"But I know in my heart that there is a core decency to the American people, and that
decency can be tapped." -Barack Obama
(Is it my imagination or does Mrs. Obama bear a striking resemblance to the late, great James Brown?)
No one can accuse Barack Obama of lacking vision, as the 60 Minutes interview with Steve Croft captured last night the ambitions of the junior Senator from Illinois. Discussing his candidacy which he announced over the weekend from the Old Capitol building steps of Springfield, Obama studiously answered many questions from his views on Iraq troop redeployment to his roots in black culture. Watch video below
The footage begins with a driver chauffering Croft and Obama around town in a $65,000 plus, fully loaded SUV in an area that Barack described as the "South Side" of Chicago where he worked at a volunteer center for a couple of years in an 'underpriveleged' neighborhood fresh out of college, his first steps to building his politico resume. But after squinting and looking twice, I couldn't quite recognize this area as a typical, representative tough and 'underpriveleged' neighborhood of the city -- and no, this is not a question of urban renewal...When Croft asked him about living on the south side, Obama provided two "life experience" responses: "the barbershop" and "playing basketball", both stereotypes...were not the two BARBERSHOP movies all about inner city life on the south side of Chicago? Never mind the basketball reference, but somehow, after the first two minutes of this interview, I could not help but envision Barack more at home holding a polo mallet than a basketball.
On this note, I should first explain that I know something about Chicago, being a lifelong resident until I left home for college -- I was born on the south side of Chicago and lived where Barack now lives with his wife, Michelle and their two children, in the upscale, ivy laced Hyde Park neighborhood, home to the University of Chicago which happens to be surrounded by ghetto. Michelle, also a Harvard graduate, now works at the University of Chicago in hospital administration. Since my family's ties of over 150 years go back to my hometown where my grandfather owned over half of it in commercial real estate, I got to know the neighborhoods. Didn't look the projects to me. And for that matter, the 60 minutes production team looked like they actually cleared out any signs of life (note: no cars or people walking around), nor did the director arrange for Barack to knock on any doors and say "hello" to any of the inhabitants -- you know, something like "Hey man, it's me, Barack Obama. Remember when your son and I used to go shoot hoops?" This was supposed to be a "c'mon, let me show you around and revisit the old tough Chicago home digs where I learned the inner city ropes", right? Why not put some validation 'face time' in here, for Godsake?
The point here is that, from the onset of the interivew, Obama conveyed a relaxed, while opportunistic, most assuredly smug and almost arrogant demeanor that well, revealed much about the 'real' black Obama in his heart and how much he seems to have never known by way of experience what so many African Americans have struggled with. And that the reality, is that some continue to encounter the struggle in their ordinary, non insulated lives; minority lives led with all the insecurity, fear and doubt that only the impoverished and marginalized, proudly yet fully aware in their hearts that when they can't afford the next rent check or they are passed over due to job discrimination and when they "can't get a cab because of their skin color "or "the woman on the elevator clutches her purse a little tighter when you get on" and the bottle has sucked your father's last breath and his dignity along with it in the face of an infinite spiral of downward challenges...
After watching this interview with Barack Obama, I just don't believe that he shares the same unrarified air as the vast majority of struggling poor and middle class Americans, black and white, who would, I truly believe, be ready for a black president, but just not Barack. Al Sharpton, anyone? Jesse Jackson? These two 'do humility' with passion and conviction, the glaring characteristic that Obama lacks.
Easy lifestyle? A picture is worth a thousand words, and while watching the interview I couldn't help but notice the body language between Barack and his wife. Whatsmore, Michelle looks like she wears the pants in that family and crisply packs him up each day -- from picking up his underwear to monitoring his anti-smoking campaign, the skids are greased for this Golden Boy from Hawaii (seriously, the surfer-dude came through in this interview) to gingerly albeit cautiously test his political mettle during this unarguably pivotal moment in history where a black man, however unsoulful, has risen to the challenge. Maybe it's just me; maybe I can't get past the old sterotype that a black candidate has got to be 'soulful' in order for me to take a closer look.
But on second thought, I know in my heart that being born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, I know something about the soulful people there, white and black, and most important, that being soulful is a state of mind that one develops through a lifetime of compassion and shared experience with people through music, the arts, acceptance and hard knocks.
My impression of Barack is that his hard knocks amounted to little more than butting up against a surfboard in a swell and that the only 'surge' he has mastered in his life is in the vanity of counting his rising polling numbers.