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Why Did Obama Attend Socialist Conferences?

11:50 PM, Jul 18, 2008 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Via Jim Geraghty, the Kansas City Star asks John McCain if Obama is a socialist:

[McCain] also said Obama had the "most extreme" record in the Senate.

Asked later if he thought Obama was an extremist, McCain said: "His voting record … is more to the left than the announced socialist in the United States Senate, Bernie Sanders of Vermont."

Does McCain think Obama is a socialist? "I don't know. All I know is his voting record, and that's what people usually judge their elected representatives by."

Michael Crowley writes that McCain "is not quite living up to the admirable standards of political discourse he professes to champion."

But Bernie Sanders is an avowed socialist. Obama's voting record was ranked farther to the left than Sanders's. Obama is free to label his own political views however he wants, but that's a fact.

Hopefully some intrepid reporter has a chance to ask Obama about this matter, and while they're on the topic would it be too much to ask Obama why he attended socialist conferences in college?

In Dreams from My Father, Obama writes of the "socialist conferences I sometimes attended at Cooper Union", and he later recounts attending a Stokely Carmichael speech:

In search of some inspiration, I went to hear Kwame Toure, formerly Stokely Carmichael of SNCC and Black Power fame, speak at Columbia. At the entrance to the auditorium, two women, one black, one Asian, were selling Marxist literature and arguing with each other about Trotsky's place in history. Inside, Toure was proposing a program to establish ties between Africa and Harlem that would circumvent white capitalist imperialism. At the end of his remarks, a thin young woman with glasses asked if such a program was practical given the state of African economies and the immediate needs facing black Americans. Toure cut her off midsentence. "It's only the brainwashing that you've received that makes it impractical, sister," he said. His eyes glowed inward as he spoke, the eyes of a madman or a saint. The woman remained standing for several minutes while she was upbraided for her bourgeois attitudes. People began to file out. Outside the auditorium, the two Marxists were now shouting at the top of their lungs.

"Stalinist pig!"

"Reformist bitch!"

It was like a bad dream. I wandered down Broadway, imagining myself standing on the edge of the Lincoln Memorial and looking out over an empty pavilion, debris scattering in the wind. The movement had died years ago, shattered into a thousand fragments. Every path to change was well-trodden, every strategy exhausted. And with each defeat, even those with the best intentions could end up further and further removed from the struggles of those they purported to serve.

Based on that passage it clearly seems like Obama wanted to unite "the movement"--a movement big enough for said 'reformist bitch' and 'Stalinist pig'.

Obviously political views can change over time (see former Goldwater Girl Hillary Clinton). But it's telling that Obama's never been asked about his attendance at socialist conferences, according to a search in Nexis.

I'm pretty sure that if some Republican had attended fascist conferences in the 1980s, inquiring minds in the press would dog him unrelentingly to find out why he went.