This past week, Congresswoman Maxine Waters and nine other members of the Congressional Black Caucus (“CBC”) attacked the Obama administration, claiming the president and those around him have not been sensitive to the plight of blacks, who they claim have suffered disproportionately due to the nation’s struggling economy.
The ten CBC members threatened that unless the administration moved to offer some programmatic solutions, they would mobilize all forty three members of the Caucus to sandbag the president’s economic agenda in the House. Waters argued that Caucus members had to “educate” those around Obama to the particular economic woes that blacks faced. This claim seems most directed at White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel – someone that Waters has previously clashed with directly.
The most pressing claim by Waters and the others is that Obama and his administration is ignoring urban unemployment. Always the vocal, and often strident, racial advocate, Waters said “”We can no longer be in denial that certain sectors of our population, including the African-American community, are feeling the recession to a greater extent.”
This may well be the case. And it is true that black unemployment has historically lagged behind that of the general population. However, despite heated rhetoric and ongoing claims from predictable voices like Congresswoman Waters, over the past few generations it has become increasingly difficult to directly correlate black unemployment with racism, discrimination or governmental neglect.
Further, claims by the ten CBC members that Obama should design racially-specific solutions to black suffering, is an insult. The nation is in the midst of a nationally-felt economic recession – something that has caused pain and suffering in virtually every sector and region of our society.
The arguments from Waters, and the other CBC members, indicate they may believe Obama’s charge is to carry their ideological water and fulfill an old-style black racial agenda. However, the president’s job is not to be “the black president.” His task, among all the other domestic and international issues on his plate, is to steer this nation back to economic prosperity, something all Americans, no matter their skin color, would benefit from.
Stung by Waters criticism, Obama fired back, telling his CBC critics that “the most important thing I can do for the African-American community is the same thing I can do for the American community, period, and that is get the economy going again and get people hiring again
Even more directly to the Waters’ claims, the President warned, “I think it is a mistake to start thinking in terms of particular ethnic segments of the United States rather than to think that we are all in this together and we are all going to get out of this together.
For this Obama deserves to be roundly applauded. He cannot allow the Black Caucus to push him toward piece-meal solutions to our problems. The idea that our nation is some sort of loose confederation of competing racial groups may have served as the vision for old-style multiculturalism, but is nothing less than a formula for ethnic and racial Balkanization.
I’m encouraged by Obama’s stance on this. It follows his key decision to give General McChrystal most of the troops he’d requested for the fight against Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan. And make no mistake; this was a courageous move – albeit a delayed one.
His decision has alienated and angered many in Obama’s base on the political left. Everyone from MoveOn.org and the Daily Kos, the foul-mouthed Jon Stewart, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, along with Keith Olberman (outside of Glenn Beck, two of the craziest men working in cable television) to the consistently left-oriented Congresswomen Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters have evidenced their “displeasure” over the impending troop deployments.
The right has contended that the Obama presidency has accomplished nothing of substance since the inauguration. Now some liberals have joined that chorus. Obama was recently skewered for his lack of accomplishments on a “Saturday Night Live” skit. What’s notable is that this show’s never been known for its even-handed treatment of conservative political views.
But now, the popular comedy show’s writers may have to go back to the drawing board. Obama has made what may be the most critical decision a president can ever be faced with – sending young Americans into harm’s way. Less critical, but not unimportant, is that he’s now taken on the racial complainers within the Congressional Black Caucus. Things are looking up at the White House.