I decided to go back in time with the help of Google and find out if he ever REALLY supported Barack Obama and exactly when it was that Dr. West and his sidekick, Tavis Smiley, began their assault on our first black president.
I typed into the search bar the words “Cornel West Supports Obama” and then proceeded to weed through hundreds of hits about Cornel’s criticism of President Obama, page after page after page of links to stories about “black mascots” and “oligarchs and plutocrats” and “fear of free black men”. There were articles by conservatives and liberals, all using Cornel West to justify their own hatred and dislike for our President.
I came across one transcript from an interview he did with Amy Goodman about 2 weeks after the election where Dr. West very cautiously applauds the election of President Obama, but you can already begin to see the formulation of his strategy to undermine him.
I looked at hundreds of results from my Google search and that one transcript was about the extent of the “support” I found for President Obama. I challenge any defenders of West to provide more, besides people saying he supported the president.
In my attempt to find Cornel’s support of candidate Obama, I did come across what to me is the beginning of Cornel West and Tavis Smiley’s descent into pettiness and self defeatism.
Joy Reid, now the managing editor of The Grio, had a post on her blog from February of 2008, that quoted a Salon article that was very revealing of West and Smiley’s true feelings about Senator Obama…
As Obama’s campaign got started, black media juggernaut Tavis Smiley exemplified the black community’s lukewarm response, declaring, “There is not a black groundswell … saying ‘Run, Obama, Run.'” He pinpointed Obama’s lack of common history with other black Americans as part of what made people of color skeptical about him, because he did not have a “long-standing relationship with the black community.” Around the same time, prominent black intellectual Cornel West criticized Obama for beginning his campaign in Springfield, Ill. (which he implied is a predominantly white community), instead of at Smiley’s State of Black America conference. Like Smiley, Debra J. Dickerson, writing in Salon, described Obama as “not black” in part because his biography does not include the legacy of slavery.
I remember that period of time vividly. The media picked up on it very quickly and for several weeks, a meme was created that the black community wasn’t going to support the young Senator because he wasn’t “black enough”. Debra Dickerson and Tavis Smiley helped to spread that meme and Cornel West was enabling them with his rhetoric too. If you haven’t seen the clip of Dick Gregory at the “State of the Black Union” addressing the “not black enough” craziness, go watch it now.
I found a piece at The Daily Voice from April of 2008 that helped shed some light on the history of Cornel West’s dislike of our President. It stemmed from the fact that Senator Barack Obama did not attend a ceremony on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death.
Princeton professor Cornel West was also concerned by Obama’s absence. “I want to say that I’m deeply disappointed that my dear brother Barack Obama decided not to go pay tribute and lay his wreath for the great Martin Luther King, Jr.,” West wrote.
Although West is an Obama supporter and understands the politics behind the candidate’s decision, he still disagreed with the decision. Dr. King’s message, he said, is not “reducible to political calculations, even for the campaign for presidency” and “can in no way be subject to strategies for access to political power.”
But for every criticism of Obama by a prominent black public figure, there seems to be some sort of backlash. The reaction to Cornel West was no exception to the rule.
“My prayer for you Dr. West is that you humble yourself and come down off your judgmental high horse and walk with us common folk who are experiencing a transforming moment in the history of America,” wrote one critic, identified online as Rev. Holmes. “Stop your ego (edging out God) from getting in the way and you will see the bigger picture,” said the writer.
“Dr. West, I have long admired the brilliant creativity of your thinking for many years, but in my humble opinion you are WAY, WAY, WAY off the mark with this one,” wrote another commenter.
“So, Dr. West, let me get this straight,” wrote a third critic. “[Y]ou are concerned that a black man who is the Democratic front-runner for the highest office in our country and is promoting change didn’t go back to the site where another high black figure who also promoted change was assassinated?”
A fourth critic chimed in, “I’d like to share my ‘deep disappointment’ in my ‘dear brother’ Cornel West. It seems that Barack Obama’s successful White House run is making many so-called black leaders and intellectuals go a little insane. This article was completely unnecessary, and woefully short-sighted. not to mention petty as all get-out!”
The brief two-paragraph post by Cornel West elicited more than 1200 comments on the Huffington Post web site, many of them defending Obama and criticizing West.
