Princeton professor Dr. Cornel West

Princeton professor and “intellectual provocateur” weighs in on the recent controversy sparked by his critique of President Obama.

A renowned scholar, Princeton professor Dr. Cornel West has written/edited more than 20 books, including Race Matters, the NYT best seller Democracy Matters and, his memoir, Brother West. Outside of academia, he's been described as an "intellectual provocateur," with lectures, TV and film appearances and his spoken-word CDs. He provided philosophical commentary on all three Matrix films, and his disc, "Never Forget: A Journey of Revelations," combined hip-hop and intellectual dialogue. West has also taught at Harvard, Yale and Union Theological Seminary.


Tavis: Always pleased to welcome Dr. Cornel West to this program. The Princeton professor and best-selling author is also, I am proud to say, in terms of full disclosure, co-host of “Smiley & West” on public radio, distributed by Public Radio International. Doc, as always, good to see you on the West Coast.

Dr. Cornel West: Always a blessing, my brother. Sunshine, I like.

Tavis: Yeah, good to see you, good to see you. I have some blue cards in my hand. I’m not a blue card sort of guy, as you know watching this program every night, but I wanted to have these cards in my hand because I really want to go through the particulars of this interview you gave with Chris Hedges on Truthdig some days ago that has caused such a furor in the Internet space, the blogosphere, amongst progressives, amongst the Black academy, specifically; in the academy more broadly, given what “The Boston Globe” had to say about you the other day.

West: Oh, yeah.

Tavis: So you’ve kicked up quite a controversy, as you know, with your comments about President Barack Obama, specifically your critique of him not being progressive enough – those are my words, not yours. So to jump right into the conversation and make the most of the time I have, let me pull out some of these quotes that you offered in this interview that you’ve been taken to task for and give you a chance to respond so that I and the viewer understand better what it is you were saying.

In no particular order, number one, you referred to the president as “A Black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a Black puppet of corporate plutocrats. And now he has become head of the American killing machine and is proud of it.” Talk to me.

West: Yeah, well, one, I had in mind the fact that as a progressive you begin with the plight and predicament of poor people and working people, and you see their situation with a sense of urgency. It’s a state of emergency, so that mass unemployment, mass under-employment, mass incarceration, massive lack of quality education and housing itself becomes part and parcel of a national security issue.

Those issues are as essential to the future of this nation as $150 billion in Afghanistan, Iraq, dropping drones in Pakistan and so forth. So then when I look and I say, “Well, let’s see what policies in place,” well, you see some symbolic gestures here or there, but not really dealing with mass unemployment, mass incarceration, no jobs program, no jobs training program, priorities to Wall Street.

They’re doing magnificent. They are all break-dancing to the bank this very moment, yet social misery is escalating among working people.

So the greed at the top is still running amok, the indifference to poor people is still in place, and one was hoping in 2008 that even using the bully pulpit he would be confronting Wall Street. Now say, “Well, they got a reform bill.” It’s toothless.

Major derivatives still unregulated, and in fact who’s going to implement the rules? Who’s writing the rules? Those are the kinds of questions that people are concerned about. Guantanamo, still open. Torture in various forms still going on.

Most importantly, though, Tavis, in terms of the plight of poor children, poor children, the kind of thing that Sister Marian Wright Edelman has been concerned about. I don’t see that kind of sense of urgency and emergency coming out of the White House.

Tavis: Did he have to be called a Black mascot and a Black puppet? There are those who suggested that you were petty, for a man who talks as much about love as you do, that you were petty for using terminology like “mascot” and “puppet.”

West: Well, one, I am the kind of Christian, I love mascots. I love puppets, too. He’s still a human being. He’s still brilliant. He’s still charismatic. He’s got a magnificent wife, he’s got precious children. He’s still a brother in that sense. So when you call somebody a mascot, that is a putdown in terms of the role that they choose to perform.

That’s not an attack on his humanity. The same is true, all these lies about the I attacked his mother. His mother’s not mentioned in the text. I got a call from my other mother – “How come these people spreading lies about you? Who’s that woman on television lying about you?”

I said, “Mom, she’s a liar. She’s not telling the truth.” She said, “Oh, I thought so.” Why? Because the woman’s not mentioned. You know and I know I ain’t got nothing against anybody of any color falling in love and being together and so forth and so on.

Well, you say his formation was culturally White. Yes. There is such a thing as being formed culturally White. Hall and Oates is blacker than Pat Boone. Average White Band is blacker than the Beach Boys. They all White, but one’s more Black than the other. Curtis Mayfield blacker than all of them in terms of style, in terms of form, in terms of soulfulness.

So it’s not a putdown. They’re all human beings. I actually appreciate Pat Boone, but I know he’s not Curtis Mayfield. I know he’s not Hall and Oates. So it’s not a matter of excluding folk from humanity, but we’ve got to tell the truth though, brother, and I’m committed to telling the truth in relation to poor and working people, whether I’m trashed or not.

Tavis: The second quote I want to get to, “I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free Black men. It’s understandable; as a young brother who grows up in a White context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a White man with black skin. All he has known culturally is White. He is just as human as I am, but that is his cultural formation. You just spoke on that. Anything you want to add to it?

West: There’s a line above it – he is as human and I am, and it can be overcome. We know brother Father Pfleger, our dear brother just got his church back, St. Sabina –

Tavis: In Chicago.

