On the campaign trail, Newt Gingrich is trying to make some new inroads on President Obama by reviving an old charge, suggesting that the president’s past as a community organizer ties him to a “radical” tradition.
“Obama believes in a Saul Alinsky radicalism which the press corps was never willing to look at,” Gingrich told a standing room-only crowd at Tommy’s Country Ham House here. “When he said he was a community organizer, it wasn’t Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. It was radicalism taught on the south side of Chicago by Saul Alinsky.” …
Nonetheless, Gingrich has begun to make an issue of Alinsky on the campaign, suggesting that he influenced Obama when the future president was working as a community organizer in Chicago. At a town hall in Newberry, S.C., on Tuesday, Gingrich tied Obama to “Saul Alinsky radicalism” four times.
Isn’t this the same attack conservatives tried to push in 2008 – and it failed to stick? Even if Gingrich is right, and the only reason the Obama campaign was never scathed by the “Alinsky radicalism” was because the press corps was too far in the tank for Obama to report on it, what makes Gingrich think this time would be any different? More importantly, if attacking Obama’s “radical roots” was a losing strategy in ’08 – before the public knew anything about the guy – how could it possibly catch on after four years of his presidency?
Gingrich has veered off in this direction before, with his musings on Obama’s “Kenyan, anticolonial behavior.” This may rile up certain elements of the GOP base, but it’s not an effective message for a general audience. In fact, it’s almost certain to backfire in a general election. Back in ’08, going after Obama’s community organizing background was understandable, because he was so new to politics that he’d barely developed a political record. Now the Republican Party actually has four years of his failed policies to run against. And the Democrats would love nothing more than to spend the next two years arguing over Obama’s radical Chicago ties – for them, any minute not spent talking about the economy and Obama’s track record in office is a victory.