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GOP jabs at Barack Obama, 'community organizer,' spark a reaction

September 5, 2008 |  9:37 am

After initially taunting Barack Obama about tire gauges, the message-makers for the just-concluded Republican National Convention segued to a new target -- that portion of his resume when he worked as a community organizer in some of Chicago's lower-income neighborhoods.

Several speakers made cracks about the job, none more memorably then the GOP's new vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, in her Wednesday night speech to an enthralled partisan throng.

Referring to her own background as the chief executive of Wasilla, Alaska, she said: "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities."

Clearly she (and her handlers) like the line: Palin just recycled it at a rally in Cedarburg, Wis., with John McCain.

For its part, the fraternity of community organizers are fighting back (after getting over what must have been the shock of hearing their chosen field singled out for ridicule).

Our colleague Frank James at The Swamp blog noted The Center for Community Change, a D.C.-based group that trains community organizers, quickly responded with a sharply worded statement. It said, in part, that when Palin "demeaned community organizing, she didn't attack another candidate. She attacked an American tradition --- one that has helped everyday Americans engage with the political process and make a difference in their lives and the lives of their neighbors."

And the New York Post has more quotes today from upset community organizers. Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, says: "I don't like seeing the really hard work that goes on in really poor communities being demeaned by cheap politicians."

Add this to the list of disputes in this campaign season that we didn't see coming.

-- Don Frederick