Sunday, May 14, 2017

Living History: Reading David Garrow's Rising Star

I’m still reading through David J. Garrow’s new presidential biography, Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama. Already, however, I can report that he cited a number – but not all – of my American Thinker articles. Garrow recommends reading them in chronological order.
He also reports that I completed my Ph.D. and taught at Williams College. I have to think the late presidential history James MacGregor Burns who was a colleague of mine at Williams College would be proud of me today.

John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.

Unsafe at Any Speed: Should I Go to Williams College?

I’m a former Williams College political science professor. I highly recommend avoiding it. It is, of course, highly rated by U.S. News & World Report.

This is why I was once proud to teach there and why I suppose so many are still interested in attending it. Its frequent number one ranking, however, conceals a number of problematic aspects of the college which should factor into your decision-making regarding whether or not you should go to Williams.
First, it is ridiculously cold and isolated geographically. My stomach still turns into knots when I remember what it was like to drive from the airport in Albany, NY into Williamstown, MA. The only route was a thin, two-lane highway. In the winter it was covered with ice and snow. The roads to both the north, south and east were also windy, tiny and inadequate. While I was teaching there one of my students died in a winter car accident. The road to the east was so bad that it had what they called a Deadman’s Curve, and it was indeed a place where there had been frequent accidents and deaths. Even in town, I remember the roads were narrow and dangerous. During my first year on the campus, one of my colleagues in the political science department was killed in a car accident as he made a short one-line commute back to his home.
Second, it is unbelievably cliquish. Because the campus is small and isolated you will quickly find that living there means that you are quickly identified, sorted out, accepted or isolated, and conveniently locked into place. For those who settle in the area, the rule of thumb is that you are not accepted by the locals until you are a third generation inhabitant.
The social pressures for ideological conformity are immense and thoroughly enforced on the campus. In particular, Williams College has a long-standing hostility to conservative students, speakers, and scholars. If you are a Christian, a Republican, a conservative or even a middle of the road liberal Democrat, then I highly recommend you find another place to study unless you want to endure four years of hostility and stigma.
The school has recently been in the news for banning conservative speakers including the relatively innocuous Suzanne Venker.
Third, if you are interested in parties and the opposite sex, then I also recommend against attending Williams College. At this school, being in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship is discouraged by the social pressures which assume that such relationships are unhealthy and probably interfering with one’s academic advancement. The women who were interested in men, in my experience, were mainly interested in dating older men who had good jobs and good careers in nearby urban areas like New York or Boston. For the life of me, I cannot remember if any of the students I taught while I was there from 1986 to 1989 even went out on dates.
The social environment has apparently gotten even worse since I taught at Williams College by new rules and bureaucratic policies which appear to me to place young men at danger of being labeled as rapists simply because they had consensual sex with a girl who has been drinking. If I had a son, Williams College would be among the last places on Earth I would send him for school. As far as I am concerned Williams College is an unsafe environment for young men.
Fourth, the geographic isolation means there is little to do that is fun or interesting off campus. I remember being so bored while I taught there that I would get in my car and drive to the top of the nearby Mt. Greylock to enjoy a view of the surrounding area at the height of 3,491 feet. The nearby city of North Adams is an extremely depressing, poor, rotted out post-industrial population center.
Fifth, perhaps because there is so little to do in the area, the school has a bad reputation for out-of-control drug use. It was, in fact, once rated among the top ten druggiest colleges in the nation.
Ironically, when I taught at Williams College, one of the students I most enjoyed mentoring and working with as an adviser turned out to be one of the very top drug dealers on campus.
Sixth, I believe there is a lot of mental illness on the campus. I think it is an unhappy place because of the bad weather, the substance abuse, the atheism, the cliques, and the low social IQ’s of many of its bright, but immature inhabitants. It is the sort of place where young, unstable students flame out and end up taking five years instead of four years to finish their college educations. One ex-president of the college, Harry C. Payne, jumped to his death from the eighth floor of a hotel. While I taught at Williams one of the science professors killed himself by releasing deadly gas in his airtight car. As I recall a second professor also killed himself around that time although I did not remember the details. Maybe I was just teaching there at a bad time.
Finally, I would observe that the U.S. News and World Report rankings seem to be heavily dependent on a school’s endowment. I can confirm that Williams College is awash in money. There are plenty of resources available there to the students and the faculty. Thanks to all this money, it is a wonderful place to spend the summer if you are there when the students are gone and the community is packed with movie stars and celebrities who are part of the Williamstown Theatre Festival.
To be sure, not all my memories of the place are negative. I finished up my award-winning thesis while I taught there. I had good friends in the local community and incredible spiritual support from folks I met off campus including an inspiring Quaker group which met up north in nearby Vermont. (Although, come to think of it, I ran my car off the road and into a ditch while driving back from a meeting.)
My neighbors were some of the friendliest and nicest people I have ever known. The students, by far, were the best part of my campus experience. It was fun to teach such bright, energetic young people. Nevertheless, knowing what I know now, I would never have accepted a job there. I got sucked in by the prestige and underestimated how much I would miss a safe, sane, high quality of life.
My recommendation? Look for another college or university. Preferably a college or university near a big city where you can get lost, enjoy some anonymity, and lead a healthy, balanced life. Williams College is a great place to visit over the summer, but a terrible place to spend four years of your life.

