In his report today on Obama’s nomination of Mel Watt for director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Hans Bader noted that, as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, the North Carolina Democrat pushed hard for government programs to help welfare recipients buy homes. Watt was, thus, instrumental in helping to fuel the subprime mortgage bubble.
Watt’s flawed judgment suggests he is the wrong man for the job at FHFA, but being wrong is nothing new for the one-time chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. In 2008, Watt famously predicted that “white people … will not consider voting for an African American candidate.”
Being a lousy prognosticator of course is not a crime. But other remarks Watt made at the time should be. In his efforts to extend and strengthen the Voting Rights Act in order to “level the playing field,” Watts went on record saying that voters refusing to vote for a minority candidate “need to be factored out of the equation,” adding “I’ve got no use for them in the democratic process.”
Yes, it sounds a lot like the infamous 47-percent remark that helped bring about Mitt Romney’s defeat in 2012. But these kinds of us-against-them comments are newsworthy to the mainstream media only when they are made by conservative politicians.
Defenders of the Watt nomination will say, “Besides, he is not running for the presidency.” Fine. Then we need to decide at what level of public office it is permissible for a candidate to raise a proverbial middle finger to those he has “no use for in the democratic process.”
We also need to look at more of what Watt had to say back in 2008. From CNSNews:
Watt admitted that some black voters only cast ballots for black candidates, but said in those cases, the voters are exercising ‘preference,’ which he said is different than ‘an absolute commitment’ to cast a vote based on race.
‘Black people have not had the luxury of being able to say, “Under no circumstances will I vote for a white candidate,”’ Watt said.
However, he also advocated a race-based solution to the problem he described. The solution — expanding the Voting Rights Act to encourage minority candidate victories is ‘exactly the same thing’ as citizens voting against a minority candidate, Watt said. ‘The only way to level the playing field is to take race into account on the other side.’
While much of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is permanent, several sections periodically come up for renewal in Congress. Three provisions will expire in August 2007 if Congress does not extend them.
Even if we accept Watt’s dubious formulation, which differentiates “absolute commitment” from “exercising preference,” his prescription is still a flat-out endorsement of racism.
Understandably, the flares have already gone up over the possibility that the obstructionists in the GOP will block Watt’s confirmation in the Senate. The Grio reports that despite Watt’s willingness to “do what I need to do in the process to complete the information for the United States Senate,” he is facing an uphill climb:
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) was speaking for those who favor tighter lending restrictions when he said in a statement, ‘I could not be more disappointed in this nomination. This gives new meaning to the adage that the fox is guarding the henhouse.’
But the focus here is on Watt’s bona fides as a prospective FHFA director, not his inflammatory race remarks.
In closing, it is worth noting that Watt is not the first person with racialist sensibilities that Obama has hand-picked for a high post in his cabinet. There was Van Jones and Eric (“my people’) Holder. And there is Obama’s 20 years in the pews of a Black Nationalist church. When is the liberal press going to start focusing on “Obama’s racism,” not as a target but as a perpetrator?
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