Farrakhan, Obama, Chicago
A reader from Chicago writes:
Farrakhan is very much a part of the Chicago political landscape. While the white population has no respect for him, black Chicagoan's are more ambivalent about the man. Many selectively denounce his worst statements while expressing admiration for his advancement of independence and personal responsibility among blacks.
This admiration is great enough that Chicago politicians, white and black, find it in their political interest to maintain friendly public relations with the Farrakhan, just as they do with Jesse Jackson. In their Chicago bases of operation, neither man carries the local controversy that a Sharpton does in New York. Both have very friendly relationships with the local political establishment powers.
So, while Fox News and the rest of the country rail against Farrakhan, here in Chicago there is relatively little open conflict with the man. To see Chicago Mayor Daley and Farrakhan together at a public event, arms over shoulders, laughing and whispering to each other, you'd never know that this is the same Louis Farrakhan known and despised by the rest of white America. It is within the Chicago political world that Obama's perspective and approach to Farrakhan was formed. No Chicago politician, white or black, denounces Farrakhan. In exchange, Farrakhan leaves them alone for the most part. So, I don't think this has anything to do with Obama's real feelings about Farrakhan. Obama is just continuing with an approach that was part of his political training. His campaign, run by Axelrod (another Chicago veteran), bears all the markings. It may be time for Obama to shed some of the lessons of Chicago, but doing so runs against the grain of everything he learned while cutting his political teeth here.