Allow me to apologize up-front for not drinking the Obama-aid. I like the reed-thin, caramel-colored, left-handed-jump-shot-having senator from Illinois and will probably vote for him, especially given the alternative. But I have had it with the Obama minions who decry any criticism, even policy-based, of him or his campaign. I don't buy that "anything off-message is giving aid and comfort to the enemy" tactic.
I have had a sneaking suspicion for months that the Obama campaign has been operating much like the Bush White House when it comes to dealing with criticism and protecting their man: Circle the wagons and cast any disparagement as treason. Unlike Bush, Obama rarely does the finger-wagging himself. His supporters do his bidding, so he can play it cool. But every once in a while The Cool One lets loose.
My suspicions about the campaign were confirmed recently with the fulminations over Chris “Ludacris” Bridges’ new song, "Politics as Usual," that took swipes at Hillary Clinton, John McCain and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. I grew more wary after the back and forth at a recent Obama town hall in Tampa, Fla. between the candidate and a group of self-styled black revolutionaries, who heckled Obama for not talking enough about black issues.
This is not change I can believe in. Part of the problem with the last eight years has been a thin-skinned, defensive White House, run by proto-conservative fanatics. The increasing over-reaction from Camp Obama at any non-approved message has me more than a little worried.
Okay, Luda did use the B-word, coupled with "irrelevant," to dismiss Hillary Clinton. And he did deliver a low blow about McCain in a wheelchair. But I expected Pat "Whitey" Buchanan to be the one foaming at the mouth with evangelical zeal over Luda's zingers. Instead, it was the presumptive nominee who immediately slapped him down, as if he were the second coming of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, even though Barry—may I call him Barry?—had Luda in "rotation" on his iPod. Was Luda's exercise of his basic right of artistic freedom really that much of a threat? And let's not forget Barry's admonition to the recently deceased comedian Bernie Mac to "clean up his act" several months ago, after Mac used blue language at a fundraiser.
Does Obama want to be president or a principal?
Obama defenders rushed in to assert that he had to reposition himself as tough on artistic, moral turpitude in order to avoid any political fallout. But just a few short weeks ago, Obama said he couldn't defend every off-color remark or illogical rant that came out of the mouths of prominent campaign supporters. Barry, you need to try harder to brush it off your shoulder!
On the heels of that came the young fellows in Tampa, with the sign that read: "What About the Black Community?" They caught major grief for calling Obama out.
Whatever you think about Jesse Jackson's castration remarks, his whispered comments highlighted a legitimate concern about Obama's commitment to many issues of importance to black folks. There is real worry out there that Obama is taking blacks for granted and is willing to troll for white votes by sidelining traditional black concerns like affirmative action and reparations.
To his credit, Obama engaged one of the Tampa hecklers after basically telling them to shut up at the beginning of his speech. The young man, who Obama called upon in the question-and-answer session, later said he would not be voting for the Illinois senator, but he appreciated the time Obama took to address his concerns. (Who is this guy going to vote for now? Nader?)
Obama hacks defend every slap-down saying, "Let's get him elected first!" I say, that's backward. I want to know as much as I can before I cast my vote. That way, if I do decide to buy a pig in a poke, it's on me.
Nick Charles is a writer in Brooklyn, N.Y.