Something similar happened to Tavis Smiley when he challenged Sen. Barack Obama for not attending an annual “State of the Black Union” event he moderated in New Orleans two months ago. As a result of his criticism, the talk show host was chastened by African Americans who accused him of hurting Obama’s chances to win the presidency.
Writing in the Chicago Sun-Times on Monday, columnist Laura Washington accused Smiley of being out of touch after he made a recent comment criticizing Obama for failing to defend Rev. Jeremiah Wright. “This spokesman for black America is edging out onto a precarious limb,” she wrote. “His attacks on Obama are alienating his base. PBS and his multitude of corporate benefactors didn’t hire him to weave conspiracy theories and pick fights with natural allies.”
Melissa Harris-Perry (Harris-Lacewell at the time) wrote a great piece back in February of 2008 — taking Tavis Smiley to task for his pettiness over candidate Obama’s failure to attend the “State of the Black Union” event, which was organized by Tavis. Melissa tells it like it is…
Tavis and his guests have every right to criticize Obama if they have substantive disagreements with his policy, his approach to politics or his viability as a general election candidate. They do not have a right to create a false, racial litmus test. All these black leaders who spent the year telling us that Obama is not old enough, not black enough and not angry enough to earn African American votes must have noticed that Obama can deliver the black vote to himself, by himself, with little help from these self-proclaimed racial power brokers.
I can’t quite figure out what motivates Tavis. At least I understand the old guard Civil Rights leaders. They are genuinely unwilling to cede power, believing that they have an authenticity claim based on their proximity to Martin Luther King, Jr. I also understand the frightened Democratic insiders who rely on the remnants of the Clinton machine for their bread and butter. But Tavis is not in either category. He is a part of a new generation of journalists who have carved out their own constituency. I am actually surprised to see Smiley join a pile-on led by his former boss Bob Johnson, who tried to silence him with such an ungracious termination a decade ago.
So as you can see, these two gentlemen have been undermining President Obama since before he was even elected. And then Cornel had the gall to complain about candidate Obama not returning his calls or making sure he had tickets to the inauguration. The “audacity” he showed by expecting tickets to the party after spending so much time attacking him personally is simply amazing.
Cornel West is now joining forces with Ralph Nadar, of all people, to recruit people to primary President Obama and challenge his policies. Angry Black Lady reminded us of Ralph Nadar’s previous statements and wonders how Dr. West squares it with his thinking.
It would be one thing if Dr. West was basing his criticism in reality and being honest with people, but as the rest of this post will show, the man will go to great lengths to distort, ignore, mischaracterize and outright lie about the accomplishments of our President. This paragraph from Dr. Cornel West’s article in the New York Times is worthy of analysis and debunking…
The age of Obama has fallen tragically short of fulfilling King’s prophetic legacy. Instead of articulating a radical democratic vision and fighting for homeowners, workers and poor people in the form of mortgage relief, jobs and investment in education, infrastructure and housing, the administration gave us bailouts for banks, record profits for Wall Street and giant budget cuts on the backs of the vulnerable.
Is the “the age of Obama” over already? The entire premise of his screed seems to place the time frame for “fulfilling King’s prophetic legacy” as 2 years. Professor West’s indictment seems just a little premature.
If you break apart what he wrote in the paragraph above, you see that there is barely a shred of truth in it. Maybe Cornel just isn’t aware of what DID happen in the first two years plus of the President’s term. When your head is filled with jealousy, rage and pettiness, I imagine it would be hard for him to believe anything that might cause cognitive dissonance.
In the first sentence of that paragraph, West shamelessly invokes the legacy of Martin Luther King and assigns to President Obama the task of “fulfilling King’s prophetic legacy”. No pressure there, right? Especially in an environment where the forces of Fox News, the Tea Party, Rush Limbaugh, TeaNN (CNN), the firebaggers (Firedoglake +), the Kossacks (DailyKos) , Salon (through Greenwald), Michael Moore, The Young Turks, Ed (Dems stay home) Schultz, Rachel (wrong on DADT) Maddow, Netroots (Dan Choi stunt) Nation….all alligned against the man for various reasons. But the “Superhero President” is supposed to overcome all of that and fulfill Dr. King’s legacy in two short years.
