You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry


A lot of people are angry at Obama for not getting angry about the Gulf oil spill. Charles Blow at the NYT wrote a really dumb column about it. Joan Walsh at Salon wrote a really good column about it:

On MSNBC Friday morning I watched former Rep. David Bonior, last seen peddling John Edwards to Democrats, complain about Obama’s cool. “He’s got to get emotional.”


We’re a silly people sometimes. Let me amend that: Our Beltway opinion makers, the folks the great Digby named “the Villagers,” are a silly people. They want our president to be our daddy. They need Daddy to emote, to be a SNAP — a sensitive new age president. But also an angry, avenging daddy.

James Carville illustrated the Village freak-out over Obama’s non-freak-out about as well as anyone possibly could:


But despite the ocean of pixels expended on the topic of Obama’s emotional tepidity, I think just about everyone is missing a key point, something our own Oblomova astutely pointed out during a previous firestorm over Obama’s lack of fire: It’s a risky thing for a black dude to show anger.

There’s a reason wingnut blogs and media outlets illustrate pieces on Obama with pictures like this…


…instead of pictures like this:


Consciously or unconsciously, they’re invoking this:


Now, when Carville and the other Democrats who are angrily demanding that Obama get angry remember an emotional president, they may be thinking of this:


But if Obama followed their advice, his detractors on the fringe right (and that’s about the only right, um, left) would see this:


Obama is smart enough to know this, of course. I don’t know if he consciously avoids expressing anger in public because of it. I suspect he’s just a cool customer by nature. Regardless, I hope he continues to ignore the demands for righteous anger with a studious calm.

Posted by Betty Cracker on 05/29/10 at 11:28 AM • Permalink

Categories: ImagesNewsPoliticsBarack ObamaOur Stupid Media

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Obama is smart enough to know this, of course. I don’t know if he consciously avoids expressing anger in public because of it.

Trust me when I say large, physically intimidating black men are taught from a very early age in our society to not show anger.

I am especially amused/angered by the way the right, aided by Our Dumb Media, keeps trying to say that this is “Obama’s Katrina.” Um, okay, a few things:

1) Obama didn’t put a political crony/Arabian horsie guy in charge of FEMA and then say “Heckuva job” when it was clear that Horsie Man knew nothing—not even that CNN, et al, had been reporting that people were in the convention center a full day before Horsie Man claimed to know about their presence there and the distress they were in. (As Wonkette pungently put it at the time, “Dude, Harry Connick Jr. was at the convention center yesterday—and he’s a pussy.” I disagree about that assessment of Mr. Connick, but it’s funny and makes the point, so whatever.)

2) Obama didn’t go to a birthday party rather than issue a statement about the oil leak.

3) Obama has, in fact, done what reasonable people can expect him to do—put a moratorium on deepwater drilling, for example.

4) If you’re in a plane that has just crashed on landing, let’s say—and you’re trying to find your way to an exit before burning to death—who are you going to listen to? The flight attendant who is screaming “Why, God? WHY!!! I am so ANGRY and SCARED!!!! Scream along with me!” Or are you going to gravitate to the attendant who says “Yo, over here to your left there’s a safe exit, keep low, put something over your face so you don’t breathe in fumes” or whatever?*

*Note: I have never actually been trained in what flight attendants do in that situation. But that shouldn’t disqualify me from spinning out a scenario, since pretty much everybody and their third cousin in the media and punditry set is now a certified petroleum engineer and OBLAHBLAH WON’T LISTEN TO THEM!!!

I’m going to go out on a limb here and ask the real basic question; what good does an emotional president get us?

I mean, seriously. Name one person you know of that makes better decisions when they are overcome with emotion. Just one. The truth is, when you get engulfed in fear, or anger, or anxiety, you start making rash decisions that are more often than not counterproductive.

It’s like people really believe that if the President glares at the oil, it will magically disappear. Just like they believe that if the Fed took over the oil spill, it would magically create this piece of equipment specifically designed to plug up catastrophic oil leaks a mile below the surface of the ocean.

And this is the fault of the so called village. Reporters want narratives because narratives sell, and because with a narrative you can take one story and stretch it out to dozens, all with cute speculative little titles like, “Is the Oil Spill Obama’s Katrina?” and so on and so forth. And the whole time, the only thing that is really going on is that something catastrophic has happened, everyone feels scared and angry and frustrated and helpless, and for as long as this continues, people are going to continue to feel that way REGARDLESS of the level of competence of the organizations engaged in the remedial actions.

Even if Obama were to dodge the angry black man stereotype (which, you’re right,he wouldn’t) it STILL wouldn’t dispel all the feelings everyone has right now. Nothing will outside of stopping the leak permanently and then aggressively engaging in clean up efforts. The best way for the president to do that is to not go all HULK SMASH, but to keep his cool and continue to ensure things progress in as effective and efficient manner as possible.

