Sarah Palin: Attacks On Gingrich Are Stalinist And “Alinskyite”

Sarah Palin isn't running for President, and she hasn't officially endorsed anyone, but that hasn't stopped her from putting her thumb on the scale.

Not surprisingly, Newt Gingrich’s screeds in which he attacks the liberal media and identifies some unidentified “establishment” that he is somehow not a part of despite having been in Washington since 1979 are attracting the attention of that other professional grievance politician:

Newt Gingrich has a new unofficial campaign surrogate and her name is Sarah Palin.

As the 2008 veep nominee sees it, Gingrich is getting a raw deal from the national media and conservative elite, the very same forces who conspired against her when she was on the national ticket. Palin hasn’t endorsed Gingrich — and has no official role in his campaign — but she is repeatedly surfacing at just the right times on the national airwaves to vociferously defend him.

In her latest appearance, Palin stated: “Look at Newt Gingrich, what’s going on with him via the establishment’s attacks,” she said, though the original question was about Ron Paul. “They’re trying to crucify this man and rewrite history and rewrite what it is that he has stood for all these years.”

Palin then called conservative writer Peggy Noonan “hypocritical” for recently calling Gingrich an “angry little attack muffin.”

“They maybe subscribe such characterization of Newt via words like that, but they don’t subscribe those to say Mitt Romney when he or his surrogates do the same thing,” she said. “That’s that typical hypocrisy stuff in the media that I’ve lived with over a couple of decades in the political arena. So I’m used to it.”

“But in order to help educate the rest of the American public, I’ll articulate that it is hypocritical of the media to subscribe to one candidate and not another, that kind of angry attack muffin verbiage to one and not the other.”

Though she declined to run for president in 2012, Palin still has a devoted following among tea party conservatives. Despite her non-endorsement, her views on the race have become crystal clear as she has waged an insistent public campaign for Gingrich that can’t be mistaken for anything but support for the volatile speaker and his ideas. As has usually been the case with Palin, her exact motives remain a mystery. But it does seem like the two Republicans share a common bond in suspecting the media and Washington power brokers are biased against them.

When asked about Palin’s unofficial advocacy for him on Friday, Gingrich’s campaign had no comment.

But after Palin picked Gingrich in South Carolina, Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond told NBC News: “We think it’s a pretty darn clear call to arms.”

Earlier this week, when Romney supporter Chris Christie called Gingrich an embarrassment to the Republican Party, Palin suggested that the tough-talking New Jersey Governor had gotten his “panties in a wad.” Christe hasn’t responded to that yet but, if and when he does, I’m sure the words will be memorable. Palin’s latest attempt to insert herself into a race she declined to enter and put her Alaskan thumb on scale for Gingrich came Friday night in a post to her Facebook page (how else?) in which she decried the GOP primary season’s “cannibalism”:

What we saw with this ridiculous opposition dump on Newt was nothing short of Stalin-esque rewriting of history. It was Alinsky tactics at their worst.

But this whole thing isn’t really about Newt Gingrich vs. Mitt Romney. It is about the GOP establishment vs. the Tea Party grassroots and independent Americans who are sick of the politics of personal destruction used now by both parties’ operatives with a complicit media egging it on. In fact, the establishment has been just as dismissive of Ron Paul and Rick Santorum. Newt is an imperfect vessel for Tea Party support, but in South Carolina the Tea Party chose to get behind him instead of the old guard’s choice. In response, the GOP establishment voices denounced South Carolinian voters with the same vitriol we usually see from the left when they spew hatred at everyday Americans “bitterly clinging” to their faith and their Second Amendment rights. The Tea Party was once again told to sit down and shut up and listen to the “wisdom” of their betters. We were reminded of the litany of Tea Party endorsed candidates in 2010 that didn’t win. Well, here’s a little newsflash to the establishment: without the Tea Party there would have been no historic 2010 victory at all.

I spoke up before the South Carolina primary to urge voters there to keep this primary going because I have great concern about the GOP establishment trying to anoint a candidate without the blessing of the grassroots and all the needed energy and resources we as commonsense constitutional conservatives could bring to the general election in order to defeat President Obama. Now, I respect Governor Romney and his success. But there are serious concerns about his record and whether as a politician he consistently applied conservative principles and how this impacts the agenda moving forward. The questions need answers now. That is why this primary should not be rushed to an end. We need to vet this. Pundits in the Beltway are gleefully proclaiming that this primary race is over after Florida, despite 46 states still not having chimed in. Well, perhaps it’s possible that it will come to a speedy end in just four days; but with these questions left unanswered, it will not have come to a satisfactory conclusion. Without this necessary vetting process, the unanswered question of Governor Romney’s conservative bona fides and the unanswered and false attacks on Newt Gingrich will hang in the air to demoralize many in the electorate. The Tea Party grassroots will certainly feel disenfranchised and disenchanted with the perceived orchestrated outcome from self-proclaimed movers and shakers trying to sew this all up. And, trust me, during the general election, Governor Romney’s statements and record in the private sector will be relentlessly parsed over by the opposition in excruciating detail to frighten off swing voters. This is why we need a fair primary that is not prematurely cut short by the GOP establishment using Alinsky tactics to kneecap Governor Romney’s chief rival.

