President Obama’s admonishment to the Congressional Black Caucus Saturday evening to “Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying,” has taken many people who’ve heard it by surprise. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California), one of the president’s most vocal African-American critics of late, said that she thinks it was a very “curious” thing to say, particularly in light of the fact that many CBC members spent the month of August traipsing around the country holding job fairs in Black communities with some of the highest unemployment levels.
“I found that language a bit curious because the president spoke to the Hispanic Caucus, and certainly they’re pushing him on immigration. And despite the fact that he’s appointed Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, he has an office for excellence in Hispanic education right in the White House, they’re still pushing him. He certainly didn’t tell them to stop complaining,” Waters said on CBS’s Early Show, adding that he also would not say such a thing to the lesbian and gay community or Jewish people. “So I don’t know who he was talking to, because we’re certainly not complaining.”
Later, in an interview on CNN, Waters said that Obama probably just got “fired up” and “off script” in the heat of the moment. But Robert Smith, a political scientist at San Francisco State University, thought the president knew exactly what he was saying.
“I thought it was a rather insulting speech and condescending. I know it’s difficult for him to do anything in a policy sense to respond to [CBC critics], but for him to dismiss it that way and then at the same time call on them to rally around him was insulting,” Smith said.
According to Smith, Obama is confident enough of his support among African-American voters to make such comments, even if he doesn’t do or say anything about their economic condition. He may also not really mind having Black critics come at him from the left, because “standing up to his own people," Smith said, "enables him to look more moderate to the white mainstream electorate, part of his campaign triangulation strategy to appear between the left and independents."
(Photo: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)