Prof. Cornel West and MSNBC's Martin Bashir sparred on Bashir's Tuesday show about President Obama's leadership.
Bashir began the chat by quoting West -- who has become a fierce critic of Obama's, and is part of an effort to mount a primary challenge against him -- as saying Obama lacked "backbone." He brought up Obama's Monday speech, where the president called for higher taxes on the wealthy.
"Was that not evidence of him having a backbone?" Bashir asked.
"I'm not convinced," West said. "He's given wonderful speeches before. The question is, will he stand when things get tough, when things get difficult?" He said that the country was being made a helpless pawn stuck between "cold-hearted" Republicans and "spineless" Democrats, and he wondered if Obama was just giving the speech to placate progressives.
"Do you not think you're being a bit unfair?" Bashir said. He called the situation Obama inherited "impossible from the beginning."
West said that Obama had shown his true colors by appointing an economic team that was too tied to Wall Street. He quoted Ron Suskind's new book, where a major banker called Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner "our man in Washington."
He also said that it was likely that "King-like" civil disobedience was bound to increase in order to "wake something up" in the country.