John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Waiting for Garrow: New Obama Biography Due This Week

Those of us who want to reduce President Obama’s future influence in American politics are looking forward to the release of David J. Garrow’s new 1,400 page opus, Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama. Although Professor Garrow is a Bernie Sanders donor, he has a reputation as an honest, straightforward historian. This reputation is the result of his balanced and even somewhat damaging Pulitzer Prize winning book on Martin Luther King, Bearing the Cross (1986).

John Drew with David Garrow in Laguna Niguel, CA.

While some journalists have already received preliminary copies of Rising Star, most of us will have to wait a little longer since the book will be released on May 9, 2017. As for me, however, I have been waiting to read Garrow’s book since December 2011.

I was one of the 1,000 people who Garrow interviewed, a number he repeatedly refers to when he wants to present his book as the new, gold standard for Obama biographies. Garrow’s book is competing for this honor against David Remnick’s The Bridge (2010) and David Maraniss’s Barack Obama: The Story (2012). Neither Remnick or Maraniss interviewed me even though they interviewed almost all of the students I knew at Occidental College between 1979-1981.

I have always found this odd since my face-to-face observations of young Obama’s radical ideology were reported -- prior to the publication of either book -- by Ronald Kessler in a NEWSMAX article that appeared in early February 2010. See, http://www.newsmax.com/RonaldKessler/obama-college-marxism-occidental/2010/02/08/id/349329/

Later, my complete report of Obama’s commitment to a leadership role in a coming, inevitable Communist revolution appeared in an article I wrote called “Meeting Young Obama” that was published in American Thinker in February 2011. See, http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2011/02/meeting_young_obama.html

Maraniss’s failure to interview me seems particularly misguided since my first impression of young Obama has been accessed and cited by so many other authors. So far, it has appeared in Glenn Beck’s “Liars” (2016), Jack Cashill’s “Deconstructing Obama” (2011), Stanley Kurtz’s “Radical-In-Chief” (2010), Paul Kengor’s “Dupes” (2010) and “The Communist” (2012), and Michael Savages’ “Trickle Up Poverty” (2010).

Accordingly, I was suspicious when I first heard from Garrow by e-mail because my story had been so neglected by previous mainstream historians. In an abundance of caution, I checked out his YouTube videos and then asked him to give me a call so I could be sure I was talking to the real Pulitzer Prize historian and not some deranged Occupy Wall Street protester. Over the phone, we agreed to meet at my home in Laguna Niguel.

As a political scientist, I have spoken with presidential historians before, including the late James MacGregor Burns who was a colleague at Williams College. However, I had never been interviewed by one. 

I was surprisingly nervous.  As Garrow sat in my living room, I almost dumped a full glass of ice tea on him.  It was also surprisingly unpleasant to remember my youthful days as a recent Occidental College graduate who was dating a girl, Caroline Boss, who was still a senior at Occidental and who was so close to young Obama that Maraniss claims she was one of the most significant composite characters included in Obama’s Dreams from My Father (1995).  I prepared for the interview by sorting through old photographs and rereading about 30 cards and letters from that era of my life. 

As it turned out, Garrow was something of a gossip. He entertained me with news regarding the fate of my old friends and acquaintances:  who got married to who, who succeeded in life and who failed. I also found out Garrow plays an awkward role in informing people of the deaths of those who used to be in their social circles.  In my case, Garrow revealed one of the Occidental College radical leaders I knew best, Gary Chapman, 58, had died of a heart attack the previous December.

During the recorded interview, my aim was to stress my credibility and to get as much of my story as I could into the historical record. I shared with him evidence of my relationship with Boss including some photos and a romantic card she sent me.

