John Fund on “Obama’s Chicago Way”

May 30, 2013

An interesting –and frustrating– article by John Fund today about how the roiling scandals of the Obama administration are finally beginning to convince journalists that, instead of a Unicorn Prince who would deliver us all to an age of enlightened progressivism that actually worked, what we got (and they moved heaven and earth to elect) was a national version of the Chicago machine:

The scandals swirling around the Obama administration have many journalists scratching their heads as to how “hope and change” seem to have been supplanted by “arrogance and fear.” Perhaps it’s time they revisit one of their original premises about Barack Obama: that he wasn’t influenced by the Chicago Daley machine. You know: the machine that boosted his career and whose protégés — including Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod, Rahm Emanuel, and his wife, Michelle — he brought to Washington with him.

The liberal take on the president was best summed up by Slate magazine’s Jacob Weisberg, who wrote last year that Obama “somehow passed through Chicago politics without ever developing any real connection to it.” It’s true that Obama initially kept some distance from the machine. But by the time he ran for the Senate in 2004, his main political Sherpas were Axelrod, who was then the chief consultant to Mayor Richard M. Daley, and Jarrett, the mayor’s former deputy chief of staff. As Scott Simon of NPR noted: “While calling for historic change globally, [Obama] has never professed to be a reformer locally.” The Daley machine, which evolved over 60 years from a patronage-rich army of worker bees into a corporate state in which political pull and public-employee unions dominate, has left its imprint on Obama. The machine’s core principle, laid out in an illuminating Chicago Independent Examiner primer on “the Chicago Way,” is that at all times elections are too important to be left to chance. John Kass, the muckraking columnist for the Chicago Tribune who for years has warned that Obama was bringing “the Chicago way” to Washington, sums up his city like this: “Once there were old bosses. Now there are new bosses. And shopkeepers still keep their mouths shut. Tavern owners still keep their mouths shut. Even billionaires keep their mouths shut.”

“We have a sick political culture, and that’s the environment Barack Obama came from,” Jay Stewart, the executive director of the Chicago Better Government Association, warned ABC News when Obama ran in 2008. He noted that Obama had “been noticeably silent on the issue of corruption here in his home state.”

Part of the frustration I mentioned is that so many tried to tell the press that this guy could not have arisen from Chicago’s corrupt political culture without being dirtied himself by it — indeed, becoming part of it. Fund quotes several, and I’d add to that Michelle Malkin who, I think, coined “Chicago on the Potomac” to describe the Obama administration, and David Freddoso, whose “The Case Against Barack Obama” accurately laid out in 2008 what we’re now seeing take place under the bright lights of the national stage…. but too few paid any attention.

Where I think Fund, or, more accurately, journalist Chris Robling, whom he quotes, is off the track a bit is where we see this:

“Obama’s ideology may come from Saul Alinsky’s acolytes, but his political tactics come straight from the Daley playbook.”

…as if they’re separate streams. Actually, it’s more like they sprang from the same poisoned well; Daley and Alinsky may share the same political tactics, but Alinsky added the leftism, putting the urge to power at the service of an ideology. There’s a good article at Breitbart, “The Community Organizer in Chief, Part One: The Alinsky Ethics.” Worth reading for its own sake, Lee Stranahan quotes this gem from Alinsky’s Playboy interview:

Alinsky then goes on to boast about his association with the Chicago Mob, including Al Capone and Frank “The Enforcer” Nitti, who Alinsky says he called “The Professor.” Alisnky approached the criminals under the guise of doing student research. Nitti and the other mobsters not only accepted Alisnky but actually revealed everything about their operation to him. This included extortion and murder. 

“PLAYBOY: Didn’t you have any compunction about consorting with — if not actually assisting — murderers?

ALINSKY: None at all, since there was nothing I could do to stop them from murdering, practically all of which was done inside the family. I was a nonparticipating observer in their professional activities, although I joined their social life of food, drink and women: Boy, I sure participated in that side of things — it was heaven. “

Now there’s a moral precept for you; when there are no men, be thou an observer who shares food, drink and women. 

Alinsky continues:

“And let me tell you something, I learned a hell of a lot about the uses and abuses of power from the Mob, lessons that stood me in good stead later on, when I was organizing.”

So is revealed the real face of Community Organizing for you: the ethics of Al Capone.

The ethics of Al Capone (just under a more respectable guise with the Daleys) blended with Alinskyite Socialism and taken to Washington, D.C.

Obama’s “Chicago Way.”