Red-Boating Obama

BY Joel Bleifuss

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Sen. Barack Obama is many things to the right-wing noise machine: a crypto-Muslim, a drug-addled hoodlum, a snob who disdains flag lapel pins, and the husband of an avowed America-hater.

Should Obama get the nomination, we can expect Republicans–and their 527 Swift Boat surrogates–to move far beyond Sen. Hillary Clinton’s “kitchen-sink” pot shots (as Obama calls them) and deploy Web-based slurs in their propaganda. In February, Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Times of London let loose with an article headlined “Right slams Obama as ‘shady Chicago socialist.’ ”

Is Obama a socialist? We wish. Unfortunately, his economic program is uninspiringly centrist. (See David Moberg’s “Obamanomics.”) Nevertheless, it is true that Obama has been seen with pinkos.

In particular, Obama can be linked to the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the Democratic Party-oriented organization that is a member of the Socialist International (known as the Second International or SI), a global association of social democratic parties. SI-affiliates currently govern in the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy, among other outposts of social democratic radicalism.

On Feb. 25, 1996, Obama, who was then a candidate for the Illinois state Senate, spoke at a University of Chicago event titled “Employment and Survival in Urban America.” The event’s sponsors were the Chicago Democratic Socialists of America, the University of Chicago DSA Youth Section and the university’s Young Democrats.

The conservative group Accuracy in Media (AIM), which has once again found a reason for existence, thinks it has connected the dots and uncovered a global conspiracy: “DSA describes itself as the largest socialist organization in the United States and the principal U.S. affiliate of the Socialist International. The Socialist International has what is called ‘consultative status’ with the United Nations. In other words, it works hand-in-glove with the world body.”

Conservative strategist Grover Norquist told the Sunday Times’ Sarah Baxter: “[Obama] is open to being defined as a left-wing, corrupt Chicago politician.”

Baxter further reports that “Obama could run into further difficulties” because, between 1999 and 2002, he served on the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago. Not only is Woods an anti-poverty organization, it is also where Bill Ayers serves as a board member. Ayers, a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, was at one time a member of the Weather Underground, and, in 2001, contributed $200 to Obama’s state Senate campaign. Baxter explains that the Weather Underground was a “left-wing terrorist group.” (Full disclosure: I serve on a board with Ayers, a fine fellow.)

But wait, there’s more!

While Obama was on the board, the foundation provided two grants to the Arab American Action Network, whose president at the time was Mona Khalidi, the wife of Rashid Khalidi, the Columbia University professor (and occasional In These Times contributor) who is a critic of Israeli policy in Gaza and the West Bank. You can read all about it in the story “Obama Worked with Terrorist” on WorldNetDaily.com, a right-wing website founded by Joseph Farah, the former editor of the Sacramento Union, the newspaper funded by Richard Mellon Scaife and other members of what Hillary Clinton in 1998 aptly termed “this vast right-wing conspiracy.”

Or you can wait until the fall, when it will all be coming to a television commercial near you.

Let the Red-boating begin!


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Joel Bleifuss, a former director of the Peace Studies Program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is the editor & publisher of In These Times, where he has worked since October 1986.

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