The excuses for Obama pile up: he wanted to avoid the “angry black man” image
posted at 3:18 pm on October 4, 2012 by Libby Sternberg
Add this to the list of reasons why President Obama seemed so listless during his first presidential debate against Republican nominee Mitt Romney: he was trying too hard not to appear like the “angry black man.”
So said Georgetown University Sociology Professor Michael Eric Dyson on MSNBC’s NOW with Alex Wagner. My rough transcription of his words follows:
“Obama has just been subjected to the Fox News treatment of angry black man again. Lest we forget this, lest we pretend this doesn’t make a difference, the specter hanging over him is: I can’t come off as too vigorous because then it looks like I’m being an angry black man…”
In the clip below, this part of the discussion occurs around the 11:37 mark. As usual, fair warning: MSNBC often embeds an ad before their clips.
The “Fox News treatment” probably refers to the recent airing on Sean Hannity’s program of an old tape in which the president spoke to an African-American audience in what most consider to be racially divisive tones.
Meanwhile, as National Review’s Jonah Goldberg noted, Current TV’s Al Gore has his own theory for Obama’s less-than-stellar evening, which, not surprisingly, is related to the atmosphere: it was the high altitude that affected the president:
The excuse with the most ring of truthiness to it, though, came from The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart, interviewed on Good Morning America. Newsbusters has the story here, but below is the money quote from Stewart (thanks to NB for the transcript). Maybe, uh, the president’s not as smart as we thought:
STEWART: It wasn’t so much his the body language as the mouth language that he was using. The pauses in between. You know, I used to think the pauses, he was just trying to think of smaller words for the little brains to figure out what he was saying. This time, I really think the pauses were just, ‘I like food.’ You know, I think he was just thinking, ‘my children are nice.’ It didn’t seem present in the same way.
Whether Stewart was joking or not, I have to agree with him. For years, media personalities have treated us to rapturous praise for the president’s intellect, his wonkiness. But as I watched the debate, I kept thinking of how each of the president’s responses probably sounded like so much “blah blah blah” to the average viewer–boring stuff.
Then it hit me–maybe a lot of people conflate “boring” with “smart.” Maybe they think, “well, because he’s boring me with all those rambling, professorial answers, he must be professorial himself. He must be more intelligent than I am.”
So, here’s a lesson for that crowd: boring doesn’t always equal smart. Sometimes it just signifies…boring.
Libby Sternberg is a novelist.