It's Sharpton vs. Jackson on Smiley vs. Obama
By Hamil R. Harris
The Rev. Al Sharpton broke with other prominent black leaders to criticize Tavis Smiley's "We Count! The Black Agenda is the American Agenda" conference taking place in Chicago this weekend, saying the PBS commentator would use it to criticize President Obama even though he didn't subject the last Democratic president to the same scrutiny.
Sharpton, who told The Post he attended a meeting at the White House this week, questioned black leaders who now criticize president. "We all have to deliver to our constituencies, but they keep saying we have to go back the streets and march, but they were never in the streets," he said. "They keep saying, 'Let's hold Obama's feet to the fire,' but did they do that with Bush or Bill Clinton? When were they marching? Let's hold to the same standard."
But the Rev. Jesse Jackson defended the meeting and told The Post he is looking forward to it. "The agenda meeting is good for the health of the nation," Jackson said, adding that he saw the meeting as simply an extension of his Rainbow Coalition. "The Latinos are marching in Washington this weekend, the gays have been fighting against 'don't tell' -- every group has their legislative issue."
While Jackson praised Obama for being "committed to representing all of America," he said that the Congressional Black Caucus also has the right to voice criticism if members think the president is not doing enough. "I think that within the voice of leadership, each group must express the interest of their constituency," he said of the caucus, which has recently become more vocal on the topic of the president and African American interests. "The civil rights movement wasn't an attack on Kennedy. It addressed unfinished business. I think President Obama will be up to the task."
Sharpton, the head of the National Action Network, said he didn't see skipping the meeting on the campus of Chicago State University as a sign of conflict. "There is no tension between black leaders of organizations. Tavis Smiley is a commentator. He does not have a constituency. We can't mix apples and oranges," Sharpton said.
Hamil R. Harris
March 19, 2010; 6:20 PM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency , Barack Obama , Cast of Characters
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