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 it 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 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 present.

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

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Point of View Columns

Casting the Second Stone

The controversy surrounding L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his race based rant is fascinating and in some ways difficult to understand. Of course, Sterling’s comments are reprehensible but considering that the Confederate flags still fly over state capitols where NBA franchises are located, it should not be a surprise to discover that some white people really don’t like black people. But if Donald Sterling is to be drawn and quartered for making hateful comments about black people, do black people who make similarly hateful and harmful comments about black people get a pass?

One could argue that enough has been written about a cranky old white man who debases himself before his too-young-for-him mistress. True, he does own an NBA franchise, and true, many black people play in the NBA. And true, there is nothing defensible about his comments about black people. Ergo, so the torch and pitchfork carrying media mob contends, Donald Sterling should be forced to give up his NBA franchise and live his remaining years wearing ashes and sackcloth.

But, as noted, this is a country where the stench of the slaveholding Confederate States of America is still fresh in the breezes that blow Confederate flags above state capitols, state universities in too many places. This is a country where the first black President of the United States has been called a monkey, a Muslim, an alien interloper and a liar on the floor of Congress, all without consequence. And this is a country where black people are routinely barred from the corridors of power by unspoken rules of the road, not by a white robed Jim Crow, but by a pinstripe suit attired James Crow 2.0.

So it should be no surprise when a white man (or woman), who is unaware that they are being recorded, tells us how they really feel about black people. And it certainly seems like the torch and pitchfork media mob and its enablers are more than a little disingenuous in excoriating Sterling while racism and horrific language are hurled at black Americans without consequence every day – by black people.

Donald Sterling is eighty years old. He could live another eighty years and never use the word “nigger” as many times as Jay-Z has. The only difference is that Jay-Z has “niggered” his way to an enormous fortune, seemingly without consequence and certainly with little or no criticism. Certainly Jay-Z has never encountered the withering firestorm of criticism from LeBron James, Charles Barkley or the Reverend Al Sharpton or the Reverend Jesse Jackson that the hapless fool that we know as Donald Sterling has experienced.

Jay-Z and Kanye West collaborated on the misogynistic and obviously racist “Niggers in Paris” album and the silence from the Sterling hangmen was deafening. The characterization and reference to black women as “bitches” and “ho’s” and worse has been part of the accepted culture of “artists” like Jay-Z, Kanye West, Little Wayne, Fifty Cent and so many more and nowhere has there been a call to boycott their lucrative “art” or to skewer them Sterling-style.

And let us not forget the less than memorable Cornel West and his anti-Obama rants, likening the first black President of the United States to a “lap dog”. And while Dr. West is entitled to his full exercise of free speech, his off the chain critiques of President Obama have given clear aid and comfort to the enemy. And yet, Cornel West continues to rake in speaking fees based on the insults and calumny that he hurls at President Obama again, without consequence and certainly without receiving the Sterling Special Treatment.

There is nothing about Donald Sterling that is worthy of defense or further mention. The “art” of Jay-Z, Fifty Cents, Little Wayne, Kanye West and others have had a deep cultural and behavioral impact on the American black community, almost all of it negative and decidedly demeaning.

On his worst day Donald Sterling has never inflicted as much damage on the black community as the aforementioned crew and their running buddies. After the torch and pitchfork crew is finished with Sterling, maybe they will turn their attention to the real villains.

 

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Point of View Columns

Who Let These Dogs Out?

It has been observed that the exact moment that America began to lose its mind was at 12:10 PM on January 20, 2009 when Barack Obama became President Barack Obama. Since then madness has become the new normal as hordes of white Americans have donned their Tea Party Hats and wrapped themselves in Confederate flags seeking to “take back America”. Black Americans have not been immune from this crazy contagion and Dr. Ben Carson is Exhibit A in the American Mad House.

Clearly Dr. Carson was seeking to claim the Most Obnoxious Black Critic of President Obama, a prize that Professor Cornel West has been trying to turn into a Lifetime Achievement Award. Dr. Carson has overtaken Cornel West by claiming that the Affordable Care Act is “the worst thing to happen to America since slavery”.

