Germany's Spiegel Online joins the latest chorus of Obama-bashing today with a piece entitled, "Dashed Hopes: How Obama Disappointed the World." I'm amongst the last people to defend Obama's record and/or accuse his critics of racism, but I must say, even for me, this piece seems to go over the line.
The basic thrust of the article is that Obama failed to connect with and/or ignored the anger in the electorate over the economic crisis, thereby creating a vacuum has been exploited by the Tea Party. Fine, I agree. But the author then goes in for yet another of these lame attempts to explain the President's failures in psychological terms:
One of the keys to Obama's [teaching] success was that he, as a black man, was reserved. He knew exactly how to handle his white students, and what appealed to or frightened them. He was the son of a black Kenyan who had left the family when Obama was two. He was raised by his white mother and, at times, his white grandparents, in Indonesia and Hawaii, and he was raised as a white person. In fact, Obama was a white man with black skin, someone who had to teach himself how to speak the way black people did, and who started playing basketball, the most popular sport in black America, to become more comfortable in his role as a black man.
. . .
His complicated identity as a black man and his moderate and conciliatory approach have become obstacles that threaten his presidency. Hartman, the editor from Chicago, says that she sometimes wishes Obama were angrier. "You did not see fists going up, you do not see pounding on the desk," she adds. "That's not his style."
An economic crisis affects any president, and a downturn is often the reason presidents are voted out of office. But because the great communicator has apparently forgotten how to talk to his voters, the crisis affects him more adversely than other presidents before him. Everything he does now is seen in a critical light, which only reinforces the impression that he doesn't understand the problems of Americans and that he is weak when it comes to making decisions.
This is pretty clumsy stuff here. So all of President Obama's failings can be explained with reference to his "complicated" identity as a black man, and how that makes him "weak" in his decision-making process?
I don't know who Mark Hujer, the author of this piece, is, but I'm not sure that he's really qualified to speculate about the role that Barack Obama's racial identity plays in his politics. I mean, it's not as though Barack Obama is the first politician to ever be known for ignoring the plight of the working class and the poor in favor of Wall Street, or of being a moderate, conciliator instead of an ideological, partisan firebrand. President Bill Clinton was no different really; did Spiegel speculate about the role that his race played in his desire to pass NAFTA, welfare reform and anti-crime legislation?
The hundreds of millions of dollars in Wall Street/corporate money that has flowed and will continue to flow into Barack Obama's campaign coffers, his clear and unabashed ideological commitment to neoliberal economic policy, the emergence of the Tea Party movement and the 2010 election results -- none of that has anything to do with President Obama's inability to move forward on his agenda? It all has to do with the fact that he's a "white man with black skin" who doesn't want to appear as an "angry black man"? Riiiight.
I don't defend Obama because of his race, but I don't think it's right to criticism him with reference to it either. He's the most powerful man on Earth, the leader of the Free World, an independent, free thinker who can do whatever he wants to do. He can be an angry black man if he wants to. Shit, Samuel Jackson's made a career out of it, and white people still love him, don't they? His successes and his failures are his alone. They don't represent black America, or America's hopes for racial equality, or the progressive movement. He's just a man who was elected to a very important job, and let's just hold him accountable for his job, irrespective of all of this ancillary bullshit.