Sunday, July 26, 2009

Obama’s Gates Trainwreck



Earl Ofari Hutchinson


The stock basketball one liner came to mind when I heard President Obama utter his now infamous “acting stupid” line referring to the cuffing of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates. The star player takes a wild shot and the livid coach screams “no,” “no” “no” and then when the improbable happens and the ball swishes through the net, the coach’s livid “no,” “no,” “no” instantly becomes a fist in the air shaking “yes,” “yes,” “yes.”
My response was the same only in reverse. I said an instant and visceral fist shaking yes, yes, yes to Obama’s Gates quip. After all, the president spoke boldly and unhesitatingly on the always contentious, divisive and painful issue of racial profiling. But then just as quickly I said “no,” “no,” “no.” No, not because I didn’t think it was the right thing to do, and no not because I didn’t think he didn’t have the right to give an opinion, and it was just that an opinion on a touchy issue.

All presidents weigh in with their personal views, opinions, and thoughts, no matter how ill informed, at unscripted White House press conferences, and in countless network TV interviews on every subject under the sun. And certainly I didn’t say no because Obama shouldn’t toss racial matters and racial profiling out on the nation’s table. No apology necessary for that. The no, was because I knew that Obama would take a monster hit for piping up on a racial case that’s a ticking time bomb that could explode in his face. President’s can and do recover from ill chosen words on emotion charged issues.
In this case, though, his words came at the worst possible time; a time when the president needs to squeeze and squeeze hard every ounce of the considerable personal and political capital that he’s painstakingly built up over the past few months to get an ever growing number of push back Democrats, dogged obstructionist Republicans, and the recalcitrant powerhouse trio of insurers, medical professionals, and pharmaceuticals who flatly oppose or are waffling on Obama’s public option component of health care reform. This is the centerpiece of the reform package, without it reform is a meaningless exercise in political gamesmanship.

Two new presidential approval polls from Rasmussen and Zogby, confirmed my “no,” “no,” “no” shout. The Rasmussen is an absolute number’s nightmare for Obama. His disapproval rating has soared to nearly 40 percent among voters. Those that strongly approve of his performance sunk to 29 percent. That wasn’t the worst of the bad news. A bare 25 percent of voters thought his answer was good. More than 60 sixty percent thought it was fair or lousy. Even more ominous was the voter breakdown. The crack in Obama’s hitherto impregnable black vote support was glaring. Nearly 30 percent of black voters broke ranks with Obama on his Gates’ answer.
Among Obama’s two other huge breakthrough groups, independents, and young voters, the blowback was even more disastrous. Nearly 70 percent of Independents and nearly 50 percent of young persons rated his answer “fair” or “poor.”

This is just the opening that the usual suspect Obama foes need to pound the president, and by extension his policies on health care, the stimulus, on foreign policy overtures. All are suddenly back in play and in question as set hit pieces for the Obama mashers; but especially health care reform. The issue is no longer the standard knock that it is too costly and a gross case of too much government interference in health care. Obama is now anti-police and an out of the closet race inflamer whose judgment can’t and shouldn’t be trusted on the crucial issue of health care reform.
The more charitable don’t go that far, but instead firmly declare that the presidential honeymoon is officially over. The only good news is that Obama’s popularity outside the U.S. is still off the charts. But foreigners can’t vote for or elect the congresspersons and senators who make and decide major policy decisions, health care reform being front and center the most pressing.
Even Obama’s still high personal popularity ratings don’t mean much. Popular ratings are just that, over-hyped numbers that measure a president's likeability, not his leadership effectiveness.

The true test for a president and how the public rates him is the quality of his leadership. A foreign crisis, a souring economy, out of control partisan battles with Congress, fights with major labor and industry groups, and prolonged military adventures are the things that inflict mortal wounds on presidents. The same is true for real or perceived gaffes, slips, and shoot from the lip comments.
President Obama spoke from the heart and said would needed to be said about the thorny issue of racial profiling. Again, no apology needed for that. He just said it in the wrong case and at the wrong time. Gates was the trainwreck waiting to happen, in other words, “no,” “no,” “no.”

