Chicago Sun-Times
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GOP targets Obama with Alinsky, Ayers and ACORN


WASHINGTON -- Saul Alinsky surfaced as a factor in the presidential contest last year, in stories about how the legendary Chicago community organizer -- who worked in the Back of the Yards and Woodlawn -- directly influenced Hillary Rodham Clinton and indirectly touched Barack Obama, then Democratic primary rivals.

Now Alinsky is back in the closing days of the Obama-McCain contest, being demonized by McCain surrogates as if he were still alive.

The McCain-Palin ticket is invoking Alinsky, Bill Ayers, the former terrorist now Chicago professor, and ACORN, the community group created in the Alinsky tradition (under investigation for botched voter registration drives) as they argue Obama has "socialist" views.

The Republican National Committee is paying for robo-calls targeting millions of voters in 10 key battleground states with this inflammatory message about Ayers:

"Hello, I'm calling for John McCain and the RNC because you need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers whose organizations bombed the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, a judge's home, and killed Americans. . . ."

While RNC spokesman Danny Diaz told me the calls -- in the millions, he said -- have been going out for "quite some time," they have been getting more attention in the last few days because "we have increased the volume over the last week or so."

It's all part of a McCain strategy to raise questions about Obama's associations, and therefore his judgment. Obama worked with Ayers on civic boards in Chicago starting in the 1990s -- years after Ayers was a part of the violent anti-Vietnam war Weather Underground.

Now Alinsky's name is being dragged in the mix. During an interview Friday on Andrea Mitchell's MSNBC show, Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) said, "Obama started out with Saul Alinsky." Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) told Chris Matthews on "Hardball" that Alinsky was "one of his teachers, you might say."

Someone needs to rewrite their talking points. Alinsky, born in Chicago on Jan. 30, 1909, died June 12, 1972 in Carmel, Calif. -- when Obama was 10.

Alinsky's techniques and teachings influenced generations of community and labor organizers, including the church-based group hiring a young Obama to work on Chicago's South Side in the 1980s.

Alinsky -- whose Reveille for Radicals was the training manual for organizers -- impressed a young Clinton, who was growing up in Park Ridge at the time Alinsky was the director of the Industrial Areas Foundation in Chicago. At Wellesley, Clinton wrote her senior thesis on the "Alinsky Model" of organizing.

Alinsky's son David, backed Clinton in the primary. He told me Saturday, "It is amazing to me that even so long after his death that the Republicans still think that he is such a threat, that his ideas are so anathema to them, that God forbid that the people should have the power to say what they want or how they feel about something. I mean that seems to be very scary to them."

Alinsky's techniques were more tactical than ideological. Obama is winning in part because he created effective, penetrating organizing operations in red states like Virginia, expanding his electoral map. The Obama office I visited Saturday in McLean, Va. was humming.

Republicans need a strong ground game to counter Obama's "movement." They should be studying -- not smearing -- Alinsky.


Alinsky is the most non-threatening strategist I can think of. I mean, the guy was a complete square who just happened to be concerned with social justice.

I read Rules years ago, and I remember one of the lines from it reads, "If your long hair and style of dress prevents your views from being heard, then cut your hair and buy a suit..." I'm paraphrasing, but yeesh... what a radical America-hater, huh?

I suspect most people out there trying to "smear" Obama with Alinsky saw the title "Rules for Radicals" and just assumed it must be about making bombs and spitting on GIs. Just goes to show you - these people in no way should be setting our policies.

Further, if we're going to be on the subject of 60s radicals and the anti-war movement, I wonder where John McCain would be right now if wasn't for all of the America-haters and radicals who, over the course of many years, exerted pressure on a government gone mad to end the war in Vietnam.

If we all owe a debt to John McCain for his service to our country, then McCain owes his life to the millions of evil, America-hating 60s radicals who helped bring the war to an end, and bring POWs like McCain home.

I have learned so much from this campaign; what not to think, how not to lead my life, what not to say and how not to say it from the Republican party. I have learned humility, courage, a renewed excitement in being an American and a hope for a new world vision from the Democrats. I would like to thank Mr. Barack Obama specifically for having the courage to rise to the challanges before him with such dignity and strength. I have three heroes-my husband and my parents. Novemeber 4th is my father's birthday. It wil be my profound honor to vote for you and celebrate his birthday on November 4, 2008
Janice Heno, Baton Rouge, LA

Watching this campaign from the beginning, I have seen McCain from erratic to negaitive, but this is just outright pathetic. They're now trying trying to smear Obama becuase he read book by a not-terribly-radical writer that died when Obama was 10? When I was in college, The Communist Manifesto was required reading in one of my history courses. Does this mean that I'm a Communist who wants to overthrow the government?

Right now, the economy in this country is in a shambles, were in two wars, the world isn't too happy with us, and this is the best that John McCain has to offer? In my opinion, he doesn't deserve to be president.

Considering the GOP campaign and it's effect on the American people, I am emotionally torn.

On one side, I am ecstatic that a majority of people have faith in Obama to be president and a large portion of those people understand the GOP smears and lies are just that. After November 4th, I may once again be proud to be an American.

On the other side, I am frightened and saddened by the shameless ignorance of a large minority of people who believe this stuff without question. It is disgusting, and it makes me ashamed of this country.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on October 19, 2008 1:05 AM.

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