Thursday, July 10, 2008

Don't forget me, Jesse Jackson says

"I am a champion of this cause" and don't you dare forget it.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, in an interview with CNN just a few minutes ago, said he was a leading voice in the civil rights struggle years before presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, and the world should not forget it.

Answering questions early this afternoon despite feeling tired, Jackson said he was sorry for comments he made to a FOX news reporter yesterday and is really sorry for his language picked up by a live microphone. He had been upset by a Father's Day speech by Obama that talked about the responsibility of African-American men to be fathers to their children.

After his apology for his comments, for which has has been criticized widely, including by his son, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois, he said Obama is being benefited by a civil rights fight that has been waged for decades by many leaders, including and the especially the elder Jackson.

He obviously felt he was not given credit for the work he had done over the decades with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and others. He implied he was the leader after King's assassination in 1968.

It was hard to determine whether he said he was a champion of the civil right fight or if he said he was the champion. CNN had not published a transcript early this afternoon.

He talked about how he won several states in past Democratic presidential contests with "just $17 million," rather than the mega-war chest enjoyed by Obama.

It was clear Jackson felt left out. He felt marginalized. He was not getting his proper credit for his work in what he called the struggle that was highlighted by the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kan., in 1954. He talked about 20 years of progress that he said he said he was instrumental in getting for African-Americans.

He was obviously upset by what he felt was Obama's position. I'm sure he felt the first black presidential candidate of a major party was standing on the shoulders of the early civil rights fighters, led by himself after King's death. He was saying that he was the champ and don't you ever, ever forget it. He wanted the credit he said he deserved.

In that, he was right. If not for the work of people like him, Obama's run would be a sideshow at best. But, and this is a giant but, he is taking the spotlight off Obama, where it belongs, and wanted a big part of it to be on him. In that, he is wrong.

He reminds me of Ralph Nader, who did great things in the 1960s, but is now a footnote. Nader is running for president again, even though the only thing he has a chance of doing is gaining the White House for the GOP, the way he did in 2000.

Jackson's rap hasn't changed much, either. He talked about the economy and how that has impacted minorities, mainly men. He still asks how could men be expected to be fathers to their children when they don't have jobs and opportunities?

Obama seems to say that's sophistry, and he is right. If you can't support children, you should not father them. There is no excuse for men who father children, go on their way and expect the rest of us, the government, to support them, feed them, clothe and educate them.

Obama has figured that out. It seems Jesse Jackson hasn't.

Until he does, Jackson's place is on the sidelines, along with Ralph Nader and the rest.

Until next time...

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