Monday, January 19, 2009

KING, OBAMA, CLINTON, LBJ, TOM BROKAW AND RACIAL POLITICS

Last night on the History Channel there was the presentation of the documentary "King" narrated by Tom Brokaw. I couldn't help but notice that about half way through the documentary dealing with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, while we watched black and white footage of Lyndon Johnson in the White House at a Cabinet meeting Brokaw's narration was telling us that in 1964 it took all of Johnson's considerable powers of persuasion and political skill, as Johnson, in Brokaw's words, cajoled, arm twisted, called in favors, flattered, threatened members of Congress who had opposed it when Kennedy introduced it, to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

What couldn't be ignored on the eve of Obama's inauguration, is that almost one year ago during the South Carolina Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton said exactly the same thing, trying to make the point that it takes a President who has experience to get things done.

Obama accused Clinton of making remarks that diminished the legacy and importance of Martin Luther King -- remarks that were almost verbatim the same remarks about Johnson and the Civil Rights Act made by Tom Brokaw in the King documentary.

Obama's scurrilous and dishonest accusation and his decision to play the race card, also called Clinton's remarks "unfortunate" and implied she had no understanding of King or his contributions.

This needs to be remembered on the day before Obama's inauguration since the news media, and many others are making Obama's taking office as a fulfillment of King's dream. The fact that Obama's accusation was as much of a lie now as it was then,and that the news media jumped all over Clinton for her comment, ( The NY Times accused Clinton of taking the "low road" of racial politics as did the Nation and most television news outlets) should be kept in mind as they fall all over themselves over Obama's African background.

Of course most of them conveniently miss the most salient point of King's dream which was the he dreamed of a day when a person would be judged on the content of their character and not the color of their skin. For the next few days for the news media and some others, that is going out the window.

Given the obvious deep and demonstrable flaws in Obama's character, one wonders whether Obama's election is a fulfillment of King's dream or a distortion of it. And a distortion caused by mass media and PR.

It's certainly not a distortion caused by the majority of the American people who voted for Obama. People who voted for him were justifiably fed up with eight years of Bush and Republican rule that were the root causes of most of the economic meltdown not to mention all the other costly blunders that occurred under Bush. Obama was elected because people were fed up with Bush and rightly so, not because Obama is half black ( it probably needs to be pointed out, if for no other reason than to show how incredibly stupid it is to make an issue of someone's race no matter what the reason, that Obama is half black having a white mother which most people including the media seem to pretend doesn't exist. So does this mean we need another half black President in order to say we had a whole one?)

In many ways making Obama's inauguration an issue of race by the news media is more than a gross distortion of King's dream especially since the race card was played so dishonestly during the primary campaign. But it is also a distortion of the truth because Obama was elected more because he was a Democrat and more because of his promises than his ancestors. While there were many extremely distasteful comments made by people like John Kerry who said during the primary that Obama should be elected because he is black ( reminding people Obama is half black with a white mother if nothing else shows the stupidity of using race as any kind of measuring stick regarding the content or ability of any person) it was the dishonesty of the media during the primaries and the disasters brought about by the Republicans that are responsible for Obama's victory, not race.

After seeing the King documentary last night, one really can't help but remember the rank hypocrisy and gutter politics played in King's name by Obama and his accusations against Clinton, and then the news media's piling on against Clinton for saying the same thing Brokaw said in his acclaimed documentary.

I wonder where Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann would be now if they accused Brokaw, the iconoclastic anchor of NBC news for more than 20 years, and everyone else associated with the King documentary (including the King family) of diminishing the memory and accomplishment of King by saying it took all of Lyndon Johnson's political skills to get the Civil Rights Act passed. Where they would be now is probably one of the 7.2% who are out of work.

