All this week, and all the next, The Black Snob is taking a look at the views of black conservatives on Barack Obama. We’re examining who likes him, who doesn’t. Who will vote for him and who won’t. So far we’ve looked at the views of Amy Holmes, Condoleezza Rice, Ward Connerly, Shelby Steele, Alan Keyes, JC Watts and Colin Powell.
Conservative columnist and public relations rep Armstrong Williams has always been bit of an odd duck to me. There is something comical about the way he has bounced through life occasionally offending people along the way.
He’s a nervous, nerdy man with an ever expanding Cheshire grin. Once a regular guest on TV talk show host Montel Williams’s show in the mid-1990s, I can remember lazy summers watching television and seeing the perpetually single Williams go on Montel’s show to be prodded for his lack of girlfriend.
Williams is a third-generation Republican, child of nine. He has hosted TV and radio shows and once had a syndicated column through Tribune Media Services. It abruptly ended in 2005 when a Freedom of Information Act request revealed the Bush Administration paid Williams to talk up the controversial education reform legislation, No Child Left Behind.
In a tone-deaf sort of way, Williams was paid $241,000 to pitch No Child Left Behind to the black community. Most African Americans are down right hostile to Williams’ right to exist, let alone his right to subject them to his opinion on anything. Like a lot of black conservatives he is a regular punching bag, even straw man at times. He was widely despised given his affiliation with much maligned Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
The fact that Williams agreed with the premise of No Child Left Behind (a law he favored and would have likely flacked for free) rendered the whole debacle even more comical.
Nation magazine writer David Corn recounted a meeting in a studio Green room with Williams and conservative pundit Linda Chavez shortly after the controversy broke. Chavez and Corn had spoke earlier about Williams’ actions possibly smearing the reputations of all TV conservative quarterbacks. She was immediately inundated with calls if she was bought and paid for after Williams’ outing.
He was quick with his main talking point: “It was bad judgment, Dave. Bad judgment.” … I was reminded that in addition to being a pundit, Williams … is a PR specialist with his own firm. Not too long ago, Michael Jackson called him for advice. Now he had himself for a client, and, heeding conventional crisis-management strategy, he was practicing strict message discipline: bad judgment, bad judgment, bad judgment.
As we chatted, Chavez politely expressed her anger at Williams. This scandal, she noted, would provide ammunition to those who dismiss minority conservatives as race sellouts who have been bought off by the Republicans. (She is Mexican-American.) Williams absorbed her point, acting contrite.
And boy did it how.
In the world of black America there is often little room for dissent. While we aren’t a monolith, a segment of us do believe in collective punishment for all black conservatives. Williams, along with Thomas, Ward Connerly and JC Watts are a quartet of constant bitching about their status as “race traitors.”
But Williams was special because he was tied to not only the most controversial “black turncoat,” Justice Thomas, but also a former segregationist senator who once proudly flung his N-words around with no shame and still holds the distinction of conducting the longest filibuster in senate history to stop the Civil Rights Act of 1957.
It lasted 24 hours and 18 minutes and the man was South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond.
Williams was an aide, one of his first black aids, in 1979.
Tongues were not forgiving, and were primarily joyous in Williams’ sudden stumble from a public relations representative’s bow of grace.
The Black Commentator, an internet magazine, called Williams “The Biggest Whore of All.” The publishers lashed into Williams for perverting “America’s Black Forum,” a weekly news program they initially created.
Williams was the host.
(I)t came as little surprise that the program, which once generated weekly, worldwide headlines on the scale of Meet the Press, Issues and Answers, and Face the Nation, finally became just another brothel in Armstrong Williams’ political red light district – a quickies venue for paying customers like Bush Education Secretary, Rod Paige.
Congress saw the payola scandal as being a form of propaganda, illegal under the provisions of the bill. It was one of the more minor, “humorous” controversies of the Bush Administrat
ion – dusty enough to lose a column, but not powerful enough to stop a fellow from eking out a living through books, flacking and punditry.
Since the shit-canning, Williams regularly pops up on television as a pundit, primarily on the FOX News Network. And like every political commentator worth their nickel, black or white, has weighed in on the political race and Barack Obama.
In his column for conservative news site Townhall.com, Williams gives his analysis of Obama and his views, a man who looks great from the outside, but whose core is made of the gooey nougat of Liberalism.
