl, who I wrote a tribute to at The American Spectator in July 2013. There, I recounted a conversation I had with Grathwohl the previous summer.
Grathwohl had been at the War Council. When I asked if Dohrn and the others were indeed serious, and whether the rest of the radicals had joined the four-finger salute, he confirmed vigorously: “Absolutely! No question.” He repeated emphatically: “Remember, I was there. I saw it.”
In fact, Grathwohl added a tidbit that I hadn’t read in accounts of that evening. He said that throughout the remainder of the night, as the “flower children” danced, they gleefully bopped and grooved with their fingers in the form of the four-finger salute, thrusting their arms up and down and back and forth, laughing joyfully. Larry demonstrated for me. I felt sick to my stomach.
“How awful,” I said. “Oh, yes,” he replied. “It sure was.”
Mark Rudd, the SDS leader who shut down Columbia University a year earlier, in the spring of 1968, translated this message for the wider world:
“The message was that we sh-t on all your conventional values, you murderers of black revolutionaries and Vietnamese babies. There were no limits to our politics of transgression.”
No, there were not. And this is not quite the flowery image of the innocent ’60s idealists dancing with daisies that liberals would like us to believe about this degenerate generation of ideological goons and nerds and thugs.
A line had been crossed that night in Flint — the first steps into a dark world. From the high altar of Rev. Dohrn’s four-finger salute flowed domestic terror cells, gunpowder, bomb-making units. A “new decade now dawned,” recalled Rudd, as “the New Red Army marched out from Flint, exhilarated and terrified.” Its members would spend the next decade literally plotting the violent overthrow of the United States of America, which (quoting their hero, Che Guevara) they declared “the Great Enemy of Mankind.”
They planned attacks, planted bombs, and engaged in murder, all along fleeing the federal authorities as fugitives on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list. Ayers would change his name from town to town, chillingly visiting cemeteries where he borrowed the names of deceased babies from tombstones as his macabre aliases.
Neither Ayers or Dohrn would get prison time. Quite the contrary, both spent the 1980s earning education degrees from universities like Columbia, and in the 1990s would become professors at, respectively, University of Illinois-Chicago and Northwestern.
Dohrn and Ayers, of course, were back in the news again in 2008, when their friendship with an aspiring Illinois politician named Barack Obama was raised. A chilling symbolic moment in Obama’s rise was the political blessing he received in the living room of Bill and Bernardine in their Hyde Park home in 1995. (Even the New York Times reported on this on the newspaper’s front page in October 2008, albeit downplaying the incident. See: Scott Shane, “Obama and ’60s Bomber: A Look Into Crossed Paths,” New York Times, October 4, 2008.)
Obama during the 2008 campaign would do his best to distance himself from Ayers, just as he did another leftist Chicagoan, his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
In fact, Obama and Bill Ayers actually did a number of things together in Chicago. They jointly served as board members at the Woods Fund in Chicago; they worked on “school reform” through the Chicago Annenberg Challenge; they served on a juvenile-justice panel (organized by Michelle Obama); they appeared together as speakers or panel participants at Chicago events; they had many mutual associations, including with disturbing figures like Rashid Khalidi; they acknowledged one another in books and reviews and even endorsements of their books; they had a relationship as neighbors (three blocks apart); plus numerous other reported associations. (I detail these and many additional connections, with copious endnotes, in my book 2010 book, Dupes.) In 2001, the same period when Ayers openly lamented that he had not done enough damage to the Pentagon, Ayers donated $200 to Obama’s reelection campaign for the Illinois Senate, which Obama happily accepted and was never called upon to repudiate. The relationship was professional and personal. Some have speculated that Barack met his wife Michelle at the Sidley & Austin law firm where Bernardine Dohrn worked.
But, hey, who’s counting — eh?
By 2008, Bill and Bernardine were enthusiastic backers of the group “Progressives for Obama,” spearheaded by SDS founder and leading ’60s radical Tom Hayden.
Unlike Charles Manson, who spent the rest of his life in prison, neither Bill or Bernardine were sentenced to jail time for their alleged crimes, some of which (albeit not as sadistic as Manson’s) could have killed many more people. As Ayers later infamously celebrated, “Guilty as hell, free as a bird!”
Of course, what Charles Manson did was truly of hell. Manson was guilty as hell, and he didn’t get away with it — neither in this world and surely not in the next.
But as we look back at the evil that Charles Manson committed in 1969, we shouldn’t forget how Bernardine and buddies saluted that evil.
Remembering Fidel Castro’s Death
Editor’s note: A shorter version of this article first appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Last November marked the anniversary of the death of Fidel Castro, our hemisphere’s worst dictator for a half century. When we remember Castro’s death, we should remember him for just that: death.
Expressing the depths of Fidel’s destruction is impossible in a short article. But among the corpses under his despotism were the thousands who perished while trying to escape his island-prison by swimming nearly 100 miles to American shores.
A testimony to that desperation was recently provided to my students at Grove City College by a Cuban citizen, who I must leave nameless. In describing her fellow citizens’ surreal lives under totalitarian Communism, she noted that only recently have Cubans been allowed to visit their beautiful beaches, and even then only under strict surveillance. That’s a stunning thought for a country literally surrounded by beaches. And yet, Cubans are banned from their beaches because their government fears they’ll dash into the deep water and start paddling profusely for freedom — swimming all the way for Florida.
Imagine that. Try to conceive the utter despair. Try to wrap your mind around the cruelty of a government not even letting its suffering citizens escape — a regime so repressive that it will not dare avert its gaze for a moment lest its people attempt the physically unimaginable in the agonizing hopes of dashing from this Marxist police state.
We already know that Cuba is a bizarre island without boats. Look at satellite images of Cuba. No boats! There’s also no fishing industry, and people don’t have the luxury of eating fish. (They largely eat chicken, pork, rice, beans.) Why no boats? Why no fishermen? Because fishermen bolt the first chance they get — just like swimmers.
For the record, how many people have attempted the swim since Castro took over in 1959? It’s difficult to say. In 1999, the Harvard University Press classic, The Black Book of Communism, estimated that some 100,000 Cubans had risked the treacherous journey. Of those, perhaps as many as 30,000 to 40,000 died from drowning. As those in the sea bob for breath, the government on occasion has employed the resources of the state to sink them, dropping large bags of sand at them from helicopters hovering above.
Yes, actually dropping sandbags.
As we consider the tens of thousands who’ve drowned, compare it to another glaring number: zero. That’s the total number of Americans who have attempted the swim to Cuba, including all those merry liberals raving about the wondrous “free” education and healthcare awaiting humanity in the Castro collectivist utopia.
Bill Bennett, Ronald Reagan’s secretary of education, speaks of “the gates test.” To wit: when a nation opens its gates, in which direction does humanity flow? Well, when the United States leaves its borders unchecked, the refugees stream in. In the Communist world, the apparatchiks had to build a wall in Berlin to keep the captives contained. In Cuba, they can’t even visit their beaches. I imagine the Communists in Cuba would earnestly have followed the example of their old comrades in East Germany and built a wall around the beaches — if they could afford it.
