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Cornel West: Obama ‘cussed me out’ for attacking his policies

By David Edwards
Tuesday, May 17, 2011 15:55 EDT
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Dr. Cornel West is shedding some light on why he has been so tough on President Barack Obama recently.

In an interview published by TruthDig Monday, West told Chris Hedges that he felt snubbed by the president after doing 65 events during the 2008 campaign.

“I used to call my dear brother [Obama] every two weeks,” he explained. “I said a prayer on the phone for him, especially before a debate. And I never got a call back.”

“I said, wow, this is kind of strange. He doesn’t have time, even two seconds, to say thank you or I’m glad you’re pulling for me and praying for me, but he’s calling these other people. I said, this is very interesting. And then as it turns out with the inauguration I couldn’t get a ticket with my mother and my brother. I said this is very strange. We drive into the hotel and the guy who picks up my bags from the hotel has a ticket to the inauguration. My mom says, ‘That’s something that this dear brother can get a ticket and you can’t get one, honey, all the work you did for him from Iowa.’”

But the Princeton professor insisted that the betrayal that occurred on an ideological level was even more disturbing.

“[I]t became very clear when I looked at the neoliberal economic team. The first announcement of Summers and Geithner I went ballistic. I said, ‘Oh, my God, I have really been misled at a very deep level,’” West lamented. “I figured, OK, given the structure of constraints of the capitalist democratic procedure that’s probably the best he could do. But at least he would have some voices concerned about working people, dealing with issues of jobs and downsizing and banks, some semblance of democratic accountability for Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats who are just running amuck. I was completely wrong.”

West recalled that Obama “cussed me out” after a speech about charter schools at the Urban League in 2010. It was the last time they had personal contact.

“He just lets me have it. He says, ‘You ought to be ashamed of yourself, saying I’m not a progressive. Is that the best you can do? Who do you think you are?’ I smiled. I shook his hand… I wanted to slap him on the side of his head.”

West alleged that the president has never truly felt at home in African-American culture, so he’s not surprised that Obama has not fought “against the greed of the Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats.”

“I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men,” he said. “It’s understandable. As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white.”

“It’s a tension, given the history. It can be overcome. Obama, coming out of Kansas influence, white, loving grandparents, coming out of Hawaii and Indonesia, when he meets these independent black folk who have a history of slavery, Jim Crow, Jane Crow and so on, he is very apprehensive.”

“He feels most comfortable with upper middle-class white and Jewish men who consider themselves very smart, very savvy and very effective in getting what they want,” West added. “Larry Summers blows his mind because he’s so smart. He’s got Establishment connections. He’s embracing me. It is this smartness, this truncated brilliance, that titillates and stimulates brother Barack and makes him feel at home. That is very sad for me.”

As president of Harvard in 2000, Summers reportedly rebuked West for missing classes to working on personal projects. In 2002, West left Harvard for Princeton.

In interviews with Russia Today and MSNBC last month, West said that Obama had sold out and become a “puppet” of powerful interests.

West echoed those remarks in his latest interview, telling Hedges that he believes Obama is “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats. And now he has become head of the American killing machine and is proud of it.”

David Edwards
David Edwards
David Edwards has served as an editor at Raw Story since 2006. His work can also be found at Crooks & Liars, and he's also been published at The BRAD BLOG. He came to Raw Story after working as a network manager for the state of North Carolina and as as engineer developing enterprise resource planning software. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidEdwards.
 
 
 
 
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