In a famous speech, Barack Obama declared that he could no more disown Rev. Jeremiah Wright than he could disown the black community, or for that matter his white grandmother. Shortly thereafter, following more embarrassing comments by Wright, Obama did manage to disown Wright. However, the earlier message was clear – there is place in Obama’s inner circle for a radical black racist, as long as he doesn’t behave in too frightful a manner.
The lesson has not been lost on radical black racist Rev. Al Sharpton. As the Washington Post reports, Sharpton has become a “partner to the Obama White House.” In fact, “Sharpton has had a voice in some of the most important policy debates affecting the black community.” More than that, Obama seems to use him as a moral litmus test for key aspects of his domestic policy. “I know if I’m doing it right, Reverend Sharpton will be right here to let me know,” Obama has reportedly said. In short, Sharpton seems to be Obama’s moral compass, the role that Wright, the president’s former spiritual mentor, might well have played had he been a little more diplomatic.
The Post wants to convey the impression that it’s a mellow version of Sharpton that has captured the president’s ear. But the only evidence it offers that Sharpton has changed consists of the fact that he has lost weight and now wears business attire instead of track suits. As Sharpton explains, “you have to have core principles and everything else is a tactic.” In other words, his core principles remain the same. And they fit seamlessly in the Obama administration.
Joe Biden kicked off his presidential campaign by calling Barack Obama “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” Biden was, of course, differentiating Obama from Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.
Biden had to apologize for this statement. There’s no question, however, that part of Obama’s appeal to white voters was the fact that he seemed so different from Sharpton and Jackson. Obama understood this very well. As the Post notes, he persuaded Sharpton to keep his distance from the presidential campaign.
But now that the slimmed-down, well-dressed Sharpton has become an important and visible force in the Obama administration, I wonder what the differences would be between a Sharpton presidency and the one Obama is serving up.