Remembering When Obama And Lobbyist David Plouffe Used Al Sharpton To Quiet Accountability Questions In Black America

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Written by Ann Brown
Obama accountability
Remembering When Obama And Lobbyist David Plouffe Used Al Sharpton To Quiet Accountability Questions In Black America Photo: Senior advisers David Plouffe walks across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington as they accompany President Barack Obama to Chicago, Thursday, April 14, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) The Rev. Al Sharpton speaks during a funeral service for George Floyd at The Fountain of Praise church Tuesday, June 9, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, Pool) President Barack Obama arrives to speak at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) convention in Washington, Sunday, May 22, 2011, after a contentious couple of days this week when he clashed publicly with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over ideas for a permanent Palestinian state. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Reparations is an issue that isn’t going away and Black America is looking to see what — if any — moves President-elect Joe Biden will be making.

The Black community had high hopes when President Barack Obama was in the White House, but Obama didn’t come through on reparations or any other significant measures to help close the racial wealth gap, critics say. Obama didn’t support reparations either before or after he took office. When pushed to act, Obama used Black community activist Al Sharpton to quiet accountability questions, according to some observers. Former lobbyist David Plouffe worked closely with Sharpton.

Plouffe was an outside senior advisor to Obama from Obama’s first day in office and was later appointed as a senior advisor to the president inside the White House in 2011.

A Wall Street Journal report covered Sharpton and Obama’s odd partnership — odd because Obama often turned the tables on Black leaders. When faced with questions of accountability, Obama would hold the Black leaders accountable instead. In fact, Obama once told Black leaders to “stop complaining” during a 2011 Congressional Black Caucus annual dinner. Many felt insulted by Obama’s tone. The speech was given at a time when Black people were asking when Obama would help them.

The address came as Obama’s relationship with blacks is enduring unprecedented tension,” Time reported in 2011. “Polls show that Blacks’ support for the President is cooling, as is the rest of the electorate’s, in part because of economic malaise.”

During his CBC speech, Obama tried to tout his successes such as the $1,000 child tax credits and the jobs bill he had proposed to Congress. However, he was unable to say he had done anything to stop the high Black unemployment rate that had reached 16.7 percent — its highest level in nearly 30 years. 

“I know how much we have invested in making sure that we’re able to move this country forward…More than a lot of other folks in this country, we know about hard,” he said. “The people in this room know about hard.”

Obama ended the speech by chastising the audience. “Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying,” he said. A standing ovation was also accompanied by gasps, Time reported. 

Meanwhile, Obama was cozying up to Sharpton to quiet accountability questions. So much so that former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani complained that Sharpton had been invited to the White House up to 85 times. 

“I think you missed one very important point. He has had Al Sharpton to the White House 80, 85 times…You make Al Sharpton a close adviser, you are going to turn the police in America against you,” Giuliani said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” on Dec. 28, 2014.

Giuliani overstated the number of visits, but not by much. Fact checking by the The Washington Post found that of the “82 visits logged for Sharpton, there were 10 entries that either appear to be duplicates, or are canceled appointments.” Still, there were at least 72 instances since Obama took office where Sharpton visited the White House for official business.

“Sharpton’s first recorded visit was on May 6, 2009, for a meeting on education at the Oval Office with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former House speaker Newt Gingrich. The vast majority of the meetings did not list a specific purpose, including ones scheduled with White House staff members. There were a handful of meetings scheduled with Valerie Jarrett, a White House senior adviser who is a main point of contact between Sharpton and the White House,” The Post reported.

There were also a number of meetings between Sharpton and Obama. One meeting was marked as scheduled with the president and about 50 meetings list “POTUS” as the visitee.

“Since Obama’s first term, Sharpton has become an unexpected ally of the White House on race relations”, The Post reported. “Obama has been criticized by supporters who believe he has not taken a hard enough stance on race relations. Sharpton, by contrast, has built his career doing the opposite as an outspoken civil-rights activist. Yet Obama and Sharpton have shared a stage publicly, and Sharpton has met with members of Obama’s administration privately over the years.”

Giuliani wasn’t alone in noticing the Obama-Sharpton connection. Politico described Sharpton as Obama’s “go-to man on race” and the Wall Street Journal wrote about the partnership in an article entitled “Obama’s New Partner: Al Sharpton” in 2010. 

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 73: Jamarlin Martin Jamarlin makes the case for why this is a multi-factor rebellion vs. just protests about George Floyd. He discusses the Democratic Party’s sneaky relationship with the police in cities and states under Dem control, and why Joe Biden is a cop and the Steve Jobs of mass incarceration.

As more questions arose about Obama’s lack of economic policies addressing the Black community, Sharpton emerged as an important part of the White House response, WSJ reported. “On his national radio program, he is directly rebutting the president’s critics, arguing that Obama is right to craft policies aimed at lifting all Americans rather than specifically targeting Blacks.”