In Oedipus Rex, the very ancient (more than 400 B.C.) drama by Sophocles, Oedipus damns with a curse – himself. The story about the orphaned Oedipus begins with him as a grown man led by pride to slay the man who unknowingly is his biological father. The well known tale develops with Oedipus proclaiming a curse on the man who murdered his father. Eventually, the truth emerges that Oedipus himself is the killer. Oedipus, his eyes finally open to the ugly truth of his patricide, gashes out his eyes with his suicide mother’s golden brooches and goes into exile. The story, to say the least, is charged with irony. This leads us to 21st century America and Barack Obama.
This past Saturday Barack Obama spoke before Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network (which the uninformed or befuddled Obama persisted in calling the Urban Action Network). He praised his own history as a community organizer and statehouse legislator. Then he said this:
“I’ve said to Rev. Sharpton and I’ll say it today, if there is somebody – I don’t care whether they are white or black or they are male or female – if there is somebody who has been more on the forefront on behalf of the issues you care about and has more concrete accomplishments on behalf of the things you’re concerned about, I’m happy to see you endorse them. But I am absolutely confident you will not find that.”
Was that an Oedipal moment? One in which the speaker curses himself? Does Obama, in all seriousness believe that he, who before a few years ago few Americans not conversant with the insipid parochial politics of Illinois did not even know existed, really, truly, functionally believe that he, he, has been on the forefront of anything or even accomplished anything for Americans, rather than for himself? Does he truly believe that?
Obama, whose recollections and achievements have been repeatedly and substantively questioned cannot be serious about his claim to be on the forefront of anything, and has accomplished less. Is he referring to how he used his legal firepower to off-road black candidates running against him from the ballot? As the Chicago Tribune reported “The man now running for president on a message of giving a voice to the voiceless first entered public office not by leveling the playing field, but by clearing it.”
Obama’s self claim to fame is that years ago, when he did not have a vote, he was opposed to George W. Bush’s Iraq War. Of course when he became a Senator his votes were indistinguishable from the votes of other leading Democrats. His voice was rarely if every raised on his supposed “leading” issue. His leadership on most issues has come in front of microphones, not in votes, as we pointed out several days ago.
Obama, who before his trip to Selma had awkwardly sidestepped, the better to keep his popularity, the treacherous eddies of American racial politics has not been at the forefront of any of the issues the National Action Network nor its leader Reverend Al Sharpton care about. Maybe this was Obama’s way of saying “Endorse someone else and get me some gold brooches.”