Ardent black Obama supporters don't like PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley's argument that Obama is failing to provide enough government support for blacks "catching hell" (try Washington Post editorial writer Jonathan Capehart). On Saturday, a Post book review by Kim McLarin of the new Obama-campaign novel by Pearl Cleage takes the Smiley-hate into fiction:
She even (I think) coins a term that I hope catches on across the country: "Tavis Smiley Syndrome," which is marked by an obsessive tendency to criticize, nitpick or otherwise whine about Obama. Ida diagnoses the disorder in her mother after the latter makes a snarky comment about "the Great God Obama." "Both my parents voted for the man," Ida comments, "and in their hearts, they realize how lucky we are to have him, but it's almost like they can't admit it, even to themselves. Tavis Smiley Syndrome. Easy to recognize, impossible to argue."
Ida Dunbar, the woman at the center of Cleage's plot, is wondering why her minister father is sounding to "strangely myopic" in a YouTube sermon clip:
To make matters worse, she also has to tell him that the impressive White House gig she's been bragging about has yet to materialize, perhaps because the Obama folks are annoyed at the reverend's unwavering support for the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Meanwhile, another prodigal child is also returning to Atlanta: Wes Harper, a big-time political operative who was Ida's high school crush. Wes is the son of Rev. Dunbar's closest friend, but he comes with his own agenda: abetting, for a profit, a Republican scheme to purge voter rolls.
McLarin, a freelancing book reviewer who's a writer-in-residence at Emerson College, at least takes issue with how "ballot-thin" Cleage's portrayal of her villains are, compared to the protagonists.
We've come quite a way from Smiley's bravado days before the inauguration on MSNBC's Morning Joe, as Mark Finkelstein reported:
Tavis Smiley has declared that "we're all working for Barack Obama" and that "we have to help make Obama a great president." Reacting to Harry Reid's claim last week that he doesn't work for Barack Obama, Smiley said Reid should "put down the crack pipe." Smiley added "we're all working for Barack Obama."