I suppose every presidency has its bubble, and it is probably very easy for the culture within that bubble to turn into a cult of personality.
Not being African-American, I’m probably not the best judge of whether or not President Obama has paid enough attention to African-American voters and their concerns (presuming, of course, that their concerns differ significantly from the concerns of other groups). But notice the reaction from “a person close to Obama” in this morning’s Politico:
“You can spend a lot of time trying to win over white independents, but if you don’t pay attention to your base, African Americans, if you have not locked up your base yet, you’ve got a serious problem,” said CNN contributor Roland Martin.
“African-Americans will vote for him again, 88, 92, 95 percent. The question is what’s the turnout? I’ll vote for you. But will I bring ten other people along, like I did in 2008? That’s the danger here for him. He doesn’t have the historical factor to lean on as much in 2012 as he did in 2008. . . . And the first step, is that he has to be willing to speak to this audience, black people.”
In a striking turnabout for a president who has rewritten American racial history, Obama finds himself the target of criticism from the black cultural and political elite that has, for the most part, been leery of airing its disappointment.
The president is reportedly angry that African-American leaders aren’t crediting him for his hard-bought achievements that will especially help communities of color, including health care reform, aid to cities, student aid and protecting Medicaid.“The whole thing is bull-[bleep] . . . We have met with [black leaders] more than any other group and we are increasing our outreach,” said a person close to Obama.
Raising the question itself elicits a barnyard epithet, even when African-American unemployment is 16 percent and has been around that level for the entirety of Obama’s presidency. To this unnamed person close to the president — hey, do we know anyone close to Obama who’s been known to be fiercely loyal and uses profanity a lot? Some former employee, perhaps? — there is no realistic or legitimate basis for these leaders to raise these concerns, or to criticize his performance.
I was reminded of a closing passage in Richard Ben Cramer’s What It Takes:
The White House is the thickest and shiniest bubble of all.
It’s not just that we can’t see him. From the White House, he can’t see anything outside. Why didn’t Bush get it?
Well, the White House was running like a top! Everyone who walked into his office had a wonderful job — and were excited by the swell things they were doing for the country and its people. Every microphone over which he peered had a thousand faces upturned to his, ready to cheer his every applause line. If he left Washington, every tarmac on which Air Force One touched down had a line of prosperous people in suits, to pump Bush’s hand and tell him things were, we were, he was . . . great!
Somebody punctured the bubble, if Obama is indeed “angry” that African-Americans aren’t giving him enough credit.