West: – one of the great prophetic churches of our country. He grew up on the vanilla side of town. He had a White formation. But he is fundamentally committed to poor people. Fundamentally committed to working people. John Brown, even a better example on the White side of town, loving Black folk more than many Black folk loved themselves. He died for Black folk.

So by saying “white formation,” that’s not a – that’s a description. That’s not a racist characterization, as it were. And let’s be very honest about it – to grow up on the vanilla side of town does mean that you have a certain fear of free Black men. In fact, in his own autobiography he says his grandparents had a fear of Black men.

Tavis: And his grandmama used the “N” word.

West: Used the “N” word. I still love the White grandparents. They loved him, and that’s a beautiful thing. But we have to be honest in terms of historical formation. But you know what? What’s fascinating to me, though, Tavis, and this is where you see the pathology of the pundit class, if people could spend as much energy trashing me and demonizing me as focusing on mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex, tell the truth about the military industrial complex, half of the federal budget, tell the truth about Wall Street oligarchy and the greed still running amok this very minute tied to the glitz and the gluttony that goes with it.

Tell the truth about the corporate media that is market-driven, that doesn’t want to allow progressive voices to tell the truth about the corporate state and the imperial wars connected between the two. That’s the sad thing.

Tavis: To your point about the corporate media, I was personally disturbed – if you and I weren’t the friends that we are, because I have great respect for “The Boston Globe” as an institution, as a paper –

West: Right, right.

Tavis: – I’m sure you saw this editorial – not an op-ed, an editorial, written by the editorial board, that was a personal attack on you. Did not wrestle with any of the issues that you raised in the article about poor people, about oligarchs, about plutocrats – nothing addressed in the editorial about the issues that you raised, but the entire editorial an attack on you and a celebration of Larry Summers.

What did you make of “The Boston Globe” piece that didn’t, to your point now, in the media deal with the issues you raised?

West: I think my dear brother Hilary Putnam, who is one of the last great philosophic geniuses in our culture who’s left – Stanley Cavell and a few others left – he wrote a letter to the “Globe” where he talks about the difference between a paper that deserves respect and yellow tabloids that attack persons.

No sense of what academic liberty’s all about, no attacks on my professional qualities, 19 books, 13 co-edited books, no attacks on my teaching, extra teaching all the time, office hours for five or six hours in one day rather than two hours everybody else.

The only grounds were, “I’m glad Summers ran him out,” which is a lie, because I resigned. I could be there right now if I wanted to. I decided to go to Princeton. I’m a Jesus-loving free Black man, I go where I want to go in this regard. But it shows you the degree to which the liberal class and the liberal media has a certain moral vacuousness when it comes to these kinds of issues.

Now granted, I did criticize my dear brother Larry Summers for being part of the economic team that Brother Barack Obama, President Obama chose coming right out of the shadow of the Wall Street oligarchy too, and therefore making it a priority for Wall Street to bounce back strong and Main Street to still suffer. Yes, that’s my critique. That’s not a personal critique. That’s a critique of policy.

Tavis: The last part I want to get to in the time I have left here, the third part of this article that you’ve been most taken to task for, your quote, “He feels most comfortable,” speaking of President Obama, “He feels most comfortable with upper middle class White and Jewish men who consider themselves very smart, very savvy and very effective in getting what they want.”

There are those who suggested that that comment is borderline, if not anti-Semitic.

West: Oh, no, not at all, good God. Given my love for Jewish brothers and sisters, absolutely not. What I’m saying, if you look at his advisers, if you look at his appointees, it’s more National Hockey League than it is National Basketball Association.

Tavis: Football league. (Laughter)

West: Or National Football League, right? Now, if we had a National Football League-like appointee, you had all these brilliant Black brothers and sisters, there’d be a whole different kind of dialogue. It’d almost be a civil strife in the country, you see.

And I say hey, get the most brilliant White brothers you can get. Get some progressive ones. Get the most brilliant Jewish brothers and sisters you can get, but get progressive ones. Get Black brothers and sisters, get progressive ones concerned about the poor, concerned about working people, jobs, jobs with a living wage.

Healthcare available to all. Medicare for all. These are the kinds of issues that need to be talked about. Believe me, we could be living in a moment in which we have the last chance to somehow push back the institutionalized greed that is just completely devouring the democratic possibilities of the country, and that’s the kind of backbone that we need and that’s the kind of backbone I haven’t seen.

If he had backbone for poor and working people the way he had backbone killing Bin Laden, I’d be break-dancing. I’m not. I’m upset.

Tavis: I’ve just got one minute to go here. Overall, the critique I’ve read most of you by those who don’t like you or what you had to say has to do with Cornel West being petty and petulant and ultimately pejorative because he couldn’t get inauguration tickets, mentioned in this article, that your phone calls didn’t get returned.

You did 65 dates for him, you show up at a hotel for inauguration week, the bellhop at the hotel has tickets; you do not, given all that you’ve done for him. Now, I read that as a statement about character, but there are others who’ve read that as your being petty and petulant. Your thoughts?

West: It’s part of the weapons of mass distraction that go hand-in-hand with the pathology of the pundit class. It’s not about me. The truth about my relationship with Barack Obama, which was a question Brother Chris Hedges asked me, was one in which over time I felt disrespected, because after 65 events and no thank you, that, to me, is disrespectful.

