This Wednesday, Barack and Michelle Obama will host "An Evening of Poetry" in the East Room of the White House. The guests include Elizabeth Alexander, Billy Collins, Aimee Mann, Jill Scott, Steve Martin, and the rapper Common. It's Common who's drawing the most attention today: The Daily Caller posted one of his spoken-word performances from 2007, where he talks about threatening to shoot police and issues a call to "burn a Bush" for starting the war in Iraq. You can see the video below:
Right-wingers like The Blogprof and Nat Brown at National Review have registered their unhappiness with the choice of Common. Sarah Palin, naturally, has spoken up via Twitter. It doesn't seem to matter that Common is generally known as a thoughtful, progressive MC, or that he's also an actor who stars in family-friendly fare like Just Wright; the story on conservative blogs right now is that he's a "vile," "cop-killer supporting poet" (Common has voiced his support for Mumia Abu-Jamal), and his presence at the White House will be "sickening."
But this isn't the first time that winds of controversy have blown up around what were intended to be innocuous White House functions. In February, Glenn Beck criticized the Obamas for hosting a Motown concert "while the world was burning"--presumably a reference to the unrest in Libya happening that week. Last August, when Obama held a dinner at the White House in celebration of Ramadan (which George W. Bush also did for eight years while in office), he spoke in defense of Park51, the lower Manhattan Muslim community center--a move that drew predictable howls of outrage.
And in 2009, when Obama cut the guest list for the White House Hanukkah party from 800 to 500, it was taken by former George W. Bush aide Tevi Troy as a slight against Israel. In fairness, some conservatives said this was silly at the time; Ed Morrissey at Hot Air called it "a tempest in a teapot."
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