Considering the indelible stain that racial slavery has left on this country’s moral, political and social fabric, it is beyond obscene for anyone to make that claim. Nevertheless any number of white Teapublicans and now the eminent Dr. Carson and others have made this baseless and morally indefensible claim.

But frankly, it is even worse when a black American will pick up the whip and the noose – lashing the truth and lynching the legacy of pain and perseverance of his own forebears. That Ben Carson should know better is not even the point. As a high school and college graduate and a medical doctor it is a good bet that he has a passing familiarity with the history of black and white people in America and knows that racial slavery was an abomination that can only be described as a crime against humanity.

Ben Carson is entitled to employ hyperbole and exaggeration but not at the expense of the history and legacy of his own people. To smear his muddy boots of extreme rhetoric on the graves and memories of generations of slaves and their descendants is simply unacceptable and he should be called to account for his misdeed.

Consider that you will never hear a member of the Jewish community, no matter how outraged at whatever political event, compare that event to the Holocaust, and with good reason. An American of French descent would never bring up the Nazi occupation of France in political discourse. That Ben Carson would not give the same level of respect to the victims of racial slavery in America and just leave them out of his howling screeds against Obamacare is offensive and shameful.

What makes Ben Carson’s comments all the more galling is that they come just as the Teapublicans in Congress and in the street have decided to show their true colors once and for all. On Sunday, October 13, 2013, there was a Tea Party demonstration in Washington and Confederate flags were unfurled along with racist taunts and slurs being hurled against President Obama.

All the while, Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and all the rest of the unhooded New Knights of the White Magnolia stood silent, never uttering a syllable of restraint or decency. Dog whistle politics is not new in this country – but now it seems that one will hear “nigger” more times than is heard on a Jay-Z album and that is saying something.

One hundred and thirty years ago, Frederick Douglass spoke truth to power and his words are worth repeating:

 “…Though the colored man is no longer subject to barter and sale, he is surrounded by an adverse settlement which fetters all his movements. In his downward course, he meets with no resistance, but his course upward is resented and resisted at every step of his progress.

If he comes in ignorance, rags and wretchedness… he conforms to the popular belief of his character, and in that character he is welcome; but if he shall come as a gentleman, a scholar and a statesman, he is hailed as a contradiction to the national faith concerning his race, and his coming is resented as impudence.

In one case he may provoke contempt and derision, but in the other he is an affront to pride and provokes malice.

Frederick Douglass September 25, 1883

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – August 9, 2013

Sometimes it is useful to remember that elections do matter. Thinking about a Mitt Romney presidency provides some perspective. Meanwhile, in light of Russia granting temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, we are already hearing the clarion call for a boycott of the Winter Olympics next year – and why do these call always come from the right? And finally, while we already knew that the Teapublican playbook calls for the dismantling of the federal government, the new playbook calls for making sure that the federal government just doesn’t work.

Elections Do Matter

In the 2012 presidential campaign over $1 billion was spent in order to persuade voters that there was a real difference between Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama. Obviously the majority of voters chose Barack Obama to lead the country for another four years.

But, for those who continue to suggest that there was only a marginal difference between the two candidates (the ever loquacious Tavis Smiley and continuously quotable Cornel West come to mind) think about this: Right now the Department of Justice under the leadership of Attorney General Eric Holder is trying to undo the horrific damage caused by the recent Supreme Court decision that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act.

This has required the Department of Justice to fight voting rights battles state by state, court by court. What do you think that an Attorney General appointed by President Mitt Romney would be doing?

Some more food for thought: The Department of Justice is reviewing the murder of Trayvon Martin for possible civil rights violations. That would be the U.S. Department of Justice headed by Attorney General Eric Holder who was appointed by President Barack Obama. What do you think that President Romney’s Department of Justice would be doing about the travesty of George Zimmerman’s acquittal last month?

In the weeks and months to come more examples of the difference between a thankfully mythical Romney presidency and the actual presidency of Barack Obama will be offered for your consideration.

We can be assured that Tavis Smiley and Cornel West will be to absorbed with Tavis Smiley and Cornel West to pay any attention.

