This post continues the series of chapter summations of Radical-In-Chief by Stanley Kurtz.
The book takes the reader into the world of Barack Obama prior to his emergence as a national figure. The Preface makes a bold opening statement. The chapters that follow are evidential arguments that substantiate the statement. The author’s documentation is exhaustive and the source attribution is impeccable. The source notes alone number 1,119 and take up 63 pages.
Obama’s Organizing; the Hidden Story
Obama relates his various activities in Dreams from My Father without using the real names of the people and organizations with whom he associated and worked. In the Preface to Dreams he explains “With the exception of my family and a few public figures, the names of most characters have been changed for the sake of their privacy.” Neither did Obama disclose the full nature of the community organizing activities in which he was engaged.
Following his six month stint with Nader, Obama went to Chicago to work as a community organizer under the mentorship of Greg Galluzzo. Galluzzo’s group, called The United Neighborhood Organization (UNO), wanted better penetration into the black community to expand UNO which was mostly Mexican. Responsibility for bringing in the black community was given to Barack.
UNO fought to have a new school be given the controversial name “Niños Heroes” in honor of 6 teenagers who died battling against the United States in 1847. UNO singled out one of the school board members and besieged his home. In another case, UNO opposed the building of a free medical clinic in a Hispanic neighborhood claiming the money should be spent on other causes. Once again UNO picked one individual, this time an elected official as a target around which to personalize and polarize the issue.
UNO’s tactics are instantly recognizable as classic examples of Saul Alinsky’s 13th rule for radicals “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”
Galluzzo realized “churches were the most significant pre-existing source of organized constituents.” So Obama was given the task of bringing in the churches but he wasn’t very successful at it. One priest is quoted as having said “[The organizers] are not interested in us…All they want to do is take over. It’s a political thing. And that’s not what this group [of ministers ] here is about.” Obama wrote about the priest in Dreams from My Father. He discredited the priest by describing him as a bigot and gave him the name “Rev. Smalls”.
In his autobiography, Obama tells of his work to get federal money to pay for a job creation center in Chicago. The program was called the Mayor’s Employment and Training Center, shortened to “The MET”. The center failed in its ostensible purpose of creating jobs and was closed after just three years. However, it was deemed a success by its organizers for two reasons, 1) it brought in federal money and 2) the local politicians were able to tell the community they had done something for them.
Barack worked with a partner in organizing the MET project. For Dreams the partner is given the alias “Rafiq” and described by Barack as an anti-American, anti-white, anti-Semitic black militant. While Obama works with Rafiq he distances himself from Rafiq’s radical views, but says he was willing to tolerate them if it helps “to change the rules of power.” Obama preferred to bring the same change by working within the capitalistic system rather than by overthrowing it
Asbestos and landfill concerns make ready issues around which community agitation can easily be built. Obama was active in both. A demonstration was organized and Chicago’s Housing Director was invited to address the crowd. When he arrived he was prevented from using a microphone. The crowd began chanting and when they turned militant the Housing Director fled in his car. Naturally the press covered it all. Organizers have two objectives for such events, either to win their demands or to enrage the crowd. The organizer’s demands were not met but when the official fled it enraged the crowd. Therefore the event was deemed to be a success.
School reform. Obama’s efforts at school reform never accomplished much, but it was not for lack of trying. He formed an organization called the Developing Communities Project (DCP) and this became the vehicle for the school reform program. The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Father Pfleger and someone named Anne Hallett were influential with educators and other community leaders. They all became members of the DCP School Advisory Board. Hallett went on later to assist Bill Ayers in running his brainchild, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge.
The first goal of the coordinated school reform plan was to transfer the power over the school system from the teachers unions to community organizations like ACORN, UNO and Obama’s own DCP. To that end, the DCP and Galluzzo’s UNO formed a coalition to strengthen their respective hands. The UNO method of operation was right out of Alinsky’s book. The coalition followed suit. For example, the coalition leaders gathered a sizable group of supporters and showed up at the door of a Chicago Board of Education meeting when it was already in progress. They demanded to be heard and were invited to present their plan. However, the coalition refused to do so unless every member of their group were allowed into the already crowded room, a demand they knew full well was impossible to fulfill. Thus they were able to claim the school board denied them a hearing. Community agitated. Community polarized. Mission accomplished.