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What's with Tavis Smiley and Obama?

The Post story on President Obama's meeting with black Christian leaders before the Easter prayer breakfast this morning had an enraging quote from political commentator Tavis Smiley. After hosting a forum on how Obama could help African Americans in the president's hometown, the talk show host said, "The bottom line is the president needs to take the issues of black America more seriously because black folks are catching hell, number one." He went on to say, "Number two: This theory that a rising tide lifting all boats -- that theory was soundly dismissed. Thirdly, because black people are suffering disproportionately, it requires a disproportionate response."

Let me tackle Smiley's "number two" first. A rising tide does lift all boats. Perhaps he was sleepwalking through the 1990s when record economic expansion benefited all Americans, especially African Americans. According to a list of "Clinton-Gore Accomplishments," "The unemployment rate for African Americans has fallen from 14.2 percent in 1992 to 8.9 percent in 1998 -- the lowest annual level on record (data first collected in 1972)." Real wages were up. Poverty rates among adults and children fell. And that's just a few of the benefits that accrued to African Americans because of the Clinton administration's focus on the economy and slashing the deficit -- for the benefit of all Americans.

I understand Smiley's single-minded focus on getting Obama to cobble together a "disproportionate response" to the disproportionate suffering of African Americans. But I wish he would expend a lot more energy cajoling Speaker Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) into putting forth legislation that embodies his goals that Obama could sign. Obama is president, not king.

Lastly, for Smiley to say that "the president needs to take the issues of black America more seriously" is beneath contempt. Obama is the father of two black girls and is the husband and son-in-law of black women. I triple dog dare him to utter that strain of blacker-than-thou condescension directly to them.

By  | April 6, 2010; 12:09 PM ET
Categories:  Capehart  
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Comments

Concur. Mr. Smiley fall from grace of the African American community (his radio talk show) was due to his single minded point of view on issues. Despite Tom J. effort and support for Mr. Smiley, African American simply stopped listening to Mr. Smiley's radio talk show.

Legislative program may aide in a solution. But with the many wealthy African Americans (Business, Recording artist, movie industry, sports personality, etc) forming a "dream team" of investors, investing in the community, would benefit the community much more. Since they would have a better ideal of what and where to invest.

Posted by: Mas1 | April 6, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Ever since then candidate Obama did not appear on Tavis' debate/forum during the campaign he has been unrelentingly promoting divisional discourse within the Black community against Pres. Obama.. Tavis seems to still be wearing the Honorary Black Intellectual Crown placed on his super sized head/ego by non-blacks..His personal agenda comes through ever so often since he suffered that percieved slight.. Obama is America's President not Black America's President.. Tavis is at the forefront of those disenfranchised Blacks who does not represent the Black community ( no one voted them that honor ).. that Rush quotes as unaccepting in the Black community of our President.. Knock it off Tavis we are not as unintelligent and unaware as your psuedo intellect will have you believe..

Posted by: TomThumb7 | April 6, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Tavis is STILL nursing his grudge against the president. Word to Tavis: Let it go.
Black people aren't even listening to him. Please go away and shut up. No one appointed you our keeper.

Posted by: Victoria27 | April 6, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

To clarify: When I say "black people aren't even listening to him" the "him" is Tavis Smiley. PBS/NPR may think he's the voice of black America, but no one in black America thinks that.

Posted by: Victoria27 | April 6, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Until Black America sees education as something imperative and positive rather than `acting white,' we all we keep hearing this tragic story again and again.

Posted by: AlongTheWatchTowers | April 6, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

"But I wish he would expend a lot more energy cajoling Speaker Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) into putting forth legislation that embodies his goals that Obama could sign. Obama is president, not king." Hammer meet nail! It astounds and galls me that so many elected African Americans in Congress who have been there some 10, 20, 30 or more years want to blame the President for the long festering problems of the African American community--that happened under their watch. What have they been doing? What legislation are they putting forth? Why is there no pressure on Pelosi and Reid to push through legislation that can reach the President's desk for signature. Why is the onus on the President merely because he shares our skin color? Are we not Americans who deserve adequate representation from all of our elected officials even those who don't share our skin color?

Posted by: NMP1 | April 6, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse


Tavis Smiley knows what he knows. There isn't any reason for him to try to tell the rest of us. There is no reason for him to tangle with Barack Obama. Let it go.

Posted by: bvro | April 6, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Smiley embodies the problem on the left of all colors.
They love to feel sorry for themselves and love to whine and moan.
They love to blame the president as if he was dictator or had magical powers to do whatever and not have to go through congress.
Many on the left seem to think we have no congress and that all legislation is done by the president.
I don't know if this is from a lack of civics or understanding of how our government works or if those on the left see Obama as being the whole government alone.
They never look to congress and they never fault congress for their shortcomings.
It's all placed on Obama's shoulders even though most of the blame is due to congress.

