Obama Espoused Radical Views in College
08 Feb 2010
By: Ronald Kessler
As a college student, Barack Obama expressed Marxist views, including
the need for a new socialist U.S. government, according to a student
who says he shared the future president's opinion at the time.
Such views by a college student may not be surprising. And like most
students who hold radical views, Obama's positions, at least
publicly, have evolved substantially.
However, this new window on Obama's youth and early political
thinking demonstrates how little is known about the background of
America's 44th president.
Dr. John C. Drew, a grant writing consultant in Laguna Niguel,
Calif., tells Newsmax he met Obama in 1980 when Obama was a sophomore
at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Drew had just graduated from
Occidental and was attending graduate school at Cornell University.
Drew's then girlfriend, Caroline Boss now Grauman-Boss knew Obama
because she shared classes with him at Occidental.
During Christmas break, Drew says he was at Grauman-Boss' home in
Palo Alto when Obama came over with Mohammed Hasan Chandoo, his
roommate from Pakistan.
"Barack and Hasan showed up at the house in a BMW, and then we went
to a restaurant together," Drew says. "We had a nice meal, and then
we came back to the house and smoked cigarettes and drank and argued politics."
For the next several hours, they discussed Marxism.
"He was arguing a straightforward Marxist-Leninist class-struggle
point of view, which anticipated that there would be a revolution of
the working class, led by revolutionaries, who would overthrow the
capitalist system and institute a new socialist government that would
redistribute the wealth," says Drew, who says he himself was then a Marxist.
"The idea was basically that wealthy people were exploiting others,"
Drew says. "That this was the secret of their wealth, that they
weren't paying others enough for their work, and they were using and
taking advantage of other people. He was convinced that a revolution
would take place, and it would be a good thing."
Drew concluded that Obama thought of himself as "part of an
intelligent, radical vanguard that was leading the way towards this
revolution and towards this new society."
In contrast, "My more pessimistic Marxist perspective indicated this
was not a realistic possibility, that we really hadn't seen a sort of
complete revolution take place anywhere in Western Europe, and that
this isn't what had happened in more socialistic Germany or in
France," Drew says. "He was pretty persistent, that I didn't know
what I was talking about."
Drew's viewpoint that a revolution was unrealistic "made me very
unpopular that evening. It was considered a reactionary and
insensitive thing to argue," says Drew.
Drew saw Obama again at a party Obama and Chandoo gave in June 1981
at the house they shared. Drew went on to become an assistant
professor of political science at Williams College.
In 1981, Obama left Occidental to attend Columbia University. During
that year, Obama spent "about three weeks" visiting Chandoo and his
family in Karachi, Pakistan, according to the account of Obama
spokesman Bill Burton during the campaign.
Chandoo is now a financial consultant who was formerly a broker at
Oppenheimer & Co. He has contributed to Obama's campaign and helped
raise more than $100,000 for him as a bundler.
"If that's what John Drew said, that's what he said," Chandoo
commented. "I can't remember Obama ever talking like that. It sounds
a bit absurd to me, but that's my opinion. I can't remember him ever
expressing an interest in being a Marxist."
Much of what is known about Obama's past has been revealed and
defined by Obama himself, largely through his two bestselling books
"Dreams from My Father" and "The Audacity of Hope."
In these works and throughout his career, Obama has clearly
identified with the oppressed. In "Dreams from My Father" Obama
details how white settlers and sugar companies came to dominate and
exploit his native Hawaii.
In that memoir, Obama said that at Occidental, "To avoid being
mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully. The more
politically active black students. The foreign students. The
Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists and
punk-rock performance poets."
As president, Obama has espoused the view that the rich are not
sharing their wealth with the less fortunate. In a Sept. 6, 2001,
radio interview, Obama expressed regret that the Supreme Court hadn't
engaged in wealth redistribution.
In some ways, Obama's opinions about American-style capitalism seem
to mirror the views of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., Obama's minister
who was his self-described mentor and "sounding board" for 20 years.
Wright's "Black Value System" denounced "our racist competitive
society" and included the disavowal of the pursuit of "middle-classness."
The Black Value System defined "middle-classness" as a way American
society seduced blacks into achieving economic success, thus snaring
them rather than "killing them off directly."
In a similar vein, when he discussed politics with him in 1980, Drew
says that in Obama's view, "America was definitely the enemy, and
American elites were the enemy, and whatever America was doing was
definitely wrong and bad. He thought that perhaps the Soviet Union
was misunderstood, and it was doing a better job for its people than
most people realized."
Chandoo said he doesn't know which professors Obama was referring to
in his book. Asked when he last saw Obama, Chandoo said he has not
seen nor talked with him since before Obama became a U.S. senator.
However, under "community member," the White House listed Chandoo as
a guest at Obama's Ramadan dinner last fall.
When asked about that, Chandoo acknowledged from his home in Armonk,
N.Y., that he attended the dinner. Despite the fact that fewer than
70 people were in attendance, Chandoo added, "I did not get a chance
to see the boss." He then said he shook hands with Obama in a receiving line.