Not being able to get a ticket, that’s disrespectful. Now, the fact that the brother working at the hotel got a ticket, that was a wonderful thing. But if he could get one and I tried to get one and couldn’t after 65 events, that’s disrespectful.

All I was saying is I don’t like to be disrespected. But that’s not the main issue. It’s not about me. It’s the kind of failure to fundamentally follow through on caring for poor and working people and putting them at the center of your policy. That’s what I see to be a failure at the moment, and I’ll continue to speak out.

I don’t really mind getting trashed in that way, because if that’s the only thing I have to take in order to focus the attention on poor and working people, that’s fine with me, though, brother.

Tavis: Honored to have you here, as always.

West: Always a blessing.

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  • Lynn S

    I don’t think I will ever be in total alignment with Dr. Cornel West, but I found his comments and response to his criticism refreshingly honest and clear. I was refreshed to hear someone stand up so intelligently to the media that only wants to promote itself and desire to shape our community not with telling both sides of the story but a one sided agenda to bash anyone who doesn’t agree with them. I sometimes wonder who is more greedy, wall street oligarchy or the media monarchy. We have got to help the poor children. It’s one of the most moral and ethical important matters of our time.

  • Ken

    My wife and I were long time fans of Dr. Cornel West. However, I feel that Dr. West has become disillusioned with his personal position and reality. While I try very hard to grasp the frustration Dr. West has with our President, it is hard to digest his argument. While he professes a philosophy of African American advancement, he has now taken the reins to be on the forefront of “negative criticism.” While we live in a Democratic society and are encouraged to have dissenting voices, Dr. West’s particular argument comes across as petty and fragmented at best. As an African American male, I’ve achieved great success through education at the top undergrad and graduate schools that this country can offer. However, unlike Dr. West I can not hold this particular President accountable for my individual success or failure. There currently are greater issues at hand than putting “African Americans in positions of Power.” Just because we have an African American as President does not justify excluding other qualified candidates from serving.

    The most painful aspect of Dr. West’s argument is that he seems to be the exact example of what is holding back our culture. So many times when I was matriculating through school, my biggest critics were not people of other races or religions. My biggest detractors were African American’s who commented on how I “talked white” or how I did not “associate with the other African Americans, and chose to spend my time with the other kids.” These comments are not constructive and in fact shackle our overall advancement. If Dr. West was sincere in the philosophies he preached he would be an advocate of an individual that is reshaping the futures of our children. My son now has a leader that resembles him. He has a voice in a society still limits our speech.

    In the end I pose a question back to Dr. West. Why can’t he redirect his energy to supporting the President and identifying ways that he can better server this nation from his position of power? By focusing his energy on the negative aspects of President Obama, Dr. West does little to separate himself from a disgruntled fan that was not allowed to meet their icon. I’m disappointed in his recent behavior and given the opportunity, would appreciate the chance to express my opinion to him directly as I believe he has moved out of touch with the true African American movement. He needs to identify with voices outside of his inner circle.

    Kind regards,
    Kendall Simmonds


    I agree with the Professor, Obama has taken a different road than the one he was on during the campaign. We’re still involved in two wars with no end in sight, he had both houses and he messed that up, he played nice with the Republicans, and what did that get him, NOTHING, the Republicans beat him in the midterm elections by just saying NO. I’m really ticked off at Obama and until he ends the two wars and gets back on the road he paved during the campaign I’m going to say he’s been a total failure. Right now I’m not sure if he’s just like W, or worse. Untie Eric Holders hands and let him do his job. I knew there was a reason why I didn’t vote for Obama the first time and I’m 100% sure I won’t the second time God Bless our country.

  • David Westcott

    Dr. Cornel West remains a source of inspiration and hope for this country. A brilliant individual that clearly identifies the narcissitic pathology underlying the pretentious fraud of our amorral, greed-driven government. The inditement of “mascots” and “puppets” within our political systems (Federal, State and Local) is crucial to authentic governing “of the people, by the people, for the people”. That such petty criticisms are hurled in the direction of Dr. Cornel West provides a measure of the petty culture in which we find ourselves now living. Clearly, plutocracy and oligarchy define and resonate as intuited and obvious facts about our current societal structure that are both sad and true. Kudos to Dr. Cornel West for voicing the concerns of the befuddled, and hence exploited, masses. Thank you.

  • Edward P

    I’m torn. I agree with A free brother is someone who, apparently, can tell everyone what causes the problems of society, but are unable or unwilling to put themselves in positions accountable for making corrective changes. Nothing wrong with the analysis, and, the petulance and pettiness of his race comments about his dear brother got him the attention that he couldn’t muster from his contention that this black president is unconcerned for poor and disenfranchised people of America. Yeah. Kudos indeed!

  • Ameoz Ben-Aharon

    …This is not a case of Obama vs. West, but rather a case of Profits vs. People. President Obama has done well at protecting corporate profits while Dr. West remains a staunch advocate for the people. It’s not about the difference between two brilliant Black men. It’s about the difference between politics and civil rights activism. Subsidies to health insurance and pharmaceutical corporations to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, warrantless domestic wiretaps, extreme rendition, political assassination and unprovoked, imperialist war against a sovereign nation. That’s the work of a politician. Among other things, holding said politician accountable for his disregard for poor and working people is the work of an activist…

  • Ervin Finney

    I agree with David Westcott…Dr. Cornel West spoke the truth, although the truth hurts most of the time. Right should never come to wrong, wrong should come to right.

