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Center for Policy Studies

Public Affairs Discussion Group

Obama and Alinsky, or: What Happens When a President Thinks Like a Community Organizer

Justin Vaughn, Ph.D. - Assistant Professor of Political Science at Cleveland State University
Friday April 27, 2012
12:30-1:30 p.m.
Dampeer Room
Kelvin Smith Library
Case Western Reserve University

Dear Colleagues:

During his brief time leading the polls for the Republican nomination for President, Newt Gingrich charged that President Obama is "the most dangerous president of our lifetime" as a "Saul Alinsky radical." Investors Business Daily has editorialized that CNN is part of a "partisan press" that has helped Obama "whitewash his radical past" by turning a "Blind Eye to Obama-Alinsky Ties."

Meanwhile, much of the U.S. left seems to think President Obama has been an overly-compromising moderate. Is this difference in views of Obama simply a difference in views about policy? That's part of the story - what looks to liberals like an extremely moderate and compromised effort to extend health insurance, based on conservative proposals from the 1990s, is being attacked as a far-left takeover of health care. But Justin Vaughn argues that something more interesting is also going on: that Obama's background as a community organizer, rather than making him a fire-breathing socialist, helps explain the moderate methods that bother the left and are unacknowledged by the right.

This Friday is the final installment of the Public Affairs Discussion Lunch for the 2011-12 academic year. I would like to thank the leadership and staff of Kelvin Smith Library for hosting us so nicely in the Dampeer Room. Gina Midlik and Angela Sloan have been extremely helpful with the weekly arrangements. I am especially grateful to Dr. Andrew Lucker, Associate Director of the Center for Policy Studies. Andrew produces this weekly newsletter, encourages me to get the programs organized, and solves an endless variety of problems. Dr. Lucker is responsible for the contacts with KSL that led to our being hosted for this year, and I cannot imagine how we would organize the Friday Lunch, or much else that the CPS does, without him. I cannot thank him enough, but this is a start. Last but not least, I would like to thank all the speakers and especially the audience-participants who make the Friday Lunch a fine part of our CWRU community. Many thanks for participating.

We will resume discussions on August 31, the first Friday of Fall semester, 2012. But please do not reject any e-mails before then as spam. Something interesting might turn up.

All best regards,
Joe White
Luxenberg Family Professor of Public Policy and Director, Center for Policy Studies

About Our Guest...

Dr. Justin Vaughn is an assistant professor of political science in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at Cleveland State University. His area of expertise is the American Presidency. Dr. Vaughn has been a member of the Executive Council of the Presidency Research Section of the American Political Science Association and served as a presidential fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency. He has authored several studies of presidential politics, including papers recently published in Presidential Studies Quarterly, Political Research Quarterly, International Journal of Public Administration, Review of Policy Research, Administration & Society, and White House Studies. His current research projects include examinations of the role popular culture plays in shaping the presidential image, empirical analyses of management theory as applied to the inner workings of the White House, and the linkages between presidential rhetoric and administrative strategy on salient domestic policy issues, such as the war on drugs and AIDS. He is also currently working on a book about the rise of presidential policy czars and editing volumes on the rhetoric of Barack Obama and the linkage between popular culture, gender, and the American presidency. He has done numerous interviews with media outlets, including the New York Times, Politico, the Christian Science Monitor, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Toledo Blade, the Patriot News (Pennsylvania), the Star-Ledger (New Jersey), La Presse (Canada), Nikkei (Japan), BBC, Al Jazeera, Australian Public Television, Ceska Televize (Czech Television), Swedish National Radio, Danish Broadcasting, WKYC-Cleveland, KCBS-San Francisco, WCPN-Cleveland, WBT-Charlotte, and election night analysis of the 2008 presidential election for the Cleveland FOX affiliate. He earned his Ph.D. in Political Science at Texas A&M University.

Where We Meet

The Friday Public Affairs Lunch convene each Friday when classes are in session in the Dampeer Room of Kelvin Smith Library from 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm. The Dampeer Room is on the second floor of the library. If you get off the elevators, turn right, pass the first bank of tables, and turn right again. Occasionally we need to use a different room; that will always be announced in the weekly e-mails.

Parking Possibilities

The most convenient parking is the lot underneath Severance Hall. We regret that it is not free. From that lot there is an elevator up to street level (labeled as for the Thwing Center); it is less than 50 yards from that exit to the library entrance. You can get from the Severance garage to the library without going outside. Near the entry gates - just to the right if you were driving out - there is a door into a corridor. Walk down the corridor and there will be another door. Beyond that door you'll find the entrance to an elevator which goes up to an entrance right inside the doors to Kelvin Smith Library.
April 23, 2012

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Our Programming Is Available Online

In addition to our Friday Public Affairs Lunch discussions, the Center for Policy Studies at Case Western Reserve University produces separate public affairs programming throughout the year. We strive to make this programming available online for those of you who are unable to attend these campus programs. You can watch our programming on the Center for Policy Studies web site or by visiting one our associated online sites at:




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