A President of 'All the People'?
Throughout American history, presidents have been expected to represent all the people. If you doubt this, read accounts of newly elected presidents’ almost-inevitable promise to be the chief magistrate of all Americans.
The thrust of Barack Obama’s speech on the night he was elected president on November 4th, 2008 and his first inaugural address on January 20th, 2009 implied that he would be president of all Americans.
Yet, Obama has been haunted by the specter of race from the beginning of his quest for the presidency. Start with the fact that Obama’s acknowledged father was a Kenyan. In addition, when it was revealed in 2008 that his pastor of 20 years, Jeremiah Wright, had made inflammatory remarks about the United States as well as preached the divisive Black Liberation Theology, Obama was compelled to clarify his views about race in a speech in Philadelphia on March 18th.
Most analysts hailed the speech, and claimed that Obama had defused the race issue. Obama, so the assertion went, was a “post-racial” candidate. Hence, a vote for him would virtually remove the stain of slavery, thereby diminishing, if not eliminating, race’s importance in American politics.
Only a few individuals, such as Rush Limbaugh, warned that Obama’s ascension to the presidency would result in increased charges that any criticism of Obama and his policies stemmed from “racism.”
A host of events since Obama’s first inauguration have proved Limbaugh right. For one thing, liberal Democrats and the mainstream media (MSM) -- increasingly one and the same -- respond to any negative comments about Obama by charging “racism.” Perhaps the worst offender on this score is MSNBC’s Chris Matthews.
Moreover, the record of Obama’s presidency casts doubts on claims that he represents all Americans equally, and strongly hints that his notion of “a level playing field” has a decided tilt when it comes to race relations.
(A large percentage of the public appears to sense this. Rasmussen Reports, for example, published an August, 2013 poll which found that nearly 90% of “likely voters” believed that race relations have deteriorated since Obama became president.)
An early indication that Obama’s administration might not apply the law equally to all races came in May, 2009, when Attorney General Eric Holder’s Department of Justice dismissed a case of voter intimidation against two members of the New Black Panther Party in Philadelphia, despite the fact that, under George W. Bush, the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division had secured a judicial decision of “no contest” against them. Under Obama and Holder, the Civil Rights Division no longer practices race neutrality when enforcing the law.
In July, 2009 the black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. was arrested by Cambridge (MA) police officer, Sgt. James Crowley, on a charge of disorderly conduct, a charge that was later dropped.
Asked to comment, Obama was quoted as follows: “I don’t know. Not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played.” He admitted that he was “a little bit biased,” since Gates was a friend.
Nevertheless, “the Cambridge police acted stupidly,” because “there’s a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately.”
Once the key facts became known, Obama had to walk his comments back. In a public relations’ effort, Obama and his handlers scheduled the “beer summit” in which Obama, Gates, Crowley, and Joe Biden sat, somewhat awkwardly, around the same table.
As the Gates incident illustrates, on several occasions since he was elected Obama has confronted racially-sensitive situations. Almost invariably, rather than trying to sooth troubled waters, Obama’s words and deeds have exacerbated the situation.
Perhaps the most egregious instances of the Obama Administration’s racialist tendencies have involved Trayvon Martin’s death and the Florida show-trial of “white Hispanic” George Zimmerman in 2012-2013. Jack Cashill wrote about many of these details on this site, and expanded on them in If I Had a Son (2013).
Within days of Martin’s death in Sanford (FL) on February 26th, 2012, the black grievance industry (BGI) was in full voice, and had irreparably transformed the case into a racial issue. Obama spoke about the situation on March 23rd. After a few relatively innocuous remarks, Obama said, “if I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.” As Cashill notes, Obama “had just lent his imprimatur to the BGI, and he would have to stand by it.”
The Martin-Zimmerman controversy seemed to bring out the worst in the Obama administration on the issue of race. According to Cashill, “Obama and his Department of Justice… played favorites along racial lines in the Zimmerman case from day one, never ceased, and never apologized.”
Shortly after Martin’s death, for example, the DOJ’s little-known Community Relations Service agency – which is supposed to ease racial tensions – sent employees – whose expenses were paid for by taxpayers – to Sanford, where they helped chivy Florida authorities into charging Zimmerman with second-degree murder and manslaughter.
The case against Zimmerman fell apart, and a six-woman jury voted to acquit him of all charges on July 13, 2013.
Naturally, the MSM, so-called “celebrities,” and the BGI reacted in outrage.
Obama’s personal reaction came when he appeared, unannounced, at the daily White House press briefing on Friday, July 19th. A grim-faced Obama declared that “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.” The gist of his remarks firmly aligned him with the BGI, declaring that America’s history of racial disparity in the application of laws probably justifies blacks’ outrage at the Zimmerman verdict.
The Martin-Zimmerman case seems to have been a watershed in how the Obama administration has dealt with race relations. Prior to early 2012, one has to comb through Obama’s record very finely to uncover overtly “race-conscious” conduct. After the verdict, the administration’s racialist tilt has become evident.
Three examples suffice.
First, on November 18, 2013, Obama nominated Debo Adegbile, who had fervently defended cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, to head the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. Despite Harry Reid’s efforts, a bipartisan coalition of Democrats and Republicans rejected the nomination on March 5th, 2014.
On February 27th, 2014, Obama announced the creation of the $200 million “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative for “young men of color” and no one else. Obama said that the idea came to him after Trayvon Martin’s death, and that the money would be used to prevent young black males from dropping out of school.
(No such fund exists for young women [of any color], or for young white males mired in abject poverty in places like Appalachia.)
The third example is Obama’s reaction to reports that Los Angeles Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling is alleged to uttered racist remarks. Speaking from Malaysia, without any firsthand knowledge of what was said, Obama told reporters that Sterling’s remarks are “incredibly offensive.” Obama also said the U.S. “continues to wrestle with the legacy of race and slavery and segregation, that’s still there, the vestiges of discrimination.” As M. Catharine Evans notes, “[t]he president certainly does rush to judgment a lot when it comes to race issues.”
Can a president with Obama’s record be chief executive of all Americans? Sadly, the answer appears to be no.