  • Marpessa

    Preach on, Dr. West, but be sure to include the 150+ U.S. Political Prisoners who are tortured and dying, our OWN Mandelas, some of whom have been jailed 40+ Years! Obama refuses to recognize that they even exist and the dirty tricks of COINTELPRO are well documented, speak NOW while they yet live and make them part of the critique/conversation!


    Dr. west is telling like it is! His words are unclouded by the mind and spoken from the heart! If you are are person who struggles everyday to survive then Dr. west words of blunt wisdom speak like the letters on the bible of the good book in which all presidents must lay thier hands to swear an oath to protect the people of this nation! which by the way most of this nation consists of the poor, working poor and floundering middle class anchor of debt slung around their neck wrists and ankles! I say “LET THE MAN SPEAK FOR THERE ARE FEW RIGHTEOUS TEACHERS LEFT TO SHOW US THE WAY TO THE PROMISED LAND!”

  • Janine Theodore

    I am always impressed with the intelligence of Dr. West. He is a man who really cares about the people and helps to shed light on the corruption and greed that is ruining not only this nation, but the whole world. Someone needs to stand up for the poor, working people, and especially the children. This country is facing a real crisis and we are ignoring this, fooling ourselves. Thank you Dr. West for not giving up, and for your brilliant critique of this madness in politics.

  • Llewellyn Terry

    Dr. West has constructively criticized our President in such a way that brings light to areas he obviously has not promoted or pushed in America. I think many of us can’t accept this kind of criticism because it does shed light on important areas we too often obviously avoid. The real issue as Dr. West raised was not about him and really not about President Obama; the greater concern he mentioned was the lack of interest President Obama has shown towards the poor, mass unemployment, no job training programs and the continued social misery our country finds itself avoiding at all cost. I agree there needs to be a sense of urgency from the chief of staff and his cabinet as there is interest in Wall Street and other programs that strongly support and protect the rich and famous. Regardless of how rich we become and no matter how far we’ve excelled in the academy the poor will always be with us, then why not sincerely address those issues that concern the poor. Thanks Dr. West for your straight forward display of the truth which in my opinion was not an attempt to attack our president but to highlight some areas to enhance greater support of that group of people, the poor. There should also be progressive blacks in and around the presidents’ cabinet as well as other races included.

  • jesse james jeter

    To Dr. Cornel West, I still WANT to make a connection on your talks in the Modesto,Ca. Park with Rev. Taylor my wife has fond memories of those days, do you remenber, anyway The Presdent has to play his cards carefully, this is politics he has to get relected no other black man in history could have been elected you don’t understand what it took yo become president and what it will require to be so for four more years, no one can save us all, you personally should do more talk is cheap, MONEY !

  • Gil Calderon

    President Obama has done a phenomenal job leading this country back from the disaster of Bush Jr. There are so many coalitions pulling in both directions on how to slice and define the American pie. Roads are being built General Motors is making a comeback and electric cars will get us out of the grip of the oil noose. President Obama is bringing home our military and they will need help resettling back into the mainstream. We have a great country and a great President.

  • Angelle

    I’ve always admired Dr. West from a distance as he has a brillant mind & is a dynamic speaker. When learning that the Obama WH snubbed him & wouldn’t grant him an invitaton to the Inauguration, I was floored & agree w/Dr. West that this was very disrespectful & uncalled for. I guess that his name was on the same no-entry list as Jeremiah Wright.

  • Susana Marino

    I understand the great points Dr. West highlighted during the interview and agree about the social problems we face as nation, but his negative criticism towards President Obama with a racist tone against Whites shadows the opportunity for an objective message. Sometimes, Blacks can be as racist if not more racist than Whites.

  • Susana Marino

    President Obama has been the most progressive President this nation have had in recent decades, but the problem is swimming in infested shark waters with the old establishment. The last part of Dr. Cornell message: “Get the most progressive people weather they are jewish, whites, blacks but progressive so we can get the job done…..

  • Samantha

    I am a Progressive who voted for Obama, I follow politics very closely and I read the article about Dr. West. I understand why the liberal pundit class attacked him, because he was shaking up everything that they hold dear. The people on TV and the writes for many of the so called liberal news outlets have made a lot money during the last ten years criticizing the Bush policies and Obama told everyone that he was going to “change” things. They all rallied behind him and became the party in favor. Once it became clear that many of Obama’s policies were just like Bush’s they had a decision to make admit that like all other politicians he had lied to us all just to get into office or be silent and stay in favor and be the elite class. They chose the latter. So when someone challenges their comfort and threatens to expose the lie they attack, not only to protect Obama but to protect themselves as well. If the American voters realize that Obama is a fraud then they will also realize that the pundits who praised him during his administration are frauds. And they are not willing to risk exposure. The elites only care about continuing to be elites, they don’t care that most of the people in the country are suffering, because they are doing well. But no matter how much they attack Dr. West and people like him who are progressive and do care about the working people in this country, history will expose them and Obama as the frauds they were, the problem is by then it will be to late. I can only hope that somehow the American people can see through the lies that the elites in both parties have been telling for thirty years and stand up for themselves once and for all.

