Between 2004 and 2007 I was a spokesperson and liaison for minority media at the Republican National Committee, and I routinely fielded questions from black journalists about what the Bush White House and Republicans were going to do about the “alarmingly high” 9% unemployment rate for African-Americans. People were outraged when I had the audacity to point out that unemployment was still pretty low (the overall rate was 5%) and that there had been record-breaking continuous and consecutive job growth month-over-month. No matter, the black community was still in a “crisis.” And it was all the Republicans’ fault.
Apparently it still is. After all, who else can be blamed? Some folks get downright indignant at the mere thought that Obama would be challenged on this issue. Others dare not question his administration, perhaps for fear of being labeled racists. Others find themselves, as I recently did, engaged in a heated discussion with a brother who insisted (to the point of calling me a liar) that unemployment was far higher under Bush than it is under Obama. I also recall (during the Bush years) one angry young sister in a long line outside a Washington, D.C.-area gas pump when prices were $4 a gallon screaming how it was “all Bush’s fault.”
The economy has been far weaker under President Obama than it was under President Bush, which is why Obama’s disapproval rating on the economy is at 60%. Even after all of the bailing-out and “stimulating” that was supposed to create jobs and bring us back from the brink, we’re at over 9% unemployment nationwide. The unemployment rate for African-Americans stands at 16.2%.
Conservatives aren’t surprised by the economic consequences of Obama’s failed policies. What is surprising is the deafening silence among my counterparts in the press corps. No outrage. No outcry. Not a peep. People aren’t asking the same questions of this president that they asked of Bush. Where are the critical, “non-partisan” voices who spoke out against Bush? Are they calling the DNC and demanding action? Are civil rights leaders blaming “racist” Obama administration policies for not getting black folks out of these dire straits? Where is the equal-opportunity reporting?
It’s no coincidence that the Obama administration has begun to ramp up its so-called “outreach” to black Americans by touting a new African-American White House webpage. It’s not because President Obama has been successful at closing the achievement gap between white and black students, delivering on substantive health parity issues that plague minorities or creating incentives to help jumpstart minority businesses and create jobs. It’s because that’s what Democrats do when it comes time to court minority voters. They pull out the spit and polish to ensure the shoe looks shiny and new. It would behoove black media and GOP hopefuls to pay more attention to the worn-out sole rather than the shine.
Tara Wall is a conservative columnist, former Deputy Editor for The Washington Times and CNN Political Contributor.