It's not a small thing to remember not only because this is Martin Luther King Day, but because those accusations, (in all probability drummed up by Congressman Clyburn and used by Obama) changed the course of the election process. Up until then Pew Research showed that the African American vote was split 49-48 between Obama and Clinton. After Obama accused her of making statements that diminished King's legacy Obama went on to get 90% of the African American vote in every primary from that point on. It was one of the things that made the difference.

As Obama takes the oath of office and the news media proclaims him the first African American President ( because half black with a Kenyan father and a white mother and a background that has no ancestral ties to slavery or racism in America doesn't fit the storyline) it's important to keep all this in mind because King's dream still matters, not just to African Americans but to anyone with asspirations. But when Obama is sworn in, the legitimate question can be asked as to whether or he is someone who has fulfilled King's dream or someone who was able to manipulate it. And the answer in many ways is both.

But once the pomp and circumstance is over the country will quickly get back to the only thing that really matters. Because starting on Wednesday Obama's election will have nothing to do with race but only whether he can deliver, and if he can't, who his ancestors were isn't going to help him. In that sense Obama's election will be prove useful. It's going to put an end to race as something that matters in relation to accomplishing anything that counts in American life once and for all, and that is what King's legacy is all about.

19 comments:

Nola said...

Congrats to President Obama!

Anonymous said...

There is alot about Obama to dislike. But for me the most thing is that he ruined it for me. I am talking about the first black person to become a president. In any normal circumstance I propably would be dancing in the streets. Now I am doing my best to avoid the news and TV even papers.

Anonymous said...

For someone who always has excellent posts. Marc, these last two have been OUTSTANDING!!!!! Grand slams wuth bases loaded all the way. I almost feel like copying this post and sending it to certain commentators over at MSNBC. But they are so dim the message would soar tight over their little heads and minds.

And like you I am just not as jubilant as I wanted to be when the first black was elected President.

Thankfully tomorrow and Wednesday I will be driving to and from a work assignment. I will miss the too over the top and obscenely expensive (in these troubled economic times) festivities.

Thanks for the consistently great insights and commentary.

bert

Anonymous said...

another great post.
I too am having a hard time feeling good about what has taken place. I do not want to be the downer in the room as my friends are so excited. It feels like they are so caught up in the moment, ie. we are fixing our past mistakes, they cannot see the forest of uncertainty. I fear we have made a grave mistake. I believe everyone will wake up from their hopium hangovers asking, "How did we get here?" How did we once again manage to elect a man with no experience, with so much unknown baggage in this world of instant messaging? Help!

Anonymous said...

Doesn't anyone use a name anymore?

Anonymous said...

i fear using my own identity.
I get enough grief from friends and family. I know people who have be threatened. I don't want to be called a racist just because I state the obvious. Where is Obama record? He came out of no where and I am just suppose to blindly follow?

Anonymous said...

tom brokaw is an ignorant, arrogant blowhard. the latest example of his brain cell atrophy: after writing a book about the "baby boom" generation, he continues to insist that obama (born in 1961) is not a member of it - even though the textbook definition of the baby boom includes all those born between the years 1946 and 1964.

since brokaw's documentary provides accurate insight into lbj's central role in passing civil rights legislation i can only presume that someone else wrote those words for him to speak.

time to leave the stage, tom.

Nola said...

Free At Last!

Pamela of the Poconos said...

Thanks for the reminder, the clarification of that horrendous time in SC. A great upper for this day when I found it necessary to switch off the household television at 5:38 and don the black arm band. Next will be preparation of post cards loudly proclaiming Hillary's honor in Atlanta over the weekend. Selected media sites and DC people receive these cards regularly. I'd been wondering what I could safely do now that O is (about to be) president ... er ... President of the United States of America. Hillary's latest honor will be the perfect subject for today IMHO. She always comes through for us.

susan h said...