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His weekly radio show, “The Hutchinson Report” can be heard on weekly in Los Angeles at 9:30 AM Fridays on KTYM Radio 1460 AM and live streamed nationally on ktym.com

6 comments:

Roger Madison said...

Earl, I have been reading your commentaries for a long time, and is value your insights. This time, my reaction was "yes, yes, yes!" And after reflection, it is still "yes, yes, yes!"

I also recognize the opening that this gave to his attackers, but most of them were already against him. As far as the Rasmussen poll goes, I believe it is a case of two closet doors opening. Younger and independent voters supported the best candidate in the last election. Their opinions on this issue should be no surprise. Candidate Obama did a masterful job of easing the concerns of the white electorate during the campaign. He came across as a "different Black man."

Many of us have experienced that "you are different than the rest of the Blacks I know" comment. It works if you are trying to get elected President. In fact it was necessary. However, most Blacks still are saying "yes,yes, yes" because he stood up for his friend and a Black man, and more importantly, lifted the top off a discussion that needs to take place. Yes, yes, yes!

President Obama is a gifted leader, and he will regain the support of his followers on the issues that are important to the wellbeing of most Americans. Those 30% of Blacks who backtracked are the same queazy Blacks who know their positions are tenuous, and require the approval of their white friends, colleagues, and clients. Many of them have been assimilated, and no longer identify with their Blackness. They are the ones whose color has been bleached away by the color-blind argument.

President Obama will prevail on Health Care, and the economy because he is on the right side of these issues. When it comes time for him to be "candidate Obama" again, he will run on his record, and he will once again be the best candidate in the race.

The best way for his Democratic congressional colleagues to succeed in 2010 is to win on the important issues that Obama is leading the party to achieve. They need to let go of his coattails for an instant and stand up for the issues that got them elected. That is the way to solidify their support. Obama isn't running in 2010.

Yes, the honeymoon is over. The Democratic party cannot depend on their best salesman to close the deal for everyone. Political capital is something to be spent, not horded. That is high risk politics. Leaders have to be willing to risk a lot to win big.

The Gates issue culd not be ignored. He would have lost more Black support by ducking the issue. We have enough fragmentation among Blacks as it is. He could not afford to lose the Black grassroots supporters. They are the ones who vote for Black mayors and councilpersons and State representatives who fight for these issues every day. They need to know that the Black President is in their corner.

Mots du Bugsy said...

Prez O showed that he is also susceptible to the Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Jmaes Baldwin syndrome of the vulnerable fatalism to "making it" in Amerika.. "No matter how high you, you can still be treated as a Nigger by any whiteboy or women." His defense of Br'er Gates has been the Achilles heel of the black intellectualism: they base their affirmation by the treatment and acceptance they get from the wider public,than just the will of their conscience and consciousness.

Though Henry Louis Gates Jr didn't need to be arrested for being obnoxious in his own defense, his arrest points out more than racial profiling and racial prejudice, it pints out the illusion of materialism as the validation of our humanity as people of color.

Bugsy
htto://www.twitter.com/jacobintrotsky

Omaha, NE

Anonymous said...

Hey Earl - logical fallacy alert on you viewpoint (post hoc ergo propter hoc) because one has nothing to do with the other.

As for this whole Gates mess, I am not black, and it irritates me that people (black and/or white) who weren't even there are labeling this a racial incident. Most stereotypes are rooted in a perception of the frequency in which they appear, and one that is being overlooked here is that cops tend to be unintelligent power trippers, who treat non-blacks like crap too. I have been beaten by cops, while not physically resisting in the slightest, so I am speaking from experience. If you want cops to treat you nice, then kiss their ass like the non-black citizens do. It is that simple, and stop lying to yourself if you think non-blacks get special treatment.

Anonymous said...

Kooks.

Mots du Bugsy said...

--- In polemicistmailbox@yahoogroups.com, Bugsy Harpo

Prof. Henry Louis "Skip" Gates: Unmentioned contributing factors

As one who was a maniac upperclassmen to the more sober, academic Harvard-Professor-to-be Skip Gates, there are things not known about his physical and academic background that MAY have played into the drama of his arrest.

