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, Alan Keyes, Colin Powell, Armstrong Williams, La Shawn Barber, Herman Cain and more.
Before I go into this piece on Juan Williams and his statements on Barack Obama I have to offer a brief disclaimer. This series is primarily about black conservatives, right-leaning centrists and Republicans. I don’t consider Juan Williams any of those things. Williams has never explicitly said what his political affiliation is as he still considers himself primarily a journalist and author. To speculate what his party affiliation or political beliefs may be would be purely that, speculation.
There are other things Williams could be considered to be. I sometimes find him a tad elitist, a little annoying and kind of boring but a lot of people apply to those labels. As an acquired taste, I don’t have much of one for Williams’ freckle-faced prose, but he does challenge the intellect, for better or worse.
Williams holds different views on the black protest movement as it remains today, he does not appear to hold any other “traditional” conservative positions (i.e. anti-abortion, pro-free market economy, anti-gun control, etc.) He merely appears to be a critic of current black identity politics and public assistance programs. But since I had so many people who wanted to hear about his views on Obama and my take on them I decided to write a special entry on him anyway. Freckle-faces and all.
That said. Let’s learn a bit about Williams the man first before we get to Williams on Obama.
How you feel about Juan Williams often depends on how you were introduced to him and his work. If it was through his early books and documentaries there tends to be a degree of admiration for the philosophy major who became a leading political journalist.
If you discovered him after he joined the FOX News Network as a regular analyst and expressed what could be perceived as conservative views on the state of black families, you may see him as some sort of Racially-charged Judas, playing the Liberal pantomime on FOX News Sunday.
Almost any black person who shows up on FOX with any frequency is labeled a turncoat or tool, kissing up to a network seen as neglectful of black interests, a network seen as insensitive, indifferent or even racist.
Before he became a favorite FOX News whipping boy, Williams was that accomplished journalist mentioned above. He regularly appears on National Public Radio as a correspondent and writes for The Washington Post.
He’s won an Emmy for his television documentary writing and he won critical acclaim for documentaries Politics—The New Black Power, and A. Philip Randolph: For Jobs and Freedom. He is also the author of the non-fiction bestseller Eyes on The Prize: America‘s Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965 and Thurgood Marshall—American Revolutionary.
Despite these accolades, Williams’ official break with much of the African American intelligentsia came in 2006 after the release of Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America—and What We Can Do about It. In the book he criticizes current black leaders and politicians, arguing that black Americans should take more responsibility for their present situation and reinvest in their communities using economic and political policies that are most conducive to advancement in the black community.
Like other critics of policies born out of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, Williams pushes the need for a reinvestment in education, monogamy, marriage and self-sufficiency. He’s an advocate of family planning, birth control, oral contraception, condoms and the morning after pill to combat unwanted and teenage pregnancies.
The common complaint regarding Williams’ book is that it seems to discount the effects of institutionalized racism and demonizes lower-class blacks.
When it comes to Obama, his views are more opaque but his criticism is sharp and unrelenting. What starts out as an admiration for Obama breaking from the 1960s mold turns to a seething disappointment built on what Williams’ sees as pandering for the black vote that Obama once had a difficult time captivating.
In The New York Times, November 2007:
Barack Obama is running an astonishing campaign. Not only is he doing far better in the polls than any black presidential candidate in American history, but he has also raised more money than any of the candidates in either party except Hillary Clinton.
Most amazing, Mr. Obama has built his political base among white voters. He relies on unprecedented support among whites for a black candidate. Among black voters nationwide, he actually trails Hillary Clinton by nine percentage points, according to one recent poll.
But the good times die here. After video surfaced of Obama’s former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s, and his more incendiary sermons Williams questioned the plausibility of Obama never hearing the words of one of his closest mentors.
Williams repeatedly questioned Obama’s honestly on this issue and calls him on trying to have it both ways, appealing both blacks and whites while apparently laying claim to nothing.
A recent Op-ed by Williams for the Wall Street Journal:
So far, Mr. Obama has been content to let black people have their vision of him while white people hold to a separate, segregated reality. He is a politician and … his goal is winning votes, not changing hearts. …
Here is where the racial tension at the heart of Mr. Obama’s campaign flared into view. He either shared these beliefs or, lacking good judgment, decided it politically expedient for an ambitious young black politician trying to prove his solidarity with all things black, to be associated with these rants. His judgment and leadership on the critical issue of race is in question.
Williams charges that Obama’s message to black people has changed incredibly in the course of a year, comparing his statements on personal responsibility during the March on Selma remembrance in 2007 to now where Williams believes Obama has purposely muted his criticisms of problems in the black community to pander for their votes.
Therefore Williams has never let up on Obama in regards to the Wright controversy.
(W)hen Barack Obama, arguably the best of this generation of black or white leaders, finds it easy to sit in Rev. Wright’s pews and nod along with wacky and bitterly divisive racial rhetoric, it does call his judgment into question. And it reveals a continuing crisis in racial leadership.
What would Jesus do? There is no question he would have left that church.
Analysis: It’s hard to tell how Williams actually feels about Obama. I know this may surprise some who can’t get past Williams obsession with the Wright controversy, but his criticism could come more from disappointment than Williams’ sprinkling the haterade on an Obama presidency.
Williams is still a journalist, he offers both praise and criticism, but no real clear views. Still, I can see how his harping on the Wright issue could be seen as a severe case of the “Gas Face.”
Now, what is apparent is Williams really, really, really didn’t like Obama’s race in America speech. He has been explicit in his belief that Obama’s most recent moves are all about ass-coverage and protecting his lead among black voters.
But a huge weakness in that argument is that while Obama has made purposely convenient remarks in light of the scandal, he has also done things that irked members of the black community.
As William notes in some his Wall Street Journal column there were numerous black people in Obama’s church clapping in agreement with Wright’s words. Many of these same black Americans did not understand why Obama was apologizing and making excuses for Wright when in their opinion he said nothing wrong. Obama has also avoided the State of Black America event hosted by journalist Tavis Smiley for two years in a row. And there were plenty of individuals miffed that Obama did not appear in Memphis like candidates Hillary Clinton and John McCain did for the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death this past week.
To me, there’s a better argument that Obama is playing it safe, walking a perilous racial tight rope where he can’t afford to make one false move, rather than claim he’s pandering to an African American base.
That said, here are my two usual questions and their answers based solely on hunches.
Chances of endorsing Obama: Not likely. Williams will probably want to keep his journalist credentials.
Chances of voting for Obama: Sure. Why not? Williams may have hated that speech, but you never know what a person will do in a voting booth alone.
One more to go on The Black Snob, check back tomorrow for my final analysis!
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?”