  • joe mayfield

    great interview with dr. West. he makes some great points about pres. Obama and the media which are very true. I would like to see this Presidency stand up for the poor and working class even if it means having to get NASTY with those on the other side who want to cut everything. I’m glad he cleared up some of this other mess being put out there. i know that the good doctor would not disrespect mr or mrs Obama in any way or their families. i think the reason why dr. West was left on the sidelines during the Inauguration was because he was seen as a intelligent version jeremiah Wright and some those running the events didn’t want him near the President. that’s a shame. keep doing your good work and good luck in China tavis and Dr.West!

  • Elliot Francis

    On issues Dr. West is spot on. Why should he not feel disrespected? But it is more than that. This President has made it obvious that Black issues are not a priority and jobs are not as important as the salvation of wall street and the banks. do I wish that John McCain had won? Hell no but I am disappointed with President Obama and the way he has taken his Black constituency for granted. Hopefully now that he is seeking reelection, he will again make more promises to “the Blacks” and once again they will believe him. A Rebublican in the White house to make more conservative judicial appointments will mean the death knell for the country and possibly the world.

  • Joseph Kennish

    Dr. Cornel West, thank you for expressing what I have felt about President Obama ever since he surrounded himself with the same individuals who caused the Great Recession of 2008. I voted for him because I was influenced by a corporate media whose sole purpose was getting him elected and that even included PBS. Now that I look back at it all I have come to the realization that President Obama is no different than George W. Bush. The only difference between these two presidents is that fact that Obama has black skin and still has the support of many black people who are just in love with a black presidency. I hope your thoughts and feelings will instill an awareness in some of his supporters that President Obama was one of two candidates pre selected by Wall Street and the Washington Beltway for the sole purpose of protecting their power and wealth at the expense of lower and middle class Americans.

  • herve j brissy….

    Brother Cornel West as always…much respect.A realistic brother ,compassionate,thruthful and so positively right regarding so many issues and topics ,that there is no question about the isolation from so many promesses who were made in 2008.Obama do need this type of criticism to remind him about us,the people ,the voters,the neglected, the poors and the working brothers and sisters who are worried about healthcare ,jobs,the concentration of poverty in our communities.Brother “Cornel”is certainly too harsh on the president ,but my beliefs will prove that our good brother Cornel west articulated skills are relevant and significant.My last words to depict my assumptions will be:”if you attend a circus in town ,you take your children with you and the clown come to perform and noone is laughing , the bells will obviously ring and determine that some changes need to be made.”.That is how we feel.Cornel west spoke about us ,not cause he dislikes the brother but in a sense of emergengy for a”wake-up call”to the leadership.thx …peaceful,thruthful and faithful as always.

  • Shaft

    Dr. Cornel West is a man I admire more than anyone philosopher, not because he is black but because of his concern and constantly raising the uncomfortable truth about our society’s feel toward the poor and working (under earning) group. Ever since I began listening and reading Dr. West’s opinion, the level of my respect has only increased, such a person who is not swayed away from the realities of our world. I am in total agreement with Dr. West as far as poor getting very little attention and specially African Americans getting very little attention in this difficult times.

    However, I am a little uncomfortable to hear Dr. West’s recent direct attack of the President. I can understand of people’s frustrations for not having to see changes we expected to see, I am frustrated for not seeing some of the changes I strongly believe in, but to associate insults in a deep and personal level makes me very uncomfortable, and Dr. West did just that. Although a reminder here and there is necessary to keep the administration in check, but an all out bash on a brother for being the President of the most complex nation like the United States of America is totally unfair.

    I listened to Dr. West express concern to the poor and working man during the previous administration, and never have I heard Dr. West criticize the former president as deeply and personally as he is doing against President Barack Obama. That makes me very uncomfortable and when I saw that article a week ago on a left leaning website, I almost fall of my chair with anger, then I began hopping that it was not Dr. West, not the Dr. West I love listening to speak or reading expressed opinion of. I thought someone may be playing prank on us, pretending to be Dr. West and unleashing this kind of unwarranted uppercut to the chine. Hearing it from Dr. West himself is not giving me anymore comfort at all. I am glad Tavis gave you a chance to explain your way out of the remarks you made, and I am still reeling from a language used to reduce the best African American to such level.

    Facts speak volume, the current economic circumstances do not give the president more space to be as generous to the people hurting economically as many of us would like him to. There are plenty of fires going around the world, everyone is experiencing the crunch, America being the only superpower has to shoulder more of the responsibilities for the well being of the world. Under President Obama’s instruction the most feared “terrorist” was dealt with, under President Obama the economic structure of America and the world at large is being reworked to a standing position. It is true some of the major financial institutions that created the mess have been made whole, and the people at the bottom have been dealt with the consequences, but things are getting corrected. There are several things being made to fix the problems of America and the world so individuals like you and I have the safety and relative comfort to express our opinion on the situation at hand. In conclusion, Dr. West, cool it off man, the President is doing everything possible to help the people at the lower end, while the other party is breathing on his neck.

  • Jonathan Levy

    Obama has increased the military budget and has hired architects of the economic theft of the biggest banks in his top advisory positions. That’s West’s point: Obama is not representing poor people and, in particular, that means African Americans, who have had the short end of the stick and who looked to Obama as a transformative leader, not one who continues torture, militarism and has the most nefarious corporate forces in his own cabinet.

  • Garner

    It has been said, that a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link. If this is true, why aren’t the powers that be, working hard to uplift the weak, and poor. Or do they not realize, that these people can either make or break a nation. Have the rich and powerful become so self absorbed, that they can’t see how bad most people are feeling around them. No one is smiling any more. Most people have a deadpan look on their face. No one seems to be happy around us.

