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The Big Let Down

Obama Scolds Black Fathers, Gets Bounce in Polls

by ISHMAEL REED

It’s obvious by now that Barack Obama is treating black Americans like one treats a demented uncle, brought out  from his room to be ridiculed and scolded before company from time to time, the old Clinton Sistah Souljah strategy borrowed from Clinton’s first presidential campaign when he traveled the country criticizing the personal morality of blacks and wooing white voters by objecting to what he considered anti -white lyrics sung by rapper Sistah Souljah.

As in Clinton’s case, Obama’s June 14th finger wagging at black men was a case of pandering to white conservative voters. This follows a pattern of using public perceptions of black men fanned by the media and Hollywood to win political favor. Bush One and his sleazy cohorts won votes by depicting black men as dangerous. After the Willie Horton ad, featuring a black rapist, was aired, support for Bush soared to 20% among southern white males, according to Willie Brown, former San Francisco mayor. Obama, by depicting them as irresponsible, saw his poll numbers climb to a 15% lead over McCain, according to a Newsweek poll. With his speech, he received a bounce in the polls that was denied to him after he gained the democrat nomination.   He also enjoyed the bounce in the polls from Pennsylvania and Ohio.

According to pundits, the reason he lost these states during the primary was because he couldn’t bowl  His Father’s Day speech was meant to show white conservative males that he wouldn’t cater to “special interests” groups, blacks in this case. This was the consensus of those who appeared on MSNBC and other opinion venues of the segregated media on 6/16/2008 even the progressive ones. (Segregated? Not quite. The two percent of African Americans who support Bush all seem to have jobs as pundits, columnists and Op-eders). Michael A. Cohen, writing in The New York Times, June 15, 2008, acknowledging Mr. Obama’s Sister Souljah moment wrote “Indeed, just yesterday, Barack Obama had his own mini- “Souljah moment” as he decried the epidemic of fatherlessness and illegitimacy among black Americans. While it is a message that Mr. Obama has voiced before to other black audiences, speaking unpleasant truths about issues afflicting the black community may provide political benefit for a candidate whom some working-class white voters are suspicious of — just as it did for Clinton 16 years ago. ” ( When is Cohen going to air “unpleasant truths about issues afflicting” his community?).

The talking heads also concluded that Obama’s speech before a black congregation in which he scolded black men for being lousy fathers and missing in action from single parent households and being boys, etc. , was cleary aimed at those white male Reagan democrats, who, apparently, in Obama and the media’s eyes, provide the gold standard for fatherhood, which fails to explain why there are millions of destitute white women, “ displaced housewives”and their children whose poverty results from divorce, or why, according to one study, 90% of middle class white women have been battered , or have witnessed their mothers sisters, or daughters being battered. A smug John Harwood of The New York Times said that Obama was telling black men to “shape up. ” As long as men of Mr. Harwood’s class dominate the avenues of expression, who’s going to tell white men to “shape up?”Judging from my reading American men of all races, ethnic groups and classes need to shape up when it comes to the treatment of women.

Blaming black men exclusively for the abuses against women is a more profitable infotainment product. Hypocrisy is also involved. MSNBC host, Joe Scarborough, who welcomed Juan William’s latest demagogic attack on blacks, printed in The Wall Street Journal , still hasn’t addressed the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of his staffer, Lori Klaustis (http://www. whoseflorida. com/lori_klausutis. htm) who was found dead on the floor of his office or why he had to resign abruptly from Congress. And is Juan Williams, whose career has been marred by repeated sexual harassment complaints against him really one to criticize the personal morality of others? Is Bill Cosby?

According to the Census, a woman’s income on the average is reduced by 73% after divorce in a country in which 50% of marriages end in divorce. Moreover the Times revelation, shocking to some, that elderly whites are taking to cocaine and heroin, a genuine epidemic, hasn’t drawn a response from the legions of columnists and commentators and book publishers who profit from any signs of social”dysfunction” among blacks. Nor has Harwood,  George Will, David Brooks, Pat Buchanan, who are always scolding blacks for whatever , commented on the rising incarceration rates of white women. Apparently,  Lindsay and Paris are not alone, nor are the Barbie bandits.

Don’t expect Obama to bring up this rampant substance abuse before a white congregation. He had to just about whisper about the values of blue-collar whites, those whom he said clung to guns and religion;he was exposed by a woman who recorded his comments, furtively. Even though the media, which rank ratings above facts, continue to criticize him for these remarks and have made them a campaign issue, sixty percent of Pennsylvanians, according to an April 17, Zogby poll, agreed with him. (The media were also wrong to suggest that Hillary got the worst of it from the press during the primary. A Pew study from Harvard contradicts this. )

Predictably, Obama’s verbal flagellation of black men,  who don’t have the media power with which to fight back, was cheered on the front page of The New York Times, which places a black face on every story about welfare, domestic violence and unmarried mothers, and uses Orlando Patterson to parrot these attitudes on the Op-ed page, yet a study published by the Times showed a steep decline in the rate of births to unmarried black women over the decade while the rate among Hispanic women has increased, contradicting what Cohen described as an “epidemic of illegitimacy” among blacks. An indication that the Op ed editors at the Times are so willing to believe the folklore perpetrated by such writers as Cohen that they don’t fact check a writer whose assumptions are at odds with the reports from The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention that they published on Dec. 6, 2007, and at odds with their token black columnist, Bob Herbert, who said on 6/20/08 that illegitimate births have “skyrocketed” over the decades.

