On Pacifica Radio, Jesse Jackson Rips Obama's America

Naturally, most liberal Democrats are stifling their disappointment with President Obama in order to preserve any electability he still holds. That's not true of Rev. Jesse Jackson, who absolutely denounced Barack Obama's America on Friday on radical (yet taxpayer-supported) Pacifica Radio. This is a little ironic, since Pacifica griped a bit to Jackson in 2008 that he was being sidelined by Obama to preserve his electability.

The show "Democracy Now" offered a segment Friday on the new monument in Washington to Martin Luther King, which offered the opportunity for leftists to decry how King's dreams of the late Sixties for socialist revolution and an end to all American war-making were now being ignored:

JUAN GONZALEZ, co-host: Well, Reverend Jackson, Cornel West had a piece in today's-an op-ed piece in today's New York Times  titled "Reverend King Would Be Weeping" [actually, it was "Dr. King Weeps from His Grave"]. And the thrust of his column was that this symbol and memorial to Dr. King comes at the same time that so many of the substance of the issues that Dr. King raised, especially in his final days, are being ignored or even-the country is turning its back on those issues that Dr. King raised. Your reaction to this irony that Cornel West raises?

REV. JESSE JACKSON: I think we would do well to use the statue as an occasion to deal with his unfinished business. He was shot down, assassinated at age 39. His last agenda items included a Poor People's Campaign, the quest to end the war in Vietnam, and stop the radical installation of capital in the hands of the very wealthy. And today, here we are with too few people with too much wealth, subsidized by the government, too many unnecessary wars and too many people in poverty. So, in substance, this memorial gives us a rallying point to keep going with his unfinished business. We bail out the banks, without link to lending and reinvestment, for example. The Bush tax cut extension is more money than all of the state budget deficits combined. So, clearly, Wall Street has made out big time, but the poor are expanding, and we're losing jobs en masse, and we must, in fact, turn it around.

Later, Jackson really went after all the money wasted on American wars:

Today we're spending a trillion dollars in Iraq on the wrong target. Overthrowing the government in Libya, well, a billion there, and billions more to restore it. Two billion a week in Afghanistan. And yet, we're laying off teachers, firemen, policemen. He would be distressed by that. He would be weeping about that. The bailout for these banks, who drove us in the hole, and then they get bailed out without links to kind of reinvest. We refortified them, not restructured them.

These issues that Dr. King would have raised would be troubling, but it is his sense of outrage and conscience that make us better today. And I would hope, as Vince said, that the interpretation must lead us to his unfinished business. The dream only makes sense if it's connected to the broken promise that had been unfulfilled for a hundred years. And today, the dream has to put every American back to work. That means reinvesting in the common people bottom-up. We're cutting public transportation, denying access to jobs, resegregating. Our schools are more segregated. The biggest growth industry in most states is the jail-industrial complex. So he would see me raising troubling questions of conscience, so I will see this monument as an opportunity to raise issues of jobs and peace and justice.

Gonzalez picked right up on the anti-war rhetoric, and pressed Jackson on Libya. Jackson wished we had negotiated between Gaddafi and the rebels, as if Gaddafi would have negotiated his political demise:

JUAN GONZALEZ:  Reverend Jackson, I'd also like to ask you, because you mentioned all of the money being spent on the current wars. The United States is involved probably in more wars right now in different parts of-or military adventures in different parts of the world than in any time in its history. You've-Libya has been in the news a lot. You once met with Gaddafi. You're familiar with the situation in Libya. What is your sense of the United States's involvement in efforts at regime change in Libya?

REV. JESSE JACKSON: Twofold, it seems. Number one, the idea of a humanitarian mission there was well founded and probably could have been negotiated to a conclusion, because, after all, the forces-the rebels in Libya did not come to Gaddafi as the peaceful demonstrators did in Egypt. They came firing. He was firing. So it was a kind of civil war, which we maybe could have negotiated to some conclusion. And we chose to go from humanitarian relief to a full-scale war, and now we've paid over a billion dollars for that war, and we'll pay billions more to reconstruct what we've torn up. And while the chaos abounds and destabilization abounds, now, of course, the same contractors who are rebuilding and getting the oil out of Iraq will be going next to Libya, which makes it kind of cynical. I hope that, early on, that this madness can be stopped and that we can, A, find a coherent foreign policy. And I find that right now, from Egypt to Libya to Yemen to Syria to Libya, our foreign policy is not very coherent.

The other guest on the show was Vincent Harding, a friend and colleague of Reverend King's. Pacifica co-host Amy Goodman hailed King's radical denunciations of America's war in Vietnam, and Harding said King called us to be a "mature democratic country and not a country of cowboy teenagers." Maturity equals pacifism:

AMY GOODMAN: That famous address, Time magazine later called the speech "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi." The Washington Post  declared that King had "diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, and his people." Vince Harding, your reflections on that speech, in which he said the country he loved, America, the United States, was the greatest purveyor of violence on earth, as he spoke against the war in Vietnam, where we are today with the wars that President Obama is presiding over in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan?

DR. VINCENT HARDING: Well, I think, Amy, that that speech, which was not simply mine, but which definitely spoke to Martin's own deepest convictions, that speech and the segment that you just read, for instance, is now very clearly the truth of Vietnam, regardless of what Time or the New York Times or the Washington Post was saying in 1967. By this time, we realize that King was the one who saw most clearly and most adequately what it was that was going on in Vietnam. And he called us away from that kind of adventure. He called us to become a mature democratic country and not a country of cowboy teenagers. And this, I think, is still the need for us right now, to find a way to become a mature people, so that we can recreate the country that is so badly in need of that vision of a more perfect union.

Goodman concluded that it was disgusting that King's radicalism was being watered down by corporate sponsorship:

I wanted to end with Vincent Harding. I'm looking at a piece by-from the Black Agenda Report  by Jared Ball, who said, referring to corporate sponsors, "Of course, there are others like JP Morgan, Murdoch's Direct TV, Exxon, Target [and] Wal Mart-other bastions of workers' rights and liberty. All have come together to ensure that King be forever separated from [himself, from] his anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and anti-patient work for a genuine revolution."

Ball, a professor at Morgan State University in Baltimore, also wrote:

It is fitting that this memorial is placed so as to sit “along the axis of the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials” permanently fixed between two of this nation’s greatest representatives of enslavement and anti-Blackness. It is fitting that this memorial is being established by the very segments of this society King worked strongest against and to which he offered his most biting criticism. And it is fitting that this memorial be established at a time when King’s words and deeds are least known or followed, while a Black president presides over the falling conditions of Black Americans and the falling bombs over African homes. And it is fitting that the dedication of the memorial will come 48 years after his most famous speech and 44 years after he would call his dream a “nightmare.”

For when we see the dedication ceremony and as we look upon the sculpture itself what we will see is not a true dedication to a great man, instead we will be witnessing the funeral and headstone of a movement.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis