Guest Editorial: President Obama not above criticism

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With the exception of African-Americans, support of President Obama has steadily declined among most voters since his election in 2008.

Most polls show that the president still enjoys strong and steady support among African-American voters whose unwavering approval is way above other voting groups.

The strong support of the president among African-Americans is a mix of racial pride at seeing the nation’s first African-American president and a willingness to be patient and fair to a president who inherited two wars and a recession. There is also the belief among many supporters that Obama is genuinely trying to do the right thing but has been thwarted in his attempts by hostile political forces.

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When Obama is unfairly attacked and called a liar by a member of Congress or questioned on his birth place and legitimacy to be president or called a socialist by conservatives, African-Americans rally around him.

But the protective wall around the president can sometimes lead to an unwise effort to stifle all criticism of him.

Princeton University professor Cornel West and talk show host Tavis Smiley have been met with strident resistance and sometimes nasty personal attacks because of their criticism of the president.

Rev. Al Sharpton, radio talk show hosts Tom Joyner and Steve Harvey have been some of the most vocal in their attacks against West and Smiley for their criticism of Obama and their recent 15-city tour to highlight the plight of the nation’s poor.

In some cases, West and Smiley have earned the wrath they have incurred by appearing to make the criticism personal. When Smiley points out that Obama is the first president never to appear on his show, it sounds self-serving even if he’s trying to make a political point. When West called Obama a “Black mascot” for Wall Street, it just sounded like an ugly attack.

West and Smiley should be free to criticize the president as long as it is fair and not personal.

But West, Smiley and other critics of Obama are right to try to hold the president accountable as voters should any politician.

When done right, constructive criticism can make the president better.

It would be unrealistic not to expect the president to receive some criticism even among supporters when he is the nation’s top elected leader.

This does not mean Congress should get off scot-free, but the president is the nation’s leader. Fair or not, the buck stops with the president. He gets the credit when things are going well and the blame for when it is not.

While Obama can be credited for saving the nation from a depression and passing a historic health care reform bill, he is leading a nation where poverty is increasing and the wealth gap is widening.

Unemployment remains above 9 percent, with Black unemployment at an unacceptably high level of 16 percent.

The economy is Obama’s Achilles heel, as it is for most presidents.

So far the policies out of Washington from the White House and Congress have largely benefited Wall Street, but not the nation’s middle class and poor.

It is important to remember that despite the criticism of the president from liberals such as West and Smiley, the most unrelenting and vehement criticism of the president has come from conservatives who have achieved many of their political goals—including holding the line on eliminating the Bush-era tax cuts, changing the discussion from job creation to deficits, and the reduction of over $900 billion in spending cuts in the next 10 years with more to come.

So far, the tea party has dominated the debate.

The president and the mainstream media have heard only one point of view that is pushing the political agenda more and more to the right. The nation’s political leaders are not getting any serious pressure from liberals or moderates.

Obama and Congress need to hear from West, Smiley and others who have a different point of view than what is being espoused by the tea party.

(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune.)

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