This is all, of course, classic Palin. Attack the “establishment” and the media while defending a Tea Party that she latched herself onto rather than actually helping to create. The irony of deploying that rhetoric in defense of a big government conservative whose record is about as far away from what the Tea Party claims to stand for as possible is apparently lost on the former Alaska Governor. The additional irony, though, is Palin accusing Gingrich’s critics of employing “Alinsky tactics” against the former Speaker. The Republican obsession with Saul Alinksy is something deserving of a post in itself, at least, but it doesn’t take much knowledge about the ideas of the late Chicago community organizer to know that the real Alinskyite in the Republican race is none other than Newton Leroy Gingrich:

Gingrich’s clashes against the establishment are classic Alinsky.

“The job of the organizer is to maneuver and bait the establishment so that it will publicly attack him as a ‘dangerous enemy,'” Alinsky wrote in “Rules for Radicals.” He went on to reveal that, “Today, my notoriety and the hysterical instant reaction of the establishment not only validate my credentials of competency but also ensure automatic popular invitation.”

Though Gingrich has spent several decades profiting from being part of the Washington establishment, the fact that he’s been attacked by so-called “elites” has become self-validating.

And the way he scolded CNN moderator John King in last Thursday’s South Carolina debate followed Alinsky’s 13th tactical rule, which states: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

Alinsky argued that a faceless target such as City Hall, or in this case, the mainstream media, isn’t as powerful of a target as individual person. And by “freeze it,” he meant that whoever the target is shouldn’t be allowed to pin the blame on somebody else.

King, as Fox’s Juan Williams did in the prior debate, allowed Gingrich to personalize his attack on the media. And when King tried to claim that it was another network, ABC, that had aired the interview with his ex-wife that had prompted the question about whether he had ever sought an “open marriage,” Gingrich froze the target.

“John, it was repeated by your network,” Gingrich hollered. “You chose to start the debate with it. Don’t try to blame somebody else.”

If anyone has been employing Alinsky tactics over the past four years it’s people like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, and they’ve ironically done it while making Alinsky himself one of their enemies even though he’s been dead for nearly 40 years.

Leaving aside the Alinsky arguments, though, Palin’s argument is just absurd. First of all, to the extent Newt Gingrich has been “attacked” he has been “attacked” with the truth, whether its about his personal life, his tendency to engage in wild flights of fancy disguised as public policy discussions, his tenure as Speaker, the manner in which he single-handedly sought to betray the very Contract With America he asked his fellow Republicans to sign, or his actions in the years after he left Congress in which he sought to profit off his access to the corridors of power and lobby for big government. If this is who Palin and the Tea Party have latched on to as their candidate, then they are even bigger frauds then I thought they were.

Second, drawing distinctions between the candidates is exactly what primaries are supposed to be about.  For some reason, it seems to be fine in the minds of Gingrich supporters like Palin for him to criticize Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum or Ron Paul, but when one of them, and most especially Romney and his surrogates, turns that same tactic back around and aims it at Gingrich, it somehow becomes “cannibalism” as Palin refers to it. This reminds one of the same kind of whining about the “Lamestream Media” that we have heard from Palin for years, along with a health dose of the blame she tried to cast on the McCain campaign staff for her own quite obvious failings as a Vice-Presidential candidate in her efforts to create an alternative history of the 2008 Presidential Campaign. If the “attacks” on Gingrich are truthful, and they have been, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with Romney and his supporters, or anyone else who happens to think that Newt Gingrich should not be the Republican nominee for President, from making them. It’s up to the voters to decide how to evaluate them. That is what democracy is all about, isn’t it?

Embrace the competition, candidates, that’s what politics is all about. As for Ms. Palin, well, one wonders when she will realize how irrelevant she’s actually become.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Democracy, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. anjin-san says:

    When you absolutely, positively want to scrape the bottom of the barrel and appeal to the lowest possible denominator, just say the magic word ‘Alinsky”. Of all the bizarre features of right wing politics, the obsession with Alinsky might just be the weirdest of the weird…

  2. michael reynolds says:

    Good for Sarah. I appreciate her efforts to keep this mudslinging contest going all the way to the convention. GOP establishment vs. Tea Party in a battle of attack ads. Mmmmm. Tasty.

    Now, what other major swing states can they take this to? Florida’s an excellent start. Nevada’s a bit small-bore. Ohio on Super Tuesday, that should be fun. Too bad Pennsylvania’s buried so late in the schedule.

  3. DRS says:

    I don’t really like Noonan but I can forgive a lot of the person who gave us the phrase “angry little attack muffiin”. Not exactly “Tippecanoe and Tyler too” but memorable none the less. And conjures up wonderful visual images.

    As for Palin, isn’t it kind of late to be trying help out Gingrich? He needs boots on the ground, phonebankers and door-knockers, not this kind of thing. Or is the idea that she’s written off Gringrich and is trying to put herself at the head of all his soon-to-be-intensely-ticked-off supporters when their candidate pulls out? Better luck in 2016?

  4. Brummagem Joe says:

    So Doug did you vote for this woman in 2008? She is irrelevant in a wider sense but her stature as a grievance politician doesn’t necessarily make her irrelevant with that large segment of the Republican base that is nursing grievances of one sort and another. What if horror of horrors if Gingrich ran a bull moose third party candidacy?

  5. Joe,

    I think I’ve made it clear here more than once that I didn’t vote for either of the major party candidates in 2008

  6. Brummagem Joe says:

    @DRS: “but I can forgive a lot of the person who gave us the phrase “angry little attack muffiin”.

    Actually Noonan is the archetypal Republican shill. Despite having been caught on a mike dissing Palin she was extolling the McCain/Palin presidential team. And now she’s back to trashing Palin. Total cynicism by one of the Republican establishment. Even though I don’t agree with them I can fully understand why all the Republican cannon fodder are ticked off

  7. grumpy realist says:

    ….and it never enters Sarah Palin’s tiny mind that the reason she lost was simply because she was incompetent. No. It’s always because of the Big Bad Media, or “THEM”, or the “Alinskyites.” Nope, nothing ever has to do with her own self.

    The whine of victimhood and self-pity from politicians like Palin and Gingrich is amazing. I’m also surprised that they don’t see the target they’re making of themselves. After all, if you can’t deal with Sean Hannity or Jon Stewart making fun of you, how are you going to stand up to something real, like negotiating with Vladimir Putin?

    (I’m probably thinking of Putin because I’m listening to Alla Pugacheva right now. God, I love that woman. Pop singer who had the balls to tell the Soviet authorities to piss off–and got away with it.)

  8. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Okay Doug I was trying to be smart but you take my point that a lot of people who were completely in the tank for Palin (who was and remains a total joke) but are now busy trashing her.

  9. Brummagem Joe says:

    Btw I wonder how many registered Republicans know who Saul Alinsky is? Not exactly Stalin is he?

  10. DRS says:

    Oh, I do agree with you, B-Joe. Most definitely she’s all that and more. But sometimes a phrase is classic and you have to give the originator some kudoes for it. I just love imagining a red-faced Gingrich sprinkled with poppy seed or shredded cocoanut…

  11. @Brummagem Joe:

    I think the key is the way the words “Saul Alinsky ” and “Alinskyite” evoke feeling from those who have never heard of the guy.

    NPR tells me Alinsky, whatever his strategies, was really looking for compromise and agreement … but what do they know. They’re probably “ites” of some kind themselves.

  12. @DRS:

    As for Palin, isn’t it kind of late to be trying help out Gingrich?

    Back when Gingrich could have been helped, it look liked Romney might actually win the White House. Palin new if that happened, Republicans would rally around him and that if she was seen as anti-Romney, here meal ticket would be gone.

    Now that it looks increasingly likely the Romney will win the nomination, but lose the campaign, she’s setting herself up to spend the next four years making the circuit and talking about how she warned us this was going to happen if Romney was the nominee.

    She doesn’t really care if Gingrich wins or loses; she just cares about where her money for the next four years is coming from.

  13. anjin-san says:

    “angry little attack muffiin” is a great line, though my sense is that Newt is the result of a controlled breeding experiment involving DNA from the Pillsbury Dough Boy and the Marquis de Sade…

  14. Scott O. says:

    Romney was in fact raised by Alinskyites, indoctrinated with the insidious philosophy from earliest childhood.

    Some are even saying Alinsky may be Mitt’s real father.

