Point of View Columns

The Obamas – A Real Class Act

As the Obama Administration heads into the final lap of its eight year term, it is time for retrospectives to begin. And we can begin with the fact that, even after all the mudslinging and flaming arrows aimed at the President and Mrs. Obama; they have Stayed Strong and continue to Be Great. They have epitomized the concept of “grace under fire” – one more thing for which little credit is given to Barack and Michelle Obama.

Consider the First Lady’s remarks at the recent Jackson State University commencement ceremonies:

“When I hear words like dignity and excellence, I think about my husband … As I’ve walked this journey with Barack, I’ve gotten a pretty good look at what it means to rise above the fray, what it means to set your eyes on the horizon, to devote your life to making things better for those who will come after you. I have seen how, no matter what kind of ugliness is going on at any particular moment, Barack always stays the course …”

Much has been written about the substantive and institutional accomplishments of President Obama – the Affordable Healthcare Act and the introduction of a national health care system – the Dodd Frank Act and the initiation of the most ambitious reformation of the financial services system in almost ninety years and, of course, the salvation of the American economy in 2009. These items are historic and undeniable.

More subtle, and perhaps more important, has been the ability of President and Mrs. Obama exhibiting grace and class under the most intense pressure imaginable. Being called a “liar” from the floor of Congress or doubt being cast on the patriotism and Christianity of the President has been bad enough. Being called “shiftless” by the Sarah Palin, the Wicked Witch of the West must have been galling.

Being assailed on the “birther” issue by a carnival barker like Donald Trump might have been laughable for the first week or so, but after the first year the racist fumes of this noxious assault must have been revolting. But Barack and Michelle Obama stayed the course.

And for those who would say that in the 21st century the Obamas do not have any particular responsibility to establish respect for black America or represent black dignity in America I would suggest that they should take a closer look the next time they go shopping. Aunt Jemima is still on that pancake box, Uncle Ben is still on that box of rice and the Gold Dust Twins are still selling flour in the next aisle.

The sordid reality is that in the 21st century relics of black minstrelsy and slavery are still acceptable in the marketplace and so it should come as no shock that dignity and respect for black Americans are goals that have yet to be achieved. The First Family did not seek the responsibility of countering these charmless images, but just by being they have done so.

And so it is important that Barack and Michelle Obama have been able to maintain a stable marriage and raise two teenage daughters in the pressure cooker that is the American presidency, giving many white Americans (and some black Americans), a vision that they can only imagine. Given all the negative statistics regarding the pathologies attendant to black families, this First Family opens the door to the truth that stable and positive black families can and do exist in these days and times.

There will always be the black naysayers who want Barack Obama to “act more like a brother”. But history will show that what was important was that he and his wife acted like a man and woman with class and charm and dignity.

And that says a lot in these days and times.

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Point of View Columns

A History Lesson for Supporters of Bernie Sanders

As the Democratic presidential campaign moves from a New York State of Mind towards the inevitable Finale in Philly, it is quite possible that Hillary Clinton might be experiencing a sense of déjà vu – every time she runs for President a little known but charismatic senator comes out of nowhere to challenge her for the nomination. Except this time it looks like she is going to come out as the winner and supporters of Bernie Sanders are not happy – and that is why it is time for a history lesson.

Many supporters of the Vermont senator are passionate in their belief that he is a leader who will bring about “real change” in “the system”. Indeed, Bernie Sanders himself is calling for a “revolution”. And it is pretty clear that if revolution is the goal a moderate progressive like Hillary Clinton is going to seem like weak tea after swigging Red Bull Bernie ideology.

The dismay in supporting a losing candidate is understandable and commendable in a very real sense. It is good when people believe in positive change in this country. What is not commendable, what is both pernicious and dangerous, is when some Sanders followers say that the differences between Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders are so profound that they would rather vote for Donald Trump so that the revolution that they seek will occur sooner- out of the rubble that a Trump presidency would create.

Susan Sarandon, a prominent Sandersphile, has actually articulated the Trump alternative to Sanders supporters and Susan Sarandon should know better. As a millionaire many times over, she will not suffer one bit if Trump or Rafael Cruz or John Kasich become President and follow the Teapublican playbook and begin to dismantle the governmental apparatus and infrastructure. Additionally, since she was 22 years old in 1968, Susan Sarandon is old enough to know better.

In 1968 there was a tremendous amount of passion flowing through the Democratic Party. The Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that he would not run for reelection in large part because of the raging opposition to the war in Vietnam, much of that opposition led by Democratic Senator Eugene McCarthy. Senator Robert F. Kennedy also entered the fray and brought with him the passion of a Restoration, in this case restoring the Kennedy Camelot that had been blasted to pieces in Dallas just five years earlier.

Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon Johnson’s Vice President was also a Democratic candidate and he was viewed by the raging McCarthy supporters and the passionate Kennedy supporters as a status quo agent of the “establishment” and absolutely unacceptable. And then this boiling political cauldron became superheated.

First, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis in April of 1968. The national black community, a major cohort in the Democratic Party after the passage of the Civil Rights of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, was outraged and tried to burn many of America’s cities to the ground. Then Robert Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles in June of 1968. And with his death dreams of the Restoration of Camelot evaporated and Kennedy’s followers were despondent.

Then came the Democratic Convention in Chicago with the police sanctioned violence and storms of political protest generated when supporters of Kennedy and McCarthy clashed with the police. The ensuing catastrophe of carnage was broadcast worldwide and “Chicago” became the synonym for Democratic disaster and dysfunction.

And out of the ashes of that convention Humphrey emerged as the party’s wounded nominee. And many supporters of McCarthy and Kennedy saw him as representing the “establishment” and either opposed his candidacy outright or were lukewarm in their allegiance. The prevailing thought that there was very little difference between Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey and that election of the outright conservative Nixon might hasten the revolution that was sorely needed in this country.

The outcome was that Richard Nixon was elected president. The outcome was that Richard Nixon turned out to be far worse than the most wretched predictions of the McCarthy/Kennedy followers. The outcome was that Richard Nixon brought about the wave of conservative ideology which continues to sweep across this country.

Because the supporters of Kennedy and McCarthy stayed on the sidelines Richard Nixon begat Ronald Reagan who begat George H.W. Bush who begat (literally) George W. Bush. In the process we have seen the mass incarceration of the national black community, the onset of massive income inequality, the engagement of this country in regime change misadventures at the cost of trillions of dollars and incalculable loss of life. In the process we have seen Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia and William Rehnquist sit on the Supreme Court and roll back the reproductive rights of women along the with the marginalization of affirmative action and the gutting of the Voting Rights Act.

So before the Sanders Supporters decide to opt out if/when they lose in Philadelphia, let’s hope they learn from history and that they remember that as bad as Richard Nixon was – Donald Trump, Rafael Cruz and John Kasich – embedded with the most conservative Congress in history – will be so much worse.

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Point of View Columns

The Rise (And Fall) of the Black Obama Bashers

The phenomenon of the BOBs, a.k.a. Black Obama Bashers, began to appear as soon as then Senator Obama announced his candidacy in February of 2007. Unlike those who have serious policy or political differences with Barack Obama, the BOBs have always attacked him because of their own inner motivations – motivations which are so reflexive that they simply can’t help themselves. And we find that these Black Obama Bashers fall into three distinct categories.

Obligatory BOBs – These men and women attack President Obama as if their lives depend on them doing so. And in fact, their livelihoods do depend on it. We find these BOBs presenting themselves as black Republicans or even Teapublicans. These BOBs hold positions such as the in house expert on All Things Black or “urban policy” in right wing think tanks and foundations.

The job description for these BOBs is quite clear – engage in high profile attacks against President Obama thereby giving cover for the white organizations with which they are affiliated. After all, no one can reasonably accuse these institutions, foundations and political parties as racist when the ones throwing stones are black. Right?

Mercenary BOBs – These Black Obama Bashers are distinguished from the Obligatory BOBs because they are a bit more creative and are definitely more entrepreneurial. The Mercenary BOBs may or may not have deep philosophical differences with Barack Obama.

However, the Mercenary BOBs have ascertained the virtual gold mine of opportunity available to semi-articulate and passably educated black intellectual poseurs who mount attacks against the first black President of the United States. These BOBs are virtually agnostic on the question of President Obama’s accomplishments but they are passionate in their belief in the monetary value of their attacks.

And so they continue to launch their fact-challenged, historically deficient and logically impaired salvos at the White House, secure in the knowledge that they can write, rhyme, rap and cakewalk their way to fame and fortune, eternally grateful that there is a black man in the White House. For the Mercenary BOBs are nothing if not acutely aware of the fact that when Barack Obama leaves the White House in 2017 they are going to have to come up with a brand new routine. After all, playing the college level version of the dozens with Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders or Rafael (just call me “Ted”) Cruz won’t be anywhere as entertaining for the black audiences that they play to.

