Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

06/17/2009 (12:42 pm)

The Second Alinsky President

Jim Geraghty of the National Review has apparently become our unofficial chronicler of President Obama’s Alinsky tactics.

He began a month ago by describing the current administration as “the Alinsky Administration,” explaining that in obedience to his training under Alinsky, Obama’s first obedience is to obtaining power:

Moderates thought they were electing a moderate; liberals thought they were electing a liberal. Both camps were wrong. Ideology does not have the final say in Obama’s decision-making; an Alinskyite’s core principle is to take any action that expands his power and to avoid any action that risks his power.

As conservatives size up their new foe, they ought to remember: It’s not about liberalism. It’s about power. Obama will jettison anything that costs him power, and do anything that enhances it — including invite Rick Warren to give the benediction at his inauguration, dine with conservative columnists, and dismiss an appointee at the White House Military Office to ensure the perception of accountability.

Yesterday he provided another account, this time identifying a troubling tactical pattern arising from the Obama administration: that of attacking the enemy of the moment: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Geraghty correctly notes that this tactic was applied against Jim Cramer, an excitable, boisterous financial prognosticator who attracted derisive and dismissive editorials from the likes of the New York Times, Jon Stewart, and Media Matters — but only so long as he was criticizing the Obama administration’s measures. Once he’d moved on to other topics, they left him alone.

Geraghty notes that we’re seeing the same pattern with the American Medical Association, which is suddenly receiving a flood of vicious attacks from Daily Kos, the Times, Media Matters, and other Progressive groups, painting the AMA as a Washington lobbyist group, a major contributor to the rising costs of medical care, and a relic from the days of the buggy whip.

Why? Simply because the AMA opposes Obama’s national health care proposal.

There are a couple of disturbing elements in this. One is that the resident of the White House, being the President of everybody, traditionally does not assault individual American groups, citizens, or institutions. There have been times when particular critics get addressed directly, as part of an ongoing debate over some topic or other; if that’s what we were seeing, it would be fair enough. It’s not. What we’re seeing, instead, is an attempt at demolishing a reputation in the public’s eyes. This is not debate, although it’s tiresomely typical of leftist speech; it’s character assassination. The President should not engage in it, no matter how badly he wants his agenda implemented.

The second troubling element is the coordination with allegedly independent elements. It’s increasingly obvious that what we’re watching is not legitimate debate from independent commentators, but carefully coordinated propaganda messages emanating from conscious shills of the White House. Media Matters, Daily Kos, Jon Stewart — they all seem to be lending their public positions explicitly to instructions from the White House. If this is not a violation of the law, it ought to be; it’s the stuff of fascist tyrants, and has no place in a free society. Contrary to the childish prating of leftists, there was seldom anything remotely like this from previous Republican administrations, and certainly nothing of the sort of character assassination we’re seeing here.

We have, however, seen this before. Barack Obama is not the first Alinskyite President, he’s the second. The first was William Clinton, who, like Obama, launched character assassination attacks against political opponents through shills. Clinton seldom tried merely to win debates, although he at least maintained an appearance of debating in the public eye. Almost invariably, he simultaneously engaged in character assassination, successfully turning well-meaning patriots like Henry Hyde and Ken Starr into slavering demons in the public eye. Nobody who opposed the Clinton administration escaped with their reputation intact. To this day, Newt Gingrich, arguably the best thinker in the Republican party and one of the most effective Speakers of the House in American history, has trouble being taken seriously as a contender for President because his approval rating was below 20% when he left office, a victim of the Clinton Slime Factory.

We saw plenty of instances of the same approach during the Democratic primary season, from Hillary Clinton (see here, here, and here for starters.) Her supporters now complain of having been the victim of corrupt, hard-ball political thuggery, and they seem to have a case. However, she arguably was simply “hoist with her own petard.”(1) It’s hard to imagine Frau Hillary as an innocent victim in a political sludge match.

We thought it was a reflection of the Clintons’ character. It turns out, instead, to be a reflection of the growing influence of Saul Alinsky among the strategists of the Democratic party. Thanks to Mr. Alinsky, who may be, I fear, experiencing the hospitality of the demonic majesty he once admitted to imitating (he thought he was joking), we are about to learn just how unsafe is the average American citizen, when faced with a chief executive who considers himself unconstrained by Constitutional limits on his power, and who is primarily committed to the expansion and retention of his power. We’re all perfectly safe, just so long as we’re no threat to the President’s personal power. Stand in his way, and we become targets of a great deal more than just the White House. If this doesn’t remind us of something ominous that’s been seen in other countries, we need to think a bit harder.

(1) From Hamlet, by William Shakespeare: “For tis the sport to have the enginer Hoist with his owne petar”. A petard, or petar, was simply a box filled with gunpowder, used to blow open a gate. To have an engineer “hoist with his owne petar” is what happens when he doesn’t scoot away from the lit bomb quickly enough. Oops.

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1 Comment »

June 17, 2009 @ 7:27 pm #

We’ve also got his example of talking down Fox News just the other day. Of course, Fox has been attacked by all the leftist blogs and groups already so many times…but still, it seemed like a deliberate attempt to marginalize or make irrelevant anything Fox has to say.

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