  • Michelle S. Hawkins

    Cornel West for Sale! The only question is who is writing the check? I was down front when he came to Arizona. He didn’t meet with a single black group or any of the organizations that represent Blacks and the poor. He didn’t have a clue as to what the issues are here in Arizona. How nasty and disrespectfully the Mexicans are to Blacks here in Arizona. Now he wants to position himself as “The Spokesperson” for Black people. He does not represent me or speak for me. He should return to the “Ivory Tower” where he’s been hiding all these years. He doesn’t have a clue as to what the interests of the everyday Black middle class and poor are. His criticisms of President Obama are mean spirited and petty.

    Again, the question is whose signature is on the checks?

  • Phyllis

    Dr. West raised some interesting comments about President Obama in regards to Corporate America. However, in regards to the poor and working class of America. Why is he not teaching at a Historical Black College and University? This question has always plague me!!! Prior to teaching at Princeton where he is now, he taught at Harvard as well as Yale. Does Dr. West attend various black community organization events in his area? Does he participate in such black community events anywhere. He mentioned Father Pflager and the type of work he does in the black community. Father Pflager is a white priest whose parrish is in an all black community on the southside of Chicago. He is cleaning up the area. He constantly works on improving his black community and the people in the community are the poor and working class. He has stopped the sell of alchol to minors in his community. Dr. West have you done anything like that? I really would like to know!! Whenever I see Dr. West it is in the format of a panel. Where he is brought in to give comment. Anybody can give comment. Are you out there helping the poor and working class yourself or are you just giving comment? Sometimes, talk is cheap!!

  • MarieIsenburg

    There needs to be some agreement on terms of discussion. Labeling and criticizing a person’s background don’t conform to mine. We can disagree on principle. Psychological assessments are of much less value, if not completely off the mark.

    I can’t back personal attacks, wherever they come from. I’ve come too close to that myself lately, and have reaffirmed my resolve not to engage in that kind of thinking. The trick is determining the line where private actions affect public position. That can be debated. I refuse to debate a person’s legitimacy based on race or upbringing. I can only hope that many others see things that way.

    Thanks you.

  • Gary Anderson

    Brother, Dr. Cornel West at his best and speaking truth to power. Like it or not… right is right regardless as to who says it! As he has said before as it relates to our President..We should Respect, Protect, and CORRECT him when necessary.
    These are issues the President needs to be taken to task on…Don’t let others frame the issue for you and then tell you what is means AND how you should feel about it. These were not “personal slights against the President only serious critiques and observations.
    Admittedly, I am disheartened by the President’s stance on a number of issues but, I have not thrown in the towel and he is definitely better than the alternative! Kudos to Dr. West and Tavis!

  • Jean-Baptiste Telie

    Dr West is mostly right in my humble opinion. Barack is not doing anything but just pleasing the WEALTHY and the multiple Big corporations that have always run, ruled the whole planet. At least with the GOOD OLD BOYS we knew what to expect. So, you know Barack from all people just backed the French in destroying an African country ( Ivory Coast )… France is the only country on this Planet to still have military bases in Africa, just so they can manipulate every other country on that continent. Barack came out on Youtube to tell the biggest LIE of the century, just to please the OIL companies… Talk about a “brothers keeper”. Barack is the President of USA for himself, he is by no mean Dr KING!!!

  • TSG 3000

    The president has too much on his plate!
    As a Black Man, ( I don’t go for that African American PC crap), I know that we have to be better to get the same in this society. Obama is the best president yet, but he’s inherrited the worst situation ever. As a result, he hasn’t been afforded the time needed to address OUR issues in America. Not one improvement to our education system. Not one improvement to the systematic system of hunting and gathering of young Black Men for the organized slavery system that is the privatized prison industry. We are disproportionately imprisoned, and cast to the wayside. Issues that NEED to be addressed, and more importantly, corrected. Unfortunately, He hasn’t given me a clue he’s aware of the situation, much less willing to do something about it. As a Black Man, he should have by now, but he, as those in office before him, is just a tool. True power lies behind the throne, and is not subject to being replaced every 4 years.

