On his Friday May 28 show, Real Time HBO host Bill Maher demanded that President Obama act like a black president and pack a gun when he meets with the BP CEOs. Now Maher should take his own advice and act like a responsible commentator and apologize for his own politically demeaning and racially offensive dig at Obama. Politically demeaning and racially offensive are probably not strong enough characterizations of Maher's silly, inane, effort to get a laugh.
In one fell line, Maher demoted Obama from American president Obama to black president Obama, complete with gun tucked in waistband. This played to the vile stereotype that blacks are inherent gun-toting gang bangers, drive-by shooters and thugs, and that violence is a natural way of life in black communities. In another fell line, he played hard on the media and GOP line that Obama fell badly asleep at the wheel on the BP spill, has done little to contain it, and has botched every chance to be the strong, commanding president and rein in the oil giant and the oil industry.
Non-funnyman Maher dredged up a textbook-perfect bad guy image storm for Obama; a storm chock full of racial stereotypes, and the terrible finger pointing by much the public and the GOP at Obama for the BP catastrophe. Maher could have hit Obama from any of a dozen angles to get a chuckle about the political straight the BP ooze has put Obama in. He could have cracked that Obama should clamp a wetsuit or a diving bell on the BP CEO, or spray him with an oil can, or even took it the street, and said Obama should kick his butt if he didn't fix the spill. None of which carried any hint, overtly at least, of a racial slam or disrespect for Obama and the office.
But Maher didn't go there with that. Race stuff is simply too juicy and eye catching. And now, in the wake of the BP spill, Maher, like the ever-swelling pack of sharks circling their victim in the water, sniff Obama's sudden vulnerability, and political blood. The hard fact is at this point BP can't cap the well, and even if Obama did what the new crop of his bashers shout and order the oil giant to cap it immediately, it still wouldn't get done that minute. Obama, then, can expect more blame, finger pointing, and cheap shots, will be heaped on and taken at him. Maher certainly heaped that on him for the wrong reason, and above all in the wrong way. Bill, you owe Obama an apology.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge (Middle Passage Press).