February 19, 2008

Tavis Smiley Pouts About Barack Obama Scheduling Decision



I am a long-time admirer of Tavis Smiley. As national BDPA president I worked like heck to get him on board as a keynote speaker for our annual conference. I wasn't able to make it happen, but, I did serve as a speaker at a Blacks In Technology conference he hosted down in Atlanta, GA a few years ago. I'm glad that he was guest speaker for group of IT executives earlier this month. I supported him last year when he put the Republican candidates on notice for ignoring the presidential debate focused on Black issues. However, Tavis is on the wrong side of history at this moment in time.

Tavis hosts an annual Black Think Tank. He wants the four remaining presidential candidates to attend his forum on February 23 in New Orleans, LA. It turns out that Barack Obama declined the invitation in favor of intense campaigning in Texas and Ohio. I'm uncertain why Smiley is so publically critical of Obama's decision to focus on winning these critical primaries. Why would Smiley turn down offer for Michelle Obama to be at the Black Think Tank?

Early in the campaign, Obama participated in Tavis Smiley's CNN Presidential Debates, appeared before the National Association of Black Journalists, as well as before the Trotter Group, the NAACP and the National Urban League. Heck, he was a guest speaker on Smiley's television show a few months ago.

Tavis Smiley says otherwise, however, I think that he makes this into a big issue is ego. He wants to ride on the wave of Obama popularity to pump up volume on his annual Think Tank forum. It's obvious from the recent numbers of African American voters favoring Obama in recent elections that he doesn't need Tavis' event to reach out to Black folks.

Tavis Smiley should go back to the basics. I think that the brother should do his thing to uplift our people without tearing down our presidential candidate. Get over yourself brotha!

Villagers, what do you think about this Smiley v. Obama uproar?

22 comments:

Janet Shan said...

I think Tavis Smiley is acting like a big baby. I would have thought he would be a little more understanding. He needs to realize that Barack Obama's campaign does not revolve around him. Obama is campaigning for such an important position, he cannot afford to meet everyone's demands and desires. Smiley is, in fact, on the wrong side of history and rather than admitting he created this furor for personal reasons, he is still perpetuating the notion with his silence.

Aaron & Alaine said...

I like Tavis well enough. I enjoy his show and despite his very liberal viewpoint I often can find some value in his commentary. But I'm at a loss as to how a guy generally pretty smart plays it so wrong on Barack. Its plainly obvious that Barack is a little busy right now battling for the democratic nomination. He's gonna have to skip Tavis's gig. How does Tavis respond to the declined invitation? He puts Obama on blast and calls his not coming a "miscalculation and a missed opportunity". Dial back the hubris meter Tavis. Barack is not wanting for opportunities to speak to Black America. Given that 80% of Black America is giving him their vote, it seems clear many of us think he is talking about issues relevant to us. Your event is not the only place at which knowledge of the black condition may be revealed. I was very surprised at the way he mishandled it. He's caught, is catching a lot of heat (I put him on blast at my homeblog) but his most recent comments about it seem to indicate he has gotten a grip. So I guess we can all stop rhetorically caning him now.

Villager said...

Janet - Janet, I tend to agree with you...

Aaron & Alaine - Nice to see your village voice again. I hope that Obama can pull this thing out. It would be disappointing to see him lose after pulling our hopes up so high...

Janet Shan said...

Villager, any thoughts on the dustup about Obama plagiarizing a portion of Deval Patrick's speech? Me, I don't think it's much ado about nothing. He could have just cited the text. I don't think it will harm him but with the Clinton machine, they will try to keep it front and center since she is now the underdog. Any thoughts?

Deidra said...

Obama declined Clinton request for a debate to focus on his campaign. He then declined Tavis invitation to focus on his campaign. So why is Tavis surprised? The man is just trying to do his job. I love Tavis but he going to have to understand that he can't get everybody and he was really selfish to say that he wouldn't invite Michelle - as if she can't speak for her husband. The way he said it sounded sexist (he probably didn't mean it that way...).

Besides, why do Obama need to talk about the issues now? He's already doing well on his own. They might as well just elect him President right now lol.

Villager said...

Janet - I point to a post by Field Negro in my Village Movie widget this morning. Field gives a good acount of the speech dustup. It is a shame that Team Clinton was able to counterpunch with the plagerism charge. It cost Obama a day in the news cycle. And his calling card is his oratory ... so it ain't good when people start to have reason to doubt your oratorical veracity. Some are predicting that Team Clinton will win the Wisconsin primary tonight. That would be disastrous...