  • Dr. Blynd

    OK, here’s the lick. Dr. West provides a level of analysis that few wrapped in one person have, e.g., the intellectual acumen, historical perspective, social context, academic rigor, economic insight, progressive passion, cultural authenticity, and psychological analyses. Dr. West serves up the problems and perils of supporting phantom wealth generated by “Gangbanking” on Wall Street while neglecting the real-life calamities of mass incarceration of victimless crimes (disproportionately Black), unemployment, and underemployment, which a monetary system based on “monetized debt” all under a broader system of monopoly capitalism effectuates. The personal digs at Barack Obama with respect to his actions or inactions as it were on behalf of the exploited class, although on point, serve as sizzle to get the necessary attention. Had he simply provided dispassionate commentary on Barack or his actions as President, his comments would have gone under-noticed and ho-hummed into the yawn of the media black hole of marginalized critique. Dr. West speaks to classism and the inability of seemingly anyone to understand, much less do, anything to undermine its grip on the collective consciousness of society. We need more intellectuals who are activists, those who fail to succumb to “academentia” (i.e., mis-educating oneself right out of his or her own innate intelligence and socio-cultural roots—having selective amnesia about the plight of the underserved in America and around the globe). In my opinion, Dr. West is about the closest thing we have to a combined intellectual, moral and historical sensibility reminiscent of both Malcolm X and Dr. King. I am not an acolyte of Dr. West, but I do admire the man, his passion and the position he takes by taking people (in whatever capacities they serve while not serving those who put them there) to task. The other ancillary personal counter-attacks on Dr. Wests’ comments about the President are simply tactics of mass-distraction by hater-baiting anti-intellectuals and “status quoticians” of all stripes. (Look up words in “quotes” in the FUNKTIONARY). We need to wake up and become more mature as compassionate adults in a world going to hell in a hand basket. Don’t attack the messenger, listen to the issues raised by the observer about the one carrying the hand basket for those who have told him where to go with it. Moreover, racism is an institutionalized systemic power differential. Those who have no systemic power over another group of people cannot be racists. Sure, they can be prejudiced and/or biased but racist, no. Understand the difference. The only change we have seen lately is the one that’s in a baby’s diaper. It reeks of stinky corruption and unchecked greed in the face of widespread poverty and unmet needs. Change needs a changing too.

  • Jorge Noa

    Although I have watched your show for years this is the first time I felt I needed to respond to a guests comments. I respect Dr West but I strongly disagree with his comments about President Obama. Saying that he is culturally white is just as racist as the people who insist he was not born in the US.

    The President is not perfect, he is a man but I feel he has a responsibility to ALL Americans, not African Americans or Latino Americans etc. I want the best people working with him in the White House and there should not be a racial litmus test. Isn’t that what we’ve all been asking for since the civil rights movement.

    Dr West has been in the academic world for too long. There is opportunity in this country like no where else on the planet and the President is setting a great example for our children of that. If we are now going to go after him and diminish his “blackness” because he doesn’t fit our mold on every point then we are behaving just as bigoted as the people back in the 50’s and 60’s.

  • Serge Nyambo

    Out of USofA

    As a black European man, I visited the USA 2 months before Barack Obama was elected, talked to close friends and concluded that I would celebrate in “sobriety” if this man becomes the POTUS. It happened. What’s happening now will not remove memories of the election night.

    Outside America, the foreign policy is turning cahotic for the commander-in-chief. We see from here that Irak and Afghan wars are still raging, Gitmo is not closer to any closing.


    Africans are more puzzled by Obama than Bush: in Rwanda, under GW Bush terms in office, Malaria and AIDS were fought vehemently and results are taking momentum inside the historic chapter the Great Lakes Region are signing. Is Kenya doing any better? Did Barack stop French troops shell the Presidential Palace in Ivory Coast to impose the chosen candidate ointed by the West? No, he sent congs to Sarkozy and together, they are hijacking the Arab Spring’s revolutionary storm playing desert fox games in Libya. Not long ago, they were in bed with Ghaddafi, from Paris to NYC through London. Now that their absence was clear in Cairo and Tunis, they are preaching the sweet word in Benghazi, digging deeper the grave an non-organized rebellion seems to digg for itself with French mercenaries, “Security Consultants”, while Sarkozy hopes to look taller than De Gaulle in the 2012 elections: I have kicked Ghaddafi out! High five Barack!

    Yes, Barack Obama is a great inspiration for us but amateurism in Foreign Policy is not allowed for his position. Sadly, he’ll be the Black President of the USA who will have hit harder the African continent than all previous ones.

    Yet, he needs time. And time will tell. For Dr West free course, I love you Tavis.

  • Ernest J. Mims, Sr.

    I think that somebody needs to keep the business of poor folks needing help, afloat. Mr. West if anything, is keeping the issue above water. Brother Obama is Presidnt of the United States and what better place is there to take the issue. The peripheral talk – West’s analysis of the president, labels used, etc. – personally I could care less about. If Mr. Obama has a problem with what Dr. West is saying, let the two of “them” deal with it. Obama is a big boy and can take care of himself. My concern is about the poor folks. . . Peace “E”

  • isaiah

    dr. west said before the election that if obama got elected he(west) will breakdance and the next day he would start criticizing him. in this respect dr. west was accurate in his prescience, he supported him knowing that he was the better choice but with flaws that could be pointed out and may be mitigated with constructive criticism. however, with all his achievement, and they are profound, obama has attempted to satisfy both sides of his base without alienating the fragile side- the big donors, wall street and some white voters. for example, he has kept a safe distance between himself and the activist progressives that staunchly supported him, knowing that this block is safely in his camp while moving closer to those that might jump ship if he otherwise embraced the “radicals”.
    that explains his allegiance to the establishment coterie and the lukewarm support for the underclass. dr. west is right albeit the vehemency of his criticism is either hyperbole or a little premature given that obama expects to be a 2 term president. obama has shown that he can take big risks in the past. how about his decision to take on the middle east peace process with language he knew will engender attacks. at the right time i hope he will stop his rope-a-dope retreat to confront issues of the underprivileged more than he has. but in order to do that he needs to stay in office with all the support he can garner.