Aside from those who drowned, how many others died under Fidel Castro?
Those numbers likewise run into the thousands. There were the more traditional Marxist methods: bullet to the head, deprivation, succumbing to inhumane prison conditions. The numbers vary, but the range of dead from those means is typically between 10,000 and 20,000, whether victims of long-term imprisonment or outright execution by bullets.
Fidel’s onetime executioner-in-chief, Che Guevara, today an icon to profoundly ignorant college students who sport the cruel psychopath on their t-shirts, is estimated to have overseen as many as 2,000 executions (some of which he personally performed) during the brief period he ran Fidel’s execution pit at the La Cabana concentration camp. Beyond Che’s “bloodthirsty” (he charmingly used that word to describe himself in a letter to his wife) achievement, many more Cubans were liquidated by other state assassins. In all, most credible estimates place the total dead somewhere between 15,000 to 18,000. That’s a lot of people for a tiny island. And again, it doesn’t include those who drowned while attempting an incredible swim.
The late professor R. J. Rummel, an expert on the sordid subject of death by government, estimates that from 1959-87 alone, the grand total of cadavers produced by Fidel ranged from 35,000 to as high as 141,000. How’s that for a resume? Actually, for a Communist leader, it’s pretty typical.
As we pause to remember Fidel Castro at the one-year anniversary of his demise, let us remember him for what he achieved the most: tyranny, repression, and death. *
Kengor Writes . . .
Going Red for International Women’s Day
The ability of the Communist left to consistently mislead and use an ever-wider group of people never ceases to amaze.
I wrote a few weeks ago about the Women’s March, a shocking display of vulgarity that erupted after the Trump inaugural in January, where none other than Angela Davis — America’s longtime leading female Marxist revolutionary — was honorary co-chair and featured speaker. Davis fired up the faithful as they donned crude pink hats and cheered her revolution. Now, this week, the female front was enlisted again, this time going not pink but red — figuratively and literally.
[March 8] was International Women’s Day. If you know little to nothing of the history of this event, then you probably know more than the vast majority of young women and oblivious corporate sponsors tapped as dutiful foot soldiers.
The fact is that the origins of International Women’s Day are Communist-socialist. That reality is so unavoidably obvious that the “About” section at the official International Women’s Day website candidly lays out the origins in touting this glorious “collective day of global celebration” and calling on “the masses” to “help forge a better working world.” Take a look at this surprisingly honest historical timeline provided at the website:
International Women’s Day Timeline Journey
1909: In accordance with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America, the first National Woman’s Day (NWD) was observed across the United States on 28 February. . . .
1910: In 1910 a second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. A woman named Clara Zetkin (Leader of the “Women’s Office” for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day — a Women’s Day — to press for their demands. The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties, working women’s clubs — and including the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament — greeted Zetkin’s suggestion with unanimous approval and thus International Women’s Day was the result. . . .
1913-1914: On the eve of World War I campaigning for peace, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February 1913. In 1913 following discussions, International Women’s Day was transferred to 8 March and this day has remained the global date for International Women’s Day ever since. . . .
1917 : On the last Sunday of February, Russian women began a strike for “bread and peace” in response to the death of over 2 million Russian soldiers in World War I. Opposed by political leaders, the women continued to strike until four days later the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. The date the women’s strike commenced was Sunday 23 February on the Julian calendar then in use in Russia. This day on the Gregorian calendar in use elsewhere was 8 March.”
I must concede kudos to the International Women’s Day website developers for sharing this accurate history. This is spot on.
Readers will, of course, recognize many of these dates and names, especially the Russian ones. They may not identify names like Clara Zetkin. Zetkin was a big-time German Marxist — or, as leftists will prefer to call her, a socialist or “social democrat.” In fact, Lenin and Trotsky and pioneering cultural Marxists like Herbert Marcuse were also social democrats. Clara was a leading international advocate for Lenin. I have clips from Working Woman magazine, the January 30, 1934 edition, which I copied from the Soviet Comintern files on Communist Party USA. This particular edition included a preview of the coming International Women’s Day of March 8, 1934. It featured a glowing review of Clara’s book Reminiscences of Lenin, including praise for the late despot’s “warm smile,” “keen joy” for workers, “clear thinking,” and “masterly eloquence.” This was Clara’s valentine to Vladimir — a vicious killer — at the time of his death in January 1924, amid her “hour of grief” and “deepest personal sorrow” at the “irreparable loss” of this “great man.”
Perhaps passages of this blast-from-the-past could be posted in the “About” section of the International Women’s Day website?
But there was much more to this year’s International Women’s Day. Its call for a better “gender world” was a distinctly and fittingly red one. Indeed, this seems almost unbelievable in its audacity, but the January Women’s March organizers, who just happened to spearhead this year’s International Women’s Day, literally urged women everywhere to wear red on Wednesday. Yes, red, and to do so in “solidarity” with the “masses.” That call is issued without apology or irony at the Women’s March website, along with two other eye-opening exhortations:
Anyone, anywhere, can join by making March 8 “A Day Without a Woman,” in one or all of the following ways:
Women Take the Day Off, from Paid and Unpaid Labor: Avoid shopping for one day (with exceptions for small, women- and minority-owned businesses).
Wear RED in Solidarity with a Day Without a Woman: What a perfect color for this year’s International Women’s Day: red, the color of the revolution.
But the ironies don’t stop there. Consider the parade of duped organizations that this year’s comradely organizers managed to hook into their cause. No, I’m not talking about the usual suspects, such as those highlighted at People’s World, which I quote: “Backers include the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), Jobs With Justice, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Nurses United (NNU), Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC United), and the National Organization for Women (NOW).”
Those are just a smattering of the same-old-same-old; basically, the regular assortment of leftist groups that rallied behind the so-called “P---y Hats” (their word) in Washington in January. No, look at this group of unexpected allies: The banner sponsors for this International Women’s Day included a select list of ten prominent corporate partners that served up themselves as this year’s cast of tools for exploitation. The list includes Caterpillar, BP, MetLife, PepsiCo, and Western Union.
Do the folks at the PR office at these corporations have any concept of what they lent their name to? Maybe they do. I’m wondering if their female employees got the day off on Wednesday. If not, hopefully they didn’t get in trouble if they simply “took the day off.”
Vladimir Lenin is credited for devising the term “useful idiots.” It’s a cynical albeit all-too-fitting label. And this International Women’s Day once again smoked them out.
Neil Gorsuch on Life, Liberty, and the Natural Law
In a stunning moment in the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Neil Gorsuch, Senator Dianne Feinstein, a staunch supporter of so-called “abortion rights,” took umbrage with one of Gorsuch’s previous written statements. As Feinstein described it, “He [Gorsuch] believes there are no exceptions to the principle that ‘the intentional taking of a human life by private persons is always wrong.’”
Well, yes, that’s right. That’s what Gorsuch believes. That’s a good thing, isn’t it?
Not to Senator Feinstein, sadly, for whom the alpha and omega is what her colleagues Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton consider a “sacred right:” a woman’s “right to choose.” Roe v. Wade is sacrosanct in their eyes, and that’s the complete opposite of what Neil Gorsuch considers sacrosanct.
