Former Reporter Jay Carney Recalls ‘Bombast’ During Gingrich Era on Capitol Hill

Jan 23, 2012 2:10pm

White House press secretary Jay Carney today fondly recalled his days as a journalist covering then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Asked by Fox News Channel’s Ed Henry about Gingrich’s continued suggestion that President Obama is “a classic Saul Alinsky radical,” Carney said, “have I said how much fun I had as a reporter covering Congress from 1996 to 1998? There was a certain bombast to it at the time. A lot of colorful things to cover.”

Carney covered Capitol Hill for TIME Magazine, working his way up to bureau chief, until he left journalism to join the Obama Administration. (Here’s a Carney golden oldie from 1998 called “Newt’s Secret Plan: To Stay Right Where He Is.” )

The author of “Rules for Radicals,” Alinsky, who died in 1972, is considered the father of modern community organizing – the first profession of President Obama.

Alinsky believed in teaching the disenfranchised to confront those in power. “‘The Prince’ was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power,” Alinsky wrote. “‘Rules for Radicals’ is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away.”

A number of Alinsky protégés hired Mr. Obama to organize African-Americans on Chicago’s South Side, as the Washington Post’s Peter Slevin covered in 2007.  In 2009, an Alinsky biographer told NPR of the president’s 2008 race that “the organizers’ manual for the camp Obama training during the campaign was very much based on the teachings of Saul Alinsky and his disciples…. It’s pretty accurate to say we have a community organizer in the White House who really learned a lesson on the streets of Chicago.”

No doubt hyper-aware of how Alinsky’s very liberal views might play with independent and moderate voters, President Obama has not publicly discussed Alinsky. (Though in 1988, for an Illinois Issues volume on Alinksy, Obama wrote an essay titled “Why organize? Problems and promise in the inner city.”) Carney today begged off addressing the subject head on.

“The president’s background as a community organizer is well documented in the president’s own books,” Carney said. “So his experience in that field obviously contributed to who he is today. But his experience is a broad-based one that includes a lot of other areas…in his life, so I’ll just leave it at that.”

-Jake Tapper

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