I'm puzzled. President Obama had absolutely no reservation about name-calling hip-hop mega star Kanye West a "jackass." Make no mistake: West's boorish, juvenile delinquent antic at the MTV award show richly deserved a public reprimand. That is his act and his act alone. But West apologized quickly, vociferously and often for his grandstanding.
West is one of the few hip-hop shot-callers to actually talk about racism, and had the guts to call former President Bush's comatose response to the massive suffering of poor blacks during the Katrina debacle racism. West has gone against the grain in the homophobic world of gangster rap and hip-hop and denounced its rampant homophobia. West has donated thousands to charities and educational institutions.
But West is also black, and a pop artist. And his supposed crime was to insult a white pop star. That instantly made him the softest of soft targets for Obama. He's a target that many conservatives eagerly back-pat Obama for name-calling, and that made him even more of a tantalizing figure to name-call. Yet there's not a peep of a public call-out from the White House of a congressman who shouts that "you lie" during Obama's seminal congressional speech, or the GOP congressman who walked out during Obama's speech, or the GOP congresspersons and senators who sit on their hands and glare at Obama in icy silence during his congressional speeches. There's not a peep of indignation from the White House at the legion of conservative web sites and bloggers that have virtually turned vilifying, pillorying and even making flat-out death threats against Obama into a fun-and-game sport.
There's not a hint of an outburst from the White House at Glenn Beck and the legion of Glenn Beck types who totally dominate the talk radio airwaves. They have turned slurring Obama into a lucrative growth industry.
There's not a murmur of outrage from Obama at the throngs who carried the packs of borderline and openly racist hate placards, signs, Confederate flags, and Texas state flags at the Taxpayer protest march. Instead, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs glibly told reporters that Obama did not see any racial motives in the taxpayer protests.
West was wrong, and should have been rapped on the knuckles. But this was hardly the sin of the ages. Not so for the droves of rightists who are waging a full blown counterinsurgency against Obama's political agenda and Obama. They are real, hateful, and dangerous. West is none of those things. Yet Obama calls him a jackass, and not the others. Go figure that one.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book, "How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge" (Middle Passage Press) will be released in January, 2010.
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