The Gorsuch statement that Feinstein was quoting comes from a book he wrote in 2006, The Future of Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, published by Princeton University Press. In that book, Gorsuch wrote that “all human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”
As for me, I will choose that worldview over the Feinstein worldview any day.
Gorsuch’s views stem from a very deep, very rich, and very old tradition known as natural law.
Natural law affirms that we do what we ought to do according to nature, to our very nature. “What we ought to do is based on what we are,” writes Peter Kreeft. The natural law, notes Kreeft, is naturally known, by natural human reason and experience. You need not be a religious believer to know the natural law, even if that law (many of us believe) was written into nature by a Creator.
Really, it’s easier to give examples of natural law than a definition. Human sexuality demonstrates natural law so well because it’s so self-evident. Another violation of natural law is murder: one human life taking another. That’s a violation held by cultures and societies and governments of all times.
Natural law is as old and varied as the Old and New Testaments, as the Jewish and Christian faiths, as Aquinas and Augustine, as John Calvin and John Paul II, as Martin Luther King Jr. and Jacques Maritain. It is considered immutable and permanent throughout the variations of history, a universal rule that binds us all. As Augustine put it, natural law is “the law that is written in the human heart.” As Aquinas explained it, the natural law allows us to “know what we must do and what we must avoid. God has given this light or law at the creation.”
Of course, Augustine and Aquinas were Christians, but one need not be a Christian to understand what Thomas Jefferson referred to as “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.” Pre-Christian figures like Aristotle and Cicero spoke of this eternal law. “True law is right reason in agreement with nature,” stated Cicero. “It is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting.”
Nonetheless, this hasn’t stopped many in today’s culture from aggressively seeking to redefine human nature. If you’re endeavoring to fundamentally transform human nature, especially on issues like marriage, family, sexuality, and gender, then the natural law is your chief foe. Indeed, if you’re an aggressive secular progressive, one seeking day in and day out to redefine human nature, what do you do with natural law?
One of my former students got an answer in law school, when her progressive professor boldly proclaimed that “natural law doesn’t exist.” But I caution this professor that if he/she really believes this, then he/she must also reject the natural-law-based conclusions of tribunals such as Nuremberg after World War II, when the judges told Nazi officials that regardless of what Hitler’s laws stated, they should have known that what they were doing was wrong. To gas human beings and recycle their corpses into soap and lampshades is an obvious violation of basic laws of humanity — no excuses.
Or, consider slavery and various civil-rights laws. One current libertarian writer states that “the greatest spokesman for natural law in the 20th century was probably Martin Luther King, who denounced segregation not because of its technical complexities, but because it betrayed the natural law principles of the Declaration of Independence.”
This being the case, most progressives will do with natural law what they do with Biblical Law and other moral laws — they will pick the applications they like and ignore or reject those they don’t. Or, even more brazenly, they will try to remake the natural law in their own image.
No, sorry, it doesn’t work that way. Nature tells you what to do; you don’t tell nature what to do. Just as your biology and your 74 trillion chromosomes tell you your gender; you don’t tell yourself your gender.
But tell that to modern disciples of the dictatorship of relativism, where everything is deemed redefinable, from one’s gender to whether a human life is even considered a human life.
And that brings us back to Neil Gorsuch.
Gorsuch is incredibly well-educated. It’s difficult to find a more credentialed academic pedigree. He studied natural law while earning a Ph.D. at Oxford (he has a J.D. from Harvard) under one of the world’s preeminent authorities on natural law, John Finnis. Professor Finnis was Gorsuch’s dissertation adviser. He’s now on faculty at Notre Dame Law School and a professor emeritus at Oxford. Finnis’ best-known work is his Natural Law and Natural Rights.
It was there that he issued his statement on the inviolability of all human life, and how no human being should be able to take the life of another human being — the statement that Senator Feinstein found so reprehensible.
Gorsuch is also a defender of religious liberty, which Feinstein is likewise finding objectionable.
Take Gorsuch’s statement in support of the Little Sisters of the Poor, when the Obama administration tried to force the nuns to pay for abortion drugs. He wrote: “When a law demands that a person do something the person considers sinful, and the penalty for the refusal is a large financial penalty, then the law imposes a substantial burden on that person’s free exercise of religion.”
It’s good to have Supreme Court justices of this mind, not of the thinking of the likes of Senator Feinstein.
In all, this means that Neil Gorsuch’s thinking on issues like human life and religious liberty should be in concert with faithful Christians, and it should be sympathetic to the rights of those Christians against a government that tries to coerce them.
Socialism Attacks the Family, Just as Its Inventors Intended
Editor’s note: This article first appeared at Stream.org.
Last year, “socialism” was the most looked-up word at Merriam-Webster.com. That is hardly a surprise. It clearly reflects growing interest, especially with the remarkable surge of lifetime socialist Bernie Sanders, who won a pile of states in pursuing the Democratic Party presidential nomination. He earned over 13 million votes nationwide. Many of those voters have only a hazy idea what socialism entails, but most surely know that it gives the government more control over the so-called “means of production” as well as your wallet and your property, but not as much as outright Communists crave.
American interest in socialism was growing well before Bernie Sanders. A telling marker came in 2011, when a major study by the Pew Research Center found that 49 percent of Americans aged 18-29 have a positive view of socialism, exceeding those with a positive view of capitalism. What those voters might not realize, but which I know for certain, is that socialism undermines marriage and family: I’ve published an entire book on the subject. What I learned from mining the origins of the movement is that this is not an accident: The founders of socialist movements always intended their system to have this effect.
Intended Consequences: Most obviously, socialism undermines the family economically. Socialism is ineffective, unproductive, and impoverishing. It creates not economic prosperity but backwardness, and often, genuine deprivation (see Venezuela). In that way alone, socialism adversely affects what sources as diverse as Pope Francis and Ronald Reagan have described as the “fundamental cell” of society: the family.
But surely socialism’s founders didn’t realize that their system just flat-out didn’t work, right? Actually, they believed that it did — and in one sense it does: It weakens families for the benefit of the state, exactly as it creators meant it to.
Since at least the early 1800s, when the effort began in earnest, extreme-left radicals have sought to undermine the natural, traditional, Biblical, family — the Western Judaeo-Christian model anchored in a man and woman as parents of a household. The steady assault on this timeless model has been a long march that culminated in the chaos of the sexual revolution of the 1960s and in the antics of the nature-redefiners of today’s secular left, which employs bullying, state coercion, and demonization to forcibly redefine everything from marriage and parenting to biological sex (or as they now call it “gender”), and whether a child in the womb is even considered a life.
Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto wrote of the “abolition of the family,” which even in 1848, they could flaunt as an “infamous proposal of the Communists.” What, precisely, they meant by that is a complicated subject. But complexities aside, there is no question that efforts to redefine the family structure have been long at work, from Marx and Engels to sordid figures such as Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Alexandra Kollontai, Margaret Sanger, Margaret Mead, Wilhelm Reich, Herbert Marcuse, Betty Friedan, Kate Millet, and assorted ’60s New Left radicals from Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn to Mark Rudd and Tom Hayden. They included groups ranging from the Bolsheviks to the Frankfurt School of cultural Marxists to the Planned Parenthood eugenics “progressives” to the Weather Underground and many more.
