Race For The White House: Is Jesse Jackson Relevant?


Commentary by Gary A. Johnson

August 22, 2008 -I read an article today in the Chicago Tribune newspaper written by David Greising about Jesse “I Want To Cut His Nuts Off” Jackson. The article examined Rev. Jackson’s legacy and place in history. With Barack Obama firmly entrenched as a charismatic figure of “rock star” proportions and Jesse Jackson’s public gaffes, I think it’s a relevant topic for discussion.

How relevant is Jesse Jackson to the black community?

Make no mistake. Rev. Jesse Jackson has had several great days in the sun. I was working inside the White House in December 1983 when Rev. Jackson, traveled to Damascus, Syria without the U.S. State Department’s blessings and negotiated the release of Navy Lt. Robert O. Goodman, Jr., who had been shot down over Lebanon while on a mission to bomb Syrian positions in that country.

With Barack Obama’s nomination to be the Democratic Party’s nomination for President of the United States only days away, Obama is clearly “the man” in politics, a place where Jackson ruled for almost two decades.In the arena of civil rights, Al Sharpton and his band of “New Jack” bloggers and syndicated radio hosts have proven to be effective, leaving Jesse on the outside looking in.

Jackson had expected to speak at a Democratic National Committee (DNC) prayer breakfast next Thursday that will commemorate the 45th anniversary of the March on Washington but the DNC has decided to focus attention on the role of the King family and Jackson will not speak. Al Sharpton is scheduled to address the breakfast. Ouch!

I remember Jackson’s speech at the 1988 Democratic convention. It made the hair stand on my arm. In that speech Jackson spoke of being raised by a teenage mother and brought the phrase “keep hope alive,” to mainstream America. That was one of the greatest speeches of my lifetime.

Jesse Jackson says he has no problem being out of the spotlight next week in Denver. I don’t believe him. His son, Jesse Jackson, Jr., an Obama campaign co-chair will make a prime-time speech Monday, the first night of the convention.

Can Rev. Jesse Jackson, a man many believe is an “all-star” grandstander, smoothly transition to being a classy elder statesman? (OK, what if I remove the word “classy?”). Jesse Jackson is still very much in demand as a speaker even if the reports of him asking to speak at high-profile events and funerals are true. He recently eulogized Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes and last year he eulogized Washington Redskins football safety Sean Taylor.

At 66-years old, Jackson has been out of the public’s view for the second time in about a decade following his embarrassing “open mic” episode when a FOX News microphone broadcast his conversation with a colleague as he expressed his frustration over Barack Obama’s ascension to prominence on the world stage.The “open mic” incident was so bad Al Sharpton felt compelled to publicly criticize Jackson for his remarks.

The last time Jackson withdrew from the public was when news surfaced in 2001 that he had fathered a daughter out of wedlock.

According to the Chicago Tribune, to help himself recover from the Obama gaffe, Jackson spent 10 days fasting and meditating in the Arizona desert. Jackson said he spent time “talking with Dr. King, reading the Bible and talking with myself” in an effort to sort out why he said what he said.

Jackson claims that he’s been an Obama supporter and says he speaks frequently with him by telephone.That doesn’t mean that they’re tight. Obama has never campaigned alongside Rev. Jackson since he launched his bid for the White House 18 months ago.

Jackson believes that the Obama campaign will need him to help Obama win the race for the White House.”When the Republicans come after him—and they will come after him—he will need [volunteers] who can rise to his defense,” Jackson said.

Syndicated radio talk-show host and author Michael Reagan, son, of former president Ronald Reagan had an interesting perspective on the Obama-Jackson relationship. In his article, published on the Human Events.com web site on July 11, Reagan writes:

“It’s no wonder Rev. Jesse Jackson wants to neuter Barack Obama — after all, that’s exactly what Obama has done to him.

He may be apologizing for his remarks, claiming lamely that he didn’t know there was a live microphone eavesdropping on what he said, but he meant exactly what he was overheard saying because that’s exactly what he’d like to do.

In his mind, he has every reason to want to take a cutting knife to Obama’s private parts in retribution for his own public loss of manhood at Obama’s hands.

Thanks to the ascendency of Barack Obama, Jesse’s long reign as THE Black leader — a position he more or less shared with the Rev. Al Sharpton all these years — has finally come to an end. He’s been dethroned by, and lost his political manhood to, an upstart politician barely dry behind the ears but clever beyond his years.”

In his analysis of the Obama-Jackson relationship Reagan further opines: “Rooted in the past, Jesse is mad. Jesse is angry. Jesse is upset. It drives him up a wall when Obama echoes Bill Cosby by demanding that his fellow African-American men assume the responsibilities of fatherhood.

By so doing, Obama neuters Jesse, who always blames an alleged racist white America for the failure of many black fathers to act like fathers.

That’s not talking down to blacks, that’s telling his fellow blacks what they need to hear. After all, all of us, black and white men alike, need to be real fathers in our homes. It’s not a race issue, it’s not a political issue. It’s a moral issue. Obama sees that. Jesse can’t.

Obama neuters Jesse when he echoes the hated George Bush in favoring a faith-based initiative. The fact that a black American is taking such positions which are counter-intuitive to Jesse’s, emasculates Jesse, especially when many black Americans applaud Obama for doing so.” You can read Reagan’s commentary at: http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=27461.

What do you think? Does the Obama campaign need Jesse Jackson to win the White House? Is Michael Reagan on point in his commentary? Is Jesse Jackson still relevant to the black community? Make your voice heard by leaving a comment below.

Gary Johnson is the Founder & Publisher of Black Men In America.com a popular online magazine on the Internet and the Black Men In America.com Blog. Gary is also the author of the new book “25 Things That Really Matter In Life.”

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