With the noon sun high over the U.S. Capitol, Barack Obama yesterday took
the oath of office to become president of the United States. On one level, it
was a simple matter of political process -- the symbolic transfer of power. Yet
words alone cannot convey its meaning.The calloused hands of slaves, the voices
of abolitionists, the hearts of generations who trusted in the naïve promise
that any child can become president, will find some reward in a moment that was
hard to imagine last year, much less 50 years ago. Our history, so marred by the
sin of slavery, has come to the day when a man that an old segregationist would
have described as "tea-colored" -- the child of a white woman and an African
immigrant, who identifies as a member of the long oppressed and despised black
minority -- was chosen by a mostly white nation as the personification of
America's best sense of self as a nation of power and virtue.
At the end of the 1965 march calling for
passage of the Voting Rights Act, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said politics held
the potential to reflect the brilliance of the American creed of justice for
all, and a "society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its
conscience." Years of hard work lay ahead to shift racist attitudes born of
political power being limited to white Americans, he said, then added that "the
arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. How long? Not
long. Because mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the
It is neither overweening emotion nor partisanship to see King's moral
universe bending toward justice in the act of the first non-white man taking the
oath of the presidency. But now that this moment has arrived, there is a
question: How shall we judge our new leader?
If his presidency is to
represent the full power of the idea that black Americans are just like everyone
else -- fully human and fully capable of intellect, courage and patriotism --
then Barack Obama has to be subject to the same rough and tumble of political criticism experienced by his predecessors. To treat the first black
president as if he is a fragile flower is certain to hobble him. It is also to
waste a tremendous opportunity for improving race relations by doing away with
stereotypes and seeing the potential in all Americans.
Yet there is fear, especially among black people, that criticism of
him or any of his failures might be twisted into evidence that people of color cannot effectively lead. That amounts to wasting time and energy reacting to hateful stereotypes. It also leads to treating all criticism of Mr. Obama, whether legitimate, wrong-headed or even mean-spirited, as racist. This is patronizing. Worse, it carries an implicit presumption of inferiority. Every American president must be held to the highest standard. No president of any color should be given a free pass for screw-ups, lies or failure to keep a promise.
During the Democrats' primaries and caucuses, candidate Obama often got
affectionate if not fawning treatment from the American media. Editors, news
anchors, columnists and commentators, both white and black but especially those
on the political left, too often acted as if they were in a hurry to claim their
role in history as supporters of the first black president.
For example, Mr.
Obama was forced to give a speech on race as a result of revelations that he'd
long attended a church led by a demagogue. It was an ordinary speech. At best it
was successful at minimizing a political problem. Yet some in the media equated
it to the Gettysburg Address. The importance of a proud, adversarial press
speaking truth about a powerful politician and offering impartial accounts of
his actions was frequently and embarrassingly lost. When Mr. Obama's opponents,
such as the Clintons, challenged his lack of experience, or pointed out that he
was not in the U.S. Senate when he expressed early opposition to the war in
Iraq, they were depicted as petty. Bill Clinton got hit hard when he called
Mr. Obama's claims to be a long-standing opponent of the Iraq war "the biggest
fairy tale I've ever seen." The former president accurately said that there was
no difference in actual Senate votes on the war between his wife and Mr. Obama.
But his comments were not treated by the press as legitimate, hard-ball
political fighting. They were cast as possibly racist. This led to Saturday
Night Live's mocking skit -- where the debate moderator was busy hammering the
other Democratic nominees with tough questions while inquiring if Mr. Obama was
comfortable and needed more water. When fellow Democrats contending for the
nomination rightly pointed to Mr. Obama's thin proposals for dealing with
terrorism and extricating the U.S. from Iraq, they were drowned out by loud if
often vacuous shouts for change. Yet in the general election campaign and during
the transition period, Mr. Obama steadily moved to his former opponents'
positions. In fact, he approached Bush-Cheney stands on immunity for
telecommunications companies that cooperate in warrantless surveillance.
There is a dangerous trap being set here. The same media people invested in boosting a black man to the White House as a
matter of history have set very high expectations for him. When he disappoints, as presidents and other human beings inevitably do, the backlash may be extreme. (I, CBW disagree. MSM will never acknowledge a PSBO failure(s). They have too much invested)
Several seasons ago, when Philadelphia Eagle's black quarterback Donovan
McNabb was struggling, radio commentator Rush Limbaugh said the media wanted a
black quarterback to do well and gave Mr. McNabb "a lot of credit for the
performance of this team that he didn't deserve." Mr. Limbaugh's sin was saying
out loud what others had said privately. There is a lot more at stake
now, and to allow criticism of Mr. Obama only behind closed doors does no honor to the dreams and prayers of generations past: that race be put aside, and all people be judged honestly, openly, and on the basis of their performance. President Obama deserves no less. (Source) - emphasis added by CBW
If Obama is so wonderful then he doesn't need a "free pass" because he is the first black POTUS. So, let's start fresh Obama acolytes and judge your guy on his performance alone and not the undeserved, historic, we shall overcome, ancestoral hee-bee geebies which have lifted him to "god-like" status (Hey, Beyonce said it was like being in the presence of God).