With That Said ...

I was in full "Columnist Bash Puny Obama!" mode, when I came across this interview with Cornel West:


But you have also acknowledged that this is more than just political -- you've said that after campaigning for him at 65 events, you were miffed that he didn't return your phone calls or say thank you. 
I think he had to keep me at a distance. There's no doubt that he didn't want to be identified with a black leftist. But we're talking about one phone call, man. That's all. One private phone call. 

He was running a successful candidacy for president. He might have been busy. 
So many of the pundits assume that it's just egoism: "Who does Cornel West think he is? The president is busy." But there's such a thing as decency in human relations. 

O.K., but did you also have to say that Obama "feels most comfortable with upper-middle-class white and Jewish men who consider themselves very smart"? 
It's in no way an attempt to devalue white or Jewish brothers. It's an objective fact. In his administration, he's got a significant number of very smart white brothers and very smart Jewish brothers. You think that's unimportant? 

When Larry Summers was president of Harvard, he told you your rap album was an "embarrassment" to the university, and you quit soon after. He was one of Obama's first appointments. Did that strike a particular feeling in your heart? 
I couldn't help it. I'm a human being, indeed. Given the disrespect he showed me? Oh, my God. Again, it's political much more than it's personal. Summers was in captivity to Wall Street interests. But it's personal too.

Adam dissects the ugly racial essentialism underlying West's critique. For my part, I'll note that this interview begins with West discussing his wardrobe and ends with him writing song's with Bootsie Collins. 

There is a bit of silly season out there. But the nimble and engaged mind should avoid marking his (loyal) opposition by their worst arguments.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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