Cornel West has some harsh words for President Barack Obama in a recent interview with Salon.com. The first question West answers is, "how do you feel things have worked out since then, both with the economy and with this president?"
"[T]he thing is he posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit," West says. "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. And yet, you know, he acted as if he was both a progressive and as if he was concerned about the issues of serious injustice and inequality and it turned out that he’s just another neoliberal centrist with a smile and with a nice rhetorical flair. And that’s a very sad moment in the history of the nation because we are—we’re an empire in decline. Our culture is in increasing decay. Our school systems are in deep trouble. Our political system is dysfunctional. Our leaders are more and more bought off with legalized bribery and normalized corruption in Congress and too much of our civil life. You would think that we needed somebody—a Lincoln-like figure who could revive some democratic spirit and democratic possibility."
That’s exactly what everyone was saying at the time.
That’s right. That’s true. It was like, “We finally got somebody who can help us turn the corner.” And he posed as if he was a kind of Lincoln.
Yeah. That’s what everyone was saying.
And we ended up with a brown-faced Clinton. Another opportunist. Another neoliberal opportunist. It’s like, “Oh, no, don’t tell me that!” I tell you this, because I got hit hard years ago, but everywhere I go now, it’s “Brother West, I see what you were saying. Brother West, you were right. Your language was harsh and it was difficult to take, but you turned out to be absolutely right.” And, of course 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.
When you say you got hit hard, are you talking about the personal confrontation you had with him?
I’m just thinking about the vicious attacks of the Obama cheerleaders.
The personal confrontation you had with him is kind of famous. He got angry at you because you were saying he wasn’t progressive enough.
I just looked at him like “C’mon, man. Let the facts speak for themselves. I’m not into this rhetorical exchange.”