On a side note: Smiley has had a grudge against Obama even before the event that Obama could not attend.
I remember him bashing the man when Obama's name was just being floated as possibly running.

Posted by: vwcat | April 6, 2010 7:49 PM | Report abuse

Tavis Smiley was never was a supporter of Barack Obama, which was strange, considering all the pro-Black bloviating at his yearly forums. Smiley, like many people in this country, doesn't think Blacks are intelligent enough to think for themselves when it comes to politics. I believe he actually thought the had the power to influence the Black vote. I wish he'd let go of his personal vendette against the President, but sadly, I don't think his ego would allow it.

Posted by: mrgrbrad2 | April 6, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

I used to look forward to Tavis's forums. No more, he's disgruntled because his candidate did not win,just because he has lettered black intellectuals on his stage does not mean we buy the whole thing hook line and sinker. Smiley makes it seem that african americans are focused only on black issues, same thing happened in NYC when Dinkins was mayor, result Rudy G. We've got to stop being crabs in a barrell.

Posted by: jestindam | April 6, 2010 9:16 PM | Report abuse

I used to look forward to Tavis's forums. No more, he's disgruntled because his candidate did not win,just because he has lettered black intellectuals on his stage does not mean we buy the whole thing hook line and sinker. Smiley makes it seem that african americans are focused only on black issues, same thing happened in NYC when Dinkins was mayor, result Rudy G. We've got to stop being crabs in a barrell.

Posted by: jestindam | April 6, 2010 9:18 PM | Report abuse

Tavis!!! Usually, I listen and think you have good points. However, the issues the President has been working on are problems for all including Blacks. I do not believe he is ignoring our problems. He should not be the only one working on an agenda for Black people. Each one of us shares in that responsibility. We cannot expect one person to solve our issues. And today, racism is the biggest problem of all. It has been here and it is the problem we should be focused on.

Somehow we not only forgot the past but, we are slowly going back in the past. Ours shools and education is falling under the pressure. If one can control the mind then the civilization either commits or quits. Right now they are trying to formulate minds to think one way-White. Sad but true. If you do not believe this one come to Wilmington, N.C. School Board meeting-creepy!! And the Blacks that do come may as well stay home. And the ones who fight are at the point of saying "screw it".

It was all I could do tonight from going and slapping the heck out of one Board member. Oh we are truly voting your butt out and I am leading the band wagon.

So, Tavis some of us are working on agenda by not meeting, eating, and talking but, on the ground digging in for the long haul. Did you read about Va. Tavis-a sign!! Obama-a sign!! Black Folk- a big a.s.s. sign-got it!!!

Posted by: Scar1 | April 6, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Tavis!!! Usually, I listen and think you have good points. However, the issues the President has been working on are problems for all including Blacks. I do not believe he is ignoring our problems. He should not be the only one working on an agenda for Black people. Each one of us shares in that responsibility. We cannot expect one person to solve our issues. And today, racism is the biggest problem of all. It has been here and it is the problem we should be focused on.

Somehow we not only forgot the past but, we are slowly going back in the past. Ours shools and education is falling under the pressure. If one can control the mind then the civilization either commits or quits. Right now they are trying to formulate minds to think one way-White. Sad but true. If you do not believe this one come to Wilmington, N.C. School Board meeting-creepy!! And the Blacks that do come may as well stay home. And the ones who fight are at the point of saying "screw it".

It was all I could do tonight from going and slapping the heck out of one Board member. Oh we are truly voting your butt out and I am leading the band wagon.

So, Tavis some of us are working on agenda by not meeting, eating, and talking but, on the ground digging in for the long haul. Did you read about Va. Tavis-a sign!! Obama-a sign!! Black Folk- a big a.s.s. sign-got it!!!