Socialists on American Soil: A glance at this list of dubious characters reveals a mangled mosaic of the wide-ranging left. Among them, the earliest and maybe most revealing of the socialists specifically — at least from a family-focused perspective — was perhaps Robert Owen.
Owen (1771-1858) was an English utopian-socialist who made his way to American soil. On July 4, 1826, as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the geniuses of the Declaration of Independence, both dramatically breathed their last gasps on the 50th anniversary of their eloquent achievement on behalf of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, Robert Owen stood atop his new ideological colony in New Harmony, Indiana and delivered his “Declaration of Mental Independence.” It is a document you surely didn’t read in school, but perhaps you should have, because it foretold the spirit of our modern age. Owen proclaimed:
“I now declare to you and to the world that man up to this hour has been in all parts of the earth a slave to a trinity of the most monstrous evils that could be combined to inflict mental and physical evil upon the whole race.”
“I refer to private property, absurd and irrational systems of religion and marriage founded upon individual property, combined with some of these irrational systems of religion.”
There it was: property, religion, marriage. This was Robert Owen’s unholy trinity.
Owen’s acolytes began their new civilization by scrapping the Christian Anno Domini calendar, marking 1826 as their new “Year One.” He was imitating the Jacobins, who had likewise “reset” the calendar in 1794 amid their bloodcurdling de-Christianization of France. (Mussolini and Pol Pot would later follow suit.) Owen established what the 1960s hippies would call communes. Owen’s socialist communes pooled not only profits but people, replacing the nuclear family with the collective family. His socialism was cultural as well as economic, as socialism and its enthusiasts always would be.
The New Harmony colony floundered within just two years, with Owen curiously absent from his creation for sustained periods, thus setting the standard for future leftist-utopian chieftains: They rarely live according to the rules and systems they create for others. Socialism and Communism have always been for “the people,” “the masses,” the ruled, but rarely for the rulers. Castro, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao — given the choice — they never lived the same way with the same rules and equal salaries as the serfs. Indeed, how could they? Their socialist-Communist cocoons were always intolerable because they were bankrupt and unnatural. No one chooses that misery.
But the unnatural is what so many leftist utopians pursued then and in the years and centuries ahead. Even as Robert Owen’s New Harmony commune quickly collapsed, a dozen or so imitators sprang up around the country. Rarely did any of them last more than four years. Owen’s leftist vision remained alive and undeterred. “The social system is now firmly established,” he asserted.
An uphill stream of Owen-like dreamers on the left would keep the flame alive, from the 1820s to the 1960s in their own communes, and into the 21st century with their own versions of marriage and family. Never learning from failed projects of the past, they would always convince themselves that the previous project simply wasn’t done quite right — not yet. When they implemented their commune, their utopia, their more enlightened and modern view of marriage and the family, it would surely work this time around. Such is the socialist faith.
Polyamory and Lemonade Seas: Charles Fourier (1772-1837) was another merry socialist who reviled property, marriage, and religion. He dreamed of collectivizing the masses in communes where they could undergo fundamental transformation. (He also believed that human efforts would someday turn the seas to tasty lemonade.) A forerunner to 1960s New Left radicals on American college campuses, Fourier openly advocated the abolition of monogamous marriage, and championed polyamory, homosexuality, and other forms of what Margaret Sanger and the 1920s American progressives would celebrate as “free love.” Fourier’s lead disciple in America, Albert Brisbane, practiced what his master taught, proving himself exceptionally progressive by maintaining several mistresses and fathering three illegitimate children.
Predictably, the Fourier-Brisbane communes would work about as well as Owen’s ideological colonies, and the ones that followed. There were probably forty some such communes that sprung up around the country in this period, and quickly dissolved. No matter, leftists never give up. All they need is more power than the previous group of ideological colonists, and then they’ll get it right the next time. It is the governing spirit of their ideology. Just wait for their better, more enlightened ideas on marriage, family, sexuality, gender, and on and on. Forward!
On the heels of Fourier came John Humphrey Noyes and his Oneida colony and their newfangled designs for the family, which included group marriages that shared both intimacy and children.
Socialist Ancestors of the Gender Wars: All of these nature-redefiners plowed new ground for new versions of the family according to each of their ideological conceptions. To borrow from Pope Francis, they were engaged in “ideological colonizations.” Each new generation came up with its own socialist colonies, all the way to the Red Family Colony in Berkeley in the 1960s established by Tom Hayden and Robert Scheer. The ’60s New Left also launched its glorious “smash monogamy” movement, which was an exciting form of marriage that would be (and had to be, they insisted) non-monogamous.
In short, these were the bold ancestors of today’s same-sex marriage movement and “LGBTQ” sex-gender redefiners. They all shared in common, then and today, the rejection of any notion that there is a single natural, traditional, and Biblical model for the family.
“It is not possible to speak of ‘the’ family,” insisted Friedrich Engels. Indeed, just ask the broad range of leftists in the current-day organization “Beyond Marriage.” They agree wholeheartedly with Engels on that one. *
Kengor Writes . . .
Rating the Presidents — and Obama
I’ve been getting emails from bewildered colleagues asking about a survey of presidential scholars that determined that Barack Obama is the twelfth best president in the history of the United States, putting him near the top quartile of our presidents.
How can this be? I, too, was mystified, especially given that I participated in the survey.
The survey was conducted by the impeccably fair C-SPAN. Few sources do their job like C-SPAN does. If you want truly unfiltered news, C-SPAN is unrivaled for its ability to simply place a camera in a room and let reality speak for itself.
When it comes to surveys of presidents, C-SPAN likewise has no peer. I remember the nauseating presidential surveys in the 1980s and 1990s. They were mere measurements of the liberalism of the academy — that is, liberal historians and liberal political scientists expressing their liberalism by their liberal rankings of presidents. It was a farce.
C-SPAN, fortunately, has endeavored to provide a valuable corrective. In 2000, 2009, and 2017, C-SPAN set out to do its own survey and has indeed assembled a more rounded group of scholars. (I was among those surveyed for the 2009 ranking, as well.) To be sure, most (if not the vast majority) of the scholars surveyed are clearly on the left, but there are a decent number of conservatives: By my estimate, over a dozen, possibly as many as twenty. Of course, that’s still far out of proportion with the population at large, where self-identified conservatives have outnumbered liberals for decades (usually in the range of 35-40 percent self-identified conservatives vs. 20-25 percent self-identified liberals). C-SPAN needs to do better next time around. A field of 10-20 conservatives among 91 participants isn’t good, albeit better than the nonsense we used to see in biased surveys.
Likewise befitting C-SPAN’s fairness, the ranking criteria for the presidents are commendably nonpartisan. The criteria are obviously intended to remove ideology from those doing the judging. Here are the ten criteria:
Relations with Congress
Vision / Setting an Agenda
Pursued Equal Justice for All
Performance Within Context of Times
For each of the ten criteria, a president received a scored ranging from one (“not effective”) to ten (“very effective”). I’d like readers to pause and look at those criteria carefully. Imagine if you were doing the judging.
