I have started reading an advance copy of Stanley Kurtz’s book, Radical-in Chief, Barack Obama and the untold Story of American Socialism, which will be published officially on October 19. I’m suspending judgment on Kurtz’s views about the extent of Obama’s radicalism until I finish the book. However, I can already recommend Radical-in-Chief to our readers based on the wealth of information it contains about our president’s political past.
I would also like to comment on this statement by Mike Potemra on NRO’s Corner:
Many thinkers are writing books saying the problem with Obama is he’s anti-colonialist, socialist, or what have you. My concern is not that these analyses are necessarily false — for all I know, Obama may have a secret plan to remodel America in accordance with the writings of Herbert Marcuse or Frantz Fanon (good luck with that) — as that even if some of them happen to be true, they don’t really explain the observed problem of Obama’s presidency, which is, not to put too fine a point on it, that he is a clueless bungler. Look at the utter gormlessness with which he has been able, over the past two years, to alienate virtually all groups of Americans, left, right, and center; to squander the massive good will of the people who elected him. What’s more likely — that he’s a hardened ideological “Manchurian president” deliberately laying the seeds of our future enslavement? or that he’s just a lucky working politician-magician who amazed us with a few magic tricks in 2008 but who long, long ago ran out of new ones?
It seems to me that many of Obama’s missteps might actually be best explained by an ideologically-driven desire to remodel American along radical lines. I have in mind thngs like his efforts to bully Israel, his statements about the Ground Zero Mosque, and the decision to try KSM in a New York federal court. In this account, Obama isn’t all that “Manchurian,” now that he’s been elected, but he’s pretty radical. A merely liberal president would likely treat Israel better and, at a minimum, would be less inclined to lose political capital on behalf of the “civil rights” of terrorists and those associated with terrorists.
The most important and politically harmful decision of Obama’s presidency — to push through Obamacare — is also consistent with the view that Obama is a radical. Any liberal president would have wanted to enact something like Obamacare. But many a liberal probably would have held off on this agenda item for a while, given the economic crisis. Many others probably would have backed away after it became clear just how unpopular the health care reform package had become. Obama, though, was determined to seize the moment, political consequences be damned.
Thus, Obama’s persistence on this issue reveals him to be either an extremely committed liberal or a radical. One of the things I’ll be thinking about as I make my way through Kurtz’s book is whether, these days, there is a clear distinction between the two outlooks.
UPDATE: I should probably address the argument that Obamacare itself isn’t very radical and certainly isn’t socialist. This argument would have force if Obama’s ambitions stopped with Obamacare. However, as Kurtz points out, Obama has said in the recent past that he supports a single-payer system, and hopes that less radical reforms will undermine private insurance plans and thus pave the way for such a system.