One of Skip's legs is withered (polio?). He walked with a brace and a
decided limp (skip) when I met him 37+ years ago, when he transfered in for
his sophomore/junior year at Yale. His overcoming his physical
disability, along with his over-achieving academics from his humble
beginnings in the back hills of West Virginia were, even 37 years ago, a source of justifiable, prideful motivation for him.

Imagine a person struggling to get in his house (through a window or backdoor?)
with a deformed leg.
Imagine a person who has achieved the national fame and notoriety, which his notable academics has affirmed-pridefully, facing the not only the indignities necessary to "break into his house", but then having to face the constructively, skeptical inquiries about his, otherwise, identifiable presence.

I speculate, that for Skip, this was the the haunting caveat for all
black persons who have sought to make it to the American Dream: "No matter how far you rise, in the end you're no better than the stereotypes you seek to escape."

That attitude, possibly, motivated Skip's aggravating an already embarrasing situation into an arrest and a national and LOCAL talk show topic. (Not that this writer or others, who's maniac "education"
or erstwhile background would have prepared me or them any better for the incredible explanation that "I'm the suspicious, anonymous, black
man reported breaking into my own car or home. " But, the life of anonymity has given me the obligatory humility of self-dignity for myself and others- not
recognizable self-importance).

Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. had his Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin moment and let it control him, after 37 plus years of he controlling it.
>
> Maniac Bugsy
>
> Association of Yale Alumni Member,
> Merl_de_Spaceman
> p/word: farout
>
> Bugsy Polemicis
> 4025949009@...
>
> Donations of appreciation for spirit enhancement gratefuly received
> at http://www.paypal.com account, Cosmic Delites
>

Anonymous said...

Alaskan Police chief made the following comments
In reference to the arrest of prominent scholar Henry Gates Jr.

The Chief said

"I would have the class not to dis the POTUS publicly and tell him privately if he apologizes, I would be there, otherwise, I would simply say I had pressing other engagements. I would be damned if I would drink a beer with that POS Gates!".
And

"Gates now says he will "produce" people in "due time" who will say they were mistreated by this SGT in the past too. Well, that is how he will piecemeal drag this out for years, as his "defining moment" in American racism that forver transformed him haha! then he will write a book and speak ad nauseum on the Sunday morning news shows and write in lefty columns and speak at anti-American forums with Farrakahn, Sharpton and Jackson.

Guess what Gates, if the people didn't complain back then, it is old news now. Just a pathetic attempt to keep the fire of hatered and racism burning and it is already burned out. Your 15 minutes of fame came and went and now you're just a bitter, angry little man, standing alone, shaking his fist at humanity out in the rain, as the rest of the human race passes you by, sadly shaking their heads. You have been was exposed as a fraud and you can't admit the truth. Crawl back into the shadows, you're not even a tee-shirt anymore and your scam has already failed. Good prevailed over evil."

Gates now says he will "produce" people in "due time" who will say they were mistreated by this SGT in the past too. Well, that is how he will piecemeal drag this out for years, as his "defining moment" in American racism that forver transformed him haha! then he will write a book and speak ad nauseum on the Sunday morning news shows and write in lefty columns and speak at anti-American forums with Farrakahn, Sharpton and Jackson.

Guess what Gates, if the people didn't complain back then, it is old news now. Just a pathetic attempt to keep the fire of hatered and racism burning and it is already burned out. Your 15 minutes of fame came and went and now you're just a bitter, angry little man, standing alone, shaking his fist at humanity out in the rain, as the rest of the human race passes you by, sadly shaking their heads. You have been was exposed as a fraud and you can't admit the truth. Crawl back into the shadows, you're not even a tee-shirt anymore and your scam has already failed. Good prevailed over evil."

http://www.policelink.com/news/articles/114107-policelink-mentioned-in-national-discussion?comment_page=2

http://www.policelink.com/news/articles/115685-official-white-house-beer-set-for-thursday?comment_page=2&utm_content=pl_r7_20090730_users&utm_source=nlet