If it were anyone other than Barack Obama, a casual observer might wonder how he has enough time on his hands in a two-day period to give a high school commencement speech (during which he lashed out at Republicans and told the class of ’14 to vote Democrat), an interview to George W. Bush’s daughter, Jenna Bush Hager, and a Tumblr townhall, all while faithfully discharging the duties of President of the United States. A cynic might be tempted to assert that Obama is not doing his job, considering that world events of the past two days include the capture by al Qaeda-inspired terrorists of two major cities in Iraq, Mosul and Tikrit, not to mention chatter that ISIS has designs on Baghdad, the nation’s capital.
But this is Barack Hussein Obama, who is so adept at leading the world’s lone remaining super power that he even finds time in his day to keep up with “his stories” on TV. You’d hardly think an interviewer would find anything new to talk about.
To be sure, Hager didn’t. Among the redundant themes surprised in her sit-down with Obama was his observation that “a lot of young men of color aren’t doing well.” In the video below, he explains:
[This is] partly because they don’t have dads in their lives. Partly because they don’t have networks of support. It’s important to me partly because, you know, I grew up without a dad, and you know, I know that I went through my own struggles.
I made a decision in young adulthood that it was going to be important for me to make sure that I was there for my kids. I’ve really tried to make sure that I didn’t miss parent-teacher conferences, that I didn’t miss the ballet recitals or the soccer games. I tried to be disciplined about if I’m in town, being home for dinner every single night, and I think it’s made a difference. You know the one thing the girls know about me is I love them to death.
There is a surfeit of partlys in the first paragraph and an inartful expression of affection in the second, but the president’s language is the least of his — and our — problems. It is true that young men of color aren’t doing well, and neither for that fact are young men of pallor. A third of America’s 18- to 34-years-olds now live with their parents, and unemployment among black youth is 393% higher than the national unemployment rate, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data. These are records that were set on Obama’s watch, though to listen to him you get the sense that he’s a casual observer, not the instrument by which these appalling statistics came to pass.
Besides which, if the problem for black young men is, as Obama intimates, the absence of a male parent, then why doesn’t he have a “conversation about race” with black America? He could lecture them, as he so fond of doing when his target is “rich ‘privileged’ folks,” about accepting responsibility for their actions, about giving something back rather than just taking.
As a final aside, it is interesting that he underscores the difficulties of growing up without a father, mentioning that he endured such a childhood, then segues into how well he has done personally, how dedicated a parent he is. A casual observer might conclude that this is a man so full of himself that he simply can’t pass up another opportunity for self-adulation even if it means sabotaging his own argument.