Given these criteria — again, essentially non-ideological criteria — I personally had no choice but to score very highly presidents like Franklin Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson and Lyndon Johnson, all of whose presidencies I either did not approve of or outright despised or found destructive. But facts are facts: These presidents were extremely effective. No, I personally didn’t like how they were effective, but they were effective nonetheless. Did Wilson have an agenda and vision and get it through? Oh, yes. You bet he did. So did FDR and LBJ.
And yet, those same criteria prompted me to rank Washington, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Reagan, and Eisenhower very high. I will not here share exactly how I tallied each, but I will say that those presidents in my top ten were very similar to those in the overall top ten. Here’s the top ten that C-SPAN compiled:
Following at eleven and twelve, respectively, were Woodrow Wilson and Obama. (For the record, I gave Kennedy a decent rating, but to place him in the top ten, and ahead of Reagan, is just plain stupid. Gee, the guy wasn’t even president three full years.)
But what about Barack Obama at twelve? I’ll say this as nicely and professionally as I can: I find this utterly perplexing. Do the exercise yourself. Go through those ten categories. Ascribe Obama a score of one to ten, and do so relative to other presidents you’ve ranked. Where would you give Obama a ten? How many (if any) scores above a five would you give Obama? For that matter, how would you not score Reagan so much higher than Obama? Yes, Reagan finished with an overall ranking of nine, which is better than Obama, but his total composite score wasn’t much higher than Obama’s.
Seriously, are even liberals that happy with the Obama presidency? Try to remove your ideological lens, whether left or right, and assess these questions:
What did Barack Obama accomplish? What is the Obama legacy? What was the Obama vision/agenda and (more important, since we’re measuring effectiveness) how successful was he in implementing it? In 2012, at the Democratic National Convention, Obama’s promoters could do no better than come up with silly placards about how Obama “got Osama” and “saved GM.” Unlike the vast majority of two-term presidents, Obama’s re-election numbers were much worse. In fact, Barack Obama was the first president ever re-elected with fewer popular votes, fewer Electoral College votes, a lower percentage and percentage margin of victory, and winning fewer states. He never had a sustained period of high favorability. He couldn’t elect a successor to carry on his legacy. To the contrary, Donald Trump plans to repudiate any Obama legacy.
Where is the list of signature domestic achievements by Obama? Obamacare maybe? It was a disaster from the rollout, and it’s going to be repealed and replaced.
What were Obama’s defining moments of crisis leadership? Where’s his Cuban Missile Crisis? Did he even have a crisis to lead? How about Benghazi as a candidate?
Where was Barack Obama’s Camp David? What did he do for the Middle East, for Arab-Israeli relations, for relations with Russia, the EU, NATO, and the G-20? Where’s his NAFTA? Where’s his summit with the Russian leadership? Where’s his missile-reduction treaty? Where’s his chemical weapons ban?
As for Obama’s economic record, it was colossally bad. My economist colleague Mark Hendrickson calls it a “shocking historically weak economic performance,” as many others have shown. During the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency, the average annual real GDP growth was 1.5 percent, notes Hendrickson, “the weakest economic performance of any post-WWII president, and the fourth worst ever.” And to try to still blame that failure on George W. Bush after eight years is ludicrous. Obama’s GDP growth in 2016 (eight years after Bush) was a terrible 1.6 percent.
Bush’s economy grew better than that, and he inherited a recession and was hit with 9/11 his first year, which devastated the economy. In fact, not only was George W. Bush’s economic-growth rate better than Obama’s, but so was Jimmy Carter’s. Yes, Carter — typically upheld as the dubious yardstick of economic incompetence — actually had more than double Obama’s GDP growth (3.3 percent)!
Any deficit reduction under Obama (after he exploded the deficit to unprecedented record highs in the first two years of the Pelosi-Reid Congress) is attributable in large part to the Republican Congress that liberals excoriated for spending cuts (and now want to take responsibility for the subsequent deficit reduction). The Obama debt exploded way worse than the debt under Reagan and George W. Bush.
So, where would you score Obama on Economic Management? I can’t imagine anything beyond a three.
In what way was Obama a master at public persuasion? What new constituencies did he generate? Where are the Obama Republicans, akin to the Reagan Democrats? How were his relations with Congress? Did you observe stellar “administrative skills” in Obama? His notorious lack of meetings with his NSC and intelligence and security staffs were breathtaking in their lack of any administration. As I reported here in 2012, Obama attended only 44 percent of his Daily Briefs in the first 1,225 days of his administration. For 2012, he attended a little over a third. This was totally contrary to Bush and other predecessors. Reagan and Ike both had hands-off leadership styles, but at least they attended meetings.
Who gave him a ten for that category?
And if you’re extolling Obama’s attempted fundamental transformation of America’s public-school toilets via executive order, or his illuminating the White House in rainbow colors to celebrate the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision, or his suing the Little Sisters of the Poor via the HHS Mandate, sorry, but those are not among the categories for evaluation.
I want to see the case made by the guy or gal who thinks that Barack Obama merits being listed near the top ten presidents in history. Actually, some must have rated him in the top five, because I guarantee my score for Obama (low as it was) surely dropped him a few pegs.
In short, I’m stunned. Based on the criteria we were given for ranking these presidents, I cannot conceive how Obama could possibly score well. I don’t see how Bill Clinton didn’t rate higher than Obama.
As noted, there were some conservatives on C-SPAN’s list. I’m wondering if the conservatives didn’t send in their surveys. The liberal historians must have gone bonkers in merrily giving Obama the highest scores in every category. But forget about that. This shouldn’t be a liberal-conservative thing. That’s the point. Literally half of my top ten or twelve were Democrats, and I’m no Democrat.
Clearly, the liberal scholars were not able to separate their partisanship when it came to objectively judging Obama. There’s no way that Barack Obama should rate the 12th-best president in U.S. history. Not a chance.
Women’s Marchers, Unite!
“The most important task,” said Communist dictator Kim Il Sung in October 1971, in his address to the Democratic Women’s Union of North Korea, “is to revolutionize and working-classize all the women.”
Kim hoisted the torch blazed by glorious female comrades such as Alexandra Kollontai (the Eleanor Roosevelt of the Bolshevik Revolution), Bella Dodd, Rosa Luxemburg, Ethel Rosenberg, Elizabeth Bentley, Lillian Hellman, Betty Freidan, Kate Millett, Angela Davis, and a bevy of true believers. Friedan and Millett were pioneers of the National Organization for Women (NOW). Millett, author of Sexual Politics, her dissertation at the ideological insane asylum known as Columbia University, became a cultural juggernaut when published in 1969. Time magazine hailed Kate as “the Karl Marx of the Women’s Movement.”
They were marchers for the revolution. And this past weekend, their ideological sisters lent their support to the Women’s March on Washington, an event that sources like CNN gave maximum publicity — a level of attention that absolutely will not be granted to this week’s March for Life in Washington, where the goal will be to preserve life.
