New York's leading right wing pit bull Rudy Giuliani has embarked on a crusade to find black bogymen to deflect the heat that is being focused on the NYPD and the role of his administration in supporting clearly racist practices. Not surprisingly, he has chosen to focus on the black bogyman in chief who occupies the oval office. His main support for his charge that Obama is fomenting racial conflict and encouraging violence against the police is claiming that he is taking his cues on racial issues from Al Sharpton. Politico is pushing the meme that Sharpton has become Obama's go man on race. Giuliani is pushing the claim that Sharpton has visited the White House 85 times during Obama's presidency. The Washington Post has done some fact checking on that claim and finds it an exaggeration, but it does appear that Obama and Sharpton are on reasonably friendly terms.
Al Sharpton is an enduringly controversial figure. My view of him is that for the most part he does what a black civil rights leader is supposed to do. The primary responsibility of the job description is calling out racism and standing up to a white power structure. The amount of effort that has been devoted to vilifying and demonizing him would seem to indicate that he has been effective in doing the job. I haven't devoted my life to being an expert on Sharpton's life, but the Wiki article about him strikes me as being reasonably balanced. It really doesn't support the notion that he is the utter personification of human evil.
The sustained protest movement over police racial violence does not show much sign of blowing over. To people in middle America's leafy white suburbs it may seem as though this is an issue which has suddenly irrupted. However, it is a pot that has been coming to a boil for a long time and Al Sharpton has played an important role in focusing attention on the issue. We see while liberals on Daily Kos who have bought into the media image that has been created of him. Their major complaint about him is that he is seeking attention and that he is not dignified. That is pretty much what civil rights activists are supposed to do. I can remember the days when Martin Luther King was trying to get the nation's attention. Calling him an undignified attention seeker were about the nicest things that the establishment had to say about him on a good day. One reason that Sharpton has incurred so much wrath is that he insisted on remaining a civil rights activist during a period when the media was trying to sweep race under the rug of the notion of a post-racial America.
NPR offers a plausible analysis of how Obama's initially cautious approach to dealing with racial issues has become a bit bolder in his second term and how Sharpton has toned down his rhetoric as he has become more of a political insider. There definitely appears to be a cooperative relationship between the president and the civil rights activist.
On Friday, the two men are scheduled to be together when the president delivers a speech to the National Action Network, a civil-rights group Sharpton founded in 1991. Obama spoke previously to the group in 2011.
For both men, there's a symbiosis that comes from sharing the same stage. By using Sharpton's platform, Obama can be fairly certain his message will be amplified by the civil-rights leader to the African-American audiences of his nationally syndicated radio show and MSNBC.
For Sharpton, it's just another signal of how complete his self-reinvention has been from outside agitator to inside player.
The right wing noise machine sees all this as a clear sign that the end of the world is close at hand. To me it looks like two men who are both pulling each other in useful directions. The DOJ has been taking a close look at several of the cases of police killings of black men that have been dismissed by the local legal systems. So far they have not moved to file federal charges. It is pretty clear that Rudy and his cronies hope to intimidate the Obama administration into taking a hands off policy on the matter. I am hopeful that their efforts will fail.