In the heady days of 2008, Americans warmed quickly to the prospect of Barack Obama as our 44th president. Obama promised to be just what our fractured nation needed -- a non-ideological, post-partisan consensus builder, guided by mainstream pragmatic thinking.

When the story broke about Obama's relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright -- his pastor for 20 years, a "black-power" radical and a fan of Fidel Castro -- we raised our eyebrows. We did the same when we heard of Obama's longtime connection to Bill Ayers, an unrepentant former Weather Underground terrorist. But Obama blew these relationships off as exaggerated or unimportant, and we trusted his assurances.

Now a new book by Stanley Kurtz -- a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a Harvard PhD -- reveals why we should have probed the disconnect when we had a chance. Americans increasingly sense we were sold a bill of goods, and Kurtz explains why in "Radical-in-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism." Our president isn't what he claims to be, says Kurtz. Obama's plummeting approval ratings, and the electoral tsunami about to hit Democrats, reflect voters' sense of betrayal.

In fact, Kurtz goes further, and makes an electrifying charge: Obama has purposely disguised what he believes, and is actively seeking to mislead the American people about his agenda. Obama, says Kurtz, is a socialist. He believes -- not in state ownership -- but in a savvier version of socialism that seeks to transform and undermine American capitalism through ever-expanding government control; irreversible entitlements; and a metastasizing public sector.

I know this sounds far-fetched. Even Kurtz says he didn't expect it when he began his research. But the more we learn about "community organizing" -- which Obama has called the "best education" he ever had -- the more we see that Wright and Ayers were clues to a below-the-radar radical network that has shaped both the president's worldview and the deceptive tactics he uses to disguise it.

Americans were lulled into ignoring Obama's background because they think of "community organizers" as well-intentioned do-gooders. In fact, the father of community organizing was Saul Alinsky, a far-left icon and the author of the 1971 book, "Rules for Radicals." Alinsky taught that community organizing is about accumulating the raw power necessary for the radical transformation of America's economic and social structure.

Alinsky knew that the American people are not ready for socialism. To advance radical goals, he said, activists must pose as pragmatists and work within the system. While New Left radicals were rioting at the 1968 Democratic convention, Alinskyite community organizers were working behind the scenes, infiltrating Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty and funneling money to their far-left organizations. In dealing with "enemies" Alinsky was ruthless. He advocated the "politics of personal destruction": "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it."

Obama began his career as a community organizer in Chicago in 1985. His teachers were Alinsky disciples, and he immersed himself in their ideas and methods. For years, Obama ran workshops on Alinsky's methodology, worked with Alinskyite organizations, and served on radical boards.

Obama got his start in politics in 1996, when Illinois state Sen. Alice Palmer hand-picked him to succeed her. Kurtz describes Palmer as a "hard Marxist," who had praised the Soviet Union in the communist People's Daily World. Ayers and his wife, Bernadine Dohrn -- another notorious Weather Underground alum -- hosted an announcement party at their home. During his campaign, Obama promised to bring the spirit of community organizing to his new position.

In 2004, after Obama became a U.S. senator, Michelle Obama confirmed his Alinskyite intentions. "Barack is not a politician first and foremost," she said. "He's a community activist exploring the viability of politics to make change."

Obama's immersion in socialist organizing, and his mastery of the tactics of infiltration and disguise, explain both his agenda and modus operandi as president. He has relentlessly advanced the incremental strategy of his mentors -- vastly expanding state control in the health care, energy, environmental and financial sectors. Cronies from his community organizing days have advised his campaign, crafted his grassroots strategy and lobbied for his programs, according to Kurtz. We see Alinsky's ghost in Obama's tactical ruthlessness, and his ferocious, unprecedented demonization of opponents.

Over the past two years, Americans have grown increasingly angry that Obama's governance has differed so starkly from his campaign rhetoric. Kurtz reveals that Obama was intentionally deceiving us all along.

Katherine Kersten is a Twin Cities writer and speaker. Reach her at