A lot of people think President Obama just can’t fight, and his first presidential debate with Mitt Romney seemed to prove their point. The
MSNBC political crew: Chris Matthews, Al Sharpton, and Rachel Maddow were spitting mad after the 90-minute slap-around. Matthews said our president needs to watch their controversial news shows to learn the art of war.
But I like what comedienne commentator Sheryl Underwood suggested on this morning’s Steve Harvey Morning: “Obama was just doing the rope-a-dope!” she began. The president shrewdly allowed his opponent to throw all his best shots, exhaust himself, then Obama will punch him in the mouth, the end.
I hope she’s right. I watched in befuddlement, and at one point tweeted: “our president looks dazed”. I was reminded of a conversation I had last weekend with about our chief’s track record. I had asked a group of guys enjoying their morning brew at a Starbucks in Prince George’s County, what they thought of our president and whether they fully support him. One of the guys had commented on the president allowing himself to be disrespected. This morning I called an older gent, whom I met at the Obama headquarters Wednesday gearing up to work the phones before the debate.
“I felt kind of let down. I just don’t think he was as strong as he should’ve been,” said Hozell Washington, a retired food clerk and shop steward who lives in Forrestville. “He was just being who he is: a nice person. He doesn’t believe in getting caught up in a lot of things. Just stick to the facts. But in a debate you’ve got to challenge more . . . I’m still going to fight for him, and we’re going to make sure he gets elected somehow.”
Washington echoed the sentiments of one of the men I surveyed last Saturday at Starbucks.
“I’d like to know what you all think of Obama,” I said to three brothers. They drew in a deep breath and let out a stream of consciousness.
“From a historical point of view – policy and all — I have a very strong opinions,” said Tim Whitt, his long, thick dreadlocks tucked under a hat. “The history of presidents is a history of criminology.”
“I mean Obama. What do you think of Obama?” I clarified.
“He’s taken an oath to defend the U.S. Constitution, which is smoke and mirrors for America’s brutal empire. What he’s defending is a global economic, military empire, which supports and maintains tyranny across the globe,” he said. “This thing with Iran is a good example,” he explained. “I know they’re problems with Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. But what gives America the right to have nuclear weapons? What gives Israel and Pakistan the right? They all have nuclear weapons.”
“You and Dr. Cornel West,” I laughed. His friends laughed, too, as Whitt rambled on an obviously familiar refrain.
“So, you’re not exactly an Obama supporter?” I asked. “Are you supporting his reelection or not?”
“I understand the excitement about him because of the history of denial of that position and its semblance of power, but I think black people should have loftier goals,” he said. “What I mean by that is, we can have goals that are more concrete. How many black doctors are we going to produce in the next 20 years? How many black engineers? What are we going to do to reduce the academic achievement gap?”
Whitt’s friend, who asked that his name not be used, said his views are not at strong as Whitt’s. “I supported Obama and still do,” he said. “Just because he’s a black man. Why not let a black man mess up? We let white men mess up?”
“Yeah. Trying to please everybody. You can’t please everybody. You don’t need to be a dictator, but you need somebody who’s going to stand up for something. If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything,” Whitt’s friend said, explaining that he wanted to see his president strike back when Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) stood and yelled “You lie” during an Obama speech. “Somebody else called him a monkey,” he added. “At some point you’ve got to let them know you’re a man. He’s got a lot of restraint though. I give him a lot of credit.”
Gregory Brown, an advanced placement history teacher at Flowers High School in Prince George’s County, said he’s been an Obama supporter since 2006, despite his students’ advice. “My 18-year-old students told me I was throwing my vote away,” he said laughing. His students thought Hillary Rodham Clinton would win. They were not convinced America would elect a black man to lead the country.
“Do I agree with everything he does? Absolutely not. I didn’t agree with his surge in Afghanistan. That was his baby. But, those things being acknowledged, I think I have to subdue my own individual interests for what I think is best long-term, and long-term I think his reelection is best for everybody.”
Sonsyrea Tate Montgomery is a contributing writer for The Root D.C. She is also author of “Little X: Growing Up in the Nation of Islam” and “Do Me Twice: My Life After Islam.” Follow her on Twitter @Sonsyrea
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