Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Obama Takes Issue With Nader Comments

Well, consider this my obligatory daily blog post on race.

The news this afternoon is that Barack Obama's upset with Ralph Nader, who suggested that Obama's "talking white" instead of genuinely discussing the crucial issues facing black America:

Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader accused Sen. Barack Obama, the presumed Democratic Party nominee, of downplaying poverty issues, trying to "talk white" and appealing to "white guilt" during his run for the White House.

Nader, a thorn in the Democratic Party's side since the 2000 presidential election, has taken various shots at Obama in recent days while ramping up his latest independent run for president.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Rocky Mountain News on Monday, he said he is running because he believes Democrats, like Republicans, are too closely aligned with corporate interests.

Nader was asked if Obama is any different than Democrats he has criticized in the past, considering Obama's pledge to reject campaign contributions from registered lobbyists.

"There's only one thing different about Barack Obama when it comes to being a Democratic presidential candidate. He's half African-American," Nader said. "Whether that will make any difference, I don't know. I haven't heard him have a strong crackdown on economic exploitation in the ghettos. Payday loans, predatory lending, asbestos, lead. What's keeping him from doing that? Is it because he wants to talk white? He doesn't want to appear like Jesse Jackson? We'll see all that play out in the next few months and if he gets elected afterwards."

The Obama campaign had only a brief response, calling the remarks disappointing.

Asked to clarify whether he thought Obama does try to "talk white," Nader said: "Of course.

"I mean, first of all, the number one thing that a black American politician aspiring to the presidency should be is to candidly describe the plight of the poor, especially in the inner cities and the rural areas, and have a very detailed platform about how the poor is going to be defended by the law, is going to be protected by the law, and is going to be liberated by the law," Nader said. "Haven't heard a thing."

"We are obviously disappointed with these very backward-looking remarks," Obama campaign spokeswoman Shannon Gilson said.
Continue reading the article at the link.

Nader's just giving some straight talk on race, in my opinion. I haven't written on the issue much lately, but social policy - especially the urban crisis - is a major concern for me, and it should be to all Americans.

Still, Obama's got enough problems with his ties to radical elements in the Hyde Park political milieu, as well as the remnants of the Reverand Wright contoversy. So it's no suprise he's not pushing a big urban agenda.

I don't think Nader's comments are racist, frankly, and hopefully we'll see more generalized discussion of these issues going forward.

One left-wing blogger posting on this has totally ignored the essence of Nader's criticism, to focus instead on the "eccentric use of grammar," and Nader's flaws as a candidate.

Nader's discussion's not "eccentric" in the least. If Obama's going to "target" black voters, he should at least make a real attempt to tackle problems unique to that constituency.