One understated goal of President Obama -- creating a new, more moderate, reform-minded paradigm of black politics -- has been undermined by the Congressional Black Caucus.
Rev. Jesse Jackson -- in his runs for president in the 1980s -- was not merely seen as "the black candidate", but also the candidate of the far left. And explicitly so. In earlier years, he was also the individual seen flying to Syria to rescue captured American pilot Robert Goodman -- a nice gesture, yes, but also not necessarily conforming to US policy.
In later years, Jackson came to be seen as something of a corporate "shakedown artist" where he would descend upon companies accused of some racist indiscretion and "solve" the problem -- usually by entering into some beneficial economic arrangement with said company.
As a presidential candidate, Obama, a left-leaning Democrat, presented himself as mainstream and refused to push the racial victim card -- and emphasized a more optimistic, even patriotic, view of America. Even his recent world trip -- problematic in certain ways -- had a sense of America with a hand open in partnership with the free world.
Now comes the Congressional Black Caucus. Of course, the organization's name is becoming increasingly antiquated given that America has elected a black/biracial/first-generation/half-African president. But worse, a CBC group decides to schlep over to Cuba to hang with Fidel and Raul Castro. Of course, they fall over themselves in Michael Moore fashion to praise the Castro brothers -- and preempt the president's own plans to try to develop a new policy to the Cuban regime:
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA): Fidel Castro was "very engaging and very energetic."
Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA) said she got the sense "[Fidel Castro] really wants President Obama to succeed" in his foreign policy goals. "He sincerely wants an opportunity, I think, in his lifetime to see a change in America." She added, Castro "looked directly into our eyes" and asked, "How can we help President Obama?"
Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL): Raul Castro is “just the opposite of how he’s being portrayed in the media… I think what really surprised me but also endeared to him was his keen sense of humor, his sense of history and his basic human qualities."
Rightly so, American opponents of the Communist regime jumped on the visit -- precisely because the CBC showed no interest in meeting with reform-minded Cubans:
"Regardless of one's position on US Cuba policy, one would expect that any US official or Member of Congress visiting Cuba would have the courage to meet with members of Cuba's struggling independent civil society and raise concerns about the regime's systematic violation of human rights with Cuban officials," Florida Sen. Mel Martinez said in a statement issued Wednesday.
Worse, there is the question of whether a member of the trip declared that the U.S. was still "racist":
In a statement released by the Cuban government, Fidel Castro praised the seven Democratic congressional delegates and alleges that one member said that despite President Obama's electoral victory, "America continues to be racist." The former Cuban president would not disclose the name of the delegate who allegedly made such statement.
[Missouri Rep. Emanuel] Cleaver denied such a comment was ever made at a news conference following the delegation's return Tuesday night.
"That did not happen," Cleaver said
Rep. Barbara Lee, chairwoman of the CBC who led the delegation to Cuba, said she did "not have any comment with regard to that. I am not privy to anyone saying that in any meaning. I don't remember that."
Well, there you go: One of two things happened. 1) An American member of Congress tells a foreign leader (of a regime unfriendly to the United States) that their country remains "racist"; or 2) several members of that same trip had only praise for that same foreign leader -- who would turn around and lie about what one member of the trip said. Given Rep. Lee's wishy-washy response, sadly, one is more inclined to believe Castro's version of events.
Either way, the members of the CBC have managed to embarrass themselves, their fellow House Democrats, their president -- and, yes, the African American community they purport to represent.
They should be ashamed.
African-American writer Robert A. George lives in New York and blogs at Ragged Thots.