No offense to the former Virginia governor, but literally everything in Doug Wilder’s Politico op-ed about President Obama’s “blackness” versus Bill Clinton’s was factually wrong.
I wrote about it this week for TheGrio, but am bringing it back since Wilder is still getting play for his column, including on MSNBC this morning. A clip:
Wilder writes in Politico that at first, he was not in agreement with author Toni Morrison’s declaration that Clinton was “the first black president,” and “Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime.” He goes on to say:
All of a sudden, during both Morrison’s and my lifetime — not just our children’s — America elected a black president, in a spirit of hope and optimism painted in votes from all hues across the human rainbow.
Yet here we sit, more than three years after Obama’s win, and too many people are pulling me aside in private to ask why his standing in the African-American community has softened since his Inauguration. They also question whether the reduced excitement among young and new voters — with that lack of enthusiasm from African-Americans — might hinder Obama’s 2012 campaign.
This has forced me to think back to Morrison’s comment.
Obama was elected in a flourish of promise that many in the African-American community believed would help not only to symbolize African-American progress since the Civil War and Civil Rights Acts but that his presidency would result in doors opening in the halls of power as had never been seen before by black America.
Has that happened? I am forced to say, “No” — especially when comparing Morrison’s metaphorical first black president to the actual first black president.
Wilder goes on to list a string of Clinton appointments, including the secretaries of Agriculture, Labor, Commerce and Engergy (plus he credits Clinton with having Vernon Jordan as a close friend and adviser … seriously. And he criticizes Obama for not matching Clinton’s achievements.
Never mind that Obama, too, has named a host of African-Americans to senior posts, including his original political director, Patrick Gaspard, who is now executive director of the Democratic National Committee; Senior Adviser to the President Valerie Jarrett, probably the person after Vice President Joe Biden with the greatest access to the Oval Office; soon-to-be out-going Domestic Policy Council director Melody Barnes, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency Lisa Jackson, U.S.Trade Representative Ron Kirk, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. Not to mention U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, the first black person to hold that post.
Meanwhile, if the measure of presidential blackness is the number of high-level African-American appointments, George W. Bush, having named two black secretaries of state and a black national security adviser, was the blackest president of them all.
Wilder’s other complaint: with two available appointments to the Supreme Court, Obama named no blacks, while Clinton nominated both Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Stephen Breyer… wait…
Wilder’s larger narrative is that he cannot see what “legacy” Obama will leave behind for black people, “beyond an electoral point in time.”
“Who will follow him? Who will be the second to Obama’s first, and what has he done to help prepare for that?” Wilder asks.
It’s an intriguing question coming from the first — and only — black governor of Virginia. Meanwhile, the present governor of that state had to walk back an attempt to commemorate the Civil War with no mention of slavery. If Wilder left a stamp on that state on behalf of African-Americans, Gov. Bob McDonnell may not have gotten the memo.
Wilder’s contention that Clinton “seeded” the judiciary with judges who could one day fill the Thurgood Marshall seat on the Supreme Court (sorry, Clarence Thomas,) also fails to stand up to the facts. Of Clinton’s confirmed judicial nominees, 16 percent are black, versus 7 percent black judges under George W. Bush and 21 percent for Obama. And since diversity is measured in more than just black and white, Obama’s record of 11 percent confirmed Hispanic judges edges out Clinton’s (7 percent) and his share of women judges does so by a margin of 47 percent to 29 percent.
Read the rest here.
Wilder is not the first Clinton supporter to make the charge that somehow Clinton was more “black” than Obama, and it’s nearly always based on Obama’s relationship with black political leaders and the former opinion elite within black America (ie the Tavis Smileys and Cornel Wests of the world.) Meanwhile, Obama’s approval ratings with rank and file African-Americans has barely inched below 80 to 90 percent over the last three years. And even Obama’s relationship with the CBC has warmed (do you doubt that all of the members except Allen West will campaign vigorously for his re-election?)
The point here is that Wilder can have his differences with the president. But he ought to update his facts before proceeding. Just to help him out, here is a list of all of the black people in the upper echelon of the Obama administration:
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
- · Raphael Bostic, Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
U.S. Department of Transportation
- · David L. Strickland, National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator, U.S. Department of Transportation
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- · Administrator Lisa Jackson, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. Department of Education
- · Russlyn Ali, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education
- · Tony Miller, Deputy Secretary of Education, U.S. Department of Education
- · William Jawando, Deputy Director of Strategic Partnerships and Special Assistant to Secretary, U.S. Department of Education
- · Denise Forte, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, U.S. Department of Education
U.S. Department of Labor
- · Dr. William Spriggs, Assistant Secretary for Policy, U.S. Department of Labor
- · Latifa Lyles, Deputy Director of the Women’s Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor
- · E. Christi Cunningham, Associate Assistant Secretary for Regulatory Affairs, U.S. Department of Labor
- · Michael L. Davis, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Employee Benefits Security Administration, U.S. Department of Labor
U.S. Department of Agriculture
- · Joe Leonard, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Agriculture
- · Audrey Rowe, Administrator for the Food and Nutrition Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
- · Stacey Brayboy, Chief of Staff for the Food and Nutrition Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
- · Pearlie S Reed, Assistant Secretary for Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture
U.S. Small Business Administration
- · Marie Johns, Deputy Administrator, Small Business Administration
U.S. Department of Commerce
- · Nicole Lamb-Hale, Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing and Services, U.S. Department of Commerce
- · David Hinson, National Director, Minority Business Development Agency, U.S. Department of Commerce
- · Joseph K. Hurd, Senior Director, Export Promotion and Trade Policy, U.S. Department of Commerce
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- · Dr. Nadine Gracia, Chief Medical Officer in the Office of Public Health and Science, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- · Dora Hughes, Counselor to the Secretary for Public Health Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- · Regina M. Benjamin, Surgeon General, Office of the Surgeon General
U.S. Department of Energy
- · Admiral Melvin G. Williams, Associate Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy
- · Christopher Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oil and Natural Gas, U.S. Department of Energy
- · Dr. Karina Edmonds, Technology Transfer Coordinator, U.S. Department of Energy
Employee Benefits Security Administration
- · Michael L. Davis, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Employee Benefits Security Administration
U.S. Department of Justice
- · Attorney General Eric Holder, U.S. Department of Justice
U.S. Economic Development Administration
- · Barry Johnson, Senior Advisor and Director of Strategic Initiatives, U.S. Economic Development Administration
John Wilson, Executive Director, White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities
Jay Williams, Executive Director, Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers