ANALYSIS: Cornel West’s Obsession with Obama

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  • Cornel West is obsessed with criticizing President Barack Obama.

    Every few months West rolls out new material to beat-up on Obama whenever he has an opportunity to meet with the media.

    In a recent interview with the Financial Times, West insists that it’s Obama who is fanatical.

    “I think at this point he’s obsessed with being on Mount Rushmore, he wants to be a great figure in the pantheon of American presidents,” West, the outspoken Princeton University professor, told the Financial Times. “If you’re thinking about Mount Rushmore, you’re thinking about your legacy, your legacy, your legacy. Puh-lease.”

    When asked to critique Obama’s first term in office, West said Obama is “much much better than Mitt Romney” but he remained critical of Obama.

    “Mitt Romney is a catastrophic response to a catastrophe, whereas Obama is a disastrous response to a catastrophe,” West said. “Is disaster better than catastrophe? Yes it is. I wish we had a third candidate who could actually do something, but we don’t at the moment.”

    West was also tough on the president’s foreign policy.

    “The Obama administration is involved in some very ugly killing of innocent people,” West said.

    West was once one of Obama’s most steadfast supporters, but he has turned on Obama over the years and some black Democrats accuse West of being disrespectful toward the president.

    It’s unclear why West feels so compelled to lash out at Obama and why he needs to evaluate Obama through the media. Some of his criticism has been bitter – and downright hateful.

    There was widespread speculation that West was upset because he didn’t get a ticket to the inauguration after campaigning hard for Obama in 2008. For West, it seems, Obama can’t do anything right: He’s not black enough. He isn’t doing enough or poor people. He lacks foreign policy experience. He doesn’t listen to black folks.

    Some of what West says has been echoed by other black Democrats – that Obama doesn’t have enough black advisors in his inner circle and that he keeps black congressional leaders and civil rights leaders at bay.

    But West prefers to share his complaints about Obama with the media, perhaps in hopes that he will shame Obama into coming around to his way of thinking.

    That’s not going to happen – not today, not tomorrow, and probably not ever.

    Still, West keeps piling it on. Last year, the attacks on Obama by West were particularly ugly.

    “I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men,” West told reporters. “It’s understandable. As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white. He is as human as I am, but that is his cultural formation.”

    “When he meets an independent black brother, it is frightening,” West added. “And that’s true for a white brother … Obama, coming out of Kansas influence, white, loving grandparents, coming out of Hawaii and Indonesia, when he meets these independent black folks who have a history of slavery, Jim Crow, Jane Crow and so on, he is very apprehensive. He has a certain rootlessness, a deracination. It is understandable.”

    Does West really think that if Obama loses his bid for the White House in November, that black Americans will be better off without Obama? Or is West just being petty?

    Six months before the presidential election, several major polls show Obama leading Romney by a slim margin – seven points. Obama campaign manager Jim Messina predicts the race will be extremely close and black voter turnout is critical.

    West won’t be on the road campaigning for Obama this year as he was in 2008, but the question remains whether West will continue to attack Obama right up to Election Day.

    And more important, are black voters really listening?

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