I remember when Shelby Steele was on Bill Moyers Journal.  His point was that black men in political life tend to be either bargainers or challengers.  Oprah, Obama are examples of bargainers.  Malcolm X, Jessie Jackson are challengers.

Bargainers have a substantially easier time of getting elected, so Shelby Steele pointed out. At the same time they earn the wrath of the challengers.

I always felt that it was inexact to say that Bill Clinton injected race in the 2008 campaign when he elided Obama and Jessie Jackson.  It would be more precise to say that he was linking Obama to a well-known challenger, in Steele’s terminology.

Or, as Kyle put it, the suggestion was that Obama = HULK SMASH

I can’t count how many times I heard Obama described as an “angry black man” during the 2008 campaign.  Now they’re complaining he isn’t angry enough.  Truly amazing.

I suspect he’s just a cool customer by nature.

This. (And trust me, he knows that no matter what he does, some asshole is going to get the vapors about it.) No Drama Obama wasn’t a catch-phrase, it was a very accurate label. He’s just naturally reserved.

Now, call me crazy, but I think this is an essential trait in the leader of the most powerful country in the world. The Villagers hate it because there’s very little that separates them from gossip columnists and it would make their lives so much easier if they could spend all their time writing about the president’s latest “outburst” or “break down.”

Years ago, when I was in journalism school at the University of Missouri, Jesse Jackson gave a talk. It was during the 1984 primaries. He said something about how “Every time you pick up Time or Newsweek, you see Gary Hart—pondering a new idea. Or Walter Mondale—pondering an old idea. Or you see Jesse”—at which point he changed from guy-with-chin-on-fist-looking-thoughtful to Angry Black Man With Fists in Air.

And of course that was the moment that all the photojournalists began clicking away, proving his point.

as a blakkityblakkity blak woman, I can’t tell the amount of times I’ve been disciplined by higher ups for a joke, a grumpy face, voicing displeasure, etc. I watch my not quite so brown compatriots with bemusement. Many say, do & act in ways I find-shall we say, not quite so nice-yet they are not the discipline problem, I am. If you survive, you learn to keep a very controlled face on as much as possible. This new media meme gets on my nerve.

Well, Republicans sure didn’t like it when Obama got all up in their face—according to them—at the little private meeting last week.

In fact, one of them suggested that he needed to take some Valium and relax.

It’s really hard to understand how they get elected for anything.

I think I made this point earlier here, but the time America really decided that Obama was “presidential” was when he wasn’t running around like a panicky lunatic (*cough* McCain *cough*) in reaction to the news about the impending financial crisis.

I guess America (and the media) got too used to the can’t-walk-and-chew-gum-at-the-same-time style of Dubya because clearly they’ve forgotten one of the reasons we elected Obama is that we thought he was a smart dude who could multitask well and not bug out when faced with many crises.

Mr. Gimme says as well that he was taught from an early age not to be aggressive or show anger.  He says his mother’s voice rings in his ears to this day every time he feels his ire go up in a room full of white people.

Obama’s grandmother expressed fear of black men to him while he was still a child.  That and the example of other African Americans around him more than likely has a lot to do with his public persona.

Those of you that have read Game Change know that while he’s slow to boil, he does get there - but privately.

Obama also reputedly developed cool on the basketball court, where it’s apparently common to needle opponents with offensive remarks to put them off their game.

Didn’t seem to work for a certain other one-time half-time basketball wannabe.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and ask the real basic question; what good does an emotional president get us?

Absolutely none, and it doesn’t have fuck-all to do with why these people are criticizing Obama. They hate his ass—and even if he were as warm and empathetic as Morgan Freeman in Driving Miss Daisy, they’d accuse him of faking it. HE CAN’T WIN. That’s why I honestly hope he attends his next press conference in tortoise-shell glasses and a bow-tie, flanked by unsmiling linebackers wearing wraparound shades. YOU WANT A BLACK MAN WHO LOOKS LIKE HE’S IN COMMAND, BITCHES? WELL, SAY HELLO TO OBAM-RA MUSTAPHA, GRAND HIGH EPOPT OF THE UNITED STATES OF RIGHTEOUS NEW-JACK BLOW-BACK.

Knowing that Zandar is reading this shit, I die a little inside every time we have to run a thread analyzing where, exactly, on the Lilies of the Field/Mr. Tibbs Continuum Barack Obama needs to come down in order to present a suitably non-superiority-threatening mixture of intelligence, authority, resolve and passion that Wingnuts, Teabaggers and PUMAs (but I repeat myself) will be able to respect without simultaneously shitting their pants and dialing 911.

I am most grateful to Betty—and also deeply humiliated—that she has been able to demonstrate what even liberal whites refuse to admit to themselves: As of 2010, the average white person’s entire mental inventory of Black Character Types can still be reduced to a pack of a dozen Flash Cards, seven of which are either ‘30s comedians or ‘60s radicals, plus one who played jazz and one who invented peanut butter.

