In "Fool Me Twice," journalist Aaron Klein and co-author Brenda J. Elliott give us what they believe is President Barack Obama's agenda for a second term, and according to them, it's going to be a socialist's dream.
By showing links between progressive groups such as Center for American Progress, ACORN and the Institute for Policy Studies, and the president, as well as his advisers, Mr. Klein tries to make the case that the president hopes to implement a lot of the goals of the progressive movement.
Those goals are said to include using the military to carry out a "green agenda," such as by converting military equipment, installations and processes to experimenting with clean energy.
They would include implementing policies that would dramatically boost the cost and role of the national government in subsidizing low-income and working-class people through mandated paid family leave, a national "living wage," an end to deporting illegal immigrants, a single-payer health system, and a new Great Depression-era kind of Works Progress Administration with millions of new federal jobs, and even putting the United States in the position of funding global initiatives to redress the wrongs done by industrialization and colonialization.
It's exactly the future that conservatives and Republicans have been warning against, and Mr. Klein's and Ms. Elliott's book -- their third along these lines -- plays to that audience. The book, which was released Aug. 7, has been well-received enough to make The New York Times' best-seller list.
In the introduction, Mr. Klein says Mr. Obama is "a highly skilled political radical who has spent a lifetime preparing to reach the pinnacle of American power, and is for the most part succeeding in implementing the progressive socialist agenda."
According to Mr. Klein and Ms. Elliott, this is an agenda that is being advanced by stealth, but that the veil was partially ripped away when Mr. Obama said to then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that, in a moment that was unintentionally picked up by an open microphone, "After my election, I have more flexibility."
However, as Mr. Klein himself writes in the introduction, most of his information can be found in plain sight. In fact, most of the groups quoted in the book are eager to promote their positions, and often do so in 50-page documents that can easily be found online. There's no espionage to be found in this volume.
Mr. Klein and Ms. Elliott contend that Mr. Obama is not acknowledging to the American public what he plans to do.
"I don't have an agenda beyond documenting for the American public what Barack Obama's specific plans are or at least the recommendations that have been given to Obama that will most likely form the blueprint for a second term," Mr. Klein said in an interview with The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. "I was simply trying to do what the president will not, and that is spell out his actual plans if he gets elected."
A key claim centers on a proposed blueprint, "2012 Unified Security Budget," a joint product of the Center for American Progress and the Institute for Policy Studies. According to the book, previous proposals of these two groups have been adopted by the Obama administration. CAP is run by John Podesta, a chief of staff to then-President Bill Clinton and someone who has been influential with the Obama administration.
It calls CAP the "idea center" of the Obama White House.
Ideas and people that have a relatively benign image in America take on a suspicious hue.
For example, Mr. Klein tells us that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has a "strong affinity" for the left-leaning IPS that is left over from his career as a California congressman. Supposedly a "core doctrine" of progressive groups like IPS is the concept of "responsibility to protect," which reorients the America military from making war and defending American interests to defending civilian populations against repressive regimes.
Joe McNamara, a Toledo lawyer and city councilman who is active in the Obama re-election campaign, attacked the book as the work of a conspiracy theorist, and of a genre that makes money by playing on the fears of a lot of people.
"Considering this author's previous works, I have a hard time taking him seriously. He's a conspiracy theorist who equates progressives with Socialists," Mr. McNamara said. "There's a large contingent in this country who are enthralled by conspiracy theorists. The president has had to defend his faith and his citizenship. This is part of that genre again. This is an attempt to try to reignite the idea that the president is not an American who shares our values."
Mr. McNamara rejected the book's premise that Mr. Obama is trying to implement a stealth agenda, saying instead Mr. Obama reached across political lines to craft bipartisan solutions to rebuild the economy.
"Unfortunately, Congress spent the last four years desperately trying to return to the same bad ideas that crashed the economy in the first place," Mr. McNamara said.
He said the book is part of the same genre occupied by the documentary "2016: Obama's America."
That movie, by conservative author Dinesh D'Souza, contends that Mr. Obama has adopted the anti-colonial outlook of his late father and is trying to weaken America and distribute its wealth to the less-developed world. As with the book, the movie makes provocative but ultimately speculative claims.
On the other hand, Mr. McNamara didn't try to take issue with any of the facts in the book. One might ask what harm is done by investigating and reporting on the recommendations and backgrounds of the people to whom Mr. Obama is known to listen and asking whether these ideas don't have a better chance of being implemented than those of, say, Karl Rove. The left made similar claims against corporations that had the ear of the George W. Bush administration a decade ago.
The tone of the book views this quiet agenda as a dangerous, anti-freedom one, but persons of liberal and progressive views might come away from it encouraged to see their ideas being put into practice.
Mr. Klein and Ms. Elliott also wrote "The Manchurian President" in 2010. The book documented "Barack Obama's ties to communists, socialists, and other anti-American extremists," its jacket claims.
One of its claims is that David Axelrod, the president's chief political strategist, is "communist-linked." Mr. Klein says his reporting showing that former Obama "green czar" Van Jones once formed a communist organization and signed a petition accusing former President George W. Bush of possible involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The revelations forced Mr. Jones to resign from the administration in September 2009.
Mr. Klein, 32, is the Jerusalem bureau chief of World Net Daily. The book was published by WND Books.
Mr. Klein told The Blade, "I was simply trying to do what President Obama will not do, and that is spell out his actual plans if he gets elected. I think for the American public it's the fair thing to do."
Conventional wisdom is that Mr. Obama's first term has been a disappointment to many of his backers because of the failure of immigration reform, the Employee Free Choice Act (which would make it easier for unions to organize workplaces), closing Guantanamo, repealing the Patriot Act, and so on.
On the other hand, progressives had a lot of successes -- the stimulus, the rescue of the auto industry, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, mandatory contraception coverage by employers, support by Mr. Obama for same-sex marriage, an end to the Iraq War, and stoppage of the XL Keystone Pipeline.
Block News Alliance consists of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. Tom Troy is a reporter for The Blade.