  15. Jim Henley says:

    The more I learn about the actual Saul Alinsky the more I like him.

  16. Herb says:

    Do you think that Sarah Palin could spot an” Alinsky tactic” if she saw it? Me neither….

    All Palin knows is that certain folks blanch at the name. And that’s all she needs.

  17. steve says:

    Herb wins the thread.


  18. merl says:

    @anjin-san: I think that when the teabaggers mention Alinsky and Soros what they mean is “those filthy jews”

  19. @Jim Henley:

    The funny part is that Alinsky wasn’t even a leftist in the way we use the term today. People tend to assume far more philosophical continuity to political parties than there actually is, so that when the see someone was a Democratic Party activist in the 50s, that they must be like Democratic Party activists today.

    But if you actually study what he believed, his anti-establishment populism is far closer to Sarah Palin’s views then they are to Obama’s.

  20. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    He’s a bogeyman, a bit the 10,000 communist in the state department that McCarthy claimed he could name. Be a good boy and go to sleep or Saul Alinsky will come and get you. Be a good boy and go to sleep or the communists will come and get you. Such is the American psyche.

  21. Barb Hartwell says:

    I`ll be looking forward to hearing what Christy comes back with on Palin

  22. @Barb Hartwell:

    Christy may not bother. If I were him, I would not.

  23. de stijl says:


    “They maybe subscribe such characterization of Newt via words like that, but they don’t subscribe those to say Mitt Romney when he or his surrogates do the same thing”

    You’re not smarter if you use big-boy words. But if you try to use big-boy words to appear smarter and then screw it up, you look like a total buffoon.

    Dollars to donuts, some aide used “ascribe” in her briefing and she latched onto it – or at least a reasonable facsimile.

  24. Jim Henley says:

    @de stijl: This is relevant to my interests and I would like to ascribe to your newsletter!

  25. An Interested Party says:

    Btw I wonder how many registered Republicans know who Saul Alinsky is?

    Please…I wonder how many of the Republican presidential candidates know who Saul Alinsky actually was…

  26. An Interested Party says:

    Speaking of Saul Alinsky

  27. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    @de stijl:

    “They maybe subscribe such characterization of Newt via words like that, but they don’t subscribe those to say Mitt Romney when he or his surrogates do the same thing”

    I cringed when I read that – because it’s one of my bugs as a writer: Echoes in copy. I’m very bad at that. I think the worst was when I wrote a distinctive phrase (“…savage criticism of the blah blah, or some such) twice in a three-page paper.

    Good writing is tough.

  28. A voice from another precinct says:

    without the Tea Party there would have been no historic 2010 victory at all.

    She’s right, the American people hardly ever catch a break at all.

  29. A voice from another precinct says:

    As for Ms. Palin, well, one wonders when she will realize how irrelevant she’s actually become.

    Well she’ll never realize it as long as the Lamestreamers and the Blogosphere keep giving her free publicity, that’s for sure!

  30. A voice from another precinct says:

    @Gold Star for Robot Boy: Odd you should mention repeating a distinctive phrase. When I was teaching my college composition students, I frequently encouraged them to repeat distinctive phrases (such as “the savage attack on blahblah”) specifically because they are distinctive, and as such, help keep the reader focused on the writer’s point. Part of the reason that Sarah is able to keep her fan base (beyond their looniness) is because she knows how to keep them focused on their anger.

    Your are right, though. Good writing is tough; particularly if you limit yourself by using rules such as “never start a sentence with ‘because'” or “never repeat a phrase if you can find another one to use in its place.” I frequently used a basic rule for true/false tests to help my students: any statement with the word “always” or “never” in it is probably false.

  31. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    @A voice from another precinct:

    Good writing is tough; particularly if you limit yourself…

    I’ve had different editors tell me: 1. Never use “you” in a lede; 2. Never begin a lede with a dependent clause. But in both instances, the exception to the rule worked.

    As I’m fond of saying, the English language is just an opinion.

  32. superdestroyer says:

    There are too many blogger, pundits, wonks and wannabes who just cannot seem to quit Sarah Palin.

    Sarah Palin is totally irrelevant but gives too many people an excuse to avoid real issues while writing about one of the most irrelevant people in the U.S. today.

  33. Brummagem Joe says:

    @superdestroyer: “Sarah Palin is totally irrelevant but gives too many people an excuse to avoid real issues while writing about one of the most irrelevant people in the U.S. today”

    But then who put this brainless nitwit on the public stage by attempting to place her a heartbeat away from the presidency? A certain reckless and incompetent party that shall remain nameless?