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Could Cornel West’s Tirades Mean Trouble for Obama?

By Allison Samuels

How did Cornel West become the administration’s No. 1 gadfly? The noted African-American scholar and radio host may have helped Barack Obama into the White House, but he has spent the better part of the president’s term taking shots at him, calling him a “black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs,” among other names. “These last few weeks have only proven my point about Brother Obama,” West says in his signature “one love” voice as he talks about the debt-reduction debacle on Capitol Hill. “He simply caved in again.”

Never mind the slings and arrows of Tea Partiers. The most politically problematic criticism of Obama these days is coming from his base. And there’s no question that there is a deep reservoir of frustration, confusion, and even rage among many in the African-American community for West to tap into. With unemployment hovering near 17 percent for African-Americans (the national average rate is 9 percent) and 11 percent of black homeowners facing imminent foreclosure, African-Americans have ample reason for anxiety about the coming budget cuts that Obama reluctantly signed into law this month. The Congressional Black Caucus chairman called the recent debt deal “a sugar-coated satan sandwich” that will do little to help communities already struggling.

West and his longtime friend, radio host Tavis Smiley, have taken their criticism of Obama to the streets, launching a two-week, 15-city “poverty tour,” aimed at forcing the powers that be to once again focus on the “least among us” and getting the president to “wake up.” Their efforts are increasingly stoking fears among some African-American leaders that West and Smiley could discourage black voters from turning out when the nation’s first African-American president stands for reelection in 2012.

“The negative discussion Dr. West is having can only put more apathy in the hearts of African-Americans and could ultimately cause them to lose more faith in the entire political process,” says the Rev. Otis Moss III, pastor of Obama’s former church in Chicago. “Where will that leave us?”

Read the full piece at the Daily Beast.

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