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"Tonight, President Obama set forth a powerful vision for our country and an agenda for change that deserves the support of all Americans," said Sen. Edward Kennedy (D- Mass).
“President Obama is exactly the kind of leader we need in the face of our nation's significant challenges,” echoed Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ).
Instant national polls afterward showed well over 65 percent of Americans surveyed viewed the first Black president and his message favorably, with almost that many saying that they trust his leadership in this time of crisis.
And, of course, it’s no secret that ever since he mounted his historic run for the White House two years ago, Obama has ultimately enjoyed the overwhelming support of his natural constituency - the African-American community. Most Blacks see both Obama’s election, and leadership, not only as a tremendous source of pride, but an extraordinary example of excellence and achievement that all African-Americans, especially young people, should follow.
“Children with foreign-sounding names learned that they too can be president of the United States, and the electoral aspiration of almost an entire generation of young American voters was realized,” Benjamin Jealous, president/CEO of the NAACP, said the day after Obama’s historic election last November.
But not every Black leader is as fond or as proud of the new president as the NAACP and the American people are.
In fact, there are a number Black “leaders,” who span the spectrum of religion, politics and gender, who expressed during the presidential campaign, and many who continue to expound today, assessments of President Obama that range from philosophical annoyance, to petty envy, and even, in at least one case, absolute hatred.
Some actively worked to stop Obama’s election, and at least one is feverishly at work trying to legally undo it.
Normally these “leaders” - many, but not all of whom, serve as mouthpieces for right-wing organizations or interests that mightily tried to cripple Obama’s presidential candidacy - are ignored, if not dismissed, not only by the African-American community, but the public at-large.
But given the tremendous challenges Pres. Obama faces on the economic and national security fronts in his still infant administration, if his massive $787 billion stimulus plan fails to produce jobs and recovery, or if the nation is struck once again 9/11-style with a crippling terrorist attack, Obama’s critics, especially in the Black community, will gain instant currency to undermine his leadership, and possibly destroy his presidency.
One need only look at the extraordinary cast of Black characters who are fully invested in creating dire drama for President Obama.
Number one on the list is a former 2008 presidential candidate himself, arch-conservative Alan Keyes.
''Obama is a radical communist, and I think it is becoming clear,” Keyes, who lost to Obama in a contentious 2004 U.S. Senate race in Illinois, told Nebraska TV station KHAS-TV two weeks ago. “That is what I told people in Illinois and now everybody realizes it's true.''
Then Keyes, who also has at least four failed runs for the White House under his own belt, issued this dire prediction on-camera, ''He is going to destroy this country, and we are either going to stop him or the United States of America is going to cease to exist.''
Keyes, who is party to a lawsuit alleging that President Obama assumed the office illegally because he has not proven to Keyes that he is a natural-born citizen (the state of Hawaii, which has Obama’s original 1961 birth certificate locked away, confirms the president’s citizenship), alleges even further constitutional calamity for the nation.
"I'm not sure he's even president of the United States," Keyes, who refuses to address Obama as “president” continued, "and neither are many of our military people...who are now going to court to ask the question, 'Do we have to obey a man who is not qualified under the constitution?'”
Apparently the TV reporter off-camera openly displayed mocking disbelief of Keyes’ pointed charges, causing the Black conservative to say, “We are in the midst of the greatest crisis this nation has ever seen, and if we don't stop laughing about it and deal with it, we're going to find ourselves in the midst of chaos, confusion and civil war.''
To say that Keyes, who once served in the Reagan Administration, is obsessed with Pres. Obama is an understatement.
On his website, “Loyal to Liberty,” Keyes not only calls Obama a “coward,” “tyrant” and “communist,” but even suggests that the president may “threaten” Keyes’ very life and liberty with counter legal action because of the Black conservative’s efforts to remove him from office.
“To any who insist on questioning his actions, he offers the drastic change of ruin and destruction,” Keyes writes, later adding, “To tell you the truth, I expected Obama's ruthlessness, as I expect that it will escalate until his threats extend to liberty and even life itself. Tyrants are like that.”
