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Friday, September 05, 2008
 
The Community Organizer

Michelle Malkin has a column about Obama's work there:

As I've reported previously, Obama's community organizing days involved training grievance-mongers from the far-left ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). The ACORN mob is infamous for its bully tactics (which they dub "direct actions"); Obama supporters have recounted his role in organizing an ambush on a government planning meeting about a landfill project opposed by Chicago's minority lobbies.

With benefactors like Obama in office, ACORN has milked nearly four decades of government subsidies to prop up chapters that promote the welfare state and undermine the free market, as well as some that have been implicated in perpetuating illegal immigration and voter fraud. Since I last detailed ACORN's illicit activities in this column in June (see "The ACORN Obama knows," June 19, 2008), the group continues to garner scrutiny from law enforcement:

Last week, Milwaukee's top election official announced plans to seek criminal investigations of 37 ACORN employees accused of offering gifts to sign up voters (including prepaid gas cards and restaurant cards) or falsifying driver's license numbers, Social Security numbers or other information on voter registration cards.


I thought I'd read a little about what Obama himself said about his community organizing days. One immediate thought is that Obama never really explains where the idea came from. That he did it intentionally is clear; what is unclear is the impetus:

In 1983, I decided to become a community organizer.
There wasn't much detail to the idea; I didn't know anyone making a living that way. When classmates in college asked me just what it was that a community organizer did, I couldn't answer them directly.


Now, can you think of anybody embarking on a career path who can't explain exactly what they will be doing? I'll grant you that I sometimes have a hard time explaining what I do to people; every year or two my sister will ask me again, but that's because what I do is fairly specialized.

Obama dresses up his idea as being inspired by the civil rights movement:

At the time, about to graduate from college, I was operating mainly on impulse, like a salmon swimming blindly upstream toward the site of his own conception. In classes and seminars, I would dress up these impulses in the slogans and theories that I'd discovered in books, thinking-falsely-that the slogans meant something, that they somehow made what I felt more amenable to proof. But at night, lying in bed, I would let the slogans drift away, to be replaced with a series of images, romantic images, of a past I had never known.

They were of the civil rights movement, mostly, the grainy black-and-white footage that appears every February during Black History Month, the same images that my mother had offered me as a child


Obama couldn't find anybody to hire him, so he got a regular job. But then an opportunity arose from a man named Marty Kaufman:

He ordered more hot water and told me about himself. He was Jewish, in his late thirties, had been reared in New York. He had started organizing in the sixties with the student protests, and ended up staying with it for fifteen years. Farmers in Nebraska. Blacks in Philadelphia. Mexicans in Chicago. Now he was trying to pull urban blacks and suburban whites together around a plan to save manufacturing jobs in metropolitan Chicago. He needed somebody to work with him, he said. Somebody black.


Or was he really something else? Obama admits in Dreams From My Father that some of the characters are composites. According to this post, Kaufman is one of two people:

[Obama press secretary Reid] Cherlin said Kruglik is a character named Marty Kaufman in the Obama memoir; in a 2004 interview Obama said Kaufman was Gerald Kellman, the man who hired him to come to Chicago to work as a community organizer.


This is, of course, one of the problems with Obama's book. Although the foreword to Audacity of Hope includes a gushing review of Dreams about how honest Barack had been, the book is undependable.

Meanwhile, the Netkooks are grousing that Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani derided Obama's community organizing days. Of course, Palin's comment was intended as payback for Obama's dismissing her as a small-town mayor. But some perceive darker motives:

But look, let’s call a spade a spade: When Giuliani sneered about community organizers on the “South side” of Chicago, it’s pretty clear what he was saying: Barack Obama spent his time rabble-rousing among black people. It’s no different then when the RNC called him a “street organizer.” A community organizer can be a PTA member or a Christian Coalition lieutenant. Indeed, there’s something deeply conservative about the vocation, which informally organizes citizens to demand better, fairer, and wiser treatment from detached government bureaucrats. But that’s really not what Palin and Giuliani and the RNC are getting at. Community organizer isn’t being used to describe a job but a background. Obama organized poor black people. Helped channel their anger and grievances and anxieties. That’s change you can fear.


The Kos Kids have been spreading the meme that "Jesus was a community organizer; Pilate was a governor". Never mind that comparisons to Jesus are probably not helpful given McCain's success with "The One" ad.
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