Point of View Columns

Alone in the Ebony Tower

The recent controversy surrounding the unfortunate personal attacks on President Obama by the once-respected Professor Cornel West could be written off as just another story from the United States of Stupid. There are an infinite number of such stories, recent ones including the $500,000 Tiffany’s line of credit enjoyed by the “populist” Newt Gingrich the manic media obsession with the marital life of Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels.

But the Cornel West story is different in a very important way. His comments and his personal line of attack were not explosive, but they were corrosive. There is no way that a relative lightweight like Cornel West could collapse the Obama presidency with his pseudo-intellectual hoots and catcalls.

However petty, personal and disrespectful commentary gets more media coverage than any serious criticism of the policies and actions of the Obama Administration. Unfortunately many of the same people who read the National Enquirer for their news and get their facts from seminars held in barber shops and beauty salons are the same people who will pay attention to the likes of Cornel West. And they all vote – or don’t vote, based upon bits and pieces of information and nonsensical chatter such as the squawks that recently emanated from one of Princeton’s Finest.

If left unchallenged, over time commentary becomes fact. Cornel West has questioned whether Barack Obama is a “progressive”; he has also questioned whether he is truly connected to the black community in America. When Cornel West was selected as the arbiter of these matters is certainly a matter of some debate and mystery. Yet there are otherwise intelligent men and women who will listen to this nonsense. And they all vote -–or don’t vote.

The many critics of Professor West have pointed out the validity and need for a robust discussion, and where necessary critique, of the policies of President Obama, as would be the case for any president. But any African American who doesn’t recognize that the first African American President of the United States is a special case needs their head examined, and soon.

The insults, degrading remarks and insane rhetoric directed at Barack Obama by the right wing of the right wing are unprecedented. To suggest that these attacks are not in some way connected with the racial and racist concerns would be delusional. That Cornel West would join in this madcap chorus is minstrelsy, pure and simple. Professor West may not lecture about the Stockholm Syndrome in his classes at Princeton, but he is certainly a walking illustration of this malady.

When queried as to how his attacks are different from those emanating from the G.O.Tea Party and the right wing of the right wing, West had a facile response. He (correctly) pointed out that much of the so-called grassroots Tea Party movements are financed by “billionaires and plutocrats”. He then (insanely) stated that he spoke for the otherwise voiceless “masses” that have either been ignored or further oppressed by the Obama Administration.

My research does not indicate the moment in time when Cornel West was anointed as the voice of the “masses”. He presumably considers the thousands of black congressional, state and local elected officials (elected by the “masses”) as being mute and complicit in the sins of President Obama. And finally, Professor West is seemingly oblivious to the great harm that he can be the result of his attacks.

Much in the same way that Ralph Nader was directly responsible for the election of George Bush in 2000, Cornel West’s ravings born of personal pique and misplaced self-importance could persuade just a few voters to not vote for Barack Obama in 2012. A relatively few black voters in key states that stay home in solidarity with Princeton’s Finest could tip the election in favor of a Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann.

Clearly it is news to Professor West that politics is about the achievement of the possible while striving for perfection. Questioning Barack Obama’s “blackness”, calling him a “black mascot of Wall Street” and suggesting that he is afraid of “free thinking black men” (which presumably includes the Princeton-based bit actor in “Matrix Reloaded”) does nothing but energize the right wing of the right wing while degrading and corroding support for the president.

Perhaps Cornel West will be satisfied with a Palin or Pawlenty presidency in 2013. This is not the future that I wish for my son or the children of this country. If he can’t see the error of his ways perhaps he might have the good grace to just be quiet.

Standard
Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – May 20, 2011

This week Cornel West proved that it is possible to be a fool and a hypocrite simultaneously; Congressman Peter King is out to prove once more that hind sight is 20/20 and Newt Gingrich may turn out to be more of a fool and a hypocrite than Cornel West. It has been quite a week.

The Shame of Cornel West

Cornel West has clearly decided to shed the shreds of credibility and integrity that used to attend his unkempt frame. It is more than shameful that Princeton Professor Cornel West decided to refer to President Obama as the “black mascot of Wall Street”.

Presumably the erstwhile rap video walk on has taught his students to marshal facts and present logical and coherent arguments in support of whatever point of view they might wish to express. No one would criticize Professor West for articulating serious policy concerns and considerations. But “black mascot”? C’mon Cornel!

Not being satisfied with a racist ad hominem attack, Dr. West had the temerity to opine as to the “blackness” of President Obama given the fact that his mother was white and he was raised for several years in Indonesia. Seeming to read directly from the birth playbook, he tried to argue that with a Kenyan father and a white American mother President Obama was not fully connected with the experience of black Americans.

Presumably Cornel West has in his possession a certification of his own blackness. I am not clear how teaching at Harvard and Princeton, institutions that have never been bastions of blackness, provide him with the credentials to judge the “blackness” of anyone.

More to the point, it is unconscionable for Cornel West to engage in a gutter-born, personal attack on President Obama that is such an obvious mime of the attacks of the birthers and Tea Party cohorts. Perhaps, in addition to his divinity degree he also has a degree in minstrelsy.

The fact that Barack Obama has not returned multiple phone calls from Cornel West is a testament to the good judgment of Barack Obama. The fact that he didn’t get prized inaugural tickets seems like a personal problem that should be filed along with his obvious need for hair care and an orthodontist.

Unfortunately, until now Cornel West has had sufficient stature and respect that his comments are listened to and circulated throughout this country. His stature now matches his diminutive frame. His respect has evanesced. That he would launch such personal and uncivil attacks on the first African American President of the United States is unworthy of the reputation that he used to have.

Wednesday Afternoon Quarterback

The death of Osama bin Laden has been seen as some as an opportunity for this country to move forward in dealing with terrorist threats to its security. “Some” does not include Congressman Peter King (R, NY) the chairman of the House Security Committee.

This past week he announced that he will be holding hearings on what transpired in the killing of bin Laden by U.S. military forces. It can be predicted that there will be more calls for the gruesome photographs of the dead leader of Al Qaeda. Certainly there will be a need for the Obama Administration to try to respond to detailed inquiries while avoiding security breaches – always a balancing act.

I have heard of Monday morning quarterbacks who have all of the bright ideas and second guesses the day after the game. Congressman King and his G.O.Tea Party cohorts seem to fall into the Wednesday afternoon quarterback category as the last game is so far in the past tense and right this very moment the Obama Administration is focused on putting another bull’s-eye on Saif al-Adel, the recently announced presumptive heir to Osama bin Laden.

Knowing that the Republicans are intent on second and third guessing President Obama will not scare al-Adel. Knowing that the Obama Administration and the U.S. Congress are focused on a tomorrow that may find him missing might give him pause.

Stupid Newt Tricks

Last week Newt Gingrich announced that he is running for president. This week he may have second thoughts.

He appeared on “Meet the Press” and clearly (and correctly) criticized the draconian Medicare reform plan of Congressman Paul Ryan as “right wing social engineering”. When the right wing of the right wing hollered like a stuck pig he recanted and stated that any use of “Meet the Press” quote would be a “falsehood” since he had now recanted. Clearly “I take it back” is a reasonable rhetorical tool on the Planet Newt.

Last week it was also disclosed that Newt Gingrich’s wife had an unpaid Tiffany’s bill of between $250,000 and $500,000. I would think it would be hard to attack the “Washington elite” while your wife is running up six figure tabs at Tiffany’s. Welcome to the real world Newt, I am sure that the residents of the Planet Newt will understand.

Have a great weekend!

Standard