Green Room

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

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.

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I was wondering how long they would wait to drag the ‘race’ thing out for the horrible way bho did last night? Sure didn’t take long it seems? It seems the bhopress has come up with every other excuse they can think of, so why not fling ‘race’ out?

letget on October 4, 2012 at 3:45 PM

Alright, then, let’s have a contest. What image was President Obama trying to project? Best answer gets bragging rights. Here are a few to start us off:

“Stuttering, rambling former professor”
“College kid who spent all night studying for the wrong exam”
“Middle schooler writing a book report essay after only reading the wikipedia article on the book”
“Deer in the headlights”
“Guy who has nothing but anecdotes with which to refute data.”
“Can’t understand that after so many years, someone is stomping on him in a debate.”

Bah, I’m no good at this.

Mohonri on October 4, 2012 at 3:48 PM

Interestingly, the Left hasn’t tried (at least, not to my knowledge) trotting out the “he’s the President; he works so hard, he doesn’t have time to prep for debates”.

Bitter Clinger on October 4, 2012 at 3:51 PM

Winners have alternatives.
Losers have excuses.

Joe Mama on October 4, 2012 at 3:54 PM

He wanted to avoid the “angry black man” image

Entirely plausible. That’s a persona he’s never tapped into (such as when he addressed the Congressional Black Congress and affected a black accent and told them huffily to “stop your complainin’ and start marchin'”).

Howard Portnoy on October 4, 2012 at 3:55 PM

Dyson’s analysis is both funny and has a certain amount of truth to it.

A Barack Obama telling Mitt Romney, “Don’t make me angry. you wouldn’t like me angry,” and then morphing into the Incredible Al Sharpton might not only throw Mitt off his game, it would also serve to rip whatever blindfolds are left off the eyes of the undecided or even slightly pro-Obama swing voters.

If the president goes into the next two debates or over the final five weeks of the campaign letting his anger flow with his current policy record, he’ll come across as an angry hyper-liberal ideologue who’ll remind voters why Al (or Jessie) never became president. It’s also the exact opposite of how Obama was presented to voters in 2008, and it’s that non-threatening personality that was the reason why the left backed Obama — because they thought he could calmly hide his real ideology from the moderates.

People like Dyson were among those on the left who also thought he was hiding an angrier temperament (as opposed to a petulant one), and really expected him to Hulk out on conservatives on January 20, 2009. They’re still angry he didn’t, and if he takes their advice now, it could make Wednesday’s debate look like the precision and execution of the Normandy invasion (or the Navy Seals killing of bin Laden) compared to the clusterfark the remainder of the campaign could become for Obama.

jon1979 on October 4, 2012 at 4:01 PM

Obama trying to avoid the angry black man image? That ship sailed a long, long time ago.

Someone who is truly intelligent can explain the complex in simple terms and does so with no condescension.

stukinIL4now on October 4, 2012 at 4:17 PM

that would be rich- effete never been on the street international halfrican faux intellectual channeling crazy crack head murdering maoist huey newton…

at least huey newton( who graduated high school functionally illiterate) read the books in university , understood them, and could repurpose them to suit his own agenda- compared to the brilliant ‘constitutional scholar’ who acts like barry the marxist anti-imperialist robot in debate.

mittens on October 4, 2012 at 5:12 PM

Don’tcha have to be Black to be an angry Black man?

teacherman on October 4, 2012 at 6:40 PM

He wanted to avoid being seen as an angry black man? So he thought a stuttering, subservient, clueless black man would connect more with his base?

Yeah, right. That worked.

Ozwitch on October 4, 2012 at 7:18 PM

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.”

Wasn’t it determined a couple of years ago that describing someone as “professorial” is racist?

malclave on October 4, 2012 at 9:28 PM

Lord, this is some fun stuff. Watching the myth of Obama crumble almost makes these past four years worth it. Almost!

Kenz on October 4, 2012 at 10:32 PM

Funny, Romney had the harder challenge and didn’t seem to have any problem.

That debate animation shows that 0 has been crippled on the international stage and no one will take him seriously for the rest of this term, forget about another 4 years.

Going back to his den and firing more drone missiles at nameless sand jockeys is not going to change that.

pedestrian on October 5, 2012 at 12:28 AM

Surely a messiah can carry two images simultaneously: the cool president guy and the angry black man image. That way he deceive both the urban and rural vote.
I heard that Romney can make the seas go down too (twice a day for about six hours)

Don L on October 5, 2012 at 3:10 PM

Going back to his den and firing more drone missiles at nameless sand jockeys is not going to change that.

pedestrian on October 5, 2012 at 12:28 AM

You just wait until that Bin laden movie comes out on Nov 4 and shows Obama personally steering that drone from the golf course and dropping it on old bin Laden’s head, the zombie vote will double.

Don L on October 5, 2012 at 3:13 PM

That disgrace in the WH is an incompetent, racist, bigoted, thug, nothing more.

ultracon on October 6, 2012 at 1:11 PM

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