After some “vetting,” Williams calls Obama “an ideal candidate,” praising him for being young, charismatic, optimistic, intelligent and energetic. Then Williams digs into “the other side of him.”
Obama was given an 8 out of 100 lifetime rating (meaning he is one of the most liberal lawmakers) by the American Conservative Union, a conservative group that issues a report card on the voting records of members of Congress. Likewise, the liberal group, Americans for Democratic Action, rated Obama’s voting record in the Senate at 97.5 percent, near perfection for liberal Democrats. The National Journal even named Obama the most liberal Senator in 2007. So what exactly was he voting on that made his rankings so liberal?
Williams listed the typical substantive complaints conservatives have about Obama: he is a dove on the war. He has never been tested on the war, as he was not in the senate when the war was first voted on. He proposes a troop redeployment that Williams does not agree with and has supported “comprehensive immigration reform.”
Williams also cites Obama’s statements of a possible end to the embargo in Cuba as further evidence that his Liberal agenda cannot be reconciled with the pretty package on the outside.
Senator Barack Obama is a decent and honorable man and has the potential of being a tremendous leader someday. But before you get caught up in his charisma and optimism, make sure you clearly understand where he plans to take the world’s lone superpower. Experience especially in the area of foreign policy is increasingly important with the instability around the globe. Many rogue nations and world leaders would test the Senator early on in his administration making a determination about his leadership, wisdom, and judgment. A comprehensive examination of his quotes, votes, and experience, tells me that this man needs to be more vetted by the media and seriously challenged by Senator McCain on the issues that matters most to us as countrymen home and abroad.
These concerns about the inside and outside of Barack Obama were repeated in a different column from early 2007 also written by Williams that appeared on The Hill’s Pundits Blog. This time it was about the unease many prominent black leaders initially had over Obama, then a virtual unknown.
Williams writes on the then flood of black leaders endorsing Clinton and the lower, pre-Iowa percentages of black voters for Obama. He writes how some of the largest figures of black activism were silent on Obama’s campaign. Williams, who has a thorny relationship with a plurality of black leaders due to his views, takes this rejection of Obama by the black power structure in a personal way. Seeing the pursed lips and wayward looks of the black elite as a damnation of Obama’s gall to challenge the status quo, Williams, in his own way, defended Obama’s right to enter black discourse through non-traditional means.
With all of this said and done, the real issue here is blatant envy and jealousy. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who both failed in 1980s presidential nominations, fear Obama because he is a threat to their power base. Obama was elected as a Democrat to the U.S. Senate in 2004, a position that Jesse hoped for his son, Rep. Jesse Jr. (D-Ill.), who is now being relegated to the back alley. Obama owes nothing to the Jesse Jacksons and Al Sharptons of this world. He has paved his own way for a new time and a new day and therefore cannot be controlled by the caretakers of the plantation.
For our “Obama and the black conservatives” question two-step today, it was also easy to render my guesses on what Williams will do if Obama is the nominee.
Chances of endorsing Obama: None. Williams is a red-blooded Republican, third generation. He is proud of his views and has not been swayed by any amount of caterwauling or threats from others. He has accepted his station in life and wears it as a badge of pride. To me, he may be some goofy black nerd, espousing a viewpoint opposing to mine, but I fancy Williams sees himself a warrior in a twisted racialized world. Whether he is a warrior for good or ill truly depends on what side your conscious lies on the political plane.
Chances of voting for Obama: None. Williams respects Obama as being another “outsider” in the inside world of black America, but all props stop there. Williams is resolute in his beliefs. While I, personally, see Williams as a farcical opportunist, he definitely is one farcical opportunist who makes a lot more money than me.
Check back to The Black Snob all this week and next, the series concluding on April 14th.
Sunday: Amy Holmes
Monday: Condoleezza Rice
Tuesday: Ward Connerly
Wednesday: Shelby Steele
Thursday: Alan Keyes
Friday: JC Watts
Saturday: Colin Powell
Sunday: Armstrong Williams
Monday: Michael Steele
Tuesday: John McWhorter
Wednesday: LaShawn Barber and Herman Cain
Thursday: Star Parker and Eric Wallace
Friday: Larry Elder and Thomas Sowell
Saturday: Juan Williams
Sunday: A final analysis, “Who Would Clarence Thomas Vote For?”