The Revenge of the Nerds

In 1980 the United States boycotted the Olympics that were to be held in the Soviet Union because of a dispute regarding the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In retaliation the Soviet Union led a boycott of the Olympics held in Los Angeles in 1984.

While this political posturing went forward, the hopes and dreams of thousands of Olympic athletes were obliterated. If they were American they simply could not compete in 1980 and had to compete in a flawed Olympics in 1984 if they were still around. Many other athletes from around the world were caught up in the boycott and there was absolutely no impact on Soviet policies in Afghanistan.

Now Senator Lindsay Graham and other wannabe tough guys in the Senate and House are calling for the United States to boycott the Winter Olympics that are to be held in Russia next year as retaliation for Edward Snowden being granted temporary asylum in that country.

Aside from the fact that boycotting the Olympics would be cutting off the nose of American athletes in order to spite the global face of the United States, logic tells us that such an action would have absolutely no impact on the current Snowden-asylum impasse. The only people that would be hurt would be American athletes many of whom have trained their entire lives for one shining Olympic moment in 2014.

Let us hope that saber rattling will not take the place of sane and sober foreign policy.

Traveling at the Speed of Mud

Approximately two weeks ago the Senate confirmed the head of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau after only………., get this, seven years of delay and obstruction. Approximately three weeks ago the Senate confirmed the Director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau after light speed deliberations of two years!

These delays are part and parcel of a Teapublican strategy to throw enough sand into the gears of the federal government until it simply stops working. On the Planet Teapublican this passes for sound public policy.

Loyal opposition is one thing. Destruction of the federal government itself does not border on treason, it is treason. The sooner it is said the better.

Have a great weekend – stay strong and be great!

 

 

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Point of View Columns

Here’s What’s Wrong with Cornel West

It appears that ever since he did not get the prized inaugural tickets that his massive ego demanded, Cornel West has been determined to claw and gnaw at the presidency of Barack Obama. While he is free to permanently and totally disagree with any and all of the policies espoused by President Obama, it might be useful for Dr. West to remember that with freedom comes responsibility. And in that regard Cornel West has come up short – so to speak.

From the time that he took office Barack Obama has been subjected to ridicule and disrespect rarely seen in modern times. While it is true that John Adams was labeled a “hermaphrodite” and Abraham Lincoln was called a “baboon” and a “gorilla”, one would be hard pressed to recall another president who was called a “liar” from the floor of the House of Representatives by a member of the House of Representatives. President Obama’s wife, children, mother and mother-in-law have been fair game in the game that is being played by the right wing of the right wing.

Part of this has to do with the mud and dirt that one must endure when entering the political arena – just ask Bill Clinton or read about the full frontal attacks on Franklin D. “Rosenfeld” by the right wing of another era. But, as has been noted many times, there is a sharper and barbed edge to the arrows shot in the direction of Barack Obama and it is not being overly sensitive to suggest that this is because he is the first black President of the United States.

It is, therefore, odd and troubling that someone like Cornel West, a self-styled intellectual and self-anointed spokesman for oppressed black people, has taken it upon himself to castigate, demonize and trash the Obama legacy. One would think that there are enough white right wing zealots available to do that job – and then there are always the two Alans, Alan West and Alan Keys, if there is a need to add some color to the attack tag team.

As an accomplished academic, Cornel West has taught at Princeton and Harvard and is currently on the faculty at Union Theological Seminary. Although his multiple degrees do not include history or political science, it is fair to hold Dr. West to a higher standard of awareness than the man or woman on the street – wherever that street might be.

And by that standard it is incomprehensible that a presumably intelligent and educated man like Cornel West would engage in hurling playground invectives and insults at Barack Obama in the hope of…..what? Is he seeking to encourage thoughtful discourse and criticism regarding the policies of the Obama Administration? That is hard to believe when he labels the first black President of the United States “a lap dog for Wall Street”.

When he calls the man for whom over 90% of voting black Americans selected – twice – “a Rockefeller Republican in blackface”, exactly what point is he trying to get across? Aside from the very clear point of making sure that the name “Cornel West” stays in the media spotlight no matter how irrelevant he is becoming.

