Has Mitt been reading Alinsky (or Breitbart)?

In the movie Patton, George C. Scott oversees the end of the German threat in North Africa. After the defeat of American troops at Kasserine Pass, Patton was placed in charge of II Corps. At El Guettar, Patton reversed the fortune of II Corps, routing the Germans. In the film, Scott says of his familiarity with Greman tactics, well taught by Erwin Rommel (who had by this time been recalled to Germany, to Patton’s consternation):

Rommel…you magnificent bastard. I read your book!

I bring this point up because of last night’s debate in Denver, where Mitt Romney won a reasonable victory over a continually frustrated President Obama. To the consternation of the media sycophants that had enabled the President’s poor performance (but that’s for another post).

In the days leading up to this first debate, “sources” suggested that Romney had been practicing multiple “zingers” which would be used if the time was right. To the untrained eye, much of this appears to have been a fabrication; in retrospect, however, Romney not only exposed the low-information voters tuning in (and there were some among the 70 million who tuned in) and those exposed only to the Presidents prism of Romney to a perspective on the man, but snuck in one small but significant zinger which makes one thing perfectly clear:

Romney, or his debate prep team, have either been reading Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, or Andrew Breitbart’s exposure of Alinsky’s rules in his book Righteous Indignation. Let’s look at some of Alinksy’s rules to see where Romney applied them in the debate:

RULE 3: “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty.

By nature, the entirety of the first segment – on taxes, generation of revenue, and the benefits of and methods for growing the pie – were outside the comfort zone of the President. His answer to this was to drag the segment on and on, in a futile effort to tie Romney to a $5 Trillion tax cut – one for which Romney had no plan (and he had to remind that his plan called for lowering rates in conjunction with loophole closure. The fact that OfA spokesperson Stephanie Cutter was called to the mattresses on this topic by CNN Thursday showed the futility of the President fighting (futilely) another rule. First rule of holes, Mister President: Stop. Digging.

RULE 2: “Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone.

Another, and perhaps more telling (and in the long run more useful) place where Romney kept Obama fighting Rule 3 (and where he kept himself within the confines of Rule 2) was in his discussion of the bipartisan passage of Romneycare. You remember Romneycare? It was the reason so many conservatives fought Romney’s nomination. They feared Obama would use it as a lever and that it would discourage support for Romney.

So what happened? The decisive moment came near the end of the debate, in a quick to-and-fro on how each candidate Would deal with partisan gridlock. Romney discussed his election, as a Republican governor in a state where 87 percent of state legislators were Democrats. He then went on to discuss the passage of Romneycare, which received all but two votes in the legislature; Romney used this as an opportunity to browbeat the President on the passage of the Affordable Care Act, about his lack of bipartisanship in passing the bill. Obama’s response was telling, and utterly illogical:

…and Governor Romney, at the beginning of this debate, wrote and said, what we did in Massachusetts could be a model for the nation. And I agree that the Democratic legislators in Massachusetts might have given some advice to Republicans in Congress about how to cooperate, but the fact of the matter is, we used the same advisers, and they say it’s the same plan.

In case you missed the flow of the discussion:

Romney said he worked across the aisle with a majority to craft a bipartisan measure acceptable to the majority and the minority.

President “I won” then said that the minority in Congress could’ve learned quite a bit from what the majority in the Massachusetts legislature did.

Really?

Seriously?!?

You got that?

Three-dimensional chess. Right, Mr. President.

Two rules, and one zinger, to go.

RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.

RULE 6: “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones.

This one is almost as subtle as the President’s logical GAAAAFE above, and even more important. For the first time Wednesday I heard Mitt use the phrase “trickle-down government”. Since the time of Reagan, Democrats have used the phrase “trickle-down economics” as a cheap point of rhetoric that satisfies rules five and six. Their partisans love to use it in derision.

By turning it around and pointing it at the shiny happy Byzantine collection of government employees, public employee unions, and the vast set of rules and regulations they enforce, using the same language the left has used to deride free enterprise for three decades, Mitt satisfied not only rules five and six – I for one love the phrase – but also rules ten and twelve:

RULE 10: “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.” Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog.

RULE 12: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.

Romney has placed our massive government, the collection of things it buys for the well-connected, up to be laughed at. With gallows humor, for our children cannot afford to know what we bought with their inheritance.

I don’t know who was reading Breitbart (who called out the rules in Righteous Indignation) or who read Alinsky directly. But I know someone did. And that’s good enough for me.

Good job, Mitt. Keep it up.

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