When Irving Joyner, associate professor of law at North Carolina Central University’s School of Law in Durham, saw Keyes’ KHAS-TV interview online, he couldn’t believe it.
“Alan Keyes is the worst example of radical right-wing politics even as he clothes himself in Black skin,” Prof. Joyner told The Carolinian. “It is certainly tragic that Keyes is able to obtain undeserved and unwarranted press attention by being a lead ''attack dog'' for interests and sentiments which are in direct opposition to the best interests of the vast majority of African-Americans.”
Joyner continued, “It also demonstrates how desperate Keyes has become, and the unmitigated gall which he exhibits when he goes to any [length] to obtain some attention and public exposure, especially when it is done at the expense of the most successful African-American political leader in American history...President Obama's political success and leadership paint a vivid picture of the scope of Keyes' failures and the pitiful depths to which he has sunk.”
George Curry, veteran journalist and former editor of Emerge Magazine, was blunt.
“People such as Alan Keyes and [conservative commentator] Larry Elders have zero credibility in our community. Therefore, I never think about what they think or if they think at all,” Curry said.
Stella Adams, newly elected First Vice Chair of the NC Democratic Party, agrees.
“As an African-American who fully embraces the agenda that has been set by our President Barack Obama, I am perplexed and dismayed by the remarks of Alan Keyes and others who have made outlandish and very close to seditious statements against our President, she told The Carolinian.
“I find it hard to believe that men like Alan Keyes, Larry Elder and others are sincere in their demagoguery but rather they understand that their outlandish positions will extend their 15 minutes of fame,” Adams continued. “Unfortunately, the media believes that it must put forward the opinions of any Black pundit who speaks in opposition to President Obama regardless of its relevance, I guess it is no different from the coverage that Ann Coulter receives.”
As both Adams and Prof. Joyner indicated, Keyes heads a long list of Black conservatives who have worked overtime trying to claim Obama’s rhetoric head for their mantle.
Black conservative Ken Blackwell, the Republican former Ohio secretary of state who failed in his bid recently to become the new chairman of the Republican National Committee is another who relentlessly branded Obama a “socialist” and questioned his patriotism based on Obama’s “questionable” association with controversial figures like is former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and 60’s Weatherman radical Prof. William Ayers.
“I want to make sure we protect the integrity of our democracy,” Blackwell told conservative commentator Glen Beck last year when asked why he opposed Obama.
Conservative author Shelby Steele wrote the book, “Bound Man: Why We are Excited About Obama and Why He Can’t Win,” postulating that the Black liberal presidential candidate, like all Black liberal public figures, would have to bargain with whites that if they would forget he’s black, he won’t accuse anyone of racism. Steele felt that Obama, as some point, would undoubtedly fall short of the bargain, and lose, because, using the word “cowardice,” he refuses to define himself.
“Sometimes, he’s Martin Luther King, sometimes, he's a Black militant from the Sixties, then he’s a Baptist minister. He can be so different. There’s not yet an Obama voice. That troubles me on other levels. It’s hard to know what bag he’s going to come out of when he takes to the podium,” Steele said in an interview with Kam Williams.
Months later, when it was clear that Obama was a lot more talented than he thought and stood an excellent chance to win, Steele admitted to Fox News’ Sean Hannity that the “Why he can’t win” subtitle was an ill advised “afterthought” that he “regretted.”
Other noted Black conservatives like Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell have attacked Obama as “lacking in character, values and understanding,” and “is himself a lie.”
On the journalistic front, they’ve been joined by Juan Williams, prizewinning author of “Eyes on the Prize,” national correspondent for National Public Radio, and frequent commentator on Fox News’ Sunday and The O’Reilly Factor.
Williams, originally thought to be politically moderate, has distressed many in both the liberal and African-American communities with his remarks about both President Obama, and First Lady Michelle Obama.
In March 2008 during the height of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy, Williams was frequently appearing on Fox News blasting Obama for remaining a member of Wright’s church for 20 years.
“This is the closest Black people have ever been to having a president of the United States of America. And suddenly you see, wait a second, he's playing games and corners here on the race question. He's not being straight ahead and saying, "You know what, I stand astride racial polarization.''
