Barack Obama is accused of a good many things, sometimes fairly, sometimes not so fairly. It may come as a shock — especially to anyone who would consider themselves right wing or even moderate in their politics — that someone is criticizing Barack Obama because he’s too conservative. However, that’s exactly what one seminary professor has done.
In an interview with Salon, Union Theological Seminary Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practice Cornel West used what sound like racist terms to describe President Barack Obama, calling him “a brown-faced Clinton.” The remark was made in the context of criticizing Barack Obama for being too conservative — or at least too centrist — and cozying up to Wall Street. In summarizing Obama’s presidency to date, West said:
“No, the thing is he posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency, a national security presidency. The torturers go free. The Wall Street executives go free. The war crimes in the Middle East, especially now in Gaza, the war criminals go free. And yet, you know, he acted as if he was both a progressive and as if he was concerned about the issues of serious injustice and inequality and it turned out that he’s just another neoliberal centrist with a smile and with a nice rhetorical flair.”
What’s more, West, who teaches philosophy at one of the bastions of the uber-liberal wing of Christianity, suggests that most intellectual progressives agree with him, at least privately. He continues:
“We ended up with a brown-faced Clinton. Another opportunist. Another neoliberal opportunist. It’s like, ‘Oh, no, don’t tell me that!’ I tell you this, because I got hit hard years ago (for criticizing Barack Obama), but everywhere I go now, it’s ‘Brother West, I see what you were saying. Brother West, you were right. Your language was harsh and it was difficult to take, but you turned out to be absolutely right.'”
Professor West went even further in his criticism of Barack Obama, saying, “He pimped us.”
While most expect the more right wing Evangelical Christians to be highly critical of Barack Obama’s policies, which most of them consider leftist, it’s unusual to hear a professor from the black liberation theology school of thought slamming the first African-American president. What’s more, West is openly critical of fellow black liberation proponents such as the Rev. Al Sharpton.
Lest the oddly racist-sounding “brown-faced Clinton” remark be misconstrued as a compliment — since Bill Clinton was and is very popular among the African-American community — West had this to say about the prospect of Hillary Clinton as president:
“I think at that point—Hillary Clinton is an extension of Obama’s Wall Street presidency, drone presidency, national surveillance, national security presidency.”
What do you think? Is Barack Obama just a “brown-faced Clinton?” Is the professor right that President Obama is a centrist rather than a liberal or progressive?