All Cornel West Wanted from Obama Was One Phone Call

The professor went from booster to anti-Obama crusader after being snubbed

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All the president had to do to keep Cornel West from going on his anti-Obama crusade was pick up the phone. West, once a strong Obama supporter, went on a tirade against him in May, saying the president was "a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats." The Princeton professor said Obama has "a certain fear of free black men" and "a certain rootlessness, a deracination." And then there was the bit about Obama feeling "most comfortable with upper-middle-class white and Jewish men who consider themselves very smart."

It turns out the motivation for West's comments was a lot more personal than political. West hinted as much in May, saying:
"Brother Barack Obama had no sense of gratitude, no sense of loyalty, no sense of even courtesy, [no] sense of decency, just to say thank you. Is this the kind of manipulative, Machiavellian orientation we ought to get used to? That was on a personal level."
But he revealed the true nature of his feud in an interview with Andrew Goldman for The New York Times Magazine.
Goldman: 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. 
West: 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.
Goldman: He was running a successful candidacy for president. He might have been busy. 
West: 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.
It's true, it is a question of basic human relations. Always call a girl back after a date. It's just polite.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.