Obama would get my vote (again) simply for not being a hysterical ass about this, projecting calm, ignoring criticism and quietly acclimating the American public to the notion that we are in “Apollo 13” territory here. Any moron in a cowboy hat could spout feel-good nonsense about American Exceptionalism and Problem-Solving Stick-to-It-Iveness. I prefer someone with the honesty and clarity to acknowledge the hard realities of the situation, rather than insult me with insipid bromides.

Trust me when I say large, physically intimidating black men are taught from a very early age in our society to not show anger.

As a 6’8” 250lb black man I’m gonna have to go ahead and co-sign that Zandar.  I still don’t ever turn up the opportunity to make sure an old white lady or two see me lock my door as I see them walk by my car in a parking lot.

I speak softly, I’d rather have them say “huh?”, than get the wrong idea.

I keep hearing that this is “Obama’s Katrina” which in and of itself is a truly stupid stupid meme.  Bush had a good weeks notice that Katrina was going to happen.  While he did not know (like many) exactly where it was going to happen, he and his administration knew it was going to happen in advance.  The Mayor and the Governor knew it was going to happen.  Everyone knew it was going to happen.  What resulted when it did happen was the most incompetent reaction to a crisis that I have ever seen despite the fact that every city, county, state and country has plans which they can implement in the event of a hurricane.  They have training weekends to test out the plans, they plot scenarios, they KNOW what they are supposed to do.  I remember posting on a blog that night “alot of people are going to die tonight, it is very sad”.  I was right. 

There was absolutely no notice whatsoever that this oil rig was going to explode and collapse.  None.  The company operating the rig had absolutely no contingency plans. None.  The oil industry had no contingency plans.  None.

To compare this to Katrina is buffoonery at its finest.

@Zandar & Manamongst Hussein—White people, when they code “danger” from incoming sensory stimuli, walk faster, inflate like puffer fish and become confused as their airways constrict and their brains begin to drown in adrenalin.

If it’s any help, I’ve found that the words “It’s OK. I’m not going to kill you” have the same effect as an Epi-Pen on an individual suffering from anaphylactic shock.

Other fear-quelling catch-phrases include “Jesus, have you seen the DOW today?” and “Pardon me. Where can I find the Havarti cheese?”

Actually, AltHippo, it was Geraldine Ferraro who linked Obama to Jackson. I had too many arguments throughout 2008 with people who refused to admit that there might possibly be the least amount of racism involved there to forget whom the guilty party was.

Excellent post & commentary, everybody!  Thanks.

Actually, AltHippo, it was Geraldine Ferraro who linked Obama to Jackson.

I certainly don’t want to get to relitigating anything here, but Clinton’s comments about Obama/Jackson—“Jesse Jackson ... ran a good campaign ...  And Senator Obama’s run a good campaign here ...”—were spun every which way, and here‘s Obama’s take on it, which I think chimes with Althippo’s.

Ferraro’s comments, of course, were pretty unspinnable:

Geraldine Ferraro, the Democrats’ 1984 vice-presidential nominee and a supporter of Hillary Clinton, triggered the latest campaign firestorm yesterday by saying Barack Obama had been successful only because he is black man.

“If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position,” Ms Ferraro, 72, said. She added: “And if he was a woman of any colour he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.”

Geraldine Ferraro single-handedly torpedoed Hillary Clinton’s shot at the Presidency, with what were arguably the dumbest words ever spoken into a camera. I wish the PUMAs would face the fact and move on.

And woo. Reminder to self: do NOT bother reading YouTube comments threads.

Obama is someone who spends alot more time brainstorming than blamestorming.  I like that in a President.

I think a lot of it emanates from everyone’s frustration over the situation - it’s a huge environmental disaster and they can’t seem to figure out how to stop it.  But blaming Obama because he’s not throwing temper tantrums all over the place is just stupid.  The blame should be put square where it belongs on BP and their sub-contractors who cut corners to get the well up and running and had no backup plan in place if things went wrong.  No. Backup. Plan. None.

Trust me when I say large, physically intimidating black men are taught from a very early age in our society to not show anger.

This is what I call the Ambassador Effect.

You have to be the best behaved little kiddie (and teen and adult) because if you speak too loudly or act up or get your clothes dirty, you’re an embarrassment to every single African-American in the country. What the adults don’t tell you - directly anyway - is there is a subset of people who will think you are loud, bad and dirty (and uppity, also) no matter what you do. Eventually you have to learn to say “Fuck it,” and get on with your life.

Yep, BP and the rest of the braintrust involved in this well had no back up plan.  However, they did certify, in writing, as required in order to get the drilling permit, that they could expeditiously and competently handle accidents up to (IIRC) 250,000 gallons per day (much more outflow than is happening now).  I guess they looked at it as standard permit application boilerplate.  I’m looking at it as an ironclad case for stripping the entire group of involved parties of every last dime to clean-up this mess (and really, will it ever be cleaned up?).  Probably seriously over-optimistic on my part though…

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