The second sentence begins with, “Instead of articulating a radical democratic vision…”, wo wo wo…hold up a second. What president in their right mind would start their presidency by articulating a “radical democratic vision”, even if you believed in one — which of course, candidate Obama wasn’t about at all. It blows me away how many of the supposed thinkers on the left obviously didn’t hear a word candidate Obama said during the election. I guess they were too busy trying to think up clever tropes to throw at his supporters like “dear leader” or “Obamabots” or “cult-like followers” or “style over substance” or any number of other demeaning and condescending terms to describe us pragmatic or realistic Democrats who supported Barack Obama.
They must not know how to use Google or Youtube where they could actually go back and check what candidate Obama said. Those of us who supported him were well aware of his positions and his desire to bring the two parties together. I didn’t agree with everything candidate Obama said, there has NEVER been a Democratic candidate that I agreed with 100% of the time, but I knew what I was voting for when I cast my ballot and wasn’t under any illusions. Anyone who is looking for that perfect candidate is doomed to a life of hating all politicians and sitting on the sidelines throwing grenades at both sides. It’s cool if you don’t want to participate and in many ways I envy people who don’t, but just admit it and don’t naively throw out the “both sides are the same” cop out as your cover. Are these people suffering from “Bush amnesia”…the condition where you FORGET WHAT IT WAS FUCKING LIKE WITH A REPUBLICAN IN THE WHITE HOUSE!
Cornel West continues in his second sentence by accusing the President of not “fighting for homeowners, workers and poor people in the form of mortgage relief”, maybe Dr. West just doesn’t know that the president…
- Established the Making Home Affordable Plan, which will provide for the refinance or loan modification for 9 Million homeowners.
West continues his list of falsehoods claiming President Obama failed on ” jobs and investment in education”. I’m giving Cornel the benefit of the doubt that he just missed all of this…
- Established President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability to assist in financial education for all Americans.
- Created the Race to the Top Fund ($4.35 billion) to reward States that create comprehensive education reform plans.
- Provided $77 Billion for reforms to to strengthen Elementary and Secondary education.
- Provided $12.2 billion in new funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Act through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
- Provided over $2.3 billion in additional funding to Head Start and Early Head Start programs in 2009.
There are many more actions that were done to improve education, but let’s move on to the next falsehood in Cornel West’s list, “infrastructure and housing”. Here is some more reality on what ACTUALLY happened, that I’m sure Dr. King would have approved of…
- Invested $13 Billion (ARRA: $8B + $1B 5-year federal budget) in high speed rail projects in 13 major corridors.
The list goes on and on and on…
But then Cornel West proceeds to blame things on the President which he had nothing or very little to do with. The one that seems to be the source of most of Cornel’s rage is the misnomer that President Obama bailed out the banks, he writes ” the administration gave us bailouts for banks”. Except that PRESIDENT OBAMA DID NOT SIGN THE BANK BAILOUT, PRESIDENT BUSH DID! Maybe Cornel West was just too busy attacking candidate Obama to know that the bank bailout was actually signed a month before Barack Obama was even elected president…..geez.
October 3, 2008
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — After two weeks of contentious and often emotional debate, the federal government’s far-reaching and historic plan to bail out the nation’s financial system was signed into law by President Bush on Friday afternoon.
“By coming together on this legislation, we have acted boldly to prevent the crisis on Wall Street from becoming a crisis in communities across our country,” Bush said less than an hour after the House voted 263 to 171 to pass the bill.
Cornel West and his buddy Tavis Smiley have to stop lying about that…just fucking stop it!
The final falsehood in just that one paragraph of Cornel’s incredible pile of lies was that somehow President Obama was responsible for “record profits for Wall Street”. Those profits had nothing to do with the policies and deregulation of Wall Street that began with Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton and Bush 2? It was all President Obama’s fault, right Cornel. That statement is beyond stupid and completely ignores reality. President Obama expended a lot of political capital, with few covering his back, to pass the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
I know it is a lot to ask, but I wish the media would be honest and admit that Cornel West and Tavis Smiley never REALLY supported President Obama. They have been a thorn in his side from the beginning and their current effort to hurt our Democratic president shows that they have no concern for real, working Americans. They are the real tools of the oligarchs and plutocrats and are apparently too stupid to realize it.