If Ever There Was a Vital Need for Occam's Razor.

Back in August, Stanley Kurtz explained how he came to believe Barack Obama was a socialist with a radical agenda, the premise of his book, Radical-in-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism:

I myself tried to avoid the socialism issue during campaign 2008. When I began to research my book, I had every intention of skirting the socialism question. The facts forced me to change my mind. I believe that Obama truly is a socialist, and I put the case in my book in detail, backed up by a very substantial amount of never-before-seen information.

I'd be curious to know what book Kurtz pitched to get his deal, because it doesn't resemble the one he actually wrote, but I digress. The argument is that Kurtz found evidence that Obama was a socialist so overwhelming that he changed his mind, and now a week before the book's release, Kurtz is once again teasing us with details. The gist of it: Back when Obama was at Columbia he attended several conferences where "a demoralized and frustrated socialist movement largely set aside strategies of nationalization" and embraced instead "community organizing" as a way of advancing its agenda. Probing the archived files of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) over the past two years, Kurtz learned that "Obama attended the 1983 and 1984 Socialist Scholars conferences, and quite possibly the 1985 conclave as well" -- this, as well as "many other events from Obama’s radical past" are evidence of Obama's socialism.

So how does this prove that Obama is a socialist? There are connections, you see. For instance, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright -- remember him? -- had a "theological mentor" who had a "close cooperative relationship with the DSA." This, Kurtz contends, "helps explain Obama’s choice of Wright as his pastor." Furthermore, the Midwest Academy, a training institute for community organizers, "closely allied to the DSA," trained, funded and promoted Obama to head of Illinois' Project Vote. This in turn led to Obama succeeding Alice Palmer -- "once a high official in the Midwest Academy network" -- in the Illinois Senate, and the rest was history. Kurtz also promises the following:

Archival documents reveal that Obama lied during the 2008 campaign about his ties to ACORN. New evidence confirms that Obama has hidden the truth about his relationships to Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers. The unknown story of Obama’s deep involvement with a radical group called UNO of Chicago is revealed. The claims of candidate Obama and his mentors that he shunned Saul Alinsky’s confrontational tactics turn out to be a sugary fairy tale. The obfuscating techniques of Obama’s memoir, Dreams from My Father, are exposed.

Let's just assume this damning evidence, which magically remained hidden for the entirety of the 2008 presidential election, makes clear these socialist connections from Obama's past. Do they make Obama a socialist now? Kurtz says that "the president’s socialist past is still very much alive in the governing philosophy and long-term political strategy of the Obama administration." Well, OK. What is this "governing philosophy" and "long-term political strategy?" Kurtz's thesis is that decades ago, Obama developed a strategy of stealth socialism that would "emerge as the natural ideology of the have-nots." But where's the evidence that this is being pushed by the administration today? Isn't it plausible that Obama is not motivated by socialist ideology but rather by ambition? Isn't it plausible that he made these associations to advance his political career as it suited him in Illinois? What Kurtz is presenting is a book-length example of the chief source of "epistemic closure" on the right: The tendency to see political actors -- never conservatives, of course -- motivated by pure ideology, and nothing more.

-- Mori Dinauer