  • GConyers

    I don’t agree with the negative remarks toward the President from Professor West. The President had lots of urgent issues to deal with when he took office. They have mounted from years of previous presidencies and cannot be resolved in a short amount of time. Despite the fact that democrats had the majority, realistically massive changes could not take place in 2 years. I hope and believe the President is prioritizing the most critical & urgent issues at hand and addressing them. Change is slow, but I do believe we are seeing change. I too, am frustrated with low unemployment, housing crisis, wallstreet, health-care, high gas prices, & the list goes on. I do not think attacking the President is the right approach to positve change. I agree that Professor West should have gotten tickets for all the positive work he did on behalf of the President. But I ask, had he known that he would not get tickets, would his message of support have been different? I believe part of the problem is that EVERYBODY has their own agenda and until we get ourselves out of the way and truly look at how we can better our country regardless, do it- whether we get credit our not, we will have little change. Professor West – take the high road. I’m sorry you did not get tickets. Shame on whoever blocked you. Mr. President, don’t pass on opportunities to right the wrongs of the past. Much time and opportunities have been lost. Lots of people are depending on you to do the right thing, to make the best decisions, and to be the best leader you can be. I am one of them.

  • lwatson

    President Obama is trying to balance one of the greatest challenges of our time and in my opinion doing a reasonable job considering he had no play book to work from, while Dr. West is a man I truly respect in terms of his passion and intellect, and it was inevitable that these too figures would be at odds. I am glad that Dr. West called President Obama to task, because Pres. Obama’s mandate if you will – is more than trying to get a second term in my view, it is about taking advantage of an opportunity that we ( the working class ) have never really had before to truly effect change and not just give it lip-service.

    I always questioned why Rahm Emanuel was Chief of Staff – he was obviously just a choice as pay back for his brother’s campaign financial support. He was ineffective and over-rated and left as soon as he could to become what ? The mayor of Chicago ? Makes no sense to me, a waste of time and that position should have been manned by a person who really understood what President Obama mandate is really all about. And yes I know I could have done a better job of it.

    I see Dr. West’s statements as a simple reminder of the very fact – that one should not forget where you came, even though President Obama never really “came from “ – he is a symbolic figure of the working class and should be doing more, as Dr. West states to help them.

  • Jason

    Criticism of the POTUS is fine and even healthy but Dr West’s rants are absurd and demean him even more than they do their target. And to call him head of the American “killing machine”…it’s called Commander and Chief. I’m sorry in this life we will not all sit cross legged quoting MLK and Ghandi, somebody had to be willing to kill–fight for our freedoms– so West can.

  • FizzyTea

    Dr. West speaks from his heart and has never failed to practice loving kindness in all that he does and says. While reading this transcript I felt his thoughts, words, and intent mirrored how I have felt since Obama delivered his inaugural address. I worked hard for his Organizing for America campaign and was an Obama delegate. I have written to him several times since to express how disappointed I was with appointments like Summers (millionaire hedge fund trader and Wall Street adulator), R Emanuel (self-serving millionaire politico), Geitner (Summers’ protege), Gates (mastermind of intrigue and subterfuge by the U S in Central America) and with his policy reversals (ongoing wars in Iraq & Afghanistan, milquetoast approach to financial regulatory oversight and banking reform, creating an even more bloated defense budget at the expense of our nation’s infrastructure, smoke and mirrors treatment of the BP caused Gulf Oil Spill disaster, promotion of nuclear power, and on and on). BRAVO, Dr. West for your candor, integrity, and loving kindness!

  • Thomas J Lewis

    Very sad. We don’t need Hannity and other Obama bashers, we have West. Please let the President serve, crituqe his when he finish serving. Please, get rid of the “brother” talk “Brother” West. The entire energy put into this bashing appears a wee bit personal. You really cannot “brake dance.” It is about you.

  • D

    Interesting discussion, But lets be clear on something, its obvious Cornell has some resentment with how Obama snubbed him unfairly for the Inauguration ( The where were u when it happen type of thing u dont forget). It’s not humanly possible to have no residue of ill will to the President of the united states. What gets to me is how Cornell has used the poor and sick to justify the remarks he made about Obama. Its the whole not black enough thing from the campaign, and Cornell wanted to place some jabs, even though it was false. Obama chose to live and develop a life for him self in the black area of Chicago. Regardless of who he chooses in his cabinet black or white doesn’t matter to who he felt is best suited. There were so many wholes in his argument its sad he used the umbrella of poor working people even though conditions relating to the economy and tough opposition wasn’t going to allow him to hyper focus on anything other then the middle class. Cornel knows that.

  • Helen Harris

    Thank God for you Mr. West, like the person above said you are right on the spot. Your voice is here for the less fortunates, weak and sad people, and poor people who can’t speak out to be heard. For that I’m especially proud and pray that God will keep you strong and always give you the right words for all those who can’t or don’t know how to put it out. The bold speakes you have made and are making I hank God for you, you are so few these days. I pray God’s blessings on you continually. Helen Harris

  • craig L.

    I thank God for you Dr.Cornell West! Finally God has sent us Another strong committed to the cause of hurting people leader, like Dr. Martin luther King, thats not afraid to speak the truth, even if it means being criticized and rejected by those who do not want to hear the al sharpton and steve harvey and others who have criticized Dr. West. Dr. West you are the real deal! Everything you said about Obama is the absolutel truth. He needed to be called to the carpet by somebody in our race, because if someone white would have done it blacks when then holler their a racist.Not saying white racists do not exist because they do,But I thank God for the courage of Dr. West for exposing Obamas lack of addressing the poverty issue in the black community.

Last modified: June 13, 2011 at 5:19 pm