Posted by: Scar1 | April 6, 2010 10:40 PM | Report abuse

Although I do feel that some of Mr. Smiley's criticisms of President Obama are unfair, there is NOTHING wrong with him having the right to voice his opinion. Or so I thought he/we all have the right to our own opinions. I'm an African-American who was proud to vote for President Obama. I got out the vote in my community. Got others registered to vote, made sure they go to the polls or mailed in their absentee ballots on time. In fact, I still am in support of President Obama. However, I also have to admit that I didn't agree with HIS handling of the Health Care Bill, nor am I fan of the US being in Iraq and Afghanistan longer than necessary, which is is increasingly looking like we will be. As for the Health Care Bill. I asked several of my friends what they like/agree with concerning the Health Care bill, and several of them couldn't exactly tell me WHY they were for the bill--They basically said they were for the bill because the President was for the bill. That was a scary reply, but what several of them told me. Yet, when I told them that some important parts of the bill would not phase in until 4 years from now, or about premium costs still being high, they accused me of knit-picking. Wow, that was scary to hear from them, so Instead of arguing with them as I'd done for 1 straight week over the health care bill, I just let it go. It's these types of discussions that alarm me-- Yet, I have friends who have become extremely defensive towards me because I voiced opposition to some of the with the Health Care Bill. I understand that he's the first African-American president, and With much pride, I voted for him. But does that mean that as an African-American, I don't have the right to MY opinions? My goodness, some of my friends are behaving no better than the far-right wing fringe who blindly supported former President Bush's rush into the Iraq war during his first 4 years in office--ONLY because he was a Republican like THEY were. That rush to war was truly a disaster as I thought it WOULD be. Now, I'm fully aware that President Obama was handed an utter disaster by the Bush/Cheney Administration, and he's only been in office a bit over 1 year. But he signed UP for the job, and I have the right to disagree with him where I feel necessary. You know, It's a very slippery slope we're on as African-Americans when some are called 'haters' by other African-Americans, because they don't support an African-American president 100% simply because he IS the first African-American President. That word 'hater' is being thrown around too much IMHO. Personally, I respect BOTH Mr. Smiley and President Obama a great deal. I agree with many of their view-points/philosophies, But I don't agree with either of THEM 100%, which doesn't make me a hater, but a person with my OWN mind. I mean, me or anyone else SHOULD have the right to disagree with the President without being called a hater.

Posted by: Kandy_1027 | April 7, 2010 12:49 AM | Report abuse

President has already done the best thing you can do for any African American. He got an education, get himself a job and rose through the ranks to be President of U.S.A.

Posted by: paulolo | April 7, 2010 5:51 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Jonathan for a great piece. Tavis and Michael Steele are in a boat in the middle of the ocean and-------------------end of story.

Posted by: phyllisr5 | April 7, 2010 7:05 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Jonathan for a great piece. Tavis and Michael Steele are in a boat out in the ocean going ----------------------end of story.

Posted by: phyllisr5 | April 7, 2010 7:07 AM | Report abuse

Just when Tavis and his advocacy journalism were getting some prime time attention. Too bad. This country doesn't need another Al Sharpton.

Posted by: klukas | April 7, 2010 9:06 AM | Report abuse

I think there has been a "disproportionate response" already- Health Care, anti-business rhetoric and actions, stimulus moneys for maintaining bloated government systems and employees, and a budget that didn't even attempt to have some budget control. Policies that are sold as help to the disadvantaged but are not policies that "lift all boats". These are policies that negatively impact jobs and upward mobility of the least skilled and educated.
Either the Black, nor the white, community, as if that thinking was even appropriate, can't stand any more "disproportionate response" from this Congress and this President.
Smiley is discounting the current actions and ignoring the negative effects.

Posted by: flyover22 | April 7, 2010 9:08 AM | Report abuse

I am white and have never considered myself "racist". I don't dislike Obama because he is black; I despise him because of his attitude and his policies. What's worse, since Obama has been president my attitude towards blacks has declined. What a shame, and I suspect I am not the only one.
First it was ACORN, are all ACORN members black? Then we saw the black panthers intimidating people voting in Philly. Then it is our failing education system. The only schools that are failing are in Detroit, Philly, Wash DC and they are 95% black. Then there are throngs of blacks lined up for their share of "Obama money". When asked where the money came from, a Black woman answered, "I don't know, Obama gets it". Now we are going to bring racial quotas back in to college admissions. Entitlements for poor blacks is out of control. Unemployment among young black males is over 50% and our guy Eugene thinks it's a problem for the country to address. Wrong, it's a black problem. Why is there a Congressional Black Caucus? Have you read their agenda on their webpage? Empty of substance.Have you heard Maxine Waters? Not only stupid but crazy!
Whether you are Capeheart, Robinson, Smiley or Juan...wake up fellas, you are all heading in the wrong direction. Accusing Teapartiers of racial slurs and spitting on black congressmen is stupid. It was likely not true but even if it was it was isolated and served nobody's interest to to make it front page news for weeks. The focus should have been that thousands of people are speaking out that they don't support Obama or his policies. He's not listening and he's not hearing.
If Bush was the "Decider" then Obama is the "Divider". Not only has he divied the country politically but in just one year he has taken us back decades in terms of racial progress.
When Obama's taxes, fees and mandates kick in here's what will happen. Black unemployment will skyrocket. Whites will get paycuts to offset the incremental costs but they will keep their
jobs. When tax rates go up for the wealthy the wealthy will take their money elsewhere and guess who will end up paying Obama's bill. The poor unemployed blacks. How? Because Obama's VAT tax will be born by the lowest income blacks. Tell your black constituents that VAT is blind. It doesn't discrinate based on race and the rich pay a smaller share of VAT!
We now have a race problem in this country thanks to Obama. Small businesses are largely owned by whites. Many (if not most)of these people share these views (they just won't say so out loud, and many (if not most) will stop hiring blacks.
Obama's legacy will be that he destroyed any opportunity for blacks for a very long time.

