April 7, 2009
Talk show host and author Tavis Smiley has written a new book called Accountable, which attempts to navigate the difficult waters swirling around the success or failure of Obama's presidency. Smiley, who is African American, is quoted in the Washington Post today as saying that if Obama fails, "it may be another 400 years before we get another African-American president." Smiley is at the center of a raging debate among African-American leaders about the limits of tough questioning of the new president and his policies, a debate in which Smiley has been in the minority as an advocate for treating Obama as a man and not merely a milestone. Smiley is on the right side of this debate, in my view, but his apocalyptic opinion that Obama holds the fortunes of African-American politicians in his hands only feeds into the mantra of those who regard Obama as an untouchable symbol. A failure of Obama's policies would and should damage only those policies - massive expansion of government, nationalization of various parts of the U.S. industrial sector, international naivete, and radical social liberalism - but that failure should merely pave the way for the election of someone of opposing views. There are a number of conservative African Americans of stature who have that resume, and the country could well elect one of them president before 4 -- and not 400 -- years have passed.