Point of View Columns

The “Failure” of the Obama Administration

What do Donald Trump, Cornel West, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Tavis Smiley have in common? When it comes to any analysis or judgment about the Obama Administration they drift into a fact-free universe where they can criticize without consequence. It is certainly the right of these men to wander in a world of fantasy, but when they presume to lead and influence close to a third of a billion people they become downright dangerous.

In using the word “failure” or inferring it, Trump, West, Cruz, Rubio and Smiley would have anyone who would listen believe that there has been little or nothing of value about the seven years of President Obama’s tenure. Trump, Cruz and Rubio, true to the Teapublican mantra over the past seven years, have played the role of truth deniers when it comes to the 44th president because that suits their political ambitions.

Professor West and Mr. Smiley approach President Obama in a slightly different and bizarrely nuanced fashion. By referring to him as a “lap dog”, damning him as not being a “revolutionary” and claiming that insofar as black people are concerned he has been a terrible president, these black men seem to find some noble purpose in demeaning and degrading the legacy of the first African American President of the United States, even though facts serve as sharp pins in their hot air balloons.

Here are some facts regarding the so-called “failure” of the Obama Administration:

• When Barack Obama took office in January of 2009 we were witness to the not so slow motion collapse of the global financial universe. Major banks (Washington Mutual, for example) and major investment banking firms (Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers, for example) virtually evaporated before our eyes. Shares of Citibank were selling for less than a dollar and the deaths of General Motors, Chrysler and Ford Motor Company were presumed to be imminent.

• In the first six months of 2009 Americans were losing their jobs at a monthly rate of 750,000 and the national unemployment rate was 9% and rising fast.

• Fully implementing the Troubled Asset Protection Program (TARP) the Obama Administration stabilized a financial services industry that was tottering from self-inflicted wounds. That financial services industry is now robust and achieving historic profits. There is no one on Wall Street who has been cashing fat bonus checks over the past seven years or the owner of shares in a major bank who honestly believes that the Obama Administration is a “failure”.

• Providing leadership that led to the passage of the $819 billion Stimulus Package, the Obama Administration literally rescued the American auto industry as well as the related industries resulting millions of jobs being saved.

• There have now been 70 consecutive months of private sector job growth creating 14 million jobs. The unemployment rate is now 5% and last year the automobile industry sold over 17 million vehicles – an historic record. There are 14 million Americans with newly created jobs who could argue with the Trump, West, Cruz, Rubio, Smiley team when they talk about the “failure” of the Obama Administration. And the same can be said for the still employed auto workers who are riding the crest of an historic industrial wave in their industry.

• The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has provided healthcare to over 17 million Americans who didn’t have healthcare. We should ask the Trump, West, Cruz, Rubio, Smiley team to speak to the parents of a sick child who now has care thanks to Obamacare and ask them about “failure”. And Professor West and Mr. Smiley should take special care to note that Obamacare has resulted in major improvements in the health of the national black community – another “failure” in their eyes one can be sure.

• The Obama Administration led the push to pass the Dodd-Frank Act, an historic re-regulation of the financial services industry. The most comprehensive legislation of its type since the Glass-Steagall Act during the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt (presumably another “failure” in on the Planet Trump-West-Cruz-Rubio-Smiley).

• President Obama has issued historic executive orders aimed at dismantling the system of mass incarceration that has imprisoned millions of Americans and eviscerated black communities throughout this country. Another “failure” only in the eyes of those who refuse to see.

This is not to suggest that there have not been mistakes and shortcomings on the record of the Obama Administration. But to suggest that it is a “failure” is to ignore facts and deny both history and the facts.

In a world of ordinary people, there are less than extraordinary people who seem to believe that they can change history by denying it. But when history books are written a century from now, Barack Obama will be recognized as an historic icon while Trump, West, Cruz, Rubio and Smiley will be footnotes to footnotes –and that will be one more thing that they will have in common

Point of View Columns

Canadian Sunrise – The Saga of Ted Cruz

Much has been written about the immutable Law of Unintended Consequences. Prodigious effort can result in unexpected results, sometimes good, sometimes not so good. As the 2016 campaign season goes into full swing it is clear that a leading Teapublican prince and heir apparent to the Crown of Reagan, is being caught up in birther blight, a political tar baby that the right wing of the right wing used in a vain attempt to discredit Barack Obama. But look who is getting discredited now.

When trying to understanding Teapublican strategies it is useful to check your logic and common sense at the door. Once down their rabbit hole, it is easier to understand how otherwise intelligent men and women seriously believed that if the issue of his birthplace and citizenship could be incessantly challenged in an off the wall fact free fashion, Barack Obama could be driven from office.

The inevitable outcome of this farcical impossible dream never was a problem for Teapublicans. After all, over 40% of them still believe that President Obama is a Muslim and over 25% are certain that he is the anti-Christ. The politics of character demolition have become an art form of the right wing of the right wing.

