The hosts at CBS This morning on Tuesday brought on a fawning, pro-Barack Obama journalist to cement the legacy of the President. Atlantic magazine national correspondent Ta-Nehisi Coates identified racism as a key reason for Republican resistance to Obama.
The reporter has written a piece for the magazine titled, “My President Was Black.” Talking to the CBS hosts, Coates confused the facts about Obama’s early years in office: “The President came into office thinking, you know that he basically would work with Congress.... That did not actually happen. Folks didn't even want to come to the table.” Folks didn't want to work with him? When Obama took office, he had 60 Democratic seats in the United States Senate and a solid majority of in the House.
Asked why Republicans “didn’t come to the table,” the Atlantic journalist insisted, “If you look at the long view of history, after 40 or 50 years, increasingly, the parties have been can be racialized.”
Coates described what he saw as Obama’s “great insight”:
TA-NEHISI COATES: The great insight is the fact that it was possible for the country to elect a black president. That indeed the barrier of white supremacy actually could be vaulted by a special individual. Him specifically. But that actually, I think, also caused him to underestimate the force of it.
This was too much even for co-host Norah O’Donnell. She lectured that “to say that the Republicans opposition to Obama was based on race is not entirely fair.” In a commendable act of journalism, she corrected:
NORAH O’DONNELL: You have a Democratic president who is, who is talking about a massive expansion of ObamaCare. I mean, there were significant policy differences.”
Of course, Coates isn’t exactly objective. In his 17,000 word piece, the writer recounted getting to know the President: “Over the next 12 years, I came to regard Obama as a skilled politician, a deeply moral human being, and one of the greatest presidents in American history.”
A transcript of the December 13 segment is below:
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CBS This Morning
GAYLE KING: President Obama will leave office in five and a half weeks. The new cover story in The Atlantic is called “My President Was Black,” a history of the first African-American White House and what came next. National correspondent Ta-Nehisi Coates writes, “What Obama was able to offer white America is something very few African-Americans could: trust. He stands firm in his own cultural traditions and says to the country something virtually no black person can, but every president must and that is I believe you.” Coates has written about President Obama several times over the last eight years and he joins us at the table to discuss the President’s legacy on race? How many words was this? It’s such a great read.
TA-NEHISI COATES: It’s short. 17,000.
KING: 17,000 and 20 pages. I am not knocking this.
COATES: You guys read Twitter.
KING: It's a great read, Ta-Nehisi. congratulations.
COATES: Thank you.
KING: But you write this. you say he never could have succeeded along normal presidential lines. What do you mean by that? He needed a partner.
COATES: Well, he didn’t really have one. I mean, traditionally, the President came into office thinking, you know that he basically would work with Congress. And, you know, he would start in this position and they would start in that position, and they would work together. And you would have a series of, you know, legislation that would be the result of compromise. That did not actually happen. Folks didn’t even want to come to the table.
KING: You said his greatest misstep is borne directly out of his great insight?
COATES: Yeah. You know, the great insight is the fact that it was possible for the country to elect a black president. That indeed the barrier of white supremacy actually could be vaulted by a special individual. Him specifically. But that actually, I think, also caused him to underestimate the force of it.
CHARLIE ROSE: And because of his own upbringing.
ROSE: Why didn't they come to the table?
COATES: Well, I think what — you know, if you look at the long view of history, you know, after 40 or 50 years, increasingly, the parties have been can be racialized.
COATES: Racialized. Right. So, if you go to certain southern states and you look at state legislatures— I mean, The Democratic Party is basically a black party. The Republican Party is basically a white party. And that sort of thing filters up, you know, from the base. You know, all the way up to —
NORAH O’DONNELL: But to say that the Republican opposition to Obama was based on race is not entirely fair.
COATES: I wouldn’t say completely.
O’DONNELL: Yeah. I mean, you have a Democratic president who is, who is talking about a massive expansion of ObamaCare. I mean, there were significant policy differences. But back to your article, what do you think has, you write about what he has meant to black America.
COATES: Well, very— I gotta just respond. Because I want to be really clear about that. Very few— When you talk about, like, the force of racism anywhere, it is very rarely just “I look at you and you're black and I don't like you.” It usually is complicated in that sort of way. It's very, very hard to ignore, and I put it together in the article. I mean, when you go from “Obama waffles” during the primary, the birtherism, when you go through “you lie,” when you go through Sarah Palin telling him he has a shuck and jive policy.
KING: During the State of the Union address he yelled “You lie.”
COATES: Right. The whole thing. You know, about the first food stamp president. You start hearing this over and over again. This has some import. You're right, it's not the only thing. But the fact that it is a thing that is objectionable for a lot of people.
O’DONNELL: Right. I just point that out because I was there covering the White House. There were significant differences on policy.
COATES: Of course. Of course.
O’DONNELL: However, there were personal differences that people attributed, not paying him the respect that he deserved. But you write so much in this article about how Obama was able to become president, how he talked about race, sometimes how he didn’t talk about race. What did that all mean?
ROSE: That's the core of it.
COATES: I think you really have to struggle to find — I say this even with all of my criticisms of the president that I have, we really have to struggle to find an individual who would be able to deal with the great difficulty of having to speak to a majority white country while himself being rooted in a black experience about race. And I think there is one side said he should have spoke more about it. I am actually not convinced that would have done him or anything—
ROSE: That’s criticism within the African American community.
COATES: Yeah. There is. There is. I don't know if that's a majority opinion. I wouldn’t say that. But that was a criticism. But I see very little evidence that actually would have helped. The times that he did actually speak out, you know, Henry Louis Gates incident, I don’t know that it was particularly clarifying.
KING: You also write that he had to straddle two worlds. And it was more than just straddling black and white. He had to straddle two worlds. Talk about that.
COATES: I think that you could almost overestimate the fact that the president is biracial. And say, “ha, that’s why he was able to speak to both of these places.” But it wasn't just that he was biracial. It was that he was born and raised in Hawaii, far from a place where the force and legacy of Jim Crow, you know, is really there. He was born to parents who made him feel good about being black. You deputy remember, Obama is born in '61, his mom brings this black dude home. And the family is, like, okay.
KING: An African.
COATES: African. And they're like, okay. Okay. That's an unique scenario for black people, biracial or not.
ROSE: What did you learn about him that you didn’t know going into these sessions that you spent with him?
COATES: You know, it was more like I suspected things and almost all of it was confirmed. He is, again, I say this with all of my criticisms and disagreements, he's sincere. He’s deeply, deeply, deeply sincere. The optimism is not a joke.
KING: He’s still optimistic.
COATES: He's still optimistic to this day. I don’t think — Some of this might be stage craft for the country. But I think he really, really believes in the resiliency of America.
ROSE: And has he lost that optimism?
COATES: No. No.
ROSE: Thank you.
KING: You call him a deeply moral human being. One of the greatest presidents in American history.
COATES: Yeah. I believe that. I believe that very much so.