Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tavis Smiley confronts the Obama candidacy.

I wrote of my admiration for Tavis Smiley back in April.

His views are left-of-center, but I don't care. Mr. Smiley's rapid fire delivery, disarming charm, and insightful questions make many of his shows outstanding television. He's 'Charlie Rose' with soul - and more energy.

He's also a long time critic of obamamania and the man who inspires such 'swooning'. And he's made a lot of enemies with those opinions. Some say those opinions are why he left his 12 year stint on the “The Tom Joyner Morning Show” - a popular syndicated radio broadcast aimed at black America. Mr. Smiley denies those reports.

This article, entitled "What He Knows for Sure", addresses some of those opinions. But it's a New Yorker article, and you know what that means: puff extraordinaire. Lucky for you, there is moi to mine the nuggets from the liberal sluice slush.
Smiley’s first commentary of the year was broadcast on Tuesday, January 8th, and his subject was Senator Barack Obama, who had won the Iowa caucuses the previous week. Joyner had emerged as an ardent Obama supporter, but Smiley, in his commentary, urged listeners not to be taken in by “the hysteria and the hype.” He said, “You can’t short-circuit the process of holding folk accountable just because you fall in love.”

His criticism of 'the chosen one' ignited a firestorm of back lash. Tavis Smiley "was disgusted by the idea that the Senator 'transcends race'—'Nobody asks white candidates to transcend their race,' he said. And he worried that, for some people, "voting for the guy who happens to be black might be the easy way out."
On February 11th, Obama called in to the show. He seemed to be stifling a sigh when Joyner asked him about Smiley’s criticism. “I’m gonna have to call Tavis up and straighten him out on this,” he said. “I don’t know why he hasn’t called me directly.” The Senator added that he was a supporter of Smiley’s agenda: “There is no issue that he’s discussed—whether it’s health-care discrepancies for minorities or what have you—that isn’t central to my campaign.”

At the end of the month, Obama declined to attend the State of the Black Union symposium, an annual gathering of thinkers and politicians which Smiley has organized for a decade, and which this year was held in New Orleans. The event, which is broadcast on C-SPAN, is meant to publicize the concerns of black America, while providing a forum for leaders to discuss solutions. The symposium also underscores Smiley’s role on the political stage. This year’s participants included civil-rights veterans (Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton), academic celebrities (Michael Eric Dyson, Cornel West), congresswomen (Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Sheila Jackson Lee), and one Presidential candidate: Hillary Clinton. “It was a bad decision for him not to show up,” Smiley later said of Obama.

This is not to say that Tavis Smiley would not celebrate an Obama victory come November. Mr. Smiley is simply trying to temper the obamamania with real world pragmatism that says there is no black messiah. And to alert the black community that change for the sake of change is not always welcome when it brings enormous unintended consequences.
Black leaders who opposed him might find themselves, as Smiley did, dissidents in their own communities. Bitter intra-racial debates over the policies of our first black President could only make the notion of a singular black community seem that much more illusory, emphasizing schisms that many black leaders have been at pains to ignore.

The rest of the article is mainly biographic about Tavis Smiley - from childhood to college to the present. The article also definitely avoids any of it's own hard criticism of the obamantor's uber far left politics and the documented havoc such oppressive policies heap upon many of those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

But, like I said, it's a New Yorker article: puff extraordinaire.
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