California Congresswoman Maxine Waters created a national firestorm when she pleaded with African Americans in Detroit to “unleash” the Congressional Black Caucus to have open and honest discussion with, and criticisms of, President Obama about the lack of job creation in urban America without fear of a backlash.
At the “For the People” national job fair tour and town hall meeting which stopped off in Detroit, Waters, D-Los Angeles, said that African Americans are basically handcuffing the black caucus from holding the president accountable as they would any other president simply because he’s the first African American Commander-in Chief:
“We don’t put pressure on the president. Let me tell you why. We don’t put pressure on the president because y’all love the president. You love the president. You’re very proud to have a black man [in the White House],” she told the Detroiters. “First time in the history of the United States of America. If we go after the president too hard, you’re going after us. When you tell us it’s all right and you unleash us, and you tell us you’re ready for us to have this conversation, we’re ready to have the conversation. . . . All I’m saying to you is, we’re politicians. We’re elected officials. We are trying to do the right thing and the best thing. When you let us know it is time to let go, we’ll let go.”
At the next stop at Atlanta Technical College, where an estimated 8,000 job aspirants waited for hours under an oppressive sun, Waters was asked to elaborate on her controversial Detroit comments and state what an open conversation with Obama would look like.
“What do I want this discussion to be about? I’ve come to certain conclusions, and it’s a difficult one. I think that we’ve reached the point in the history of this country that may be a defining political moment for all of us. This moment in history may be a challenge to our political maturity. I believe the time has come where we must eliminate any fear and discomfort we may have about raising difficult questions and raising challenges – even when we feel an obligation to protect the first African American president of the United States of America,” she said to applause.
Waters reiterated her sentiments that she would like to see Obama into his second term. However, she believes the CBC must possess the right to question the president without drawing the ire of their constituents and being called disloyal for challenging Obama.
“My need to support the president does not trump my need to be a responsible United States representative. I must not, and the Caucus must not, supplant the needs of our community in the interest of satisfying our emotional needs to support anybody,” she said to a partial standing ovation. “We must always be able to exercise of our power and influence for the benefit of the people. The facts are indisputable. The unemployment rate in the African American community is an official 16 percent, the highest in the nation and the highest since the Great Depression. And [those numbers] don’t really calculate those who have been out of the job market for over a year or more. In many communities, it is over 35 to 40 percent.”
Waters, arguably the most vocal Obama critic among black Democrats, said that the community’s silence in the face of explosive opposition, particularly when compared to the very vocal and organized and energized Tea Party, has already wrecked incalculable damage to the administration and society in general.
“So let me just share with you that this discussion is about whether or not if you raise a question or you create a challenge that you are being disloyal. It is not. The time has come for us to be politically mature enough to have great comfort that we can do this challenge if we have to. We cannot do this work in silence. We cannot work for you in silence,” she continued. “As a matter of fact, the reason the Tea Party is so strong is because they stand up, they talk up and they worked it. They are not nearly in the numbers that we are. But look at the influence that they have been able to wield in this country. They literally influenced the bill that would decide whether or not we were going to increase the debt ceiling. And we had to suffer all these budget cuts. And so, if we are silent, we can’t protect the people. If we are silent, we cannot protect the president.
“If we don’t speak up and do everything that we can, our communities will be worse off. Our children will graduate from college and won’t have any jobs. We will not be able to get the mortgages. We will not be able to create the wealth. We will not able to force these banks, who took our money in the bailouts and won’t give money back to our small businesses to create jobs and expand businesses. We wont’ be able to do any of that. So, ladies and gentlemen, I want you to feel comfortable. I don’t want you to feel embarrassed. I don’t want you to sit back and say ‘whoa! If we question the president, that we are doing something bad’. It is honorable to step up to the plate. It is honorable to do what needs to be done.”
– terry shropshire