CBC's Cleaver: We would be 'marching on the White House' if Obama weren't president

The members of the Congressional Black Caucus continue to be outraged at the “unconscionable” rate of unemployment among African-Americans — but they’re not employing the same tactics to force the president to pay attention to their complaints as they would ordinarily, CBC Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) admitted in comments published today in The Miami Herald.

As chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, [Cleaver] has been at odds with President Barack Obama over his administration’s response to the soaring unemployment rate in the African-American community.

Nearing 17 percent, joblessness among blacks is at a three-decade high and almost twice the size of the overall unemployment rate. The black caucus wants the president to do more.

But the group’s efforts are freighted with political sensitivities, given Obama’s unique role as the first African-American occupant of the White House and the sometimes untethered animosity that his election has triggered.

“If (former President) Bill Clinton had been in the White House and had failed to address this problem, we probably would be marching on the White House,” Cleaver said. “There is a less-volatile reaction in the CBC because nobody wants to do anything that would empower the people who hate the president.”

In effect, Cleaver is saying that the CBC has dealt differently with this president precisely because he’s black. How is that OK? Either we envision a world in which we are judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin or we don’t. What do Cleaver and the other members of the CBC dream of?

It’s nice, at least, that Cleaver doesn’t want in any way to contribute to a climate of hate. But, then, what would you expect from the founder of another Congressional caucus — the nine-member “Civility Caucus”? Certainly, you wouldn’t expect him to sit idly by as members of the CBC told Tea Party members to go to hell or referred to Tea Partiers as “the real enemy.”

Oh, wait. Cleaver did do that. It took Andre Carson’s outrageous remarks and Allen West’s threat to leave the CBC to spark any hate-mitigating reaction from Cleaver at all — and, even then, he was in no hurry to disavow Carson’s vitriol. Eventually, though, Cleaver met privately with West and convinced him to stay. But with his comments today in “The Miami Herald,” Cleaver again implicitly endorses the identity politics that so inform CBC members’ approach to the issues, in effect arguing it’s OK and even encouraged for CBC members and others to hold Obama to a different standard just because of the president’s race. Seems to me like such a backward approach for the chairman of the CBC to take.

Update (Ed): Cleaver should have been noted as (D-MO), not (R-MO).  I’ve fixed it above.

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