Over time, it became clear that while Garrow was familiar with my American Thinker piece on young Obama, he was much more interested in tracking down the community which surrounded Obama at Occidental and by all accounts continued to support and stay in touch with him right up to his election as president.

Sensing his true interests, I surprised him by bringing out an old, tattered, green address book which included Boss’s phone numbers and addresses in both the U.S. and Europe. He seemed positively giddy about it.  He wrote down nothing and instead he read out loud from my address book into his recorder.

I did speak to him off-the-record too, but only about sexual matters, the sort of unseemly things which would be embarrassing to air but still would help him understand the intimate social connections of Obama’s Occidental College friends. He indicated to me that his next stop would be Washington state where he would interview Caroline and her husband, Tom, who had also been a student at Occidental College.

After we were done, I remember Garrow was gracious enough to pose with me for a photo. It turns out his wife, Darleen, had been waiting for us in a car while the interview took place. As she took the picture, I praised her husband for his status as a Pulitzer Prize winning biographer. She seemed a little jaded by my compliment and less effusive than me in praising his worthwhile accomplishments.

At this point, I am not at all confident I had much impact on Garrow’s book.

I listened to a radio interview he gave to Jamie Weinstein and he flatly dismissed any suggestion that young Obama was gay, Marxist, Muslim or a beneficiary of the writing and editing skills of Bill Ayers, an unrepentant domestic terrorist. Using the broadest possible definitions, in contrast, I see the young Obama as all four. I am waiting to see if the mainstream media will use Garrow’s book to short-circuit future attempts to create an honest account of Obama life, an account which should rightfully end his political influence.

Note: This article was originally published in American Thinker on May 8, 2017.

John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Forgiveness and the Shack: Remembering My Old Antagonist, The Late Timothy E. Cook

Trish and I watched The Shack last weekend. I think the movie's emphasis on forgiveness is timely and well worth reflecting upon, especially for me as I review my negative experience as a young academic teaching at Williams College in Massachusetts.


I have to admit that I have been guilty of wishing ill upon those who misrepresented the quality of my work as a young man simply to get rid of me. This habit seems particularly pointless right now because I recently learned, to my surprise, that one of the people I have hated the most, a tenured political science professor named Timothy E. Cook, had died of cancer over a decade ago. He was only 51. By dying so young, Cook inadvertently added to the perception and scientific evidence that gay married men live substantially shorter lives than straight married men.

As I recall, Cook had the honor of being the first openly gay tenured professor in the political science department at Williams College. (At the time, I remember about 25% of the department was gay.) At the high point of his career, Cook served as the Treasurer of the American Political Science Association (APSA). I remember being impressed with Cook's organizational skills, disgusted by his poor personal hygiene, and unimpressed with how his loud and proud Democrat party activism was only barely disguised by the thin veneer of being an objective political scientist. I vividly remember the Republican students on campus shared with me that Cook had turned a standard statistics course into an unrelenting leftist/feminist indoctrination seminar.

When I got news of his death, I was confronted with the unshakable reality that those who are the object of our hate are entirely unaffected by it.

As the story line in The Shack recommends, I am supposed to start on the path of forgiveness by reliving the insults I suffered due to Cook and his leftist allies at Williams College. The part of their behavior that bothers me the most is that they sought to diminish the quality and significance of my biggest academic achievement at the time, my doctoral dissertation. As you may know, they didn't fire me. They just took me off the tenure track and offered me another paid year to find another teaching position. The excuse I received from the department chairman is that my dissertation research was not up to the standards of the department.

I suppose that in a nation in which young Republican students are bullied by their leftist peers, it should not be surprising that the institutional dissing of my doctoral dissertation would still be in the news 28 years later. I was a little surprised myself to learn that if you Google the phrase “political science at Williams College” about 20% of the first 10 articles refer explicitly to my story of abuse and woe. I guess my critics can diminish me as much as they wish, but still the irrepressible algorithms speak for themselves.

The way Cook disparaged of my doctoral dissertation still ticks me off years later, especially as I recall the sheer difficulty of my journey. As I recall, I wrote the majority of my award-winning thesis while living in poverty, working as a gardener, and surviving without the safety net of health insurance. Completely without family support -- emotionally or financially -- I endured anxiety, jumpiness, hyper-vigilance and chronic depression. My thesis was initially rejected by the most senior political scientists at Cornell University, including Theodore J. Lowi. At first, no one thought it was possible that a graduate student could unwind and straighten out forty years of settled science on the origins of the welfare state. Accordingly, I still bristle when anyone tries to minimize achievements which brought me to the nation’s #1 liberal arts college, secured the highest possible recognition from the APSA, and got published by the same publisher used by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

