[Regina] told me about her childhood in Chicago, the absent father and struggling mother, the South Side’s six-flat that never seemed warm enough in winter and got so hot in the summer that people went out by the lake to sleep….Her voice evoked a vision of black life in all its possibility, a vision that filled me with longing–a longing for place, and a fixed and definite history. As we were getting up to leave, I told Regina I envied her. “For what?” “I don’t know. For your memories, I guess.”
That passage, from Obama’s (first) autobiography, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (pp. 158-9), describes “Regina,” a young black woman at Occidental College whom he claimed was crucial to his political awakening. She even encouraged him to drop “Barry” in favor of “Barack.” He envied her confidence, and her memories–so much so, in fact, that he made them up. Not only was “Regina” not from the poor South Side of Chicago; she was not even black.
I know, because she was my girlfriend at the time.
The real “Regina” was Caroline Boss (now Caroline Grauman-Boss). That revelation is one of many in David Maraniss’s new biography, Barack Obama: The Story. Maraniss shows that Obama created “composite” or “compressed” characters, including girlfriends, in his memoir to conceal their identities, or as a literary device. Maraniss confirms that Obama’s “Regina” was, in fact, Boss, whom I dated from 1979 to 1981, when Obama was at Occidental. Maraniss confirms that she was close to Obama. But Maraniss also covers up Obama’s Marxist radicalism by casting Obama as more centrist than Boss or than his roommate, Hasan Chandoo (Maraniss 368).
The collegiate Obama was an ardent Marxist socialist extremist. I confronted young Obama’s naïve faith in an inevitable Communist revolution when he visited the San Francisco area during his Christmas break from Occidental College in 1980–at the Boss family’s home in Portola Valley, CA, a small city outside of suburban Palo Alto, south of San Francisco. I am pleased Maraniss–a Washington Post associate editor, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and the co-author of Tell Newt to Shut Up!–has provided a clear, compelling and independent verification of a key element of my story–namely, Obama’s visit to San Francisco with his left-wing friends: “During the Christmas break that year, Sohale Siddiqi, a friend of Hasan’s and Wahid’s who lived in New York, came out to visit…Obama had left on a road trip and ended up in San Francisco.” (Maraniss 367)
That verification comes from a liberal author who has otherwise minimized young Obama’s ties to radical ideologues such as Obama’s Communist mentor, Frank Marshall Davis; Chicago socialist politician Alice Palmer; and our nation’s number one unrepentant terrorist, Bill Ayers. In February 2010, when Ronald Kessler of NewsMax began the work of verifying my debate with Obama, he sought to contact President Obama, Chandoo, and Boss. (I had tried to alert Republicans and the media during the 2008 election, but they were uninterested.) Both Boss and the White House declined to comment for Kessler’s article. Chandoo, however, verified the debate took place and added his own spin to soften the damage my story did to Obama’s image.
In his own investigation of Obama’s collegiate circle, Maraniss did not interview me, but nevertheless verified key portions of my testimony. He confirmed Obama’s whereabouts in the winter of 1980, confirmed Chandoo’s Marxist credentials, and confirmed both that Boss was a socialist and that she was close enough to young Obama to serve as Obama’s inspiration for the “Regina” character in Dreams (Boss’s working class Swiss grandmother was named Regina).
Given the fact that my account of young Obama’s ideological extremism has endured the test of time, I would think Maraniss would have been interested in interviewing a fellow like me–a published author and a political scientist, in addition to a contemporary of Obama in his Occidental days–to find out more about the exact specifications of Obama’s political views at the time. After all, other authors have reported my story in their books, including Stanley Kurtz’s Radical-In-Chief, Jack Cashill’s Deconstructing Obama, Michael Savage’s Trickle Up Poverty, and most recently Paul Kengor’s The Communist – Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor. In February 2011, I also wrote my own account of my encounters (there were others) with Obama. In short: my story was well known, but Maraniss apparently relied on Sohale Siddiqi, the Pakistani who later became Obama’s Columbia University roommate, instead.
The gist of my story is that I had been romantically involved with the Marxist Caroline Boss (I was also a Marxist)–starting in the spring of 1979, when I graduated from Occidental, until the spring of 1981, when she graduated. At the time I met young Obama, Boss was serving as the co-president of the Democrat Socialist Alliance (DSA) at Occidental. In 1980, as I had done the previous Christmas break, I had flown to see Boss during the holidays. As evidence of this significant relationship, I still have a number of cards and letters from her, and the above photograph of me and Boss. It shows what we looked like as a young couple in 1981.
After a year and a half of study in political science at Cornell University, I no longer believed it was plausible to anticipate a Communist revolution in the U.S. Moreover, I no longer thought it feasible to eliminate the profit motive from a modern economy. Given my new evidence-based insight, I thought I was doing Boss, Obama and Chandoo a great favor when I confronted their belief in the inevitable Communist revolution. My goal of enlightening my friends backfired, with both Boss and Obama strenuously objecting to my argument.
I am sure Maraniss realizes my face-to-face testimony makes it perfectly clear that young Obama was not to the ideological right of Boss and Chandoo–as Maraniss writes–but that Obama completely shared his undergraduate friends’ radical, revolutionary ideology. Accordingly, I think Maraniss inadvertently did grave damage to Obama’s carefully protected reputation as a pragmatic centrist. He did that simply by verifying that the young Obama was in northern California during Christmas break 1980 at the exact the time when I reported that I confronted Obama’s absurd faith in an inevitable Communist revolution.