A list of the sponsors for the Women’s March is illuminating. The two lead organizations, highlighted as the March’s “premier partners,” were Planned Parenthood — America’s preeminent abortion factory — and the Natural Resources Defense Council. As for the latter, if it confuses you why a group of climate comrades would march in lockstep with women whose highest priority is abortion, then you don’t understand the American left. Go to the website of the Women’s March, where “environmental justice” is featured among the leading “Unity Principles,” right up there with “reproductive rights” (read: abortion) and “worker’s rights” and “LGBTQIA rights” [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Queer, Intersex, Asexual].
But that was just the start. Arm in arm with the sisters at the Women’s March were two touted “Social Justice Partners,” namely: Emily’s List and NARAL. For these girls, too, “women’s rights” means one thing: abortion. Abortion, abortion, abortion. The holy sacrament in the feminist church.
The next major level of sponsors for the Women’s March was an eclectic cabal of fellow travelers and usual suspects: the ACLU, MoveOn.org, the Human Rights Campaign, the American Federation of Teachers, the AFL-CIO, and SEIU, the worst of the government unions.
And then there was a longer list of March “partners,” a Who’s Who of the left: AFSCME, the toxic National Education Association, the National Organization for Women, National Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Occupy Wall Street, the NAACP, the Council on American Islamic Relations, Amnesty International, Greenpeace, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Human Rights Watch, People for the American Way, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Sierra Club, the National Urban League, the YWCA, the Center for American Progress, Code Pink, and a litany of Religious Left dupes such as the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, the Unitarian Universality Association, and the heretical Catholics for Free Choice.
And there was a wider panoply of perversity: novel organizations like Free the Nipple, Got a Girl Crush, Pussy Hat Project, and the Georgetown University College Democrats.
But alas, most enlightening was another curious collective of sponsors for the Women’s March, one that brings me full circle to the start of this article. The Communists and Socialists came out: Communist Party USA and the Democratic Socialists of America.
Yes, Communist Party USA was a proud sponsor of the Women’s March on Washington, and the ladies were evidently proud to have them.
Ain’t nothing too left-wing, apparently, for the Women’s Marchers.
Among the Bolshevik element, consider some of the high-profile individuals who lent their names. Listed first among honorary co-chairs at the March website was none other than the delightful Angela Davis, where the glowing, lengthy bio somehow avoided mentioning even one word of Ms. Davis’s most notable bona fides: Davis has long been, of course, one of America’s most infamous Marxist-Leninists. Comrade Angela was so high-ranking that she not only met with the worst Communist despots in the Soviet Bloc, but actually twice ran on Communist Party USA’s presidential ticket. The celebrated recipient of the Lenin Peace Prize, much appreciated by the Kremlin for her advocacy of the Soviet invasions of Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan, ran as vice president of the United States on the Communist Party ticket, alongside longtime CPUSA party secretary and hack Gus Hall. (As I noted in a recent piece for The American Spectator, among those who voted for the Hall-Davis Communist Party presidential ticket was none other than John Brennan, Barack Obama’s CIA director.)
Davis was one of many tragic academic byproducts of Herbert Marcuse, the leading Frankfurt School cultural Marxist. Marcuse was guru to the 1960s New Left. Davis is arguably Marcuse’s most long-lasting success. He took her under his wing at Brandeis University in the early 1960s. In 1965, she honored her professor by retracing his steps to the University of Frankfurt. He sent her to West Germany to study at his old haunt, the hideous “Institute for Social Research.” She returned in 1967, coming back to America to continue studies with Marcuse as her doctoral adviser. The blooming Bolshevik formally joined Communist Party USA the next year.
Like any good Communist, Davis’s road to the revolution included breaking a few eggs along the way. She was soon pursued on charges of kidnapping, murder, and conspiracy for her suspected role in the August 1970 murder of a prison guard. Like Weather Underground terrorists and Obama buddies Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, she landed on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list. And like Ayers and Dohrn, she escaped jail-time (“guilty as hell, free as a bird!” Ayers boasted), and then spread her wings in academia.
Today, like her late mentor, Herbert Marcuse, Angela Davis is (naturally) a professor. She lists among her expertise the field of “critical theory,” the formal academic front-name for cultural Marxism. She holds forth on “LGBTQIA” issues to the wide-eyed freshmen whose duped parents hand over their children and lifetime savings to the universities to indoctrinate them.
One might think that today’s left would shy away from figures like Davis. But again, anyone who thinks that doesn’t know the left. The likes of Angela Davis are not embarrassments to today’s left; they are heroes. In June 2016, the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum feted Davis with its 2016 Sackler Center First Award, “honoring women who are first in their fields.”
Among Angela Davis’s firsts, of course, was to be the first female comrade to run on a Communist presidential ticket.
And this past weekend, Davis was listed literally first among the female comrades who were the poster-girls to the Women’s March on Washington. She and her cronies at Communist Party USA and the Democratic Socialists of America must have gotten quite a kick at the legions of oblivious ladies and splendid dupes who joined them in solidarity last weekend — all marching for “women’s rights,” of course. Forward!
Barack Obama’s Fundamental Transformation
“We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” So declared Barack Obama in Columbia, Missouri on October 30, 2008, on the cusp of his historic presidential election.
It was a stunning statement, boldly revolutionary, surpassed only by the response of those in attendance, who, rather than pausing to reflect upon such an audacious assertion, wildly applauded. To be sure, these Obama enthusiasts would have ecstatically cheered anything he said at that moment. There was a full-fledged Obama personality cult in motion at that time. He could’ve promised a box of “Lucky Charms” cereal in every home and gotten a giddy reaction. Obama himself admitted to serving as a kind of “blank screen” upon which Americans desiring some warm and fuzzy “hope and change” could project whatever they wanted.
But even then, the words “fundamentally transform” should have alarmed everyone. We Americans generally don’t do fundamental transformation. We make changes, yes, small and large, but who among us — other than the most radical revolutionaries — actually want to fundamentally transform the nation? Many people think that America has many problems, but those can be addressed without a fundamental transformation. Ask professors who teach history or political ideologies (as I have for two decades) and we will tell you that totalitarianism is the ideology that fundamentally transforms. Indeed, the textbook definition of totalitarianism, which I’ve scribbled on the chalkboard every fall and spring semester since 1997, is to seek to fundamentally transform — specifically, to fundamentally transform human nature via some form of political-ideological-cultural upheaval.
So, that being the case, I winced when Barack Obama said that, and then felt sick to the stomach when I watched people blissfully and blindly applaud without question or objection.
But now here we are, at the end of Obama’s presidency, a two-term one, and the question begs to be pondered: Did Barack Obama fundamentally transform the United States of America, as he promised?
The answer is absolutely yes.
That fundamental transformation, however, has not happened in areas where many might have hoped (or feared) in 2008. It has not been a fundamental shift in the attitudes of the vast majority regarding the role of government, taxation, regulations, economics, education, or even healthcare, where Obama had his signature legislative achievement. It hasn’t happened in foreign policy, though Obama has made a seriously detrimental impact in regions from Eastern Europe to the Middle East.
The reality is that the true fundamental transformation has been in the realm of culture, notably in matters of sexual orientation, gender, marriage, and family. The shift there has been unprecedented and far beyond anyone’s imagination eight years ago. Looking back, that was where Obama’s heart was, and that was where his deepest impact will be felt. Changes there, more than anywhere, seem irreversible by anything other than the miraculous, than anything short of a religious revival or dramatic shift in spiritual-moral thinking.
Obama’s cultural revolution on the sexual-gender-family front is all around us. We see it in the culture of fear and intimidation by the forces of “diversity” and “tolerance” who viciously seek to denounce, dehumanize, demonize, and destroy anyone who disagrees with their brazen newfound conceptions of marriage and family, even as our position (not theirs) has been the prevailing position of 99.99 percent-plus of human beings who have bestrode the earth since the dawn of humanity. Instead, in the Obama era, we are the ones portrayed as the outliers, as abnormal, as extremists, as “haters.” If you dissent from this new vociferous breed of human-nature re-definers, they sue you, they jail you, they smear you, they boycott you, they harass you, they ruin you — and they do so (with no sense of their hypocrisy) in the name of “tolerance” and “diversity.” Whether you’re a Baptist grandma who bakes cakes, or a Catholic photographer who takes wedding photos, or a Mormon florist who arranges flowers, they refuse your appeals to your conscience; they steamroll you. Changes by Obama and his allies here have constituted a major attack on religious liberty, where two-century-old First Amendment guarantees have been torched by modern culture warriors discerning heretofore unknown higher rights like “marriage equality” and co-ed toilets.
That is a fundamental transformation of a culture and a nation that did not exist prior to Barack Obama’s ascent.
The manifestations of this are so ubiquitous that laying them out here isn’t necessary, but I’d like to offer just a handful of brief illustrations and images:
The first was the Newsweek cover from May 2012 showing Barack Obama with a rainbow halo over his head above the words, “The First Gay President.” This was in response to Obama coming out for same-sex “marriage,” which for five years he had claimed to oppose. This public shift occurred as Obama was ramping up his reelection campaign, just as Hillary Clinton would do later that year when she announced her 2016 campaign. After that announcement, Obama went wild with an aggressive agenda of fundamental transformation on the sexual-gender-family front, one that picked up speed, depth, and arrogance throughout his second term.
The second is another image, more profound than the Newsweek creation/coronation because it was real. It was from June 2015, when the Obama White House, the nation’s first house, was lit up in the colors of the “LGBTQ” rainbow [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (and/or questioning) individuals/identities] on the day of the Obergefell decision, when a Catholic Supreme Court justice, Anthony Kennedy, led the liberal bloc of the court in redefining marriage and imposing this non-existent “Constitutional right” on all fifty states. If ever there was a picture of Obama’s fundamental transformation of America, that was it.
Third was the bathroom fiat, when according to Barack Obama’s word, all public schools were ordered to revolutionize their restrooms and locker-rooms to make them available to teenage boys who want to be called girls (among other gender novelties). It is hard to conceive a more surreal example of executive overreach. Truly, George Washington is rolling over in his grave.
Fourth is an ironic moment of Obama’s own doing, one that got virtually no press coverage. It occurred at a townhall meeting in London last April, where Obama was scolded by a young man for not doing enough to “recognize non-binary people” such as himself. This young man wanted the British government to “respect pronouns” — using not words like “he” or “she” but rather “hir” or “ze” — in addition to “commit to gender-neutral toilets.” “I really, really wish that yourself and [British Prime Minister] David Cameron would take us seriously as transgender people,” pushed the student.
“. . . And perhaps you could elucidate as to what you can do to go beyond what has been accepted as the LGBTQ rights movement, in including people who fit outside the social norms.”
It was almost hilarious to observe Barack Obama, of all people, reprimanded for inadequacies in this area, which brings me to my final example.
That London incident might have prompted a remarkable action by the Obama White House a few weeks later, which also got virtually no news coverage: The White House press office released two extraordinary fact sheets detailing Obama’s vast efforts to promote “LGBT” rights at home and abroad. Not only was it telling that the White House would assemble such a list, and tout it, but the sheer length of the list is striking to behold. It is hard to find any similar roster of such dramatic changes by the Obama White House in any policy area. The list runs page after page.
In short, what we see here is the true Barack Obama legacy, the genuine fundamental transformation. It has occurred not in economics, government, or foreign policy, but in culture. When we look back at Barack Obama’s eight years, we should visualize not Obamacare or something in foreign policy but the White House illuminated in rainbow colors on June 26, 2015, or a rainbow-haloed Obama coronated as the “first gay president.”
George W. Bush: Deadlier Than Stalin? Our Profound Ignorance of the Crimes of Communism
“Many Millennials Think Bush Killed More Than Stalin.” Such was the surreal subject head sitting in my email box one morning. “Holy @#$%!” wrote a colleague in response. “This is mind-boggling. . . . This is scary, scary, scary.”
It sure is. It also isn’t surprising. Such profound, disturbing ignorance is a direct result of what Americans have learned about Communism in our horrid system of education, from high schools to colleges. The failure is massive.
According to a stunning new report by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, one-third of Millennials (32 percent) “believe more people were killed under George W. Bush than under Joseph Stalin.” And it isn’t just those silly Millennials that we like to view as clueless. One in four Americans generally (26 percent) believe more people were killed under Bush than Stalin.
That is breathtaking. Truly incredible.
That rather sickening finding was just one by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, which has the noble objective of trying to correct America’s ignoble ignorance of the crimes of Communism.
Among the basic facts that every American should know: At least 100 million people have died under Communist governments. That ghastly number, tabulated two decades ago by The Black Book of Communism, the seminal work on the subject by Harvard University Press, is actually conservative. For instance, the Black Book recorded merely 20 million dead in the Soviet Union. Alexander Yakovlev, one of Mikhail Gorbachev’s top aides, was given the official task of trying to quantify the victims. In a 2002 book published by Yale University Press, A Century of Violence in Soviet Russia, Yakovlev estimated that Stalin alone “annihilated . . . sixty to seventy million people” — figures consistent with those estimated by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, among others. Similar levels of bloodshed were wrought by China’s Mao Tse-tung, who was responsible for the deaths of 65 million, according to the Black Book, and possibly more than 70 million, according to more recent biographical studies. And then there were the killing fields of North Korea, Cambodia, Cuba, Ethiopia, Eastern Europe, Africa, and more. Really, the death generated by Communist governments over the last 100 years is likely closer to 140 million.
For a sense of proportion, Hitler’s mad genocide against Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, the mentally disabled, the elderly, the handicapped, and others he deemed “misfits,” was approximately 10 million (six million of them Jews). The combined dead from World Wars I and II — the most destructive conflicts in human history — was 50-60 million. Communism’s body count surpasses both world wars combined and probably doubled.
And yet, Americans’ knowledge of this vast sea of destruction is atrocious, which brings me back to the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.
