Entries in Cornel West (2)


Tavis Smiley, Cornel West on Obama's Debt-Ceiling Deal: GOP 'Cleaned His Clock'

Earl Gibson III/WireImage(WASHINGTON) -- PBS talk-show/radio host Tavis Smiley and Princeton University professor Cornel West have made no secret of their disappointment in President Obama.

"I think too often [Obama] compromises, too often he capitulates. I think the Republicans know that. I think they laugh when he's not around," Smiley said Wednesday in an interview with ABC News. "[The underclass] want him to fight for them and I think they're tired of seeing the Republicans clean his clock."

In a nationwide effort to raise awareness, Smiley and West kicked off a 16-city "Poverty Tour: a Call to Conscience" a few days ago. It rolled into Washington, D.C., this week. Their goal, they said, is to "help the president" by highlighting issues such as the regression of the middle class and rampant unemployment.

"We believe President Obama can wake up," West said. "To Travis and I, this is a moral issue, this is a spiritual issue. I don't care what color the president is."

Smiley said, "If this president is going to be a great president, not just one we celebrate symbolically, if he's going to be a transformative president, somebody -- lovingly and respectfully and committed to some core set of principles -- has to help push him."

Smiley and West say they believe Obama compromised too easily on the recent debate about raising the debt ceiling. Despite the president's efforts, Smiley said, corporate America and Wall Street "got away again" and he didn't do enough to expand unemployment benefits.

The two advocates have become critical of Obama's social and economic policies, saying he has largely ignored the issues of poverty and joblessness in the United States, particularly in destitute neighborhoods.

"Even his own base, black people, the most loyal part of his base, are getting concerned about his handling of the economy," Smiley said. "They may very well lose this election, this re-election bid, by a margin of black absence at the polls."

In response to the criticism, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told ABC News that the president has focused on "vulnerable communities" through negotiating the tax cut and tax-credit extensions last year.

"This president is very focused on every American who is suffering during these turbulent economic times," Carney said. "The politics that he's espoused and that he's pushed take into account, very seriously, those who are most affected."

While Smiley acknowledged the White House's comments, he said it's not enough and that the tax revenue that could be funding programs to alleviate poverty is instead being funneled into fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Dr. King once said, speaking of Vietnam, that war is the enemy of the poor," Smiley said. "He was right then and he's right now. War is still the enemy of the poor."

Both West and Smiley pointed out that come the 2012 election, Obama can't "play the history card," and they hope that his campaign can drum up the same enthusiasm as it did in 2008. West blamed the president's negotiating tactics for giving rise to independents and the Tea Party.

"You've got to fight," he said. "You have to fight. That's all there is to it."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Is Cornel West a Bellwether for Obama on Liberal Support in 2012?

William Thomas Cain/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Prominent liberal activist and African-American author-professor Cornel West is not one to mince words: He thinks the country’s first black president -- a man for whom he campaigned vigorously in 2008 -- is not fit for reelection in 2012.  

In an interview last week with TruthDig, West had scathing words for President Obama, calling him “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats. And now he has become head of the American killing machine and is proud of it.”

West, who is known for making incendiary remarks, says he has been personally and politically betrayed by Obama.  And he’s not alone.

A star-studded list of progressives has been airing disappointment in the president in the past few months for what they say is his failure to deliver on promises to the left-wing base.

The Daily Show host Jon Stewart, who publicly challenged Obama on his agenda in an appearance on his show, suggested earlier this month that he might consider voting for someone else in 2012.

"I don't know if my expectations were fair," Stewart told Fox’s Bill O’Rielly. "I believed we lived in a more transformative time... I think he had an opportunity more in the Reagan mold to be a bully-pulpit president."

Actor Matt Damon aired similar misgivings in March about Obama, telling CNN, “I no longer hope for audacity.”

Singer Barbra Streisand has decried Obama’s extension of the Bush tax cuts as “not fair to working people in America,” and actor Robert Redford complained last summer that Obama was not being a “bold and visionary leader.”

Even outspoken Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois has said he might not support the president in 2012 because of the president’s inaction on immigration reform.

But do these high-profile criticisms mean Obama faces a broad erosion of  support among liberals ahead of the 2012 campaign?  Indications are the answer is no.     

“It’s a sign Obama is doing things in a way that will probably get him reelected,” Vanderbilt University political scientist John Geer said.  “If he was making the left happy, he’d lose, because this country is not super liberal, it’s moderate-conservative. … Obama has been tacking to the center with great effectiveness and part of the reason why I think he’s in a strong position for ‘12.”

The latest Gallup weekly tracking poll shows Obama holds 81 percent approval among liberals, the highest level in the past month.  Among self-identified “liberal Democrats,” the president’s approval is even higher, an impressive 90 percent.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio