Let me begin by saying that I have tremendous respect for Jesse Jackson, Sr. if it is still 1988.
His speech at the Democratic Convention is electrifying and incredibly inspirational. I’m sitting in the living room of my parents’ house watching the convention, and I’m hoping against hope that Jesse Sr. could have won the Democratic nomination for president.
It’s 1988, and there’s a lot I don’t know about Jesse Jackson, Sr., except for that speech.
Two decades later, I know a lot more. And I don’t like what I see any more.
Not realizing a camera and microphone were live, Jackson whispered in a television studio on Sunday that Obama had been “talking down to black people” in his calls for more parental responsibility among blacks and an expansion of faith-based charities.
“I want to cut his nuts out,” Jackson added, gesturing as if grabbing part of the male anatomy and then pulling.
I get it that Jesse likes to make himself the story. Sometimes I can even accept that. This time, however, Jesse was off the charts. Consider this: Jesse was in a Fox News studio. How can any reasonable person conclude that the microphone might not be in a Fox News studio, or any studio?
Jesse rushed to apologize, but this time he looks downright silly:
“I offer apologies because I don’t want harm to come to this campaign,” Jackson said.
“I said something I regret was crude. It was very private. And very much a sound bite,” he said. “I find no comfort in it, no joy in it.”
Not, “I apologize because I was wrong.” This is, “I apologize because I got caught. That was meant to be private. But I meant what I said.”
Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. was not pleased with dad:
Jackson’s son U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who has distanced himself from his father before, offered an especially pointed reaction: “I’m deeply outraged and disappointed in Rev. Jackson’s reckless statements about Sen. Barack Obama,” the junior Jackson said. “Reverend Jackson is my dad, and I’ll always love him . . . [but] I thoroughly reject and repudiate his ugly rhetoric. He should keep hope alive and any personal attacks and insults to himself.
I’ve heard Congressman Jackson take some playful, tongue-in-cheek jabs at his father in the past. During some friendly gatherings, the congressman would say he didn’t want to be the kind of guy who showed up just for the cameras. Then he’d pause thoughtfully, wait for the chuckles.
We all got it.
This time, however, the congressman was on fire, and spot on.
I enjoyed NBC’s Matt Lauer’s clumsily interview with Dr. Michael Eric Dyson on the Today Show this morning. How will the Black Community respond? As if all African Americans think in concert, like all whites, all men, all women, all gays, all lesbians, etc. Dyson carefully observed that “some” blacks will say this, “some” will say that. In other words, people might actually see things differently.
Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell calls the senior Jackson’s explanation absurd:
Jackson’s faux pas turned up the volume on a whispered conversation.
But there’s no need to worry.
Black Democrats have supported a long line of presidential contenders who had to walk the same fine line.
They are not about to abandon Obama because he finds more opportunities to talk about black pathology than he does white racism.
Besides, the reverend’s comments were so beneath the dignity of the cloth he wears on the road he has traveled, the Obama campaign won’t have to deal with them — period.
But if Jackson keeps making loud noises, he’ll find out how quickly even a civil rights icon like him can get left behind.
The weird right is enjoying this spectacle, but this will pass. It won’t be long until another far-right icon is forced out of the closet.
The media will want to stay with the distraction for a while longer, I’m sure. This is much more fun than actually doing critical thinking and writing about real issues. And I’m sure this will not be the last time the Rev. Jackson pulls a “Michael Richards.”
Senator Obama graciously accepted Jackson’s apology, and he’s moving on. This is just another distraction.