Unfortunately, Marc, we (you) are preaching to the choir, those of us who actually KNOW what went on in S.C. and beyond. Obama's lies, playing the race card, guilt-baiting, voter fraud and intimidation, paying super-delegates to pick him, phony roll call (or lack of a roll call) in Denver, and so much more, contributed to Obama's stealing of the primary from the Qualified One, Hillary Clinton. The public at large has no clue nor does it want to know anything of truth or value. All they seem to want to do is buy memorabilia, and saint Mr. Obama so that he walks on water.

I got very panicky over the weekend when I realized the outgoing administration turns over TOP SECRET national security information to the incoming administration, and with Mr. Obama's ties to foreign governments, there could be a disaster in the making. But for now, everyone is sprinkling fairy dust all over the land, holding hands and singing while our economy is going down in flames. I do not trust Mr. Obama to care enough to fix it, nor does he know how. I agree with the first Anonymous here, he ruined it for me, as did the DNC and its corrupt dirty brand of politics. Thank goodness Hillary is still around to save the day for all of us. Long may she reign!!!

Nola said...

What a Crowd!

Anonymous said...

What a post! Thanks for reminding us of how big a part media manipulation had in this.

I agree with anonymous at 2:29: if this had been someone of the caliber of Thurgood Marshall or Barbara Jordan or just one of the many honest African American politicians, I would have been feeling a deep contentment and relief and hopefulness, as though a long tear in the fabric of America were finally going to be mended.

Instead, it looks like another deal between the white men in control and another Clarence Thomas has been struck.

Anonymous said...

This is one big sale job and the deal is closed today. They packaged and sold Obama successfully to the mass. The mass is forever chasing and cheering for whoever and whatever is in style and winning. We see it in sports all the time. Every body identifies with the winner as if the winner's glory can rub off on ordinary folks. I hope Obama comes through and takes this country to better days which we NEED so desperately. But make no mistake; there will come a day when Mr. Obama will need to walk on solid ground like we all do. He will need to provide real answers to the people. There will come a day when the "dazed" media will wake up and do their job. The day after the party will come. Mr. Obama will be very fortunate if his legacy can match the Clintons.

sue said...

This is the day where the rubber hits the road for the chosen one.
He now must produce- this is now his track record.
I couldn't watch his speech but have heard/read he stumbled over the beginning of the oath-(I guess 4 sentences is too much without a teleprompter?)
Today is the day that we will start to judge Mr Obama by the content of his character- I for one see nothing substantial in his past to deem him worthy of such a position- but Americans were pissed off enough at Bush that they thought a man with no experience and nothing but smoke and mirrors would be better.
Time to sit back and observe and see.
Look forward to many more posts Marc- thank you for all you do. I just wish you could get a broader audience-

Anonymous said...

Sue,

It was John Roberts that flubbed it, not President Obama!

Puma Eyes said...

Tom - I always look forward to your posts and this one does not disappoint. I, too am angry that I cannot celebrate the first African American president. This man is no different then Bush. He is nothing more then another corrupt politician from Chicago.

GaGirl said...

Political affiliations aside for the moment.....I would have embraced the candidacy of Colin Powell as a legitimate elevation of an honorable man who served his country to the highest office in our country. Even if I did not choose to vote for him, I would have certainly respected his candidacy or presidency.

I could not embrace the candidacy of Barack Obama in the same way. It was not earned and it was not a legitmate elevation.

If I have underestiamted Obama, shame on me. If I have not, shame on Obama for the deception of legitimacy he has managed to create.

Anonymous said...

That is why I think Hillary should not have accepted the SoS offer. I don't really know what was going on behind closed doors but she made a huge mistake.

She will be attacked by the corrupt press and corrupt members of Congress til he fires her. The firing will come soon and I can feel it on my bones.

If the recovery is not going well, it will be blamed on her. He won't take the heat for stuff he will be doing.

I just can't figure out why Hillary accepted the SoS position.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful, wonderful piece, Marc! I haven't visited your site in a while and this piece reminds me that I should not let too much time pass before I return again. You are always spot on and it's exciting to have someone articulte so well what is stirring in my own head and heart. Thank you.
Anna