That is “Commie” with a capital C, and I don’t use the word loosely. Historian Paul Kengor augurs in on the red heart of Barack Obama’s youthful mentor in his powerful, soon-to-be-released book, “The Communist – Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor.”
“Here are the facts, and they are indisputable,” writes Kengor. “Davis was a pro-Soviet, pro-Red China, card-carrying member of Communist Party (CPUSA). His Communist Party card number was 47544.”
Davis was something of a left-wing Renaissance Man. When not writing editorials denouncing the likes of Harry Truman and praising the Soviet Union, he had an active sideline in nude photography, which complemented his avocation as a pornographer.
In 1968, just a few years before he met the young Barack Obama, Davis chronicled his sexual adventures in a book titled “Sex Rebel: Black” under the pseudonym “Bob Greene.”
Despite unusual pastimes like communism and pornography, Davis was a major influence in the life of Obama during his Hawaii years. Other than his parents, no individual in Obama’s memoir, “Dreams from My Father,” gets as much ink as “Frank.”
Davis, writes Kengor, “surfaces repeatedly [in 'Dreams'] from start to finish, from Hawaii to Los Angeles to Chicago to Germany to Kenya … from the 1970s to the 1980s to the 1990s.”
Given Davis’ influence on Obama and his inarguably distinctive history, one would think him perfect fodder for an ambitious Obama biographer, especially Pulitzer Prize winners like David Remnick and David Maraniss.
Maraniss got the first shot. In August 2008, just 10 weeks before the election, he ran a three-part, 10,000-word article in the Washington Post. As the title attests, “Though Obama Had to Leave to Find Himself, It Is Hawaii That Made His Rise Possible,” Maraniss focused on Obama’s Hawaii years.
Incredibly enough, as Kengor confirms, “there was not a single mention of Davis” in the Maraniss piece. If Sarah Palin had a similar character in her background, that fellow would be a household name. As it is, not one Democrat out of a hundred could identify “Frank Marshall Davis.”
Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, got the next shot in his sprawling 2010 Obama biography, “The Bridge.” Writes Kengor, “Remnick did not ignore Frank; he simply ignored all the negatives. His treatment is scandalous in its omissions.”
In reality, Davis, a skilled journalist, had been dispatched from Chicago to Hawaii to provide propaganda cover for the crippling strike led by fellow Communist Harry Bridges, head of the Communist-infiltrated International Longshoreman and Warehouse Union (ILWU).
According to Remnick, Davis “wrote fierce columns about the suppression of unions, conditions on the plantation, the power of the oligarchic Hawaiian families, race relations.” The usually reserved Kengor calls Remnick’s summary of Davis’ writing “outrageous.”
“Remnick made not a single mention of Frank’s fierce columns tearing up Harry Truman and the Marshall plan,” writes Kengor, “… or, generally, Frank’s intrepid defense of the USSR and the Communist line at every twist and turn.”
Not surprisingly, Remnick turned a blind eye to Davis’ dark side. In one of those hot flashes that give liberalism a bad name, he described Stanley Dunham’s introduction of his grandson to Davis as “one of the more thoughtful and consequential things Stanley did in his role as surrogate father.”
As I note in my book “Deconstructing Obama,” Gramps’ gesture was “as thoughtful perhaps as when mom introduced her 13-year-old to Roman Polanski.”
Maraniss has taken another turn at the Davis story in his new book, “Barack Obama: The Story.” Although he cannot ignore Davis, he downplays his influence. Maraniss suggests, in fact, that Obama included “Frank” in “Dreams” because he “tended to focus on characters who could accentuate his journey toward blackness.”
As handy with euphemisms as Remnick, Maraniss introduces Davis as “a black journalist, poet, civil rights activist, political leftist, jazz expert.” This reads better, I suppose, than “communist, pornographer,and nude photographer with at least a fictional taste for sex with children.”
True, Maraniss adds, Davis “had been under surveillance by the Honolulu bureau of the FBI because of his past associations with the Communist Party,” but in progressive circles this qualifier reads like a tribute.
Remnick would certainly think so. “He was,” writes Remnick of Davis, “one of the many leftists who, in the 1950s, were investigated, and tainted, by the House Un-American Activities Committee.”
Despite his allegedly minimal role in Obama’s formation, so minimal that Maraniss ignored it in his 2008 article, Davis, by Maraniss’ own admission, was “a subject of some of [Obama's] teenage poetry.”
Although I made this case in “Deconstructing Obama,” and Kengor does as well, Maraniss is the first mainstream reporter to concede the obvious.
Obama has had at least two poems about Davis published. “An Old Man” appeared in his prep school’s literary magazine. “Pop” appeared in Occidental College’s. Wrote Remnick carelessly, “‘Pop’ clearly reflects Obama’s relationship with his grandfather Stanley Dunham.” It did no such thing.
These poems may have been part of a trilogy. A few years prior, Davis had written a poem called “To a Young Man,” which also describes the relationship of a naïve young man with a cynical old man but from the older man’s perspective.
Davis likely wrote all three poems, including the two fronted by Obama. When Vanity Fair’s Todd Purdum showed Obama “An Old Man” in 2008, Obama responded, “That’s not bad. I wrote that in high school?”
Obama recovered quickly, adding, “It sounds in spirit that it’s talking a little bit about my grandfather.” “It” wasn’t. Obama was that close to Davis.
Obama and his admirers in the media understand that this was and is a relationship best kept under wraps. Davis never renounced his Communist past. As his FBI file reveals, the Hawaiian Communist Party simply went underground and infiltrated the Democratic Party.
Given the direction of the Democratic Party and its media enablers today, one suspects that Davis had a lot of company.