And here’s the pathetic reality: Obama didn’t attend Smiley’s “State of the Black Union” conference in 2008 because he was campaigning for the White House and five years later, Smiley still can’t let it go.
On Sunday, during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Smiley said Obama’s remarks about race last week were too little, too late and “as weak as pre-sweetened Kool-Aid.”
“I appreciate and applaud the fact that the president did finally show up,” Smiley said. “But this town has been spinning a story that’s not altogether true. He did not walk to the podium for an impromptu address to the nation. He was pushed to that podium. A week of protests outside the White House, pressure building on him inside the White House, pushed him to that podium.”
Smiley, a frequent critic of Obama, said the president didn’t address the broader issue of moving forward as a nation.
“But when he left the podium, he still had not answered the most important question, that Kingian question, where do we go from here? That question this morning remains unanswered, at least from the perspective of the president. And the bottom line is, this is not Libya. This is America. On this issue, you cannot lead from behind. What’s lacking in this moment is moral leadership. The country is begging for it. They’re craving it.”
Smiley has become consumed by what seems to be hatred towards the president – or at the very least, disgust – that his disdain for Obama has resulted in his inability to think logically when it comes to the nation’s first black president.
Obama’s remarks last week weren’t meant as a definitive speech on race or to facilitate a national discussion. It was specific: Obama, for the first time in his presidency, used his White House bully pulpit to stand with black men all across America and share their collective pain of racism.
“There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars,” Obama said. “That happens to me — at least before I was a senator. There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.”
This was a testimony by Obama that should be applauded, not criticized, but Smiley can’t give Obama credit for anything. In Smiley’s world, Obama doesn’t speak up quick enough on black issues, and when the president does speak, he doesn’t go far enough.
“I don’t know how the president argues that he doesn’t believe that he can have a role in leading us in a moral conversation,” Smiley said. “This is not a political issue. This is a moral issue. I don’t know how he can’t lead us in a conversation on this, but he can on gay marriage? He can on a litany of others—he can on Israel and Palestine, but not race?”
“I don’t want the president to look back and realize he didn’t do as much as he could have in this critical moment,” he said.
Smiley certainly has a right to share his opinions and there’s nothing wrong with constructive criticism, but Smiley has lost a huge African American following and his obvious anger toward Obama has caused many black Americans to question his logic, his motives, and his credibility.
Black folks on Facebook and Twitter are saying Smiley is becoming irrelevant — he just doesn’t know it yet.