Posted by: skihillsandy | April 7, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

I watch Tavis on his late night TV interview show and believe the guy is smarter than Big O.

The key to success is attitude. Get as good an education as you can, (begins in pre-school), attend every day, apply yourself, read, write to express, go to a strong academic college, apply yourself, do not party, pull up yur pants, take full advantage of the educational opportunity before you, and contribute when you get a job. Be nice and dress appropriately. Learn English. Use good English. Don't say "aks" when the word is A-S-K. Speak the language. Forget the street slang.

Do not cheat or lie or indulge in drugs. Do not engage in premarital sex. Do not palm or steal stuff from the store. Be responsible if you mess up, fess up !

Get with the program.

Posted by: raymeo | April 7, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

I watch Tavis on his late night TV interview show and believe the guy is smarter than Big O.

The key to success is attitude. Get as good an education as you can, (begins in pre-school), attend every day, apply yourself, read, write to express, go to a strong academic college, apply yourself, do not party, pull up yur pants, take full advantage of the educational opportunity before you, and contribute when you get a job. Be nice and dress appropriately. Learn English. Use good English. Don't say "aks" when the word is A-S-K. Speak the language. Forget the street slang.

Do not cheat or lie or indulge in drugs. Do not engage in premarital sex. Do not palm or steal stuff from the store. Be responsible if you mess up, fess up !

Get with the program.

Posted by: raymeo | April 7, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

How can every community ask the President to address their specific problems, but, AA can not ask for the same courtesy?

They Gay and Lesbian group and the Jewish community have had their specific issue addressed by the President, but we are supposed to take a back seat. Don't we elect politicians that addresses our agenda or pushes our agenda?

Historically, the trickle don't effect does not address our specific issues. Even Rep. Elijah Cummmings doubts if the Jobs bill will benefit African Americans.

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/87367-cummings-jobs-bill-wont-help-black-community

If the jobs are supposed to trickle down, why has unemployment gone down and African American unemployment gone up. Read Dewayne Wickham's article in USAToday:

http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2010/04/column-obama-ignores-black-joblessness-at-his-own-peril.html#more

Just because we push an agenda that address black issues does not mean we do not think he is the President of all of America. There are Jewish groups, Asian groups, Hispanic groups and Native American groups that solicit the President for policies that benefit their people. Maybe they should sit down and shut up too! But, that is not how government works. Interest groups run Washington. That is why it is an democracy. But, the President is elected to navigate that maze and get everyones agenda on the table if he choses.

And last but not least...this whole notion that since he African American we should not challenge him on policy that effects the entire group is crazy. Obama is not gay, but inacted policy that the gay and lesbian community asked for before his election.

Stop being in love with a politician. We can praise and pat him on the back after he has served our country. Until then, treat him like every other politician and hold him accountable and push our agenda until it hurts. Just like every other major lobby group in this country does. They can care less who is the president, they push their agenda relentlessly! We need to learn how government works and do the same, until we have leveled the playing field. Then we should push harder!!!

Posted by: hrapbrown | April 7, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

And for the record, Tavis Smiley never smashed President Obama...he only bashed the readers that bought the book and agreed in principle to hold elected officials and Presidential candidates accountable, but the majority of us got soft when President Obama was thrown into the mix and turned on Tavis

Pull the transcript people! We were so in love with President Obama that we thought we heard something that we really didn't.

Tavis has never waivered from his principle from the very beginning. The principles were written before Barack ran for President. Check the trascript and publishing dates.

We have achieved the symbolism, now it is time for some substance.

Like my father used to say, "this butt whooping hurts me more than it hurts you."

We should challenge the President until it hurts!

Posted by: hrapbrown | April 7, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Capehart, maybe you should tell Obama that he is not a king, nor an emperor, nor a dictator,that he was elected to be President & should behave like one. These unpolitic snits of his are neither worldly nor wise.

Posted by: afed27 | April 8, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Capehart, maybe you should tell Obama that he is not a king, nor an emperor, nor a dictator,that he was elected to be President & should behave like one. These unpolitic snits of his are neither worldly nor wise.

Posted by: afed27 | April 8, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

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