You can check out a review of my published work, the same one dissed by the political science department at Williams College, in the following article, Thomas R. Barton, “Exploring Human Dimensions of Welfare Reform,” The Journal of Intergroup Relations, Winter 1996-97. Here is the portion of the review that refers to me and my contributions to successful edited volume.
While the authors in Welfare in America set out an ambitious goal for themselves which ultimately disappoints, The American Welfare System: Origins, Structure, and Effects, edited by Howard Gensler, does not make such an attempt and is ultimately a more satisfying read. 
The American Welfare System is not a usual collection of pieces written by several different authors, as is the case with Welfare in America. In Gensler’s collection, the first nine chapters are written by John Drew; the next three by Gensler; and the final chapter is written by D. Eric Schansberg. 
Drew’s section, which is the bulk of the book, is entitled “The Origins of the American Welfare System.” In his section, Drew provides an overview of several theories of the emergence of the United State’s welfare system and offers his own explanation. Other explanations of the emergence of our system, which he discusses, include conflict theories, working class organization theories, and evolutionary theories. Drew contends that all of these explanations have ignored or overlooked the importance of children’s programs, our changing views on children, and child labor laws in influencing the development of the welfare system. 
Drew’s chapters trace the historical development of the welfare system, with an emphasis on children and child labor laws, from Colonial America through the passage of the Social Security Act of 1935. Gensler’s section, entitled “The Structure and Effects of Welfare” examines the country’s current income maintenance system and concludes that it is fundamentally inadequate. Based on his examination of Department of Commerce and the Census’ Current Population Survey data, he further concludes that “The American social safety net is full of holes” (p xii). Gensler and Schansberg argue that the country needs to adopt a negative income tax system. 
Overall, I found Drew’s contributions to be the most interesting and important. He rightly concludes that histories of the social welfare system have tended to ignore or downplay the importance of child labor legislation in the formation of mother’s pensions and ultimately the Social Security Act of 1935. The historical chapters of this book make an important contribution to our understanding of the history of welfare in the United States.
This thesis seems to have a life of its own as it ends up being cited by scholars almost immediately after I wrote it. See, for example, by Paul E. Peterson and Mark C. Rom, Welfare Magnets: The New Case for a National Standard, (Brookings Institution Press, 1990). For the record, the thesis was credited in other publications as well:

Theda Skocpol, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers, (Harvard University Press, 1992).

Skocpol, Theda, et al. “Women's Associations and the Enactment of Mothers' Pensions in the United States.” The American Political Science Review, vol. 87, no. 3, 1993, pp. 686–701., www.jstor.org/stable/2938744.

Andrew J. Polsky, The Rise of the Therapeutic State. (Princeton University Press, 1993).

Howard Gensler, "The Effect of Race and Sex on Welfare Benefits," Cato Journal, Fall/Winter, 1995 Vol. 15 No. 2.

Judith Sealander, Private Wealth and Public Life: Foundation Philanthropy and the Reshaping of American Social Policy from the Progressive Era to the New Deal, (JHU Press, 1997).

Kriste Lindenmeyer, A Right to Childhood: The U.S. Children's Bureau and Child Welfare, 1912-46, (University of Illinois Press, 1997).

Elliott J. Gorn, Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America, (Macmillan, 2002).

Scott W. Allard, Competitive Pressures and the Emergence of Mothers' Aid Programs in the United States, The Policy Studies Journal, Vol. 32, No. 4, 2004.

Thomas A. Krainz, Delivering Aid: Implementing Progressive Era Welfare in the American West, (UNM Press, 2005).

It has also been mentioned nearly 30 years after I wrote it including in a relatively new book, Megan Birk, Fostering on the Farm: Child Placement in the Rural Midwest, (University of Illinois Press, 2015).

Objectively, the dissertation that Williams College dismissed as inadequate was actually one of the extremely rare doctoral dissertations which still gets cited by other scholars 30 years after its publication. I only wish I had this information in 1989. I might have believed him when Theodore J. Lowi told me, “You don’t realize you’re a great political scientist.”

I distinctly remember Cook suggesting to me, at a faculty event, that Williams College could ruin my career and my life if I did not play by their rules. I remember telling him, with complete confidence, that there was nothing they could do to hurt me. In retrospect, I was wrong. They could hurt me. It would have been nice at the time, however, to know that Cook would be dead 17 years later. As Trish says, my current frustration is probably because I inadvertently missed out on a whole decade of knowing that he pre-deceased me. With her help, let the healing begin.