Deidra - Hopefully Tavis will get a clue. In the meantime, Obama campaign cannot take anything for granted. They need to win Ohio or Texas...

Exquisitely Black said...

I think it's sad. Also did a recent blog post on this. It seemed blatantly obvious to me that Obama needed to concentrate on campaigning in Ohio and Texas. No need to back track to Louisiana. He still has to win this thing.

I don't understand Tavis on this one and also wonder about these addresses and what solid action plans/items come out of these discussions. Maybe someone can enlighten me.

BTW - I remember a BDPA visit to my junior high school - that visit and the subsequent arrival helped me decide my career path :-)

Carla Y. Nix said...

Wayne, I totally agree with you on this. I don't understand Tavis' on this and in my mind, he is wrong. I too am a long-time admirer of Tavis. I've always been impressed with him and respected him. I guess I still do, but I just disagree with him here. I much rather see Obama focusing on his campaign at a very crucial point, then to see him taking his lead for granted and appearing in New Orleans. And I am further outdone with Tavis for not "accepting" Michelle. She is more than capable!

What's up, Tavis?

Carla

SheCodes said...

Hey Villager,

I totally agree with you, I'm not sure why he's so annoyed with Obama. Clearly, the man has more important things on his agenda right now!

I like Tavis, but frankly, I'm confused by his reaction to this supposed 'snub'.

MsMarvalus said...

I've tried to look at this from every angle to see where Tavis is coming from...but the brother is W-R-O-N-G!!!

I have always respected Tavis, but for him to think that his forum/symposium is the only way for Barack to speak directly to Black folks, to address Black issues is not fair, is biased, and I think is a little immature. In other words...Tavis is tripping!

Villager said...

Ms. Marvalus & SheCodes - Hopefully, Tavis will come to his senses. He shouldn't want to be on the wrong side of history in this battle...

Gunfighter said...

I think smiley will come around. I really do. It isn't like he has much choice, after all... the freight train of history can be a terrible thing to be run over by.

Villager said...

Gunfighter - We have missed your village voice! I hope you find reason to come back often...

Shazza Nakim said...

Can anyone tell me how many time Barak Obama has turned down an invitation to the Annual Black State of the Union?

Can anyone tell me how many people Tavis Smiley has steered toward the Obama campaign?

Can anyone tell me how many fund raisers Tavis Smiley has organized for Obama?

Can anyone tell me why Obama with 80% of BLACK CAUCUS VOTES need to attend a Black Think Tank of Economist, Politicians, Religious Leaders, Civil Rights Leaders, Educators, Artist etc, when after the caucuses, he still has to do the GENERAL ELECTION and those BLACK people will have to vote for him AGAIN?

Just something to think about.

Shazza Nakim said...

"To He (OBAMA) Is Given, Much Is Expected."

..... even if it is a hour.

Villager said...

Shazza - It is wonderful to have your village voice in da place. Unfortunately, I don't know the answer to your questions. Perhaps others can provide answers (assuming that they were not rhetorical in nature)...

Ivan said...

Priorities must be put in order: Obama is running for president, and the upcoming primaries are arguably the most crucial. Henceforth, Tavis, whom I respect with highest regard, should have understood this and taken it into full consideration.

Once Barack becomes prez, he can go to as many Think Tanks as possible. But until then, we've (yes we) got work to do...

Villager said...

Ivan - I agree 100% with your assessment of the situation in this Tavis v. Obama hullabaloo...

Anonymous said...

Tavis, Willie Lynch did a good job putting blacks up against blacks. I know our ancestors are ashamed of you for trying to make Barack look bad. This whole thing is ego and about you and your event. God chose this man to run for president and it is critical that he goes to the other states to win. The bible says the two become one, his wife should be able to do what needs to be done, the people in New Orleans knows that Mr. Obama will fight for them. Stop bringing down your race, Mr. Obama has enough to go through. God is not pleased with your outrage.

Villager said...

Anon - Thank you for sharing your village voice! I hope you'll come back again in the future...

Yobachi said...

I watched a lot of it live Saturday even though I didn't really plan to, and will record it on Friday.

The can't miss part is Dick Gregory on the afternoon panel...I'm tellin ya.

Villager said...

Yobachi - Dick Gregory was the highlight of the event in my view. In fact, I'm gonna find a way to share Gregory's rant with my blog readers...