Thursday, January 22, 2009

Relationships built on self-interest

A number of bloggers have reproduced a photograph of Barack Obama at a blackboard, teaching something called Power Analysis, with a diagram captioned "Relationships built on self-interest". This is supposedly based on the work of Saul Alinsky.

See also

Before the election, bloggers strived to interpret this connection. Did it mean Obama was a closet radical, or a crafty pragmatist? If Alinsky was a socialist, did this mean Obama was also a socialist? If Alinsky was an amoral atheist, was Obama also?

Following the election, Obama's appointments were closely scrutinized for hints of policy. Was this person too close to Israel? Was that person too close to the banks?

But for most of us, watching Obama's opening moves is like watching a grandmaster playing chess. We don't yet know why he is putting a bishop here, or a castle there, but we have every reason to believe he has a pretty well-worked-out plan.

Hillary Clinton is also familiar with the work of Saul Alinsky, having written a student thesis on him [MSNBC, 9 May 2007]. Many sections of the US media like to portray the Clintons as manipulative and power-hungry, and this portrayal perhaps caused many Obama followers to fear that Clinton would somehow steal the nomination by devious means.

Following the nomination, some people (including Joe Biden, apparently) thought that Clinton ought to be the Vice President. But after eight years of cynical realpolitik in that post, it was perhaps time for an honest and simple Vice President.

In which role, then, does President Obama really need to deploy someone who is as clever and pragmatic as himself, who has read and understood Alinsky, and who can operate international realpolitik as a master? Step forward Secretary of State Hillary Rodman Clinton. As the popular song goes: I Wonder Who's Kissinger Now?

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