The problem for Teapublicans is that once these bizarre tactics are put into play they can be used by anybody against anybody. And so, the Grand Birther of All Time, the serially discredited Donald Trump is now playing the birther card against the Teapublican golden boy, Ted Cruz.

Ted Cruz managed to get elected as Texas State Attorney General and United States Senator in the state of Texas without the bona fides of his citizenship ever being called into question. Presumably it was not too hard to find out that Senator Cruz was born in Canada and that while his father was not a U.S. citizen, his mother (who was born in Delaware) certainly was a “natural born citizen”.

But now, residents of the right wing of the right wing who delighted in the almost daily citizenship hoots and birther catcalls directed against Barack Obama find themselves on the receiving end of these salvos, courtesy of the one and only Donald Trump. Supporters of President Obama probably have to restrain themselves from savoring the irony of a Teapublican candidate trying to prove that he is indeed a citizen and eligible to be President of the United States even though he was born in Canada – because his mother was a natural born American citizen.

The irony is all the more delicious since the birther narrative directed against President Obama did not call into question the citizenship of his mother (who was a natural born citizen and a native of Kansas). Instead the attack was based upon the contention that he wasn’t born in Hawaii but instead was born in Kenya, Indonesia or Mars.

But following the Cruz Birther Defense, where Barack Obama was born should never have been an issue as long as his mother, Ann Dunham Obama was born in Kansas. But, of course, neither Ted Cruz nor any of his defender/supporters ever raised this defense of President Obama and true to form, Donald Trump never even thought about Mrs. Obama being a “natural born citizen”.

So now we are witness to more confusion and controversy on the right wing of the right wing, much of it instigated by Donald Trump. Donald Trump’s goal has always been to distract and confuse his opposition while he sucks the media oxygen out of the Teapublican room. His rivals are left gasping for attention while the serious issues of the day are reduced to slogans, mottos, logos and catch phrases, without a serious policy or plan in sight.

Ted Cruz has said that he never had a Canadian passport. However, after he gets fully Trumped by Trump he may want to retreat north of the border to watch a few Canadian sunsets. His U.S. passport should still be valid when he returns, even if he never manages to become President of the United States.

Point of View Columns

Bill Cosby is not Emmett Till

The end of 2015 presented the sad and pathetic spectacle of Bill Cosby doing the Montgomery County, Pennsylvania version of the “perp walk” as the first criminal charges for sexual misconduct were formally filed against him. This comes after half a hundred women have publicly alleged all manner of sexual transgressions have been committed by this formerly iconic public figure. And now the real controversy begins.

Given the legal reality that Mr. Cosby is innocent until proven guilty – beyond a reasonable doubt – there is certainly no direct path to prison being paved especially for him. And given the very real and deep psychological factors at work in female and male victims of sexual assault, it should be understood that the timelines for such victims to come forward to confront their attackers can be fundamentally different from that of a victim of say, robbery or assault.

Of course this is the United States of America, a country founded on the institution of race-based slavery. We live in a country that is still shackled to its racist past and there is no post-racist present. And, because Bill Cosby is an American of African descent, there is no way that racial factors will not be a part of the narrative that is now being played out in real time.

And as this narrative plays out questions are being asked and assertions are being made in various precincts in the national black community to the effect that Mr. Cosby is being treated unfairly because he is black. Here are a few of these/questions assertions with some suggested responses/observations:

1. Bill Cosby is a victim – he is only being prosecuted because the “system” is choosing to bring down yet another prominent black man. While the American system of justice is undoubtedly unfair to black Americans far too often –witness the crime within a crime of mass incarceration and racially disproportionate sentencing – that is not the problem here. Before the issue of race, the issue of class should be examined. Bill Cosby is a very wealthy and very prominent man. These kinds of charges are rarely brought against members of this class. But a brief survey of America’s prisons will reveal more than a few members of this class charged with all manner of criminal conduct, most of them white, who are wearing orange jumpsuits for long periods of time.

2. If he were white these charges never would have been brought. As noted, there are white millionaires in prison who would strenuously disagree. Since Bill Cosby is black there is a reflex response in the national black community that something unfair must be going on – but the virtual blizzard of accusations certainly warrant examination by the criminal justice system – then very subjective discretion comes into play – as it does in all criminal cases.

3. The charges against Bill Cosby are so old they are calcified, therefore it is unfair to prosecute him. There are entire libraries full of books and articles describing the various responses of victims of sexual crimes. There are no standards in the world of these victims. Their allegations may never be proven – but to diminish them because of time factors is simply ignorant.

What is important about this l’affaire Cosby is that because it is viewed through the lens of the reality of race and law in America, defenders of Bill Cosby may be erroneously putting him in the category of the many thousands of black Americans who are unjustly accused, overcharged and over sentenced virtually every day of every year.

Simply put, unlike Emmett Till or Eric Garner or Tamir Rice or Geronimo Pratt, Bill Cosby should not be the symbol of racial injustice. To do so tarnishes the painful legacies of Till, Garner, Rice, Pratt and so many others – so many others who deserve better than Bill Cosby as their avatar.