I can remember back a couple of years ago when political pundits seriously debated whether Barack Obama was “black enough” to attract the votes of African-American people.
Despite some initial reservation, Obama seems to have overcome the view that he’s not a real black man, when it comes to “black” people. But it would seem that white people still have the hang-up that Obama is somehow not legitimate enough – does he need to have grown up in a South Side public housing project in order to qualify?
IN RECENT DAYS, both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and now-impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich have had to issue public apologies for comments they made with regards to the public perception of biracial Obama’s racial background.
Not that either man said anything recently.
Reid got caught for comments he made more than a year ago during the presidential campaign. A new book by a pair of Washington Post reporters told us what Reid thought. Meanwhile, Esquire magazine told us they are going to publish a story about Blagojevich in their next issue, one in which he says he thinks Obama’s liberal credentials are somehow phony.
By comparison, he implies that he was the true liberal who looked out for the people.
FOR THE RECORD, Reid said Obama was, “a light-skinned” African-American man “with no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one.” Reid made the comment in the context of explaining to a reporter-type why many white people were willing to support Obama.
What struck me as interesting about the comment is how similar in idea it was to the remarks made by then-Sen. (and now Vice President) Joe Biden of Delaware, who early in the campaign season put his foot in his own mouth by saying, “you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. That’s storybook, man.”
Considering that Reid supposedly made his comment months after Biden got himself in the political doghouse, one would think he would know better than to say something so trivial.
Because that is what such thoughts ultimately are. Wanting to believe that “real” black people are “too ghetto” to be taken seriously politically is a petty way of viewing life.
BUT THEN AGAIN, maybe he saw that Biden ultimately got that V-P slot, putting him in line to be the 45th president should some “accident” befall Obama, and figured that all would be forgiven for saying something stupid.
If anything, I consider the Blagojevich comments to be more offensive – although I sent an e-mail on Monday responding to someone who asked what I thought by saying it probably didn’t even make the Top 10 list of dumb things expressed by Milorod during his life in public service.
Because while Reid, and Biden last year, were trying to offer lame, trivial praise to Obama, Blagojevich was showing that he still is bitter that Barack surpassed him as the golden child from Illinois when it comes to good government-type politics.
“I’m blacker than Barack Obama. I shined shoes. I grew up in a five-room apartment,” Blagojevich told Esquire. “My father had a little laundromat in a black community not far from where we lived.
“I SAW IT all growing up,” Blagojevich said.
Of course, Blagojevich and his followers expressing the belief that they are somehow more in touch with “the people” is not a new theme.
I still remember the day when Blagojevich got elected governor, and we got to hear now-former First Lady Patti Blagojevich try to explain her husband’s appeal by saying they were the kind of people who celebrated by “drinking a beer” rather than sipping some wine.
So I guess in their minds, Patti’s drinking a beer while her husband is a black man. It just comes off as too much self-pity for people who want to believe that they somehow ought to be where Obama is now – although I can remember even back in 2002 thinking it ridiculous whenever anyone speculated that Blagojevich was a serious contender to someday be U.S. president.
ALL OF WHICH gives Republican political operatives material with which to play as they work their way through the 2010 campaign season. I’d like to think the American people have enough sense to dismiss that rhetoric for the act of poltiical misdirection (from GOP gaffes) that it truly is.
Which probably means the first negative campaign ads feeding off this material will start airing this afternoon.
EDITOR’S NOTES: Barack Obama might not be a political populist, but he still has (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/03/magazine/03FOB-WWLN-t.html?ref=magazine) significant liberal credentials. One should think Adlai Stevenson, not Huey Long.
I could have done without knowing that the former Illinois first family’s new dog is named “Skittles.” (http://www.esquire.com/features/people-who-matter-2010/rod-blagojevich-interview-0210?click=pp).
Republican politicos have said things about racial issues far worse than anything that might have slipped (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/01/11/reid-says-used-better-choice-words-describing-obama/) from Harry Reid’s mouth, which is why people with sense are dismissing the GOP Chairman Michael Steele’s tactics of recent days as politically partisan nonsense.