The Big Picture –
By Glynn Wilson –
MOBILE, Ala. — President Barack Obama is America’s political Jackie Robinson.
There, I said it, again. Hate me too if you must.
I admit it. I am the only journalist in the United States or the world to recognize this — without fear or favor.
Why is there no editorial writer at the New York Times or Washington Post saying this? If they are such liberal newspapers, as the conservative pundits claim, why will they not for once in their history stand up and say something right and true about a politician?
Do editorial columnists, like beat reporters, really have to hide behind the pretense of two-sided fake objectivity and criticize every Republican and Democrat as the same? Is it no wonder why the American people think all politicians are bad and we can rarely solve any of our social or economic problems because of the never ending partisan divide?
I attended a baseball game this week at Hank Aaron Stadium with a new friend, a lawyer and a Democrat, and we talked about the state of the country and baseball, among other things. The Mobile Bay Bears defeated the Biloxi Shuckers 9-1.
But winning was not really the point. It was about getting out of the house and away form the computer and enjoying a game that used to be known as America’s National Pastime.
The experience reminded me of the day in 2013 when I met up with the members of the historic Birmingham Barons 1964 team at the new stadium in Birmingham, and told the story of the first integrated team or integrated “anything” in my native state of Alabama at a time of great racial strife in my home town.
It also reminded me of an editorial column I wrote last year making the case that President Obama is America’s Political Jackie Robinson.
Robinson, you may recall, the first African-American baseball player to make it in the big leagues, quietly and with personal character and class endured the barrage of racial insults thrown at him from the stands and even off the field for years. As a result of that and his great achievements on the field, on his first year of eligibility for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, Robinson was elected on the first ballot, becoming the first black player inducted into the Cooperstown museum.
Barack Obama is the first African-American elected to the highest office in the land, President of the United States. As he joked in his 2015 State of the Union Address, he won those two political races. Yet he has endured a massive barrage of racial insults as well.
The attacks on Mr. Obama may not be as blatant as what Robinson faced in the era of widespread, legalized segregation. Racism continues in America in coded language, justified by Republicans in politics at every level and reported as legitimate opinion under the First Amendment by every news organization in America.
Even the national press corps, some of which came to the aid of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma during the 1960s, have crapped all over President Obama for the past six years in the interest of pretending to be non-partisan and to profit from that pretension, constantly calling him unpopular even if his public approval rating is twice as high as his predecessor in the White House, George W. Bush, at the end of his eight years in office.
Mr. Obama is a rock star of a politician. He has conducted himself with nothing but class in office, doing nothing to stain the presidency and trying everything he could think of to move the country forward both economically and environmentally. The Democrats could not ask for a better spokesman.
I doubt if Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders could match his achievements if elected this year, and I have no doubt Donald Trump does not have it in him to behave with such character and class if he becomes the next president of the United States. He is a hateful man, which seems to be why his followers like him. They are hateful too.
Half of America is still full of racist hate. I have no idea how to cure that in human nature. It will just take a lot more time to go by before we finally get over the Civil War I guess. I am over it.
Even many Democrats have joined the tea party in constantly attacking Mr. Obama. I have been spat upon myself in the nation’s capital at the National Press Club no less for supporting him editorially and simply reporting on the policies of his administration without feeling the need to constantly seek out the crazed and yes racist opposition to counter his every word and move.
I am motivated to write of this once again this morning because of a story circulating in the Washington Post about Mr. Obama’s remarks in Hiroshima, Japan.
“We come to remember the terrible force unleashed in the not-so-distant past,” Mr. Obama said, adding that the souls of the people who died in this city “speak to us and they ask us to look inward and take stock of how we are and what we might become.”
The president, the first sitting president to visit the site in 70 years, called for nations to reconsider the development of nuclear weapons and to roll back and “ultimately eliminate” them.
“The world was forever changed here. But today, the children of this city will go through their day in peace. What a precious thing that is. It is worth protecting, and then extending to every child. That is the future we can choose,” he said. “A future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not for the bomb of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.”
Of course the pundit class has already started attacking him for even going there and saying these things. But not me.
I say it took tremendous courage and class to go there and say what he did. I just wish more people would take the message in for a few minutes on this Memorial Day weekend — before they start bashing him on Facebook and Twitter.
With only eight months to go in office, President Obama has accomplished something else remarkable. While he has overseen our slow recovery from the Bush Great Recession, given us the first law ever regulating the out-of-control for-profit health care industry and begun to tackle climate change due to global warming from the burning of fossil fuels, he will go down in history as the only U.S. president to make it through a second term without a debilitating scandal.
The Republicans in Alabama cannot say that. The governor they elected twice, Robert Bentley, is mired in a sex and corruption scandal. The Speaker of the House, Mike Hubbard, is on trial for the worst kind of political corruption, personally profiting from his public office. And the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Ten Commandments Judge Roy Moore, has been suspended and faces an ethics investigation that will most likely result in his removal from office, again.
But somehow that is OK with a majority of the people of my native state, as long as the governor and the legislature don’t take the federal money to fund Medicaid for poor, old, sick people, only 44 percent of them black.
Think about that for a minute on this Memorial Day weekend. Yes, support the troops. Honor the war dead.
But also think about this. Some on the political right like to chant “Freedom is Not Free” at a time like this. Freedom of the Press is not free either. We should not take it for granted.
Thank you, Mr. Obama, for all you do and everything you’ve tried to do. Shame on Congress, the states, the people and the press corps for not doing more to help you. I, for one, wish you and your beautiful family a happy Memorial Day and a long and fruitful retirement.
America needs more people like you to get involved in public affairs and try to make this country a better place. Dog knows we could use the help.
Glynn Wilson, author of Jump On The Bus and editor and publisher of the independent New American Journal, is a veteran newspaper reporter, magazine writer and columnist with more than three decades of experience covering public affairs and science for traditional news outlets such as The Nation, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The Dallas Morning News and UPI.
© 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.