Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Racism Fuels Obama Opposition? 'It's Undeniable,' Ex-Aide Says in New Book

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Racism Fuels Obama Opposition? 'It's Undeniable,' Ex-Aide Says in New Book

Article excerpt

Obama aide: Racism fuels opposition to Obama


WASHINGTON - Criticisms of America's first black president, sometimes, come with a wink and a nudge.

A union rep in coal country delivered his in carefully coded language.

"He was supposed to represent both sides," the West Virginia man said in a recent interview, describing his disenchantment with Barack Obama, whom he'd once supported.

What sides was he talking about? The man paused at the question, cast a furtive glance around the room and looked down at the little machine recording the conversation. "You know," he said in a hushed tone, "his mom was as white as you and me."

He completed the thought, with some further pressing. Gun control, climate change, he said -- those are city people's priorities. And city people equals minorities. But gun rights, coal mining -- these are the priorities up in the mountains of Boone County, where the population is 98.4 per cent white.

The White House avoids these conversations like the plague. In a new book, a longtime adviser to Obama explains that he'd consistently change the subject whenever asked about racism toward his boss.

But David Axelrod is a private citizen again and now he'll say it: the two-time Obama campaign aide, ex-White House staffer, and communications guru who coined the slogan, "Yes We Can," says that opposition to the president is partly fuelled by racism.

"The truth is undeniable," he writes in his new memoir, "Believer: My Forty Years in Politics."

"No other president has seen his citizenship openly and persistently questioned. Never before has a president been interrupted in the middle of a national address by a congressman screaming, 'You lie!' Some folks simply refuse to accept the legitimacy of the first black president and are seriously discomforted by the growing diversity of our country."

Axelrod says the president is a calm guy, to a political fault.

He describes Obama as reluctant to play the race card, even in private. During hurricane Katrina, he says he never heard the then-senator entertain the suggestion the Bush administration might be indifferent to the plight of black people.

But there's plenty of criticism of former presidents in the book. Some of it's directed at the Democratic side.

Axelrod accuses Bill Clinton of using racially loaded language against Obama in the 2008 primaries. He says some of that language annoyed the late Ted Kennedy, cementing his decision to endorse Obama.

Clinton brushed off Obama's victory over his wife Hillary in the South Carolina primary. …

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