John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

How Low Will It Go? Trustee/Donor Au Pair Scandal Rocks Globalists at Williams College

As you may know, Joey Shaista Horn ’87 has resigned as a trustee of Williams College in the wake of a court decision in Norway to punish her and her husband for the mistreatment of two Filipino au pairs. This court decision was part of a larger effort which ensnared the Horn's and two of their neighbors in a clear cut violation of Norway's laws governing immigration and human-trafficking.

The new Horn Hall at Williams College is named after Ragnor '85 and
Joey Shaista Horn '87, a wealthy couple convicted of crimes in Norway.
The puzzle, of course, is why the board of trustees consented to naming the new Horn Hall after this nefarious couple even though news of their arrests was freely available as early as December 2014.

As far as I can piece this together, Joey Shaista Horn ’87 is not some out-of-touch, hands-off trustee. Instead, she seems deeply involved in the business of the college, particularly in terms of efforts to bring more international students, such as herself, to the campus. (When she was a student, she was president of the International Students Club and performed Indian classical dance.)

In one of the college's webpages, she is said to have "led the charge" to bring more international students to campus. See, https://alumni-awards.williams.edu/frederick-c-copeland-award/joey-shaista-horn-class-of-1987/


A Library Re-imagined from Williams College on Vimeo.

Based on my experience with non-profit boards, I suspect that Joey Shaista Horn ’87 is indeed, as one of her au pairs described her, a perfectionist. It seems reasonable to me that this character flaw is one of the reasons she held on to her position as a trustee even as her husband was resigning left and right from his board-level commitments. She seems less willing than her husband to admit she made a serious mistake - punishable by incarceration and fines - and to accept the consequences of her poor decisions and lack of empathy. I think a healthier person would have resigned immediately, citing personal reasons, knowing the consequences this scandal would have for Williams College's reputation.

It may also be that Williams College tolerated (or even excused) Joey Shaista Horn's contemptible behavior out of a misplaced sympathy for her cultural heritage.

Unfortunately for her Filipino au pairs, not all aspects of Indian culture are as pleasant as the classical dance routines Joey Shaista Horn brought to campus in the late 1980's. Sadly, Indian culture has made it tolerant of holding the largest number of enslaved people in the world. As I understand it, a little over 18 million people — about the population of Chile — are still victims of contemporary slavery in India.

Frankly, I do not think it makes sense to neglect the contribution of Indian culture to her behavior. The au pairs report that they felt like "slaves" while they were in her household. Her own husband indicates that she was the one responsible for administering the au pairs. She certainly did not pick up her calloused attitude toward her au pairs from anything she learned in either European or American culture.

My guess is that she lasted as long as she did because she is a powerful board member, that she held on to avoid embarrassment, that her globalist vision is perfectly aligned with her fellow trustees, and that they were willing to cut her some slack because demanding her resignation would remind us all that cultural diversity is not necessarily a good thing, especially when one's received culture is relatively tolerant of the enslavement of others.

In more painful irony, it turns out Joey Shaista Horn ’87, who was based in Singapore when she came on board, was the very first international trustee. See, http://williamsrecord.com/2010/05/05/inside-the-boardroom-trustees-elucidate-role-at-the-college/ She was, initially, a triple affirmative action victory – Indian, female and international. In retrospect, I think she will soon be regarded as one of the trustee’s biggest mistakes. Maybe there should be a special trustee position set aside for the morally bankrupt/recently incarcerated?

NOTE: As a professional fundraiser myself, I would start picking away at this tangled mess by asking who on the development staff knew about her arrest in December 2014? I suspect that the folks who were taking credit for her $10 million gift had little incentive to shine the light on her creepy backstory.

In a recent article in the student-run, Williams Record, two reporters found that the trustee chair, Adam Falk and the development staff all knew about the Horn's arrest prior to accepting their $10 million naming rights gift for Horn Hall. You can now also open a copy of Joey Horn's post resignation explanation letter. From the article, it is clear that Adam Falk has lost his moral compass because he does not seem to get why a track-record of lying, criminality and abuse disqualifies someone from having their name proudly displayed on a student residence hall.

Finally, I suspect we will see that she is involved with other trustees at Williams College in ways that have nothing to do with the school. She may, for example, have been using her trustee position to market investment products to other trustees. It is entirely possible that she has entangled herself in their other business or charitable work too.

I predict her downfall will ensnare other trustees - as well as faculty, administrators and development staff - as it becomes more and more clear which of them knew about her dark side and which of them failed to confront it.

John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.