Big Mentor: On Obama and Frank Marshall Davis, the Communist
This is the first in a weekly series of exclusive interviews with Dr. Paul Kengor, Cold War historian and professor of political science, who has just released a major book titled The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor, based on never-before-seen declassified material from Soviet archives, FBI files, and archived columns from Communist Party publications.
Among the material reproduced in Kengor’s book are reports from Davis’s 600-page FBI file, listing Davis’s Communist Party number: 47544. Kengor’s book provides stunning information that the mainstream media has avoided like the plague. Kengor’s expose is consistent with Breitbart News’s Vetting project.
Breitbart News: Professor Kengor, who was Frank Marshall Davis and when did he meet Obama?
Kengor: Frank Marshall Davis had a strong influence on a young Barack Obama throughout the 1970s, the period of Obama’s adolescence, right up until the time Obama went to college at Occidental. He’s mentioned by name dozens of times in Obama’s memoirs, over the course of thousands of pages and every section. There’s much more to say about that, but first let’s stick with the person of Davis.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Frank Marshall Davis, Barack Obama’s mentor, was an actual, literal card-carrying member of Communist Party USA (CPUSA). His CPUSA card number was 47544. That number is posted on the cover of my book, and the declassified documents with the number are published in the appendix.
Breitbart: And this was our current president’s mentor, an actual CPUSA member?
Kengor: Indeed. Needless to say, there has never been a president with a Communist Party member as a mentor. Not George W. Bush or his father, not Bill Clinton, not Ronald Reagan, not Jimmy Carter, not even Abe Lincoln. Only Barack Obama. Talk about change—that’s it right there. Truly unprecedented change.
Breitbart: When did Davis join the Communist Party? And is there any doubt about him joining?
Kengor: No doubt whatsoever. He joined during World War II. Davis admitted that in a private letter to a Kansas woman named Irma Wassall, telling her (in his only open admission) that he had “joined the Communist party.” A Davis biographer produced that letter.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a vast volume of evidence from his writings, government documents, declassified archives. His loyalties to Stalin’s Soviet Union were so obvious, and so contrary to American interests, that the Democrats who ran the Senate called him to Washington to testify in December 1956 to explain himself. He pleaded the Fifth Amendment. No matter, the next year, in a Senate report titled (tellingly), “Scope of Soviet Activity in the United States,” the Democratic Senate listed Davis as “an identified member of the Communist Party.”
By the way, I’m stressing Democrats because this was a guy that modern Democrats should not be defending. Davis demonized Democratic Party icons like Harry Truman and their most cherished programs like the Marshall Plan. Why? Because Truman and programs like the Marshall Plan were aimed at stopping Stalin and the advance of Soviet communism.
Democrats, listen to me: Frank Marshall Davis was not your friend. Please don’t defend this guy simply because of Obama!
Brietbart: But they will defend him, precisely because of Obama.
Kengor: Absolutely. As they do, they will also defend a man who used very offensive language that ought to make liberals scream, especially his language regarding women. He openly and excitedly discussed luring very young girls into bed. He referred to women as “babes” and “broads” and “fine young foxes” and “dykes” and “luscious ripened plums,” and blithely made statements like “I have impregnated only three women.” He was unapologetic in luridly thrilling over women’s private parts, which he described in language too crude to repeat here. Among his chief hobbies was photographing nude women, which he really enjoyed.
This is a man that liberals would normally never defend. He also used other offensive language, writing, for instance, about “the Spanish Jew” and “slant-eyed natives.”
Brietbart: Speaking of photography, you found a remarkable item in Davis’s FBI file about Davis photographing Hawaiian shorelines.
Kengor: That’s correct. Among the most sensational assertions in the FBI file are claims that Davis, in Hawaii, had been observed repeatedly photographing shorelines with a telescopic lens. This is contained in an August 15, 1962 report filed by an FBI agent listed as “Mr. Petit,” with a file number of 100-5082. I reprint that page in the book.
The alleged incident took place the first full year of Davis’s move to Hawaii—a move itself very mysterious, and which I believe was almost certainly organized by the Communist Party. The source was an informant who reported examining Davis “photographing large sections of the coastline with a camera containing a telescopic lens.” The informant (in the words of the FBI report) “stated that DAVIS spent much of his time in this activity.”
Breitbart: What do you make of this?
Kengor: One interpretation is that Davis might have been photographing shorelines and beachfronts for intelligence purposes. Such intelligence, of course, would not have been U.S. intelligence; it might have been foreign intelligence, or at least that was the concern.
Of course, Davis’s defenders will vehemently disagree, pointing to his general lifelong interest in photography—albeit usually photographs of objects like nude women.
Breitbart: A fair point?
Kengor: Sure. However, once you consider Davis’s expertise and interest in photography, combined with his expertise and interest in Soviet communism, combined also with formal membership in CPUSA—which made him an immediate target for Soviet recruitment—combined with long association with men who traveled to and served the USSR (some as actual Soviet agents)—combined with more and more and more—I detail all that and much more in the book—all of this made him a natural recruit to do a job like photograph shorelines for foreign intelligence, especially as he already wrote propaganda for the Soviet line. The Soviets had long been intensely interested in Hawaii.
Whatever the differing opinions, the FBI erred on the side of caution, leaning toward a negative interpretation of Davis’s photographic fascination with Hawaiian shorelines. The first page of Mr. Pettit’s August 15, 1962 report noted that Frank Marshall Davis’s name “is being retained on the Security Index at this time.”
Breitbart: Now that, too, is a big deal. You include documentation that Davis was placed on the federal government’s Security Index. What does that mean?
Kengor: That’s a huge deal. To be placed on the Security Index meant Frank Marshall Davis could be immediately detained or arrested in the event of a national emergency, such as a war breaking out between the United States and USSR.
Breitbart: That’s amazing. And, again, that man influenced the current president?
Kengor: Yes. With that kind of an influence, it’s no exaggeration to say that Barack Obama would have trouble getting a standard security clearance for an entry-level government job. Those are the kind of radical associations that raise red flags (pun intended) by investigators and screeners.
Breitbart: Can you imagine a Republican president with a mentor this extreme to the right?
Kengor: Nope. He’d never make it to the White House to begin with. He wouldn’t escape the Republican primary. Apparently, it’s the job of guys like me and websites like Breitbart.com to do the vetting that the mainstream media won’t. They won’t because of their loyalty to Obama.
Breitbart: Professor Kengor, you have so much more to discuss. We look forward to learning more next week. Where should people go to get your book?
Kengor: Just click here for the Amazon link. I look forward to the weeks to come.
Paul Kengor is author of The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor.