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Mr. President, You’re So Right About Kanye West…

September 20, 2009 by  
Filed under Entertainment, Music, News, Weekly Columns

( President Obama on rapper Kanye West: “He’s a jackass.”

Amen to that, Mr. President. But it took you four years to realize it? Didn’t West’s outburst from 2005 give you a clue?

Allow me to refresh some memories.

In late August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf coast of the United States. A major levee in New Orleans broke, (or was blown up) and soon the Crescent City was inundated in water.

Those seeking refuge and a way out of the deluge were left stranded by city and state government, not just the federal government. But who’s the one public official in all the country who took all the heat? Former President George W. Bush, who was excoriated for what was perceived as his administration’s botching of evacuation efforts.

Bush should in no way have been immune to such criticism. If you want to be president of the United States, you have to accept the criticism that comes with it. But it was West who stepped way over the line in his criticism of Bush. As you recall, during a televised appeal for Americans to help the New Orleans evacuees, West blurted out “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” A jackass statement, uttered by a complete jackass.

Obama, then a senator from Illinois, may or may not have thought so. (His comments about West this week, criticizing West for interrupting the acceptance speech of country singer Taylor Swift during the Music Video Awards, were supposedly off the record. I hope the president has learned his lesson that not all journalists know what “off the record” means.) But there were a lot of folks who praised West for the comment. If we are to believe them and believe Obama now, West went from hero to jackass in a mere four years.

The more logical conclusion is that West was a jackass then, and he’s a jackass now.

He missed his target completely with his remarks about Bush. If he had wanted to criticize Bush for his mishandling of the New Orleans evacuation effort, that would have been fine and good. But to make a false statement about how Bush feels about an entire race?

West was talking about the president who not only appointed the first black secretary of state, but also the first two black secretaries of state. Bush also appointed the first black national security advisor, and had one of the most diverse Cabinets in the history of the nation. If this guy “didn’t care about black people,” black folks sure as hell needed more like him over the years. Presidents Carter and Clinton, who supposedly did care about black people, certainly didn’t have that kind of record.

And let’s be clear about the impact of Bush appointing two black secretaries of state. It means that on two separate occasions, Bush was the first president of the United States to put a black person up high in the line of succession to the presidency. The line of succession is the list of people, in order, who get to become president if the current president resigns or dies in office. That line of succession is:

1. Vice president

2. Speaker of the House

3. President pro tempore of the Senate

4. Secretary of state

So, on two occasions, Bush appointed black Americans to be fourth in the line of succession. In so doing, he got Americans – no doubt many white Americans who wouldn’t even have dreamed of the idea before – used to the idea that a black American could, and indeed would – one day become president. One of the people most responsible for the fact that Obama is now president is one George Walker Bush, his immediate predecessor.

I can hear the howls of protests from the Obama lovers and/or Bush haters now. Well, howl on. Facts are facts. Let’s give Bush credit where it’s due to him. And that should include credit for the No Child Left Behind Act.

Black folks talked about Bush like he was the second coming of Bull Connor because of NCLB. (Oops, that was Rep. Charles Rangel, talking about Bush in reference to Katrina. My bad.) But the criticism of Bush for signing the NCLB legislation was almost as bad. His critics seemed to forget that the late Sen. Edward Kennedy – the much lionized “liberal lion” – was a major NCLB supporter.

West’s 2005 comments about Bush exposed him for the jackass he really is. I have to tip my hat to Obama for saying as much in 2009.

Written By Gregory P. Kane

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