He's saying, ''I play racial polarization at one moment to my advantage - Reverend Wright - next moment I will distance myself and disavow Reverend Wright when that's convenient, too,” Williams said.
None other than arch-conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, famous for playing the “Barack the Magic Negro” song on his program and calling Obama a “half-rican” because his mother was White and his father was a black African, applauded Williams’ charge of dishonesty against Obama.
Recently after the inauguration, Williams was forced to apologize when he suggested on Fox’s The O’Reilly Factor that First Lady Michelle Obama “she's got this Stokely Carmichael-in-a-designer-dress thing going. If she starts talking…her instinct is to start with this ''blame America,'' you know, 'I'm the victim.' If that stuff starts to come out - people will go bananas.”
NPR, Williams’ primary employer, was so deluged with complaints about Williams’ remarks on Fox, that the company formerly asked Fox to no longer identify Williams’ association with NPR during his appearances. He was forced to apologize, and now there’s pressure to have him fired from NPR.
The brazen attacks on Pres. Obama haven’t been limited to just politics and commentators. Several Black ministers have gotten in on the act, using the Bible to say some of the most outlandish things about the historymaker.
Conservative Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, a frequent guest with Sean Hannity on Fox News Channel, heads up a Los Angeles-based organization called BOND Action, Inc. He has issued “10 Reasons to Fear an Obama Nation” which include “dangerous, corrupt appointments; surrender in the war on terror; perpetuating genocide against the unborn; and 'unrestrained socialism' which he further describes as “turning America into a ghetto.”
Peterson is known for saying that only Republicans and conservatives can be Christian, and “96 percent of Black people are racist” towards Whites.
When preachers like T.D. Jakes and pastor Shirley Caesar hailed President Obama’s victory, Rev. Peterson publicly attacked them as “worshiping the wrong Messiah.”
But even Peterson’s rhetoric is nothing compared to fiery attacks leveled by Rev. James David Manning, pastor of Atlah Worldwide Church in Harlem, NY.
Rev. Manning, who has made numerous radio and television appearances, and can be seen on YouTube online, made headlines last year for saying that Obama “was born trash” because he had a White mother and Black African father. He has also called Obama a “mack-daddy.”
“He got started — you didn’t notice him ’til he brought out those big-chested White women with their tight T-shirts and their short pants,” Rev. Manning preaches in one of his infamous videos. “That’s what a pimp does. He’s a mack daddy. He pimps White women and Black women. Obama is a long-legged mack daddy.”
Rev. Manning has also alleged that every speech Pres. Obama has made is tinged with his “hatred for America” and White people.
Recently, Manning has alleged that “the jury is still out on whether Obama is Black or not,” and suggested that Blacks really had nothing to be proud of in his election.
Amazingly, Manning does have a growing following, thanks to the Internet. Black Republicans like new GOP chair Michael Steele have taken shots at Obama in the past, and still do, but mostly those jibes are political in nature and rarely as deeply personal.
Many analysts say that what many of Obama’s critics have in common is that they are virtually divorced from the African-American community. They have no real base of Black support.
Intellectuals like Shelby Steele and Walter Williams work at high profile universities and conservative think tanks, so their salaries are paid by whites, not Blacks.
That’s one of the reasons why when they attack Obama or anyone else in the black community, they are seen as doing so from outside of the community, and thus, get no respect from inside.
The list of Black notables who have sought to personally and politically diminish Barack Obama is by no means limited to conservatives, a fact proven in January 2008 during the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary when billionaire Black Entertainment Television founder Robert Johnson, a Hillary Clinton friend and supporter, tried to undermine Obama, telling an audience that then candidate Sen. Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, ''have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues — when Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood; I won't say what he was doing, but he said it in his book — when they have been involved.''
Johnson was making a thinly veiled reference to Obama’s published admission of drug and alcohol usage as a troubled youth. Johnson later apologized, but three months later, bashed Obama again when he said that if Obama were White, he wouldn’t be leading the Democratic primary race over Clinton.
