If ever there were a thankless job, I imagine that between drags on his Newport, Barack Obama would be lamenting to Michelle that the aforementioned was that of the office of President of The United States. Whether he’s getting kicked in the teeth for trying to ensure that all of the nation’s citizens have a reasonable means by which to acquire medical treatment, blamed for the past, present and future fundamentals of this country’s economy or excluded as having had anything to do with the termination of International Enemy #1, President Obama has seemingly been given three years before everybody and their momma has decided that he’s responsible for the current decline of American Society. But even as Barry makes preparations for a second term while bumping Mystikal’s “It Ain’t My Fault” throughout every room in The White House, it is important that we all take an assessing look at the direction of this country and identify what this administration has done well and what still needs to be timely and wholly addressed, should The President be afforded four more years.
For many Americans though, there seems to be no middle ground when it comes to our 44th. It’s either Barry walks on water, or he needs to be publicly tarred and featured at the next Tea Party rally. Unfortunately, thanks to these two extremes, any thoughtful or critical analysis on the job that President Obama has been doing thus far is more times than not seen as either “hate” or groupie love. And when members of his most loyal constituency (re: black folks) start making some very vocal criticisms of the President, words like “sell out”, “jealous” or my personal favorite, “Uncle Tom” get strewn out into the Blackosphere.
For instance, people like noted philosopher, activist and Princeton professor Dr. Cornel West (don’t let his Matrix Reloaded and Raheem DeVaughn feature fool you, he’s still an academic) and political commentator/activist Tavis Smiley have been on the business end of Black America’s rebuke for publically calling out President Obama and his policies where they concern war, capitalism and the disproportionate effects of the recession on African-Americans. Even California Congresswoman Maxine “the-Tea-Party-can-go-to-hell” Waters and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus have been critical of the president and the administration’s jobs record amid a current 16.7% unemployment rate for African-Americans (nearly 47% for younger African-Americans), only to be accused of rabble-rousing and not helping to join the fight in solving what ails America.
Apparently however, Mr. Obama had reached his culpability threshold and found the perfect opportunity to address some of his critics when he attended and spoke at the CBC’s annual Phoenix Awards gala last weekend. Realizing his inner Reverend Dr. Obama, the president seared some of his detractors with fiery phrases like “stop complaining” and “take off your bedroom slippers.” The President of course was speaking passionately about his desire to have lawmakers work with him to make legislations like his Jobs Act a reality, but his familiar dressing down of the black lawmakers may not have had the desired effect.
Rep. Allen West, a Republican member of the CBC from Florida, called Obama’s comments “disrespectful and reprehensible,” while Maxine Waters wondered if The President would have spoken so freely with other minority constituencies.
”I found that language a bit curious because the president spoke to the Hispanic Caucus, and certainly they’re pushing him on immigration… he certainly didn’t tell them to stop complaining. And he would never say that to the gay and lesbian community, who really pushed him on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Personally, while I cringed a bit at Mr. Obama’s house slippers reference (if I’m being honest, it was deliberate and pretty indelicate), I did appreciate the fact that he actually acknowledged that some black activists and members of the CBC were critical of his record and took the time to respond to it (if not round-aboutly). What did annoy me a bit however, was the realization that Mr. Obama has not appeared as comfortable addressing his conservative detractors as bluntly as he did the attendees at the CBC Gala.
I don’t think that as a public servant, Barack Obama is above reproach when people are genuinely feeling as though he isn’t representing their interest, but I also don’t think Barack Obama should simply smile and nod or bend over backwards acquiescently as a means to avoid confrontation with those who don’t agree with his politics. If he truly wants to enact change, Mr. Obama is going to have to be authoritative; he is going to have to be bold, and his is going to have to be confrontational. And not just with the black people that Al Sharpton reminds “not to compare him with the Almighty, but with the alternative.”