This of course was his 'dog whistle' to conservatives who already suspect Obama as being un-American and anti-religious. Newt is wrapping himself in the mantle of "American exceptionalism," while trying to tarnish Obama as the radical devote of the [wink, wink Communist] Alinsky.
So who was Saul Alinsky? First, there is no question that, before going to law school, Obama worked as a community organizer in a project on Chicago's poor south side. The project had been inspired by Alinsky and his methods of "community organizing" to improve the living conditions of the urban poor living in slums. In fact, Alinsky is considered the originator of the concept of "community organizers."
But any implication that Obama worked with Alinsky is absurd. Alinsky died in 1971. Barack Obama was 10 years old and just leaving his mother and step-sister behind in Indonesia to return to Hawaii to live with his grandparents and attend school there.
Newt and other resentful conservatives try to paint Alinsky as a Marxist and dangerous trouble-maker and enemy of our way of life. In truth, he never joined any organization, much less the Communist Party, declaring on one occasion that "Dogma is the enemy of freedom." His was a practical approach to achieving social justice for the underprivileged through skillful organizing of community groups into functioning projects and action movements.
Newt, who trots out his credentials as a history professor, is either ignorant or is cynically just playing the demagogue by waving the red flag of leftist radicalism. The truth is that Alinsky's work grew out of traditional grassroots democracy and institutional religion, especially Catholic social service groups. According to Michael Kazin, writing in the New Republic, Alinsky "frequently quoted Jefferson and Madison and had contempt for young leftists in the 1960s who disdained the American flag."
Two years before his death, Alinsky, a secular Jew, was awarded the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award by a Midwestern coalition of Catholic groups. Others who have won the award include: Martin Luther King, Jr., Bishop Desmond Tutu, and Mother Teresa -- the saintly community organizer of Calcutta.
What makes Newt's attempted smear of Obama even more ludicrous is that, according to Dan Savage, quoted by Andrew Sullivan in The Daily Beast:
Alinsky's advice -- "go home, organize, build power, [and] you be the delegates" -- is the strategy adopted by the American religious right and social conservatives of the 1980s."
They did just that and won majorities on local school boards and city councils -- and then began to get elected to state legislatures and Congress. All accomplished through the "radical" methods of "community organizing."
The lesson: Don't listen to Newt when he pretends to give you a history lesson. Freddie Mac paid $1.6 million, supposedly for Newt's "advice as a historian." It didn't seem to do them much good, either.