And in the middle of the distress and dismay following the despicable and damnable verdict in the George Zimmerman case did Dr. Cornel West offer some solace to the parents of Trayvon Martin. Did he try to put the case within the historical context of the seeming devaluation of black life by American institutions?

Of course not. Cornel West, a clear master of self-promotion, chose that very sad and somber moment to label President Obama “a Global George Zimmerman”, whatever the hell that is supposed to mean. In doing so Cornel West misdirected attention away from serious consideration of the Zimmerman trial and verdict to…..you guessed it, Cornel West. And one can be certain that this attention helps Cornel West as he charges $30,000 – $50,000 per speech as an advocate for poor black people. The irony is simultaneously inescapable and miserable.

The truth of the matter is that when the history of the Obama Administration is written decades from now, or next year, Cornel West will warrant something less than a footnote. He is a self-promoting and self-serving rhetorical provocateur who continues to do more harm than good every time he opens his mouth.

Perhaps one day Dr. West will come to grips with the fact that with freedom of speech comes some sort of responsibility for what one says. But don’t hold your breath.

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Weekend Edition – September 7, 2012

There is no question that the DNC convention speakers, headlined by President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro stated the party’s position as clearly as possible. One very clear point was made – the Teapublicans want to go back to a mythical past when all was well – well at least for some. Meanwhile, Paul Ryan clearly has an alias – Lyin’ Ryan. He seems to be a man who lies just to stay in practice. He can’t even tell the truth about his running time — and a lot more. Finally, with the presidential election less than 60 days away, it is clearly time for the talking heads/mouths that make a living being Obama naysayers to take a break – the stakes are just too high.

Back to the Future

Last week Julian Castro did a pretty fair imitation of Barack Obama circa 2004. Michelle Obama reminded everyone that she is an exceptional First Lady and all of a sudden talk of Michelle in 2016 started to circulate. Bill Clinton was exceptional in so many ways while Barack Obama reminded everyone why he has always been a very special President of the United States.

While it has been clear that the Romney-Ryan team seeks to go back to a future that is rooted in the past, it was important that the Democratic Party speakers make the point over and over again. Certainly Teapublicans will continue to serve up the same old stew while telling the American people that it is a new item on the menu.

This point was never clearer when it was revealed that 17 of the 24 members of the Romney-Ryan foreign policy team served in the Bush-Cheney administration. That would be the same administration that hoodwinked this country into a war in Iraq and the most dishonorable military disaster in American history.

This would be the same administration that botched the search for Osama bin Laden and mismanaged the military incursion in Afghanistan to the point that the United States is still mired there today. This would be the same administration that frayed and damaged this country’s international standing almost beyond repair.

One would think that serving on the foreign policy team of Bush-Cheney would be an immediate disqualifier. Not for the Romney-Ryan team. They want to go back to the future.

Lyin’ Ryan

Paul Ryan swings from hiding the truth to outright lies. As an example of the latter – he cites his mother taking public transportation every day to attend college to get a degree so that she could improve her professional career. He fails to point out that public transportation on public funded highways to attend college that receives state and federal funds forms an example of how and why government is important in the lives of all Americans. That would be the same governmental structure that he now seeks to dismantle.

As an example of the latter – Congressman Ryan states that he ran a marathon in 2 hours and 50 seconds. Fact checking soon revealed that he ran the referenced marathon in 4 hours and ten minutes – a credible time but nothing like the heroic time that he cited.
He said he forgot.

As someone who ran for thirty years I am very clear that any serious runner knows and remembers their running times in significant races – like a marathon. And no truthful runner could confuse a four hour marathon time with a less than three hour achievement.

It may seem like a small lie but it reveals a disturbing pattern in Mr. Ryan’s very real tendency to lie and misrepresent whenever it is convenient for him to do so.

The Vision Thing

During the past few years several talking heads and running mouths (Tavis Smiley and Cornel West come to mind as examples) have made not so small fortunes bad mouthing nearly everything that President Obama does and says. That is, of course, their constitutional right.

