Thursday, December 31, 2009

Shelby Steele Is Wrong About Barack Obama

Go here to see Shelby Steele's deconstruction of Barack Obama and his presidency. I disagree with him on several points.

First, Steele likens Obama to an emperor with no clothes. It's an inappropriate parable. After a campaign that lasted 1.5 years, the American people had ample time to learn about all the candidates. Obama campaigned on reforming health care. He did so. Throughout the campaign, Obama said Afghanistan is where we should have focused our resources all along. We are now doing so.

Second, Steele claims "Obama's economic thinking (or lack thereof) adds up to a kind of rudderless cowboyism combined with wishful thinking." Obama has assembled one of the more remarkable economic teams of this generation or any other. That they come to different conclusions than Professor Steele would like is not an indication of a lack of economic thinking. Obama's first economic priority was to stabilize the economy. People would not be investing in the stock market (from a low of 6,500 to 10,500 today) the way they currently are if the economy were not on more solid footing. Certainly, more has to be done to address unemployment, recession was never cured immediately. Steele must have forgotten the recession of 1979-1982. Reagan didn't cure his recession his first year in office either, yet Reagan is so often held up as the lodestar for conservative activists like Steele. Selective memory does not beget good arguments.

Third, Steele claims that Obama has an "inner emptiness." Apparently, Reagan "individuated." Again, he cites Reagan as the exemplar of such behavior because "he took principled positions throughout his long career that jeopardized his popularity." I'm not sure how this doesn't apply to Obama too. Defending health care reform in the teeth of unified Republican opposition and selective logrolled Democratic opposition definitely decreased Obama's political capital and increased the chances that the GOP can recapture the House.

Obama didn't have to tackle health care. He could have ignored the issue, which would only make things worse in the long-term. Or, like Bush, he could have worsened the problem by adding an unfunded prescription drug benefit on to Medicare. Principled is doing things that aren't always popular. None of the following are (were) popular: accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, arguing on behalf of climate change legislation, health care legislation, the troop surge to Afghanistan, yet Obama pushes(d) because they are right.

Fourth, the comparisons to Tiger Woods and Bill Cosby are inappropriate. Their misdeeds are personal. Any that Obama would commit would be national and permanent. It's an insult to the president to draw comparisons down and instead of in a lateral manner to other presidents.

Finally, Steele can make good points, witness his earlier article on why the GOP can't win with minority.


rikyrah said...

I just don't see why anyone pays attention to Shelby Steele. He's a clown paid to talk ABOUT Black people TO White people. That is his entire purpose. and, ever since he published a book entitled WHY OBAMA CAN'T WIN, he needs to be dismissed for the self-hating clown that he is.

Brian said...

Dr. King,

Interesting commentary.

Shelby Steele is a mixed bag to me. I'm conflicted sometimes when it comes to his positions. Most of what he says about Obama is wrong... but he sometimes makes interesting points. I think he (like the rest of the GOP) is holding Obama to a standard that they wouldn't require for a White President.

I don't disagree with everything he says (I wish I could though). I would have liked Obama to be more specific about "Change"...(one of the points that Steele tried to make). I agreed, at least somewhat. But it is what it is.

Needless to say, I have not been too impressed with "change" so far... (W/ Obama being so cozy with Geithner and other rich Wall Street elites...and not being aggressive enough on Healthcare Reform just to name two).

I also don't completely disagree with Steele on certain criticisms of the so-called "Black Community" or Black culture. He can definitely be provocative.

Basically I disagree with most of his positions. I use what I can use from him...and I discard the rest.

Steele seems more reasonable to me than a Stanley Crouch or a Lashawn Barber for example. Barber = a Black Conservative that really can't be reasoned with.... even if you are a Black independent.

I once had a Professor like Shelby Steele...(even had identical mannerisms) it was horrifying. His name was Dr. Robinson. That man had some sort of strange dislike for me... just out of the blue. Get along great with all my white professors.... they all give me good marks for my work... but all of a sudden with this guy... I couldn't do anything right. He was over compensating for something... I know how that goes. He was always friendly with the White students... but hated me. I think he felt that somehow I didn't belong there (only Black man in the fact that is the case in a lot of my courses). Anyway... I ended up quitting his course.... and took the same course again the next semester with a tougher White professor...and of course aced the class with high marks for my work.

That was a weird college experience...although it happened to me one other time.. but to a lesser degree.

But yes... I know the Shelby Steele's of the World.