WashPost Blogger Insists Saul Alinsky Inspires the Conservatives, Not Obama
Just like CNN's Soledad O'Brien on Monday, Washington Post "She the People" blogger and columnist Melinda Henneberger took on Newt Gingrich in Friday morning's paper (page A-2) by claiming Barack Obama couldn't be further from radical-left theorist Saul Alinsky, and found it much more believable that it was those pesky conservative Obama critics that have been channeling the ghost of Alinsky.
"Alinsky, who died when the president was 11, would delight in all the free PR. But he also would be the first to say Obama does not President Obama much resemble that remark," she wrote. At the end, she insisted "So far, the Alinsky playbook has been used to excellent effect — against Barack Obama." If he weren't dead, Alinsky would be protesting outside Obama's house:
In fact, if Alinsky were alive today, he’d surely be camped out in front of the White House, using every trick in his book, “Rules for Radicals,” to point out the many ways in which the president is not an infiltrator of the dreaded establishment, but the personification of it.
Oh, Alinsky and Obama do have a few things in common: Both lived in Chicago and were community organizers there, though that is a little like saying both Freud and my old roommate Lisa were psychotherapists.
Both Alinsky and Obama were highly pragmatic self-described change agents, too. And as I have pointed out before, if you think Obama was initially hailed as “The One,” check out the 1940 editorial in the New York Herald Tribune that said if Alinsky’s work bringing people together to improve their own neighborhood in Chicago’s notorious Back of the Yards meat-packing district could be replicated across the country, “it may well mean the salvation of our way of life.’’
But Obama is as cool as Alinsky was hot, as conservative in his tactics as Alinsky was outrageous.
The headline online was "Saul Alinsky would be so disappointed: Obama breaks 'Rules for Radicals'." The charge against Obama did not begin with Obama as president. They begin with Obama's time as a community organizer in Alinsky's Chicago. But Henneberger energetically asserted Obama's State of the Union speech defined him as an Alinsky antagonist:
And again in last night’s State of the Union, Obama followed none of Alinsky’s “ Rules for Radicals .”
That 1971 book, written shortly before Alinsky’s death, begins “What follows is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be. The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away.”
The president has indeed drawn attention to the Have-Nots. And Michelle Obama, in her remarks at the Democratic National Convention in 2008, did refer to Alinsky when she said her husband had won her heart by speaking of turning the world as it is into the world as it should be.
Yet Alinsky’s blueprint for revolution is the opposite of Obama’s ultra-traditional path to power — via Harvard and elected office.
In his last and most lasting work, Alinsky writes, “A Marxist begins with his prime truth that all evils are caused by the exploitation of the proletariat by the capitalists.” Which pretty much rules out propping up capitalism’s failures.
Henneberger felt Obama most failed in using ridicule against his adversaries (in liberal brains, he's always a rhetorical pacifist, a gregarious Gandhi):
That’s more in line with Gingrich calling Obama “the most effective food-stamp president in history.” Or the president’s golfing buddy, Republican Speaker John Boehner, calling the State of the Union “pathetic” before even seeing it.
Nobody at the Post has ever seemed to read Stanley Kurtz, one of the leading authors charging Obama with Alinskyite principles. He wrote for National Review last August:
The trouble with Obama’s Alinskyite leadership style is that he’s trying to adapt it to the presidency, a role it was never designed for....
Alinskyite polarization and ideological reticence were never designed for the presidency. On the other hand, I doubt a president this leftist could ever have gotten elected without them. From Obama’s perspective, he’s already gotten more done on health care, and plenty of other issues, than any other Democrat in history. For Alinksyites, patience is all. Obama has at least an even chance of re-election. So despite the difficulties of his community-organizer-derived techniques, he’s likely to keep to them.