TALKING TOUGH–President Barack Obama speaks in the Brady Press Briefing at the White House in Washington, April 19, regarding the Boston Marathon bombing. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
by Daryl Gale
One of the great things about working in a newsroom is the level of debate. There are discussions of news topics great and small – from eliminating poverty to illegal guns to Lil’ Wayne’s facial tattoos. Opinions fly, voice levels rise, but more often than not, logic and intelligent discourse rule the day.
The other day there was such a discussion, and it was a doozy. The question on the table was whether President Barack Obama has done enough specifically for Black people, and by the same token, if we Blacks aren’t asking too much of him.
It’s a legitimate discussion, and one that’s taking place every day among Black folks in barber shops, saloons, and beauty parlors around the country. There is ample evidence to suggest that Blacks, about 93 percent of whom voted for Obama in November, have gotten the short end of the stick from the president’s administration. His cabinet picks for his second term are overloaded with white folks – even his predecessor George W. Bush had more African Americans in positions of power than Obama – and it’s difficult to nail down even one occasion when the president acknowledges the unique problems of racial minorities in this country.
When faced with specific questions on race, Obama’s pat answer is, “I’ve got to be everyone’s president, not just one group.” Fair enough, there’s no denying that. But when one group seems to get the shaft over and over, don’t they deserve special relief?
If it’s fine to single out Blacks for, say, stop and frisk purposes, or follow them around department stores, or point to Black people when the subject of entitlements comes up, then it’s equally fair to single them out when talking about relief from discrimination both subtle and overt.
During the course of our discussion, I realized that my problem with the president, whom I admire, respect and voted for twice, is not so much that his policies and initiatives are not pleasing to his fellow Black folks in particular, but that they are not pleasing to his fellow Democrats in general.
Take the gun control legislation that crashed and burned in the Senate this week. It seemed like a no brainer, considering that every poll shows Americans – even gun owners – are overwhelmingly in favor of legislation that keeps guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally unfit. The time was right, the political will existed to get it done, and the mood of the country, after the recent shooting massacres, couldn’t be more favorable to some form of gun control.
But the bill that was shot down by the Senate bore little resemblance to tough gun control legislation. That bill had been watered down to just background checks under certain conditions – watered down so much that even Democrats turned up their noses at it.
I think Obama’s negotiating style is to blame. He begins every negotiation by giving up something, and thereby working from a position of weakness. If you start in the center, and your opponents are way out there to the right, the only way to compromise is to move toward them, and further right. They win before the first shot is fired.
It happened in the most recent sequester / fiscal cliff / spending vs. entitlement fiasco. The president immediately put Social Security and Medicare on the table, the two Democrat stronghold issues, for possible cuts. What did the Republicans offer? Zilch. They didn’t have to, because Obama had capitulated already, and was now trying to make up ground he already gave away.
The president, bless his naïve little heart, seems to be laboring under the delusion that he’s dealing with rational, critically-thinking adults who, deep down, really are concerned with the best interests of the country and their constituents.
He’s dealing with selfish, petty, petulant children who need to be told what to do, and what’s going to happen. Congress needs leadership, in much the same way as a room full of preschoolers.
When Republicans get in power, you’ll notice, that never happens. They come in like gangbusters, ramrod their agenda through intact and undiminished, and leave Democrats standing on the sidelines. They don’t compromise, they don’t negotiate, and they don’t care what you think. It’s all draconian abortion restrictions, discriminatory Voter ID laws, and open hostility toward gays and immigrants from Day One.
Well, I for one am tired of watching my president get hammered because he wants to be the bigger person. Clearly there’s no profit in it. We can’t even get a simple gun bill passed.
It’s your second term, brother. Time to start using those size 11s for something other than walking into a trap.
Daryl Gale is the city editor of The Philadelphia Tribune.