by Yvette Carnell
In 2010, my heart sunk as I can across the Business Insider headline, This Was the Worst Day of Obama’s Presidency. It was my first realization that the mainstream media had finally glimpsed the Obama that existed behind all the Madison Ave. “brand” marketing.
During one of his first real fights with Republicans, President Obama couldn’t muster the fortitude to manage the troops or the message, so Obama, a second string politician, brought in the big guns–Bill Clinton–to save the day. “With Bernie Sanders speaking on the Senate floor about the tax deal, and then the incident where he got pushed out of the briefing room by Bill Clinton, Obama has never seemed smaller or less relevant,” wrote Business Insider’s Joe Weisenthal.
Weisenthal was wrong about one thing though, since he predicted that Obama had nowhere to go but up. Obama’s star hasn’t stopped falling, and for me, rock bottom came yesterday, as the President of the United States of America announced “My Brother’s Keeper”, a charity and non-compulsory initiative to aid black boys. We elected a president who promised transformation, but instead, we got a man who held an afternoon press event for the sole purpose of rendering black boys a national charity case.
In his article “What the Hell Is Obama’s Presidency For?”, Gary Younge observed that during his presidency, LBJ would “sign the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, launch the war on poverty and introduce Medicaid (medical assistance for low-income families) and Medicare (for seniors). That’s what his presidency was for.”
But Obama is no LBJ, and today, we saw Obama morph before our very eyes, transforming himself from Commander-In-Chief to Fundraiser-In-Chief. Watching a president who’d set the bar so high during his 2008 campaign relegating himself to the role of non-profit head, thereby admitting his own impotency as it relates to laying out a vision and persuading Congress to act, was difficult.
President Obama could have used his first 100 days to both lay out his vision and strongarm Congress to enact it, especially considering that this young president, with the hopes of America on his shoulders, had been blessed with a Democratic majority upon entering the White House. Instead, Obama meandered about for an entire year, fumbling all the while, then finally cobbling together a health care law that most Americans don’t understand and regard with lukewarm enthusiasm.
With that in mind, I was mesmerized as I watched a president with so few accomplishments under his belt again discussing the responsibility of black parents to rear their black boys. Yes, black mothers and fathers should parent their children, but what is the responsibility of the first black president? Is it his job to play daddy to all the black boys in America who don’t have men in their lives, or is the job of president something wholly different?
During his speech yesterday, in the midst of a flood of smiling black faces, including the parents of Trayvon Martin, President Obama eluded to the political obstacles that stand in the way of enacting legislation to address the plight of young black men, saying that there is no appetite for it in Congress. But there was no appetite for a young black upstart politician out of Chicago until Obama’s brand managers convinced a majority of American voters that they had the palate for it.
When has Obama ever attempted to mount an effort for legislative action as redress for the white supremacist policies that have historically and disproportionately impacted African-Americans?
But the hypocrisy didn’t end there. As if watching Obama, a man who has been wholly irresponsible at executing his agenda (what agenda?), call on black boys to be more responsible weren’t bad enough, we were forced to watch another incomprehensible train wreck of a spectacle. CNN’s Don Lemon, who went out of his way to cosign Fox News Bill O’Reilly’s pathologizing of black culture, and recently gave his blessing to the NYPD’s stop and frisk program, was front and center, choking up at President Obama having offered a helping hand to black boys. It was irksome to watch these two black men, Obama and Lemon, who’ve so vastly misunderstood how, with their finger wagging rhetoric, they’ve both been used as tools to thwart the forward momentum of any legislative action that could have actually provided a solid foundation for black youth.
So now black youth are left to be viewed by the world at large as one big charity case. Also happening now, as we head into the 2014 midterms, the Daddy of the Democratic Party, Bill Clinton, is headed out again to the campaign trail, to do what Obama cannot— sway the faithful. Clinton has no choice but to help since Obama has no coattails and no influence over the very people who invested so much in him in 2008.
So we find ourselves back where we started, back to that article in 2010, which speculated that Obama had never seemed “smaller or less relevant.” It was yesterday, not that day in the White House briefing room in 2010, that Obama was at his smallest and least relevant. Obama knows all too well the responsibility of black parents and boys, but what he’s not yet grappled with is the responsibility of black presidents.