Monday, October 13, 2008

The Obama Acorn distraction

Brace yourselves. The GOP is in the home stretch of the smear campaign for the White House. McCain's Friday bombshell was an accusation of guilt by association: Obama is linked to a "front organization" for ACORN. This seems to be their counterpunch to "Phil Gramm and John McCain helped deregulate the entire financial sector so that greed could run amok and screw the middle class." Since their mob hate mongering and race baiting ran its course last week, they've moved on to "Obama is a socialist and a cheater and responsible for the financial crisis."

Curiously, what exactly ACORN is depends on the eye of the beholder. According to the Nation Magazine, ACORN is "the nation's largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families, with over 350,000 member families, organized into 800 neighborhood chapters, in 104 cities nationwide."

But according to Mona Charen, "ACORN is where Sixties leftovers who couldn't get tenure at universities wound up."

And in the words of Michele Malkin, "This left-wing group takes in 40 percent of its revenues from American taxpayers — you and me — and has leveraged nearly four decades of government subsidies to fund affiliates that promote the welfare state and undermine capitalism and self-reliance, some of which have been implicated in perpetuating illegal immigration and encouraging voter fraud."

And here's a scary description of Obama's work from Stephanie Block:
"In the 80s, he was the lead organizer of the Developing Communities Project, a campaign funded by Chicago’s south-side Catholic churches and formed on the organizing principles of Saul Alinsky. He spent another four years building an organization in Roseland and the nearby Altgeld Gardens public housing complex." (Eek! Beware of those socially radical Roman Catholics trying to live the principles of justice laid out by Old Testament prophets.)

Here's a really hilarious one from Stanley Kurtz in the Chicago Daily Observer, asserting that poor people and dark-skinned people and community organizers are to blame for the financial crisis, since they bullied banks into giving loans to folks who couldn't manage their personal finances:

"In the name of fairness to minorities, community organizers occupy private offices, chant inside bank lobbies, and confront executives at their homes – and thereby force financial institutions to direct hundreds of millions of dollars in mortgages to low-credit customers.

In other words, community organizers help to undermine the US economy by pushing the banking system into a sinkhole of bad loans. And Obama has spent years training and funding the organizers who do it."

Community organizers forced banks to make bad loans? Wow. I thought banks were responding to President Bush's call for the mythical "ownership society."

As this latest smear campaign unwinds, keep your eye on the ball and keep asking questions. Give it all the test of reasonableness. Nobody forced banks to make stupid loans. Nobody forced loan originators, who wanted to make fat commissions, to falsify documents so that folks who shouldn't have gotten loans did get loans. Community organizers didn't lobby Congress to deregulate the financial services industry.

But if the worst allegations are true we might all throw up our hands and scream running for the hills, "Oh my God! Obama helped poor people form local groups to advocate on their own behalf in the legal system, which is typically unavailable to them since they lack money and connections. He tried to empower them to help themselves and their communities through skillful means and yes...this was community organizing. AH!!"

Okay, so Obama wasn't in the pocket of the shadow banking sector. So he marched in protest of payday loans in Illinois. So he spent time advising people how to navigate the legal system. So he served as a role model in leadership training seminars.

What's the problem?