Patterson, Williams and Herbert have to rough up the brothers and sisters from time to time in order to hew the editorial line set by their employers. This was the conclusion of a study (Times, 6/23/08) by Bob Sommer, who teaches public policy communications at Rutgers and John R. Maycroft, a graduate student in public policy. They examined 366 opinion articles published in The Times,   The Wall Street Journal and the Star-Ledger. “At each newspaper” they found, ” 90 to 95 percent” of the published article agreed with the editorial page stance on the issue at hand. ”

Moreover, why aren’t Obama and other tough lovers acquainted with a study cited by Michael Eric Dyson in Time magazine, 6, 30, 08? In his Viewpoint piece, The Blame Game, in which he also takes Obama’s blame the victim speech, he refers to research by Boston College social psychologist that found “black fathers not living at home are more likely to keep in contact with their children than fathers of any ethnic or racial group?”  

I asked for a correction of both Herbert and Cohen’s assertions and received an automatic reply from the Times.  Since the CDC report indicated a higher rate per thousand of births to unmarried Hispanic women, why don’t the legion of politicians like Obama, writers like The Manhattan Institute’s John McWhorter,  Fox New’s Juan Williams, Harvard’s talented tenthers, all of whom scold blacks under the guise of tough love, love Hispanics, the country’s largest minority group? No box office appeal? No publishing contracts? No votes from Reagan democrats?  

A 2007 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed some alarming statistics. “Latino high school students use drugs and attempt suicide at higher rates than their black and white classmates.” In addition “Latino students were more likely than either blacks or whites to… ride with a driver who had been drinking alcohol, or use cocaine heroin or ectasy. ”

Other studies show that of the 300 gangs located in Los Angeles, over sixty percent of their members are latino. Most of the nation’s drive by shootings occur in Los Angeles. Over fifty percent of the nation’s school dropouts are Hispanic.

It’s been over a month since the 2007 report and I haven’t read a single tough love column about the conclusions. Not even from the handful of Hispanic commentators or syndicated columnists, who, like the Colored Mind Doubles, are restricted about what they say lest they alienate the white viewers or readership by appearing to be angry. I asked Jonathan Capehart,  the genteel editorial writer for The Washington Post, whose assignment from MSNBC is to link Rev. Wright to Barack Obama, why he didn’t explore the relationship of Senator Clinton and John McCain to pastors who’ve made outrageous statements? I mentioned McCain’s buddy, the late Rev. Fallwell’s remark that the Anti Christ was a Jew. Capehart answered that this wasn’t the topic.

While white commentators might range over a number of topics, the black commentators have to stick to their assignment lest they appear to be out of control or “angry. ” That’s why the black commentator who spends the most time on camera at MSNBC and elsewhere is Michelle Barnard, president of the far right Independent Women’s forum. She apparently puts the white audience at ease. People For The American Way provides some information about The Independent Women’s Forum at their website:

* The International Women’s Forum (IWF) is an anti-feminist women’s organization founded to counter the influence of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and "radical feminists" on society.

* Frequent targets: Title IX funding, affirmative action, the Violence Against Women Act, full integration of women in the military, and those who oppose President Bush’s controversial judicial nominees.

* Opposes the United Nation’s Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

* IWF’s credo/mission: "The Independent Women’s Forum provides a voice for American women who believe in individual freedom and personal responsibility. We have made that voice heard in the U. S. Supreme Court, among decision makers [sic] in Washington, and across America’s airwaves. It is the voice of reasonable women with important ideas who embrace common sense over divisive ideology."

* IWF was organized in defense of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas during his controversial nomination hearings.

* In the words of Media Transparency, “The Independent Women’s Forum is neither Independent, nor a Forum. Not independent because it is largely funded by the conservative movement. Not a forum because it merely serves up women who mouth the conservative movement party line. " Two other black MSNBC favorites are Ron Christie, former aide to Bush and Cheney and Joe Martin, Republican strategist.

Either Obama and the pundits don’t love Hispanics or there’s more money and political opportunity in exhorting blacks. Racist appeals played a role in the election of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Both Bushes and even Clinton, but there is such euphoria among many African  Americans about the possibility of a black presidency that his dumping of a bunch of lazy clichés on them will be forgiven. They will forgive him for throwing them under the bus as he did Rev. Wright, whose criticism of American foreign policy and remarks about the toxic attacks on the inner city were based upon facts. He provided his corporate media critics with a bibliography, but they apparently were too busy paling around with the people whom they cover to read it.

Blacks will overlook Obama’s snubbing of the distinguished panel of black educators politicians and intellectuals who appear on Tavis Smiley’ annual “State of the Black Union, ” and overlook the fact that he found the time to appear before AIPAC where he made belligerent threats against Arab nations and even promised Israel an undivided Jerusalem, he got so carried away, which undercuts a notion held by Maureen Dowd, and Susan Faludi that he is the feminine candidate. When it comes to seeking Jewish votes and putting down black men, in order to obtain votes from white male conservatives, he can become John Wayne.

Finally does anyone doubt that the hypocrisy exhibited by some leaders of the conservative movement in recent years doesn’t trickle down to many of their white working class followers in both states, who are idealized like a Norman Rockwell by talking heads like Hitler apologist Pat Buchanan.

I had a glimpse of these talking heads’ lifestyle when walking toward a restaurant called The Bombay Palace, last May, located across the street from CBS. The street was lined with chauffeurs awaiting the talking heads, who pose as experts on the white working class.

And if many African-Americans agree with John McWhorter that racist attacks on African Americans, including predatory mortgages, racial profiling, capricious traffic stops, racism in the criminal justice system, job and medical discrimination, outlaw drug experiments and the exoneration of police who murder unarmed blacks will end the day after the election of a black president, they’re in for a big letdown. Again.

ISHMAEL REED’s latest book is “Mixing It Up, Taking On The Media Bullies.” He appears in Stefan Forbes new movie, “The Boogie Man, The Lee Atwater Story”