Did blogger find proof of Obamas' socialism?

Photo of books in White House library doesn't quite deliver what conservatives want


Alex Koppelman
February 18, 2010 8:28PM (UTC)

Many conservatives believe that President Obama's a secret socialist. But they can't quite seem to get the rest of America to see the hidden truth; they need a smoking gun. One right-wing blogger, Rob Port of Say Anything Blog, seems to think he might have found it.

Port is in Washington, D.C. for the Conservative Political Action Conference; while there, he took a White House tour that included a stop in the building's library.

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"[A]ccording out (sic) the person who guided our tour, the library is stock (sic) with books picked out by the First Lady, Michelle Obama. Being a bit of a bibliophile, I started to peruse some of the books on the shelves…and lookie, lookie what I found," Port wrote in a post. Below that, he published a photo he took that shows a few suspect books: "The Socialist Party of America: A History," "The American Socialist Movement 1897-1912" and "The Social Basis of American Communism."

At the end of the post, Port commented:

By itself, this wouldn’t be that big of a deal. But in the context of Anita Dunn saying Chairman Mao is her favorite political philosopher? In the context of the Mao ornament on the White House Christmas tree?

In the context of Obama’s economic policies?

The post got picked up by a fairly influential conservative blogger, Jim Hoft -- the Gateway Pundit -- who offered his own take: "It figures. Michelle Obama stocked the White House Library with books on socialism."

Sadly for the conservatives who want this to be the irrefutable evidence -- and for those Salon readers who might wish these really were manuals for revolution -- these aren't books on socialism. They're critical histories of the socialist movement in the U.S., which makes sense, considering that in the photo they're flanked by other tomes like "U.S. Senators and Their World" and "The Invention of the American Political Parties."

"The Social Basis of American Communism," for instance, was written by Nathan Glazer, a neo-conservative and anti-Communist. About "The Socialist Party of America," Kirkus Reviews had this to say: "A history, that is also an anatomical dissection, covers the rise and decline of a once popular party and starts with a survey of regional organizations and the variety of strange bedfellowships within its membership .... The last chapter analyzes the reasons for the party's failure, from within and from the outside, where the lack of class consciousness in the United States has proven a definite barrier to its success. A political discussion which should have a following among those interested in party lineups, this is amply footnoted and indexed.

Update: Turns out the books were not, in fact, chosen by Michelle Obama -- actually, they've been in the library since 1963. Oops!

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Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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