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Is Barack Obama a Marxist? A reading list for Pat Boone

Former pop singer Pat Boone appeared on Fox Business News and called President Obama a Marxist -- and he didn't mean it as a compliment.

Now 78, Boone was the second-biggest chart-topper of the 1950s, behind Elvis Presley. Since then, he's been a vocal conservative, often speaking up about politics. Which is what he did Wednesday night, voicing his ideas about Obama's views.

"He is following his playbook, which is Saul Alinsky's 'Rules for Radicals,' " Boone said. "This is the guy that trained him to be a community organizer, a Marxist, a socialist, a progressive, who wrote the rules for doing what Mr. Obama is doing."

By equating "Marxist" with "socialist" and "progressive," Boone seems to be underinformed as to what a Marxist actually is. Because he appears to like books -- he does reference that one by Alinsky -- here's a reading list for him. By the end, he should know if Obama really is a Marxist.

1. "The Communist Manifesto" by Karl Marx and Freiderich Engels
The best way to get a sense of Marxism is to start with Marx (and Engels, his frequent coauthor). In this relatively short brief, first published in 1848, Marx outlines his idea that capitalism is destructive and must create the forces of proletarian revolution. It ends, resoundingly, announcing that Communists "openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working Men of All Countries, Unite!"

2. "The Audacity of Hope" by Barack Obama
Published in 2006 when then-Sen. Obama had his eye on the presidential election, "The Audacity of Hope" brims full of positive political philosophy. In our review, John Balzar wrote, "Obama advances ordinary words like 'empathy,' 'humility,' 'grace' and 'balance' into the extraordinary context of 2006's hyper-agitated partisan politics. The effect is not only refreshing but also hopeful." A sample passage: "Spend time actually talking to Americans, and you discover that most evangelicals are more tolerant than the media would have us believe, most secularists more spiritual. Most rich people want the poor to succeed, and most of the poor are both more self-critical and hold higher aspirations than the popular culture allows. Most Republican strongholds are 40 percent Democrat, and vice versa."

3. "Capital - In Manga!" by Variety Artworks
This Japanese bestseller updated Marx's "Das Kapital" to a contemporary setting -- as well as telling it through manga. Is the action-packed Japanese comic style too extreme for Boone? Certainly not: This is the man who showed up at the 1997 American Music Awards wearing a leather outfit and a dog collar.

4. "The American Socialist Movement, 1897-1912" by Ira Kipnis
One of two books about socialists in America found in the White House Library -- put there by Jacqueline Kennedy in 1963. Kennedy was aided by Yale University librarian James T. Babb, who explained that the library "is intended to contain books which best represent the history and culture of the United States, works most essential for an understanding of our national experience."

5. "Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet" by Jeffrey D. Sachs
After he began his first term, Obama was said to be reading "Common Wealth," the latest book by Jeffrey D. Sachs, the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and special economic advisor at the U.N. Sample passage: “In the 21st century our global society will flourish or perish according to our ability to find common ground across the world on a set of shared objectives and on the practical means to achieve them.”

So: Is Obama a Marxist?

ALSO:

Satiric genius Sam Lipsyte flirts with disaster

Emily Rapp writes through grief in "Still Point of the Turning World''

Tuesday: live video chat with Hugh Howey, author of the sensational "Wool"

Carolyn Kellogg: Join me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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