Cornel West: Obama a 'brown-faced Clinton' in charge of 'a Wall Street and drone presidency'
Philosopher, author, social critic, and activist Cornel West emphasizes a point during a press conference (Shutterstock)

In an interview with Salon's Thomas Frank, public intellectual Cornel West expressed the depths of his disappointment with the presidency of Barack Obama.

"The thing is," West told Frank, Obama "posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency, a national security presidency. The torturers go free. The Wall Street executives go free. The war crimes in the Middle East, especially now in Gaza, the war criminals go free."

"He posed as if he was a kind of Lincoln," West continued, but "we ended up with a brown-faced Clinton. Another opportunist. Another neoliberal opportunist."

On the topic of the current racial relations in the United States, West said that, "with Ferguson, you get it reconfirmed even among the people within his own circle now, you see. It’s a sad thing. It’s like you’re looking for John Coltrane and you get Kenny G in brown skin."

West blamed Obama's failures as a president to his "modus operandi," which is to always "occupy the middle ground."

"He doesn’t realize that a great leader, a statesperson, doesn’t just occupy middle ground," West said. "They occupy higher ground or the moral ground or even sometimes the holy ground. But the middle ground is not the place to go if you’re going to show courage and vision. And I think that’s his modus operandi. He always moves to the middle ground. It turned out that historically, this was not a moment for a middle-ground politician. We needed a high-ground statesperson and it’s clear now he’s not the one."

"And so what did he do?" West asked. "Every time you’re headed toward middle ground what do you do? You go straight to the establishment and reassure them that you’re not too radical, and try to convince them that you are very much one of them."

West also attacked MSNBC host Al Sharpton, saying "when you say the name 'Al Sharpton,' the word integrity does not come to mind. So you got low-quality black leadership. Al Sharpton is who? He’s a cheerleader for Obama. MSNBC, state press, it’s all Obama propaganda, and Sharpton is the worst. Sharpton said explicitly, I will never say a critical word about the president under any condition. That’s why he can’t stand what I’m saying. He can’t stand what I do because, for him, it’s an act of racial traitorship to be critical of the president. There’s no prophetic integrity in his leadership."

As to the idea that a Hillary Clinton presidency might improve matters, West was unequivocal. "Hillary Clinton is an extension of Obama’s Wall Street presidency, drone presidency, national surveillance, national security presidency," he said. "She’d be more hawkish than he is, and yet she’s got that strange smile that somehow titillates liberals and neo-liberals and scares Republicans."

["Philosopher, author, social critic, and activist Cornel West emphasizes a point during a press conference at the National Press Club, January 12, 2012, in Washington, DC" on Shutterstock]