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Demonizing foes won’t help Newt

Updated: March 1, 2012 8:22AM



In Newt Gingrich’s alternative universe of “radical socialism,” Bernardine Dohrn reigns atop a pedestal on Mt. Olympus.

For weeks, the Republican presidential candidate has been stumping to “take back America.” He denounces President Barack Obama as a food stamp-loving socialist-commie-leftie-Saul Alinsky-acolyte. On the night of the Jan. 21 South Carolina primary, Gingrich claimed his 12-point victory by defining the presidential election as a battle between “two Americas.”

The choice, he exhorted, is between “the America of the Declaration of Independence. The America of Saul Alinsky. The America of paychecks. The America of food stamps. The America of independence. The America of dependence.”

He is running against Obama’s “brand-new secular, European-style bureaucratic socialist system.”

That Saturday evening, while Gingrich was bloviating at his grandiose best, that “other” America was shimmying, grooving and celebrating an icon.

At 70, Bernardine Dohrn remains a singular champion for social justice and human rights around the world. She’s not going anywhere.

The famed ’60s radical celebrated her 70th birthday at a hulking warehouse on West Wabansia, with a couple of hundred friends, family and fellow travelers.

The party was hosted by the right’s favorite demon, Bill Ayers, Dohrn’s husband and Weathermen partner. The partiers represented decades in the couple’s evolution from fervent radicals to doting grandparents.

Gingrich would have swooned at the sight. In attendance were (gasp) people of myriad races, ethnicities and ages socializing together. Blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians and (gasp again) Arabs. There were families and gaggles of children at gleeful play, infants and octogenarians.

I searched high and low, but detected no burning flags, no baby killers, no besotted pinkos. No one was wearing horns — in fact, the only horns in the joint were the brassy, sultry instruments of Japanese blues diva Yoko Noge and her band.

Dohrn may be a formidable thinker and activist, but a girl also wants to have fun. In honor of her 70th, she told me, she planned to get a tattoo of a breaching whale on her left shoulder.

The party was populated by prominent Chicago players including Adele Simmons, former president of the MacArthur Foundation; best-selling author Alex Kotlowitz; Columbia University scholar Rashid Khalidi, and Yuan-Qing Yu, violinist and assistant concertmaster with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

During the festivities, I followed Gingrich’s bombast via my Twitter feed and lamented how far we still have to go. Gingrich seems hell-bent on resurrecting the cockeyed demonization that dominated the 2008 presidential campaign.

Four years ago, Obama critics from Hillary Clinton to John McCain accused him of harboring a socialist, un-American agenda, spawned from his days as an Alinsky-inspired community organizer. As Chicago Sun-Times reporter Lynn Sweet noted last week, Alinsky was neither communist nor socialist. He was an authentic American populist.

Gingrich, the self-proclaimed “historian,” knows better. That ploy didn’t fly in 2008. It won’t now.



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