Point of View Columns

The Election of 2016 – America in Wonderland

As Election Day 2016 looms on the horizon, it is quite clear that when historians and political scientists reflect on this stranger than strange campaign, this question will be asked. How could the country that elected Barack Obama president in consecutive elections even consider electing as president a proto-fascist P.T. Barnum impersonator and charlatan named Trump less than four years later? The answer will not be comforting.

There is no doubt that there was a yawning ideological canyon separating Barack Obama from John McCain and Mitt Romney. There is also no doubt that all three of these men comported themselves within the bounds of what passes for decency in the political universe of 21st century America. And finally, there is no doubt that the basic skill set of any of these three men to serve as President of the United States was never a real campaign issue.

But now, when faced the prospect of Donald Trump being the next President, millions of Americans are comfortable with his misogyny, able to ignore his racism and willing to rationalize his stunning record of disgrace, fraud, deception and disregard for the basic principles of decency. It is a matter of public record that Trump has lied about his unsavory business practices and generally uses lies as a defense even when there are videotapes, audiotapes and living human beings who set forth a reality that he simply denies.

It is now clear that as election lurches to what will be the political demise of Donald Trump there is a far larger issue than Trump that will remain when his political carcass is hosed down the drain of the public arena. The larger problem is that there will still be millions of Americans who are still prepared to believe the racist canard that Barack Obama (1) was not born in the United States and (2) is therefore an illegitimate President and (3) he is a Muslim and (4) is the anti-Christ.

The larger problem is that there will still be millions of voting Americans who seriously believe that walling off this country is a useful 21st century solution. There are millions of American who think that dismantling the Affordable Care Act (eliminating the health care coverage for over 20 million Americans) and the Dodd-Frank Act protocols (thereby removing the controls that preventing the cataclysmic collapse of the American financial system) are good ideas.

At some point after Donald Trump slithers back to the his own warped universe, there will need to be a serious discussion regarding how so many Americans became separated from reality and decency, in the process forgetting the responsibilities that come with their rights as citizens. It is clear that to the extent a Trump presidency has even been discussed in 2016 there needs to be a national civics awakening – with rights come responsibilities. Presidential elections are not a time to carelessly cast votes without regard or consideration of the consequences.

Fortunately, Donald Trump will not win. Unfortunately, the fact that he even has come this close means that we have a lot of work to do if the best aspects of this republic and its democracy are to be preserved and improved upon.

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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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Point of View Columns

Time to Take Off the Gloves

We know the movie genre. The good natured hero endures endless taunts and jibes from the loons and goons at the bar. He remains impassive, even oblivious as the insults rain down. The more intrepid tormentors may toss an ashtray or splash a drink in his face….and then it happens……….the hero has had enough and he takes on all comers, beating into submission those who don’t beat a hasty retreat.

During the past two and a half years Barack Obama has been the object of a constant deluge of scorn, disrespect and outrageous rhetoric. He has been labeled a communist, a socialist, a fascist and the anti-Christ. There have been outrageous (and potentially dangerous) allusions to “the blood of tyrants (guess who?) watering the tree of liberty” and even his citizenship has been questioned.

Through it all President Obama has maintained his seemingly eternal cool. He did deliver a pretty humorous backhand to Donald Trump, but even attacks on his wife and his two daughters have barely gotten a rise out of him. But something must have clicked during the past few weeks because he is now on the offensive.

While touring the country President Obama derided Rodeo Rick Perry as the governor of a state that is “on fire while he refuses to believe in global warming”. Ouch!

He appeared at the annual Congressional Black Caucus dinner and exhorted the crowd to “stop whining” and to “put on their marching shoes”. One can imagine Travis Smiley and Cornel West wincing as President Obama assumed the mantle of leadership that has not always been so evident.

He has asked crowds to look at the current roster of Republican presidential candidates. And he commiserated with Republicans who have such an array of poor choices. He also took time to criticize the debate crowds who cheered the prospect of uninsured Americans dying and who booed a gay American soldier who was serving in Iraq.

On that last item, it should be noted that on three separate occasions the nine Republican presidential candidates have had an opportunity to demonstrate compassion, intelligence and an adult mentality. At recent debates the crowd cheered when Rodeo Rick Perry bragged about having presided over 243 (now 244) executions in the state of Texas. Where was the Republican who might caution against celebrating the death of another human being? Not one of the Noble Nine uttered a word.

On another occasion Congressman Ron Paul was asked whether he believed that an uninsured American should be allowed to die in the emergency room. Before he could answer G.O.Tea Party zealots loudly cheered the notion. Neither Congressman Paul nor any of the other candidates would say a word about compassion and the need for a civilized society to find a way to take care of men, women and children in distress.

And last week, a U.S. soldier on active duty in Iraq asked a question regarding gays in the military via video conference during another G.O.Tea Party crazyfest. He was roundly booed by the audience and not a single member of the Noble Nine – all of whom proclaim to be patriotic Americans – would take the audience to task for dishonoring a man who was risking his life in the belief that he was protecting the rights and liberties of the braying mob. No profiles in courage in that bunch.

And so it seems that President Obama is not going to play rope-a-dope anymore. It might seem presidential to be above the fray, but the fray is too loud and too much a part of the daily national and international discourse. When the Noble Nine continue to repeat untruths it is important for supporters of the president to speak up. But it is also well past the time for the president himself to speak up.

It is clear that the entire timetable for presidential politics has changed. No sitting president can employ a Rose Garden strategy, staying in the White House and making a few speeches in the months just before the election. The Republicans have been running against Barack Obama since January 21, 2009 – the goal has been to make him a one-term president regardless of anything he might have achieved.

This mindless negativity has impaired the federal government and the United States at every turn. The debt ceiling debacle is just one example, the recent near disaster regarding the funding of the Federal Emergency Management Administration is yet another. The G.O.Tea Party has adopted a destructive strategy that includes blaming all consequent suffering on Barack Obama.

It has been time to take the gloves off for a long time. Now that Barack Obama has done so, things should get interesting.

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