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What About Obama’s High School Years?


Where Have You Gone, Frank Marshall Davis?

Where Have You Gone, Frank Marshall Davis?

Hold on to your seats. Between now and November, with the presidential race down to Obama v. Romney, conservatives will be witnessing some utterly exasperating displays of media bias and double standards. You’ll be pulling your hair out. It will be extremely frustrating.

The first such example is the Washington Post hit piece on Mitt Romney allegedly bullying some homosexual boys when he was in high school. The article came at an amazingly politically opportune moment: just when Obama came out in favor of gay marriage. The “coincidence” was so extraordinary that it leaves one wondering whether the Washington Post is a de facto arm of the Obama 2012 campaign. Of course, in reality, there’s little meaningful difference between the mainstream press and the Obama campaign.

The Post piece immediately made me think of this double standard: What about Barack Obama’s high school years in Hawaii?


I know this area intimately well, given that my next book is on Obama’s mentor during those precise years: Frank Marshall Davis. I will not here lay out the litany of Davis’s astonishing career, but, in essence, he was a literal card-carrying member of Communist Party USA. For decades, he wrote the most harsh, outlandish pro-Soviet material you can imagine, with his worst demons being Democrats like Harry Truman and the men in Truman’s administration—George Marshall among them—who opposed Stalin and the Kremlin during the darkest days of the Cold War. As I lay out in the book, Davis’s work was so bad that he was called to testify on his “Soviet activities” by the Senate Judiciary Committee (run by Democrats), was carefully investigated by the FBI (Davis’s FBI file is 600 pages long), and, most remarkably, was placed on the federal government’s Security Index—meaning that in the event of war breaking out between the United States and USSR, Davis could be immediately arrested.

And yet, this was the man that Obama’s grandfather, Stanley Dunham, connected to a young Obama for the purpose of mentoring—precisely during these high school years.

Frank Marshall Davis is another of those radical associations in Obama’s past. There are so many, and so unusually bad, that Obama, if he were a typical citizen, probably wouldn’t get a security clearance for an entry-level government job.

Thus begs the question: Why isn’t the mainstream media asking any questions about Obama’s troubling high school years under the tutelage of Frank Marshall Davis? In fact, why isn’t the Washington Post?

Worse, it isn’t like the Post hasn’t looked into those years. Quite the contrary, in 2008, the Post placed star reporter David Maraniss—who in the 1990s did wonderful reporting on President Bill Clinton—on the story. Maraniss jumped all over those years, but he completely ignored Davis.

Specifically, Maraniss’s research produced a 10,000-word piece for the Post, titled, “Though Obama Had to Leave to Find Himself, It Is Hawaii That Made His Rise Possible.” It ran in the August 22, 2008 edition. The article was so in-depth that it prints 17 pages. And yet, among all those words on Obama’s upbringing in Hawaii, there was not a single mention of Frank Marshall Davis; yes, not one mention. This was a slight that Obama himself could not do in his memoirs "Dreams from My Father," where Obama mentions “Frank” by name 22 times, plus numerous additional references.

Personally, I like Maraniss. I’ve used his work in my writings, research, and in courses at Grove City College. I respect him. So does Cliff Kincaid, who has compiled and posted a lot of research on Frank Marshall Davis. In 2008, Kincaid emailed Maraniss regarding his article and neglect of Davis. Maraniss is a gentleman, and had the courtesy to respond. He justified his omission of Davis by telling Kincaid that he believed Davis’s role had been “hyped,” overstated, including “by Obama himself.”

This is a strange statement. Apparently, even Obama’s own words (many of them) on Davis’s influence can be dismissed by reporters who do not want to touch this subject. I’m certain that Maraniss, like David Remnick and Jon Meacham and other Obama biographers, is afraid to deal with Davis’s communism because of the criticism it would bring from fellow journalists. If these liberal journalists (I like all three of them) touch the likes of Davis’s scary political past, they’ll be brutalized by their liberal colleagues for hurting Barack Obama. Given the liberal/progressive circles that these journalists frequent, they are right to be afraid.

Nonetheless, what we’re left with is a refusal by mainstream journalists to dare touch the disturbing recesses of Obama’s high school years—which beg illumination. To the contrary, they merrily do back-flips digging up dirt on Mitt Romney’s high school years. With Obama’s association with Frank Marshall Davis, these years were no trivial matter. This was truly a matter of legitimate national-security concern, and at least merits journalistic attention. Sadly, however, the Davis factor will continue to be ignored by this nation’s so-called “journalists.”

Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College. His books include "The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism" and "Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century." His forthcoming book is "The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, the Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor."

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