Back in 2008, Republican congressman Geoff Davis of Kentucky was rightly criticized for calling President Obama "boy." It was not only a racist refrain, it was just hideously condescending in a general sense, showing absolutely zero basic respect for the candidate.
Cut to 2 years later, and this story in The Hill newspaper -- a story which has raised the ire of absolutely nobody, despite it including a comment that is arguably as offensively disrespectful towards the now-President of the United States:
CEOs find new friend in Obama
Corporate chief executives who have been disappointed in the Obama administration are suddenly singing a different tune.
Ivan Seidenberg, the Verizon CEO who just months ago criticized President Obama's policies as a threat to business, on Wednesday said Obama "has shown a willingness to learn."
Seidenberg was remarking on the White House's embrace of a huge tax package and progress on a trade deal with South Korea that had been stalled for years. Both measures give business a chance to increase profits through lower taxes and crumbling trade barriers.
Think about just how condescending the CEO's "willingness to learn" comment really is. It's as if Obama is a disabled 5-year-old child who is only now -- belatedly -- able to understand anything. Put another way, this is analogous to one of the most powerful corporate executives calling Obama "boy" in the press.
Of course, a big difference between the original "boy" comment that received so much (rightful) outrage and this comment from Seidenberg is that the latter comes from an ultra-powerful CEO -- and worse, with tacit backing of the very White House that's being insulted. As you can see, The Hill story has the Obama administration excitedly bragging about its fealty to the corporate powers that be.
What's it all say? First and foremost, it's a commentary on the assumptions we now simply accept inside our politics. We accept that CEOs like Seidenberg should be able to give orders -- or, in his vernacular, teach the supposedly disabled child president -- about what policies to pursue and not pursue. And not just give orders, but brag in newspapers about giving such orders.
Second, it's a commentary on just how weak the Obama administration is. If this president had actually taken on the powers that be in a way that he promised on the campaign trail, CEOs wouldn't be skipping meetings with him or talking to newspapers to refer to him as a child.
Finally, the whole context of the quote -- coming in a story in which the Obama administration is excited about its own corporate fealty -- suggests that the administration has fully answered the old "Which side are you on?" question. After supporting the bank bailout and after turning the health care bill into an insurance-industry giveaway, many started asking that question. Now, by championing upper-income tax cuts that he said he would fight tooth and nail to oppose and by pushing the kind of NAFTA-style trade deal he said he would work to reform, there is no vagueness. Which side is Obama on? Not ours.