Jonah Goldberg
Princeton's Cornel West, one of the most famous black intellectuals in America, says that President Obama is afraid of "free black men." Because of Obama's atypical upbringing, West says, "when he meets these independent black folk who have a history of slavery, Jim Crow, Jane Crow and so on, he is very apprehensive. He has a certain rootlessness, a de-racination."

With whom does the rootless cosmopolitan-in-chief find himself most comfortable? Jews and rich white men, says West. No surprise given the professor's view that Obama is a "black mascot" and a "black puppet" for Wall Street and corporate America.

Meanwhile, Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the third-ranking Democrat in the House, offers a far more familiar if no more persuasive take: "The president's problems are in large measure because of his skin color."

If forced to choose, I'd say West has the slightly more plausible position, only insofar as there's an argument to be made that Obama has been a puppet of Wall Street. What that has to do with his skin color is beyond me (a community organizer with a phobia about "black folk," married to a black woman, strikes me as the recipe for a hilarious Tyler Perry sitcom).

Still, I find the whole thing fascinating. Here are West and Clyburn, two of the most influential black people in America, bitterly clinging, as Obama might say, to ideologically racial views -- He's not black enough! He's too black for racist Americans! -- that have less and less relevance. This is not to say that there is no racial animus against Obama. Of course there is. But is it significant, as Clyburn suggests? Well, certainly not enough to keep him from being elected president of the United States (!) or being the establishment favorite to be re-elected.

Clyburn's take strikes me as the left-wing version of the right-wing theory -- popularized by Dinesh D'Souza -- that everything Obama does can be explained by his allegedly "post-colonial" worldview. Simpler explanations are available. Obama's a liberal Democrat. He does things a white liberal Democrat would do, and he receives mostly the same opposition a white liberal Democrat would receive. If a President John Edwards (shudder) had rammed through the economic stimulus or "EdwardsCare" the same way Obama did, Republicans wouldn't say, "Well, since he's white, it's OK."


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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