Conservatives, both Black and White, were enjoying the free-for-all as Black Democrats seemed to line up to take cheap potshots at the young, foreign-named political rookie who dared to say he wanted to be the next Commander-in-chief.
When then- Sen. Obama prepared to face-off against Sen. Clinton and others in the primaries in December 2007, former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, a close lieutenant to slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., made it clear during a television interview that as far as he was concerned, the Illinois senator was an upstart and lightweight.
Referring to former Pres. Bill Clinton’s alleged philandering in an effort to question how “Black” Obama was, Young, in an apparent tasteless dig, said, “Bill is every bit as Black as Barack. He’s probably gone with more Black women than Barack.”
Immediately realizing how off-color his remark was, Young quipped, “I’m clowning.”
During that same interview, Young said, “I want Barack Obama to be president…in 2016. It’s not a matter of being inexperienced. It’s a matter of being young.”
Even though no one from the traditional Democratic or civil rights leadership publicly came to Andrew Young’s defense, even after he later apologized, it was common knowledge that there was a resentment on the part of some of the old guard like Rev. Jesse Jackson, Young and others towards Obama because he didn’t come to them to ask for either their blessing or guidance.
That resentment was especially apparent with Rev. Jackson, who, even though he publicly supported Obama, openly criticized the Democratic candidate if he didn’t speak out on an issue of Black concern, like the Jena 6 controversy.
Jackson’s angst, and some say jealousy over the fact that Obama had clearly gone much further in his presidential aspirations than Jackson’s two unsuccessful tries in the late 1980’s, apparently boiled over when he was secretly taped in a Fox News studio last July telling a fellow guest that he would like cut Obama’s privates off because he was “talking down to Black people” about parenting.
“You are hurting Black America and Senator Obama,” Los Angeles community activist Najee Ali angrily wrote in an open letter to Jackson afterwards. “Your continued verbal attacks (see Jena 6 drama) are unwarranted. It is as if you're jealous that he has eclipsed you and both of your campaigns for the Democratic nomination.”
Rev. Jackson, who apologized even before the tape became public, has been kept at considerable distance from Obama ever since.
For many Black Democrats who supported Hillary Clinton last year, it took well into the general election before many of them finally accepted that Barack Obama could be, and should be the next president.
For many Black conservatives and religious figures, however, their opposition to Obama, and what they believed he stands for, only increased after he won election.
“It is fair game to challenge President Obama on ideological or political grounds,” Prof. Irving Joyner told The Carolinian. “That is a principled position, even if the position opposes policies of the Obama administration...It is despicable to attack the President based on his race, and the fact that Obama has succeeded where others, like Keyes, have failed. This is especially true when the attacks come from someone with the hue of an African-American.
Keyes and other 'haters of color' diminish our entire race and cheapens the historic struggles and political progress which African-Americans have made.”
Joyner continued, “Keyes' attacks are unprincipled in every respect and he, and others like him, should be condemned by every African-American in this country. It is to be remembered that success needs no explanation or justification, and failures, like Alan Keyes, have none.”
Joyner concluded, “We all should pray for Alan Keyes...because he is truly one of the very few lost sheep.”
Other defenders of Pres. Obama agree that where there is truly constructive criticism of the president and his policies from political adversaries, that should be both respected, and debated.
“I believe we have to take seriously the actions of [GOP Chair] Michael Steele and other sincere Republicans who have different but legitimate views of President Obama's agenda,” Stella Adams, NCDP First Vice Chair, said. “We must agree to disagree with their arguments and look for common ground where we can work together for the benefit of the African American community. I am eager in my position as 1st Vice Chair of the Democratic Party to explain to our community why President Obama has provided a clear path to the future for our community and our country.”
plez sez: this was a cool article and is great compendium of those Blacks who took issue with the candidacy of President Barack Obama. unfortunately, i don't recall any mention of any Black "leaders" in the entire article (Jesse Jackson? Andrew Young? Alan Keyes?)... did you?
Read the New America Media Cash Michaels article.
Read the Wilmington Journal article.
Read the New America Media article about significance of Black History in the Age of Obama.