The foundation is seeking to document this ignorance on a regular basis via its first “Annual Report on U.S. Attitudes Towards Socialism.” According to the report, the vast majority of Americans (75 percent) underestimate the number of people killed by Communist regimes, and a strong majority (68 percent) believe that Hitler killed more people than Stalin.
Death tallies aside, not only do they not see Stalin for the killer he was, but their views on Communism are not terribly negative.
Just 37 percent of Millennials had a “very unfavorable” view of Communism. One quarter (25 percent) of Millennials have a “favorable” view of Vladimir Lenin, namesake of Marxism-Leninism, the vicious architect and godfather of the Bolshevik totalitarian state. And 42 percent of Millennials are flatly “unfamiliar” with Mao Tse-tung.
It gets worse: 64 percent of Americans agree with Karl Marx’s classic credo that underpins Communist philosophy: “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”
Thus, it’s not surprising that close to half (45 percent) of Americans aged 16 to 20 (first-time voters in this presidential election) said they would vote for a socialist, and 21 percent would vote for a Communist. Of course, that’s reflected in what happened in 2016, as Bernie Sanders, a lifelong self-professed “socialist,” received 13 million votes in the Democratic primary. To give you a sense of that number’s significance, Donald Trump got 14 million votes in the Republican primary, and that was a record for a Republican primary.
This is not a failure to teach history; it is a failure to teach Communist and socialist history. We haven’t neglected to teach that Nazism was evil, that Hitler was a mass-murderer, that fascism is bad. We long ago failed when it came to Communism, Marxism-Leninism, Bolshevism, the USSR, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Che, Pol Pot, North Korea’s crazy Kims, and on and on.
Importantly, that failure is often the result of ideological biases, especially among leftist teachers and professors. Liberals and progressives do not suffer the same historical negligence when it comes to teaching the crimes of fascism and Nazism. They do a bang-up job with Hitler’s crimes, but not Stalin’s.
And the result is seen in this study. You reap what you sow.
More death under George W. Bush than Joseph Stalin? Good grief, comrade.
Remembering Two Christian College Presidents—Charles MacKenzie and Michael Scanlan
The story of Christian higher education in America is a sad saga. Once upon a time, the nation’s premier universities were run by religious people or founded with religious missions, or at least were respectful of the Christian faith. That sharp reversal has been a painful long march, with a marked turn early in the 20th century. I’m often reminded of the sardonic words of Thomas Merton, who at radical Columbia University in the 1930s became a Communist. He ultimately escaped the god that failed, instead becoming a Trappist monk. Columbia had become a toxic environment where Dewey-ism rather than Christianity was the prevailing zeitgeist. Merton wrote:
“Poor Columbia! It was founded by sincere [Christians] as a college predominantly religious. The only thing that remains of that is the university motto: In lumine tuo videbimus lumen — one of the deepest and most beautiful lines of the psalms. ‘In Thy light, we shall see light.’ It is, precisely, about grace. It is a line that might serve as the foundation stone of all Christian and Scholastic learning, and which simply has nothing whatever to do with the standards of education at modern Columbia. It might profitably be changed to: In lumine Randall videbimus Dewey.”
That last sentence was a reference to John Dewey and to John Herman Randall, another influential Columbia philosophy professor. For Merton, he found God in spite of Columbia. And that was the 1930s. Merton and Randall and even Dewey would be stunned by the secular/leftward lunge of our universities in just a few generations. By the 1970s and 1980s, even colleges that were explicitly Christian by charter and mission enthusiastically separated from those moorings, led by administrators and faculty who fled the faith.
And yet, amid all the chaos, a few jewels held firm to the foundation, keeping the faith and holding true to or reverting to their missions. Two colleges that did just that, preserving and actually heightening their commitment, are Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, and Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania, one Roman Catholic and one Protestant. The period when the two institutions successfully struggled to retain their commitments came in the 1970s and 1980s under the long-term leaderships of two particular presidents: Father Michael Scanlan and Dr. Charles MacKenzie.
My occasion for mentioning this now is a quite moving development: both Father Scanlan and Dr. MacKenzie were called to be with their Maker this January. Scanlan died on January 7 at the age of 85. MacKenzie died, on January 26, at age 92.
Michael Scanlan had stepped down as chancellor of Franciscan in 2011. He had been chancellor since 2000, and before that was president for 26 years. MacKenzie had been president of Grove City College from 1971 to 1991. He was the college’s (mere) fifth president.
In reaction to Scanlan’s death three weeks ago, the Catholic press was filled with glowing tributes. Tributes to MacKenzie likewise have now begun. Current Grove City College president Paul McNulty describes MacKenzie as a man of “courageous leadership” who had an “extraordinary impact” on the college, strengthening its “core values of faithfulness, excellence, community, stewardship, and independence. . . . He inspired us to serve God with energy and integrity.” Right up until his death, said McNulty, MacKenzie “continuously prayed for Grove City College and our distinct mission.”
Among the many remembrances of Scanlan and MacKenzie, I want to report an interesting but unseen ecumenical item related to their efforts — a joint effort. Faithful Catholics and Protestants alike will appreciate it, and it was first told to me by Scott Hahn, the famous Catholic convert and Franciscan University theology professor who, ironically, had been a student and then special assistant to President MacKenzie at Grove City College. Only Hahn could have observed what I’m about to relate.
During some very trying days when the two colleges were seeking to hold true to their Christian missions, Hahn several times overheard phone calls between MacKenzie and Scanlan, as the two men alternately advised and encouraged one another. Somewhat akin to the excellent ecumenical work of the late Chuck Colson and Father Richard John Neuhaus, here were Protestants and Catholics working together, united by a common foe: secular relativism, in this case in the academy.
Those phone calls, said Hahn, an eyewitness, were very important to MacKenzie. Hahn observed this first-hand in the president’s office at Grove City College. Hahn later heard more about the calls from Father Scanlan. When I met Scanlan, he confirmed the relationship with MacKenzie.
Back in 2011, when I heard the news of Scanlan’s retirement, I emailed MacKenzie to inquire about their relationship. He was eager to go on-the-record. “During my twenty years at Grove City, Father Scanlan and I had several conversations or communications,” MacKenzie confirmed to me.
“He and I were on the same wavelength as we sought to lead our schools back to the roots of the Christian faith. We were very careful what we said to each other, but I personally benefitted from his encouragement.”
MacKenzie hastened to add that he wasn’t free to share everything from their conversations. That isn’t a surprise. Recounting the faculty battles alone would be enough for a book. MacKenzie simply summed up by emphasizing that he and Scanlan “were on the same side on many of the issues.” He called Scanlan a “man of courage and faith, and in that regard, he was a blessing to me. . . . I thank God for him.”
And so do the folks at Franciscan University, which, today, like Grove City College, is a shining light amid the darkness of higher education. Both Scanlan and MacKenzie ensured that those lights were not extinguished under a bushel of secular relativism, as has happened at countless erstwhile Christian colleges. They wanted that light to shine before men, and they sought to do so cooperatively, not as antagonists from opposing Catholic and Protestant trenches, but as allies and partners working together in a shared vision.
It’s a tale of two Christian colleges that both Catholics and Protestants alike can learn from and emulate. *