Chandoo said he has been in touch with Caroline Grauman-Boss over the
years. She did not respond to a request for comment.
Burton, now deputy White House press secretary, also did not respond
to a request for comment.
Drew's encounter with Obama's early political thinking adds to the
mystery that has shrouded his past.
For more than a year during the campaign, the media were aware of
Obama's ties with the Rev. Wright, for example, but the press did not
reveal them until Obama was far ahead in the primaries.
Obama has contributed to the lack of knowledge about his past by
refusing to release early documentation about his life, including his
college and Harvard Law School transcripts and his senior thesis at Columbia.
Referring to Obama's quote from "Dreams from My Father" that he
associated with Marxist professors, Drew says, "What he's not saying
is that he was in 100 percent total agreement with those Marxist
professors. When you understand that, Obama's later associations and
policies make more sense, including why he was taken in by Rev.
In 1983 and 1984, Drew says he came to realize that his own Marxist
views were rubbish. He now considers himself a conservative.
In contrast, Drew says, Obama has never revealed how his political
thinking evolved and "what were the logical steps he took to get out
of his Marxist world view."
Face-to-Face with Young Marxist Obama:
Remembering My Days as an Anti-Apartheid Student Activist
2010 February 17
by John Drew
Flipping through some old photos, I found this picture of me
graduating from Occidental College on June 9, 1979. I'm wearing a red
arm band. My parents were probably angry at me for doing this because
it spoiled the graduation photo. Nevertheless, this photo has now
come in handy as significant evidence that I was doing my part to
protest Occidental College's investments in South Africa. Moreover,
it is part of the trail of documents that allows me to make the case
that I was, indeed, a radical student who founded the anti-apartheid
group which young President Obama spoke for a year and a half later
on the Occidental College campus.
The fellow handing me my diploma was Occidental College president
Richard C. Gilman. I'm sure he didn't care for me…and I believed he
was an evil guy.
From what Obama writes, I had the unusual opportunity to meet the
young Barack Obama at a turning point in his life. In Dreams of My
Father, Obama writes he got one of the early signs of his interest
(and ability) in public speaking during his participation in a later
anti-apartheid rally at Oxy in the fall of 1980.
I met Barack Obama face-to-face later that same year in late December
1980. By then, I was in my second year of graduate school at Cornell.
I was doing my first, official teaching. The young Ann Coulter was a
student in Theodore J. Lowi's Introduction to American Government
course in 1980 and I was the teaching assistant responsible for
guiding her small group discussion section. Back on the West Coast
for Christmas break, I was visiting a girlfriend who was still
attending Occidental College who introduced me to "Barry" Obama and
his housemate Mohammed Hasan Chandoo, a wealthy Pakistani student.
My most vivid memory of my time visiting with Obama was the way he
strongly argued a rather simple-minded version of Marxist theory. I
remember he was passionate about his point of view. As I remember, he
was articulating the same Marxist theory taught by various professors
at Occidental College. Based on my more detailed studies at Cornell,
I remember I made a strong argument that his Marxist ideas were not
in line with contemporary reality particularly the practical
experience of Western Europe.
I went on to become an assistant professor of political science at
Williams College in MA, and won the William Anderson Award from the
American Political Science Association for my doctoral dissertation. See here.
Obama, of course, became President of the United States in 2009. I
can't help but wonder if my common sense arguments ended up impacting
his decision-making and career planning.
Nevertheless, I think my experience with the young Barack Obama is
useful evidence of why he was able to win the trust and support of
Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn and Alice Palmer. In 1995, Alice Palmer
represented the state of Illinois' 13th District. After she decided
to run for Congress she named Obama as her hand-picked successor.
Palmer's extremist ideology is evident in an article she wrote for
the Communist Party USA's newspaper, the People's Daily World, now
the People's Weekly World in June, 1986. Amazingly, it detailed her
experience at the 27th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
Regarding Rev. Wright's affection for Marxism and socialism, please
view the YouTube video below:
[See URL for video.]
My gut feeling is that Obama won the trust of folks like Alice Palmer
because he never surrendered that uncompromising, Marxist socialist
ideology I saw in him as a sophomore at Occidental College back in 1980.
My graduation photo helps me remember my days as a young
revolutionary and the moments when like Barack Obama I sincerely
believed a Marxist socialist revolution was coming to turn everything
around and to create a new, fairer and more just world. Today,
however, it pains me to write that I'm deeply ashamed of my radical
views. With more maturity, I understand the true meaning of that red
arm band. It is especially painful for me to look at it knowing that
my time at Occidental College aligned with the brutal Khmer Rouge
period (1975-1979) which covered the rule of Pol Pot and the Khmer
Rouge over Cambodia.
Nevertheless, I'm happy to revisit this unhappy chapter of my life if
it helps others better understand the sincere commitment to Marxist
revolutionary thought which animated me and the young President Obama.
John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.