Before dying suddenly at 43 last week, right-wing activist Andrew Breitbart promised a “bombshell” to dethrone the President and has now posthumously exploded it: Barack Obama saw a play about Saul Alinsky in Chicago 14 years ago.
Since politically deceased Newt Gingrich has also been hammering the President with Alinsky during GOP debates, herewith a word-for-word reprint of a post from March 27, 2007 to help voters judge for themselves Breitbart’s “stunner”:
In coming months, voters will be judging Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. What will they make of their youthful intersections with one of the fascinating figures of twentieth-century American politics, Saul Alinsky?
A grass-roots organizer of the poor who used radical means to work within the system, Alinsky was a puzzle to ideologues of both the right and left.
In 1970, Time Magazine concluded, “It is not too much to argue that American democracy is being altered by Alinsky’s ideas. In an age of dissolving political labels, he is a radical–but not in the usual sense, and he is certainly a long way removed from New Left extremists.”
The year before, a Wellesley student, Hillary Rodham, had spent time a good deal of time interviewing him as the subject of her senior thesis.
Seventeen years later, a Columbia University graduate, Barack Obama, took a $13,000-a-year job in the Chicago organization Alinsky had founded.
Alinsky is a maddening figure to assess, even from this distance. He was charismatic, caring and selfless, but he could be crude, vulgar, disruptive and self-centered–often at the same time. His passion inspired downtrodden people, from Chicago stockyard workers to California migrant laborers, to organize and stand up for themselves.
Hillary Rodham’s thesis gave him a mixed review, conceding that Alinsky was “a born organizer” and “a man of exceptional charm” in “a peculiarly American tradition” but ultimately judging him unable to create larger social change. She was “tempted” but declined his offer of a job and went on to law school.
In 1985, Obama began three years of community organizing, getting residents to agitate for improvements such as better trash removal, playgrounds for their kids and removing asbestos from public housing. Then he too decided to go to law school.
In announcing his candidacy, Obama said that, in those neighborhoods, he had “received the best education I ever had” and “learned the true meaning of my Christian faith.”
Hillary Clinton has been more circumspect about her Alinsky experience.