What I hear consistently from media outlets featuring black callers defending President Obama, is that his lack of success can all be blamed on his not having been “given a chance.” Basically, his failures to meet almost all of his promised goals during his first term can’t be counted against him; he needs at least eight years to accomplish what he campaigned on accomplishing in less than four. These comments are invariably followed up with a litany of grievances I can usually chant along with. Congress blocked him. Republicans can’t stand the idea of a black man in the White House. He was left a big mess by George Bush.
An hour ago I heard what sounded like an older black woman, excited about finally getting through on C-SPAN to deliver the message that she hasn’t heard anybody saying. She then proceeded to repeat what I have heard untold scores of black callers, most of them older women like her, say on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal for the past year, at least twice every ten minutes, every weekday morning, no matter what the topic of the program segment. And today the gist of the caller’s never-before-heard message was: How dare they criticize Obama’s failures in office when they did everything they could from the very beginning to force him to fail. She wanted everyone to know that the Republicans got together and did that just because they couldn’t stand to see Obama succeed, because he is a Black Man.
As many weeks as this lady’s been on hold trying to get on C-SPAN, you’d think she would have noticed the other 371 callers who’ve said exactly the same thing.
Now I know this message is nonsense, and most of you know this it’s nonsense, and I’m fairly certain that most of the American people, even those who are planning to vote for Obama, know it’s nonsense, too. But to anyone who happens to believe it’s not nonsense, that it’s all true, I would say this about President Obama not having been given a chance:
Granted he faced serious resistance from the opposing party when he took office. But every single one of his predecessors has faced the same, and the adversarial quality of our political system was well-known to Obama, seeing as he spent his entire career trying to advance in it.
That he would face political opposition was also something he knew perfectly well long before he asked for the job of president, as was the existence of a serious deficit, as well as a faltering economy, the wars, Guantanamo, all of it. Before he was elected Obama claimed he had mastered the details of every one of these things, and told voters that he would fix them all, and then failed to fix any of them. All the things Obama failed at were not things Republicans had just thrown across his path after he got into the Oval Office to deny him success: all the things Obama failed at were all the problems he’d promised to solve from the moment he announced his intention to run, and then didn’t solve.
Proposing a remedial second term for Obama so he has more time to fix what he couldn’t get fixed during his first term is not a serious political viewpoint: it’s affirmative-action thinking imposed on the presidency. The tragedy of it, like the tragedy of most affirmative action thinking, is that it reinforces the racist idea that black progress and success is conditioned upon whites not conspiring to keep blacks back. As Ann Coulter has put it in her latest book, Mugged: Racial Demagoguery from the Seventies to Obama, “The initial lie from which all other lies flow is the idea that black people’s condition in America depends on white people’s beneficence.” And when I say that’s racist thinking, it’s not whites who are being poisoned by it, but blacks.
Even if it the tired and slanderous myth of the racist Republicans weren’t nonsense, (which it is), what should it matter that Obama had opponents who wanted him to fail? Let’s assume that it’s all true, and that all Republicans really do oppose Obama for no other reason than revulsion at sharing Planet Earth with a Successful Black Man. How has Obama performed in the face of it?
There were plenty of Democratic rednecks who wanted Joe Louis to fail, there were plenty of Nazi Aryans who wanted Jesse Owens to fail, and plenty of cracker major-league players who wanted Jackie Robinson to fail. The very greatness of these guys is that they all succeeded in the very face of all that. Joe Louis retained his heavyweight title in 1938 not by arranging for his corrupt attorney general to declare his hanging onto it a civil right, but by beating Max Schmeling in less than two rounds. Robinson excelled on the Brooklyn Dodgers in spite of “racial taunts and slurs, on the field and off, death threats, character assassination, and about anything else a prejudiced person could think of to throw at him.” And in the process, “showed his enemies who was the better person.”
But Obama’s not great that way, and never has been. He fooled a lot of people to get elected (he does excel at that), but most of his supporters know his limits by now, the way lots of us could plainly see them then. A lot of Democrats, like the Clintons, knew he was just an empty suit in 2008, even before he played the race card on them. As late as January 2008 Hillary was still the favorite among black women. Obama wasn’t even lionized by most Democrats until well along into the election. Some criticized him as not really black enough. I can remember when Jesse Jackson talked about wanting “to cut his nuts off,” and then wept openly on Election Night knowing that from that day on the Secret Service would forever deny him the chance to do it.
The tragedy of Obama’s term in office was that America’s first black chief executive turned out to be one of its worst. His chance to prove he could succeed lay solely in succeeding, something he was manifestly not equipped to do. And now that he hasn’t succeeded, supporters whose minds are creased with affirmative-action thinking explain it to one another as just another case of a Black Man cheated of success by being denied a level playing field -- as if any President of the United States ever walked onto a level playing field! I can remember a great line from Fred Barnes to the effect that anything George Bush accomplished had to be done against 60% of the public and 100% of the press.
And when it’s come to treatment by the press, Obama never had to face the ordinary criticism every president before him has. Journalists from New York to LA willing to compromise their own integrity to run interference for him.
The president’s supporters like to talk about him as if he’s the Willie Mays of American politics, but then make excuses that the only reason he went down swinging is that, instead of the Tee-Ball he was prepared to smack, he found himself trying to hit pitches thrown by someone from another team actually trying to strike him out.
And there went my perfect record of six years of blogging without once employing a sports metaphor.