Posted on July 12, 2012 at 2:11pm
Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College
Question: Do you know anyone who doesn’t like Winston Churchill? Have you ever heard of such a thing?
The people of Britain, of course, adore the man. He remains their hero, a national treasure. Americans, likewise, have long revered Churchill, with some end-of-the-century surveys citing him as the Man of the Century.
Who doesn’t like Winston Churchill? Well, astute readers may recall one painful exception: the current president of the United States of America.
Look back to the opening weeks of Barack Obama’s presidency. An auspicious symbolic start came when the new president sent back to the British embassy a bust of Winston Churchill that had rightly resided in the White House. The bust had sat there with, of course, no objection from anyone.
Even the liberal press raised an eyebrow and dared to report the curiosity. “White House Replaces Churchill Bust,” said the headline in The Daily Beast. “Obama Returns Churchill Bust to England: British Press Sees Snub,” reported the Huffington Post.
Alas, there you go. One American who doesn’t like Churchill: Barack Obama.
Could there possibly be another? No way.
Well, ironically, yes. There was a man named Frank Marshall Davis, who happened to be a mentor to Barack Obama throughout Obama’s formative years in the 1970s. He likewise didn’t like Churchill.
I’ve recently completed a biography of Davis, titled, The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis: the Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor, forthcoming next week through Mercury Ink. In my research, I was immediately struck by the strange parallel in Davis’s thinking on Churchill and Obama’s. I wasn’t the only one who noticed. Dinesh D’Souza, author of The Roots of Obama’s Rage and the man behind the new film, 2016: Obama’s America, also took notice.
As for Obama’s and Davis’s rejection of Churchill, D’Souza chalks it up to the fact that Churchill was a colonialist. After considering Davis’s harsh words on Churchill, D’Souza pondered: “Perhaps we have a source here for why Obama removed that Churchill bust from the White House.”
Indeed. But even then, there’s more to the story.
As I found, Davis also disliked Churchill because the British prime minister was the ultimate anti-communist. Davis, to the contrary, was so pro-communist that he was an actual card-carrying member of Communist Party USA.
I first found examples of Frank Marshall Davis blasting Churchill in articles he wrote for the Associated Negro Press in October-September 1943, the height of World War II. He excoriated Churchill as an imperialist, a warmonger seeking domination and “supremacy.” “The only people Churchill gives a rap about,” charged Davis, “are the white people of the British Empire.” Churchill hoped to “bludgeon all other countries into submission,” and was seeking American support in that cruel endeavor.
Needless to say, this was very much a rare opinion on Churchill, alien to any American’s wartime thinking. It was Churchill’s country, after all, that had been attacked. The only place this shocking opinion could be found was Stalin’s Kremlin and the communist press.
Speaking of Stalin and the communists, Davis complained that Churchill envisioned a post-war U.S.-U.K. alliance that excluded the USSR. Churchill, said Davis, desired a two-nation alliance of “the United States and Great Britain” because of “a pattern for Anglo-American world domination, for super-imperialism.” He foresaw America aiding Britain in greedily “divid[ing] up Asia and the Pacific islands as they see fit” and establishing “semi-fascist governments all over Europe.” He warned not of Soviet domination but “Anglo-American imperialist domination.”
And who else, along with Churchill, would relish such imperialism? In Frank Marshall Davis’s world, greedy American capitalists were licking their chops: “Big business, of course, would like to see it. You know, big business such as Standard Oil.”
This, incidentally, was not the first time that Frank Marshall Davis framed America’s foreign-policy interests as driven by Big Oil.
Davis would ramp up his attacks on Churchill in his later columns for the Chicago Star and Honolulu Record, both of them Party-line newspapers.
When Churchill came to Fulton, Missouri in March 1946 to warn the world that an “Iron Curtain” was be closing across Europe, erected by Stalin, Frank Marshall Davis was livid. He and his comrades at the Chicago Star mocked Churchill’s claims; they maintained that the only “Iron Curtains” were those being erected by Davis’s worst demons: anti-communists in the American press and General Motors. The problem was not Stalin’s Iron Curtain, scoffed Frank Marshall Davis, but “G.M.’s iron curtain,” being raised by “General Motors’ Hitlers.”
Incidentally, Davis was no fan of General Motors, and no doubt would have nationalized the automaker if he could.
In short, this thinking on Winston Churchill was as foreign to Americans then and as it is today, rivaled only by the equally stunning gesture of incoming President Barack Obama booting that bust of Churchill.
In fact, the similarity is so totally unusual, so astonishing, that it is hard to imagine it as a mere coincidence. Our mentors matter.
Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College and author of the new book, The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor. His other books include The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism and Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.