Talkin' Barack Obama Paranoid Blues


Historian Ron Radosh offers sage advice to the online anti-Obama brigades: stop your "silly and counterproductive attacks" on the administration and focus on substance. And while you're at it, how about reading a history book or two? (Stan Evans, alas, doesn't count) Now, to employ the president's favorite phrase, let us be clear: Radosh isn't a fan of the Obama administration. Rather, he worries about an increasing trend towards conspiracy and anti-intellectualism on the right (one that I have highlighted too) and bizarre diversions into the president's supposed far-left sympathies.

A recent example, offered by Radosh: A conservative radio host named Rob Port claimed that while touring the White House he found an intriguing cache of commie books—snuck into the building, he said, by Michelle Obama—including such subversive texts as The Social Basis of American Communism by Nathan Glazer and The American Socialist Movement:1897-1912 by Ira Kipnis. The Washington Post contacted the White House (because that's what real journalists do), interrupting one of the First Lady's criticism/self-criticism sessions with the ghost of Diana Oughton, and found out that the truth was rather banal:

The only problem is the books Port photographed have been sitting in the library since 1963.

The library came into being during the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt. In 1961, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy asked Yale University librarian James T. Babb to oversee a committee that would select books for the library. In 1963, 1,780 were placed on the shelves.

"The White House library is a reference and recreational library for the use of the President, his family, and official staff," wrote Babb in the forward to "The White House Library: A Short Title List," a document from the White House Historical Association.

"It is intended to contain books which best represent the history and culture of the United States, works most essential for an understanding of our national experience. The collection has to be strictly limited because the attractive library on the ground floor of the White House has shelf space for only twenty-five hundred volumes. Authors, with few exceptions, are citizens of the United States; fiction and poetry by deceased writers only have been included."

Radosh, a former New Left activist famously excommunicated for his brilliant and honest study of the Rosenberg case, sighs:

These two volumes are considered early classics in the attempt of scholars to explain the growth in America at certain times of both vibrant socialist and communist movements and to understand why they ultimately failed.

Moreover, anyone should have known that Nathan Glazer is in fact one of our country's most eminent political sociologists, a founding editor with Irving Kristol and Daniel Bell decades ago of The Public Interest, and a man of liberal sensibility who used to write frequently for the anti-Communist magazine The New Leader as well as Commentary. At the time, he was among the first generation dubbed neo-conservatives, which he defined as referring "to the growing caution and skepticism among a group of liberals about the effects of social programs" initiated during the Great Society years. About his anti-Communism, there was no doubt.

As for Kipnis, he was a traditional scholar of American socialism who wrote what became one of the very first studies — soon to be outdated — of the impact of American socialism….For those reasons, the books chosen were indeed more than appropriate for a national library in the home of our chief executive. But what is the real issue is their very presence evidently sets off alarm bells among many contemporary conservatives, whose outlook — to put it mildly — is anti-intellectual.

If you haven't already, make sure to read Radosh's terrific memoir Commies, which recounts his long and complicated ideological journey, his banjo lessons with Pete Seeger, and his refusal (citing space issues, naturally) to let Bob Dylan sleep on the floor of his Madison, Wisconsin apartment.