Pathological BOBs – These BOBs are actually in need of some kind of intervention. They cannot really help themselves when they see black people achieve more than they are capable of achieving. For the Pathological BOBs, Barack Obama is just another target to be placed alongside Oprah and Ken Chenault and Michelle Obama and Martin Luther King.

These Black Obama Bashers are simply reflexive and would be deserving of pity and sympathy were it not for the corrosive damage that they inflict upon the national black community by trying to diminish the achievement of members of that community.

What we do know is that all of these BOBs are destined to fade from memory. What we do know is that a library of books will be written about the presidency of Barack Obama. And what we also know is that the sad gaggle of BOBs that has proliferated over the past eight years will only deserve a footnote, if that, in any of the books in that library.

In the final analysis their contribution to serious deliberation, debate and discussion can be summed up in one word – zero.

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Point of View Columns

The Rise of the Black Obama Bashers

When Barack Obama was elected President of the United States this country was losing over 800,000 jobs per month. During the seven years of the Obama administration over 14 million jobs have been created. Employment opportunities have appeared in a range of industries and in the process a new and unique set of jobs have become available, jobs that are almost exclusively reserved for black intellectuals, black academics and black commentators. The job title – Black Obama Bashers.

It should be noted that there are jobs available for White Obama Bashers, but they are not as plentiful and certainly not as lucrative. White Obama Bashers fall into the “dog bites man” category, to use a phrase employed by journalists. A significant portion of white Americans believe that President Obama is (a) the anti-Christ, (b) a Muslim terrorist, (c) a Kenyan version of the Manchurian Candidate, or all of the above. For many white Americans, hating Barack Obama is as American as apple pie. As a result, White Obama Bashers are simply not news.

But Black Obama Bashers are the quintessential “man bites dog” story. Over 90% of black Americans voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. As the first black President of the United States, Barack Obama is virtually revered in the national black community, if only for this singular and heretofore seemingly impossible achievement.

Further, as president, Barack Obama and his family have carried themselves with polish, class and dignity. There has never been a hint of a whiff of a scent of scandal in the Obama narrative. As president Barack Obama has obliterated prevailing stereotypes and stubborn prejudices regarding black people. And as president he has personally opened an entire universe of aspiration for young black boys and girls and young black men and women who now understand in real time that “hope” and “change” can be more than just slogans, they can be a way of life.

In this landscape, the Black Obama Bashers or BOBs have had to find a way to sell books, demand five and six figure speaking fees and maintain their presence on television and radio so that they can sell those books and get those lucrative speaking gigs. And so the BOBs have settled on a successful formula, if success is to be judged by how much attention they get and how much money they make.

It is not particularly useful to name this murder of BOBs, this will only give them more attention, but they know who they are, and we know who they are. And they gain attention by calling the first black President of the United States a “lap dog” or a “nigger” (as in “nigger please”) or someone does not love black people as much as we love him. Others have accused Barack Obama of pimping black people and who is afraid of white people and therefore refuses to confront the issues of race and racism in America.

We read and hear bizarre and contorted logic disguised as serious commentary when Barack Obama is deemed not sufficiently black because neither of his parents (or their forebears) experienced American slavery. Presumably we are to assume that these blacker than thou BOBs grew up listening to the rattle of grandma’s shackles and learned field songs at the knee of Uncle Mose.

Claiming that criticizing Barack Obama is right and just and necessary is a gossamer thin shield for the true motives of the BOBs. President Obama and every president should be scrutinized and criticized. But it is hard to remember the times that the BOBs aimed their rhetorical poisoned arrows at George W. Bush or Bill Clinton. Indeed, one will be hard pressed to find BOBs spending much of their time attacking the Teapublicans, Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell or any of the countless domestic terrorists who actually pose a real danger to the national black community.

The BOBs know on which side their croissants are buttered and as they barely conceal their own envy at the fact that a black man has done something that they will never do, they totally ignore the potential damage that their moneymaking scheme can cause.
BOBs have eschewed the path of legitimate and useful critique and have chosen to put a shirt and tie on the “dozens”. But while they spew vitriol and nonsense at Barack Obama, they run the very real danger of demeaning and tarnishing the legacy of this man’s real achievement the consequence of which could be leaving black Americans with the bitter taste of disappointment and dismay.

And meanwhile, the BOBs will settle into a first class seat as they jet off to their next speaking engagement or TV appearance. And one wonders, what will happen to the BOBs in February of 2017 when they will no longer have any dogs to bite. That is when they will lose the jobs that they have created for themselves and then they will truly miss Barack Obama.

And that’s just sad.

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