Newt Gingrich has been reviving an old attack line that was already discredited back in the 2008 campaign. The former Speaker of the House is reaching to find a link between President Obama and Saul Alinsky, a controversial organizer and writer. Gingrich brought it up again at a recent GOP debate in South Carolina, calling the President “a Saul Alinsky radical.”
Maybe Gingrich wasn’t listening four years ago when the allegation’s dishonesty was revealed. The President was only 10 years old when Alinsky died, and Gerald Kellman, the man who hired him in Chicago, has repeatedly made it clear that the President disagreed with Alinsky’s organizing tactics:
In The New York Times: “Mr. Obama shunned Mr. Alinsky’s strategy of using confrontation tactics like pressuring public officials and business leaders by picketing their homes. ‘I think it was strategic that he would not have fallouts with people he disagreed with because he realized that he had to work with them not just on one particular issue, but on other issues down the road,’ Mr. Kellman said.”
In The Associated Press: “But even though Obama worked with people trained by Saul Alinsky, the father of community organizing, he didn’t adopt hard-nose tactics. ‘He did not like personal confrontation,’ Kellman says. ‘He had no trouble challenging power and challenging people on issues. When it came to face-to-face situations, he valued civility a great deal ... When it came to negotiating conflict, he was very good at that.’”
In “The Bridge”: “Obama had read Saul Alinsky, but he did not adopt his confrontational style. He was methodical about his interviews and compiling his reports; polite, even charming, with his contacts; but reluctant to mix it up. Kellman’s steely approach to organizing was not Obama’s.” Kellman himself said, “Every time he had to gather people and bring them to someone’s office, he worried: Am I being too confrontational? He didn’t want to betray a relationship. That’s why he wasn’t Alinsky-like.”
As a young man, President Obama shunned Saul Alinsky’s controversial and confrontational methods—telling The New Republic he often found them “unsettling, even cruel.” Newt Gingrich hopes he can appeal to the far-right Republican fringe by rehashing character attacks that Sarah Palin tried unsuccessfully to use in the last election. It wasn’t true then—and it’s not true now.