Sunday, March 18, 2007
From The Chicago Sun-Times…
Why Sharpton is badmouthing Obama
BY MONROE ANDERSON
Al Sharpton is on a jealousy trip, power trip, ego trip and is tripping over his own two right feet. Last week, the New York preacher declared that presidential candidate Barack Obama should not take the black vote for granted. He also bad-mouthed Obama for supporting Sen. Joe Lieberman. Sharpton’s Obama-drama took center stage last week when the New York Post reported a pro-Hillary activist charged that a jealous Rev. Al was out to do deadly damage to Obama’s presidential bid. “He’s saying that Obama never did anything for the community, never worked with anybody from the community, that nobody knows the people around him, that he’s a candidate driven by white leadership,” the Post quoted the activist.
Bathing in the warmth of glowing television cameras and hyped by headlines, once again, Sharpton denied and deflected. He wasn’t jealous; he was just doing what he’s always done, he said. “I want to talk about a civil rights agenda as a priority.”
That civil rights agenda Sharpton wants to talk about is just fine if you’re in the presidential race to see if you can get more votes than the Rev. Jesse Jackson did back in the ‘80s so that you can claim the de facto Leader-of-Black-America crown. But it won’t play in Peoria if you are seeking to become Ruler of the Free World. That calls for universal, not racial, appeal. And whether Sharpton knows it or not, universality in good hands is great for civil rights. Universal health care appeals to all Americans but will help African Americans proportionately more. An African-American president, elected on universal appeal, can launch a public school initiative that will ensure that each child is well-educated and that voting rights are enforced.
To say that Sharpton is jealous is about as obvious as saying that America’s not about to elect a black man who wears his hair conked. Why should the media again seek out Rev. Sharpton, a self-appointed leader, when it can call on Sen. Obama, the first competitive African-American presidential candidate? Why go to Sharpton to get a quick quip on how we’re losing the war on poverty, when you can go to top-tier candidate Obama for a substantial response on what he’d do about us losing the war in Iraq?
Some of the over-the-hill New York politician’s over-the-top anti-Obama snipes and gripes are transparent. Lieberman for one. While both he and Obama opposed the Iraq war, Sharpton tongue-lashed the Illinois senator for campaigning in Connecticut for the pro-war Lieberman. Sharpton failed to mention that Obama’s support came during the primary with the balance of power in the U.S. Senate up for grabs. In the general election, Obama backed the party nominee, Ned Lamont. In both elections, Obama was acting as a loyal Democrat. Sometimes Sharpton does not.
In his 2004 presidential loss, Sharpton strangely fellowshipped with GOP Watergate trickster Roger Stone. Back during that symbiotic relationship between the civil rights leader and the right-wing operative, I’m not sure who was tricking whom. A Village Voice investigation revealed that Sharpton’s campaign was staffed, financed and finessed by Stone and other rich Republican conservatives. The Stone hookup also helped pave the way for Sharpton’s unlimited access to Fox Cable News, the semi-official Voice of the Bush White House. The Republican strategy was to keep hope alive in Sharpton’s campaign, allowing him to bloody the eventual Democratic nominee, undermining the chances of the Democrats winning the presidential election. With a war chest of a mere $600,000 for the 2004 race — Richard M. Daley had 10 times that amount for a run in a sure-win contest — I’m not sure what was Sharpton’s strategy.
Power to the people protests aside, Sharpton has a history of hanging with the GOP — from 1986 when he endorsed Republican Al D’Amato for the U.S. Senate to his 2004 presidential bid when his campaign co-chairman gave as much money to the Bush-Cheney campaign as to Sharpton’s.
Sharpton hasn’t said whether he’ll endorse Obama or make another run for the presidency himself. He may be waiting for Fox’s flamethrower Bill O’Reilly to cheer him on before he makes the big decision.