It's highly strange that at the same time major media reporters and editorialists are "worrying" about whether extremists are going to ruin Republican political fortunes, Saturday's Washington Post played up President Obama's newly mainstream partner -- Al Sharpton. On the front page, reporter Krissah Williams presented a tamer and more cooperative Reverend Al:
Sharpton's relationship with the White House is thriving amid a heated debate over whether black leaders should relate to the president as ally or agitator. Early on, Sharpton chose ally, staying off the campaign trail in 2008, for instance, when Obama sent word that he would be a distraction.
More recently, Sharpton has been among the president's chief defenders against criticism from television host Tavis Smiley that "black folk are catching hell" and that the president should do more to specifically help blacks.
"We need to try to solve our problems and not expect the president to advocate for us," Sharpton said on his radio show. "It is interesting to me that some people don't understand that to try to make the president do certain things will only benefit the right wing, who wants to get the president and us."
Williams plays up several times how Obama cabinet officials spoke at his National Action Network convention and are regular guests on Sharpton's radio talk show. But she doesn't seriously raise the question of how Obama the alleged racial healer could spoil that image quickly by allying with a racial ambulance chaser like Sharpton (recently screaming that Rush Limbaugh shouldn't be allowed to own part of an NFL team.)
Here is the only section of the article that gets anywhere near Sharpton's racially explosive past:
Still, the tie to Sharpton is a gamble for Obama. The president has made clear that he does not want to be perceived as favoring African Americans, and a White House spokesman would not comment about his relationship with Sharpton.
"In the minds of some people, [Sharpton] is always going to be a black man wearing a medallion defending Tawana Brawley," said Andra Gillespie, an Emory University professor who studies politics and race. She was referring to the 1987 case, later dismissed, in which a teenage Brawley accused six white men of raping her.
Sharpton said the decision to give up his hip-hop attire was a natural part of growing older. "I haven't worn a track suit in 20 years," he said. "You have to understand -- I grew and matured in public. Like Nelson Mandela said, you have to have core principles and everything else is a tactic."
Williams and the Post raise Tawana Brawley as something Sharpton's haters never let go -- refusing to acknowledge that Sharpton never apologized for perpetuating a reputation-shredding fraud on innocent men. This is hardly the man who should be dropping Nelson Mandela as someone he's aimed to copy. But Williams reported that he's clinging tightly and obediently to Obama:
Last year, at a large holiday party the first couple threw feting their liberal supporters, Obama singled out Sharpton in his remarks, saying, "I know if I'm doing it right, Reverend Sharpton will be right here to let me know," according to Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree, a friend of the Obamas, who was in attendance.
Smiley said this week that he was "heartened" to hear of Sharpton's "meeting to discuss an accountability agenda." But Sharpton's conference was determinedly not focused on accountability for the White House. He repeatedly told his members, "We're leaving with a plan for what we can do."