Obama and ACORN: A Love Story
Why did the president feign ignorance of ACORN when his relationship with the group goes back almost 20 years?
September 24, 2009 - 12:00 am
Given President Obama’s long and close ties to ACORN, it is understandable that he should have distanced himself as long as possible from the latest and most heinous ACORN scandal: the capture on video of employees in at least five different ACORN offices avidly coaching activists, posing as a pimp and prostitute, in how to set up child-prostitution brothels and commit housing fraud. In the latest of these undercover videos, one staffer went so far as to offer to assist in smuggling a dozen underage girls into the U.S. as sex slaves.
But this past weekend, when asked during an ABC interview about the videos, President Obama had no choice but to respond. What the videos reveal, he said, “was certainly inappropriate and deserves to be investigated.”
Backpedaling, he did not specify who should do the investigating and played down his knowledge of the organization and its misdeeds. “I didn’t even know,” he added, “that ACORN was getting a whole lot of federal money.” He went on to stonewall about whether he would support cutting off federal funds to the vast umbrella group (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, whose stated mission is to counsel low-income communities and which has received far upward of $53 million in taxpayer money).
Long before the latest scurrilous revelations, the organization had nationally gained a reputation for rampant voter-registration fraud; aggressive, even physical, shaking down of businesses; and, most recently, blatant tax-cheating.
Obama’s playing dumb about ACORN is disingenuous in the extreme. His longstanding activist, political, and financial connections to the group, as Stanley Kurtz showed prior to the presidential election, are wide and deep. Indeed, they constitute his most significant and enduring tie to the anti-capitalist and revolutionary “New Left” movement of the 1960s.
Sol Stern writes that ACORN sprang from “one of this movement’s silliest and most destructive groups, the National Welfare Rights Organization.” The NWRO’s strategy was to eliminate welfare requirements and overwhelm welfare offices with clients, simultaneously staging disruptions and sit-ins, in order to bring about “a radical reconstruction of America’s unjust capitalist economy.”
Obama could have only been buying into this vision by intimately allying himself with ACORN and its ilk over the years.
In his pre-law school years as a community organizer in Chicago, Obama was brought into ACORN’s orbit by the group’s city leader Madeleine Talbot, who recruited him into training her own staff. Though some years after Obama’s early organizing work, it was Talbot who masterminded a display of what radicals term “direct action”: she and her fellow activists stormed a session of the Chicago City Council, preventing participants from entering the session. Afterward, taken off in handcuffs and charged with disorderly conduct and mob action, she stoutly defended the organization’s strong-arm tactics.