But after the sequence of the Republican and Democratic conventions it should be very clear that there are stark differences between the two candidates this time around. It is not exaggerating to suggest that a Teapublican victory would be catastrophic for many Americans while enriching and engorging a few very wealthy Americans.

One can only hope that these talking heads and running mouths will declare a two month cease fire rather than run the risk of becoming the 2012 version of Ralph Nader circa 2000.

Have a great weekend!

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Cornel West Makes More Money Than You Do!

Ever since President-elect Barack Obama did not personally deliver a handwritten invitation to his inauguration, Cornel West seems to have been on a personal mission to vilify and insult him at every possible opportunity. While it is Dr. West’s right to say whatever he wants, with rights come responsibility. And by that measure Cornel West has been wildly irresponsible with a dash of hypocrisy thrown in for good measure.

Cornel West, who is clearly a legend in his own mind, has taken it upon himself to label President Obama “a lap dog of Wall Street” and has excoriated him for not being a “revolutionary” and his failure to fully and completely address all of the issues, challenges and problems of the national black community. When queried on the subject he has called Mitt Romney a “catastrophic” choice for a catastrophic time while, in his view, President Obama is a “disastrous” choice for a catastrophic time.

Clearly Cornel West has not bathed in the cold waters of logic or common sense in a long time. It is simply impossible to believe that a presumably well educated professor like Dr. West (he has taught at Harvard, Princeton and currently Union Theological Seminary) could look at Barack Obama’s past statements or the themes and policies of his presidential campaign and that he was the forerunner of some great revolution that was going to commence on January 20, 2009.

While it is clear that a divinity degree does not equip Dr. West to be some kind of sociopolitical expert, since he keeps opining on such subjects he has to be held accountable. The history of American electoral politics has been decidedly reformist with gradual movements to the right and the left. Reform is characterized by gradual change while revolution promises to be immediate.

The United States has never elected a “revolutionary” candidate and it is absurd for anyone to think that the election of Barack Obama was the beginning of a twenty first revolution in this country. And it is dishonest for Dr. West to criticize President Obama because this country has not been reinvented for the better in the three years of his presidency.

Again, Cornel West is entitled to his opinions and he has a perfect right to free speech. However, because he is a noted public figure who speaks around the country for fees ranging from $30,000 – $50,000 per appearance, he has the responsibility of being aware of the effects that his reckless speech may cause.

There are some people in the national black community who will actually listen to and believe Dr. West. It is a natural human instinct to search for the cause(s) of dismay and misery and for some, President Obama makes a useful target. And, giving even a few people a reason for not voting for President Obama could make the difference between him getting a second term and the beginning of a Romney Administration complete with a boatload of Tea Party baggage.

I have written before that there is no way that Dr. Cornel West is going to destroy the support of the black community for Barack Obama. What he can do, however, is corrode and erode small portions of his support in communities across this country, lessening Barack Obama’s vote count just enough to lose so-called battleground states – states that can make the difference between victory and defeat.

It is not an exaggeration to state that the election of Mitt Romney coupled with his support of the draconian Ryan budget agenda will wreak havoc on poor and middle income families. The election of Mitt Romney will place incredible burdens on the national black community and one would think that Cornel West has to know this.

Of course, whether it’s a Obama or a Romney victory, Cornel West will still be able to charge $30,000-$50,000 per speaking engagement, raking in millions of dollars by virtue of his bombast and celebrity, but not because he is providing some useful and constructive ideas and perspectives.

Cornel West will continue to make cameo appearances at the 2013 and 2014 versions of Occupy Wall Street, claiming to speak for oppressed people. Incredibly, he will continue pull off this act with a straight face while making millions of dollars doing it.

But I wonder how Dr. West will sleep on his 5000 thread count sheets knowing that is misguided and destructive rhetoric contributed in some small way to the defeat of Barack Obama and the election of Mitt Romney. What will he say to the women whose healthcare services will be reduced and eliminated? What will he say to the college students who will be denied federal loans to gain the kind of education that he has? What will he say to the residents of communities whose social service benefits will be pared down to the barest minimum? What will he say to the sick and the elderly and to the helpless and the homeless?

And in the quietest of moments before dawn, what will he say to himself?

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