Friday, June 21, 2013

Going Bulworth

I missed a story last week. Sure, I heard that sometimes President Obama fantasizes about "going Bulworth." But it had been so long since I saw the movie, I totally missed why he chose that one instead of - as Michael Tomasky suggested - something like Rambo. My guess is that a lot of other white people missed it too.

Bulworth is currently running on HBO. So a few days later I watched it again. Low and behold I finally understood that what President Obama fantasizes about is going all "angry black man" on the country.

The best example of that is at about 1:17:00 in the movie. Bulworth shows up at a TV studio for an interview in the midst of the 1996 election. He's dressed all "ghetto" and - pay attention to this one - walks in to the back drop of the song "The Wrong Nigga To Fuck With" by Ice Cube. When the reporter asks him why he's changed his campaign approach and specifically mentions using obscenities, he goes off on a really bad - but telling - attempt at white boy rap.
I'm a Senator. I've gotta raise $10,000 a day every day I'm in Washington
I ain't gettin it in South Central. I'm gettin it in Beverly Hills
And so I'm voting in the Senate the way they want me to. And I'm sending them my bills
But we got babies dyin in South Central as young as they do in Peru
We got schools that are nightmares. We got a Congress that ain't got a clue
We got sub-machine guns. We got milita's throwin bombs
We got Bill just goin all weepy. We got Newt blamin teenage moms
We got factories closin down. Where the hell did all the good jobs go?
Well I'll tell ya where they went, my contributors make more profits hiring kids in Mexico
Oh, a fella can work in fast food if he can't make computer games
But what we used to call America...that's goin down the drains
How's a young man gonna meet his financial responsibilities working at mother-fuckin Burger King?
He ain't
Please, don't start with that school shit
There ain't no education goin on up in that mother fucker
We got a million brothers in prison - the walls are really rockin
But you can bet your ass they'd all be out if they could pay for Johnny Cochran
Yes, the movie was about economic inequality and the way big money buys off politicians, the media, and the entertainment industry. But it was mostly about how all that affects the African American community in this country.

So Bulworth was a fascinating choice and says a lot about the President's frustrations. Some people  wonder why he doesn't occasionally let loose with that fantasy. The answer is - of course - that he's an incredibly disciplined guy. And, as Michelle once said about him:
Barack is not a politician first and foremost. He's a community activist exploring the viability of politics to make change.
He knows what happens to people like Bulworth in politics. They may say things people think they want to hear. But the reigns of power to actually change things are stripped from them pretty quickly...and that's just the white guys.

In the end we're simply left with making note of this one: if President Obama could let loose with how he really feels sometimes - he'd go all Bulworth on their ass ;-)


  1. Well said Smarty. (I read every day and so appreciate your type of thoughtful commentary -- it's a great mix of bigger-picture thinking and pragmatism.)

    Am I wrong to sort of wish President Obama goes Bulworth just one time after his term? I know he won't want to tarnish his legacy -- and it's not his way -- but I'd pay to see him let it fly just once! A girl can dream...

    1. For now, we're left with our fantasies too. After his term...who knows?

  2. I read something recently where it was said that the President had concerns about the possibility of assassination, and referenced Dr. King, Can't recall the link. Anyway, a white "critical" "progressive" tweeted that Obama had "wussed out." Textbook "progressive" white privilege.

    Marcuse, at the end of One-Dimensional Man, put his hopes in the leadership of the non-white left. He was right. Me, I'm quite pleased to follow that lead.

    1. Marcuse, at the end of One-Dimensional Man, put his hopes in the leadership of the non-white left.

      I think that's exactly what PBO was saying to the young men at Morehouse a few weeks ago.

    2. As an older, white woman who thinks President Obama is the best president of her long lifetime, I also desperately fear for him and his family. Every morning I turn on the TV hoping for ads, inanities of talking heads, anything but what I saw in 1963 then again in April and June of 1968.

      I have had my own tangles with violence from the Right. The EmoProgs tend to smirk and dismiss it all - despite the fact they never get their privileged asses anywhere NEAR risk and danger. I'd love for them to trade places with anybody who has been to jail for justice, hidden from skinheads or ravening religious folks, or been a target of hate. It's not only a horrible way to live, it's life altering. But they talk their talk in their own circles of friends and do nothing to change the world so they are totally comfortable calling others names because they have not one ounce of understanding of courage.

      President Obama is a man of courage, of conviction, of humility (a good thing not bad), of determination, of principle. The white faux progs who think their fact-free diatribes are 'revolutionary' are beneath our contempt. They change NOTHING in this world. Nothing at all.

    3. That's amusingly racist, Bill, considering that the entirety of current American progressivism is nothing more than an attempt to copy the policies of...Scandinavia.

      The US government is not a global thought leader. It is not an early adopter. Barack Obama is not really a global thought leader, he's a global action leader by virtue of his office. His agenda: clean energy, universal pre-K, equal access health care, etc. are all things that happened long ago in places like Denmark and Finland and Norway. Which is fine, we should be copying them! They're very prosperous and stable countries.

      Now, if what you really mean is that American whites are predominantly too white supremacist to allow adoption of Scandinavian social progressivism to apply to American non-whites, the history shows that's largely true as far as political action goes. But your Marxist era racism that only the historically dispossessed are capable of leading has a rough go with the reality that when people on the White House policy councils or congressional progressive caucuses or liberal think tanks come up with aspirational plans, they all look suspiciously like things that have already been implemented in some of the whitest places on earth. Wise policymaking is not limited to any one color or geography or economic class.

      This is all very ironic in a thread inspired by the idea that a black president fantasizes about acting like rich, white liberal Warren Beatty. I wonder if those two have ever hung out at some Hollywood donor party?

  3. Mo'nin', Ms. Pants

    I'm looking at this comment from Anonymous. And, Anonymous, I THINK I understand what you're saying. But....perhaps a progressive way of governance is just that. Progressive. Regardless of where it's initially been actualized. The approaches, for example, that we've FInally been able to start with health care - and it's just a start - have been in motion for close to one hundred years. A pretty significant retarding agent in the actualization of progressive approaches in the U.S. that the whitest places on earth haven't had to deal with was a rather major race based civil war and the continued fall out that, because of the black President, is more clear than ever for all to see.

    Also, it appears you think that President Obama isn't a global thought leader (I don't know if this is your intent, but your argument framing reminds me of old head arguments in U.S. sports - basketball particularly. 'The white basketball athlete works VERY hard. Practices, practices, practices. The black athlete is naturally gifted'. Just notice what he's up against every day due to how he thinks from all quarters who continually tell him he doesn't know what he's doing. He has a Nobel Prize, when one looks at when it was bestowed upon him, not because of his actions (which are more in effect, now), but because of his global thinking.

    And, regarding the last part of your comment, perhaps because of the point you're making, your assessment of the President's musings really isn't accurate. Ms. Pants explained it, too. Warren Beatty's "Bullworth" character was, at that point, doing a rather poor imitation of a stereotyped, poor, angry young black man. Not about acting like Warren Beatty at ALL. His comment impressively nuanced, actually. A softer way of saying what's actually going on inside of him. Which has not. one. thing. to do with acting like a white liberal.

    He, in the constraints of his office, and they ARE there and they are doubly so for him, "went ghetto" once. Do you recall his comments after professor Henry Gates was arrested for being in his own home? Do you recall the resultant fall-out? Do you recall "The Beer Summit"?

    He has a tightrope on which to walk that some people talk about a bit more but very few actually understand (and, yes, Ms. Pants....that was a goodly bit of what he was saying to the Morehouse grads - because they DO).

    1. Thank you Blackman for digging into that one.

      I had a hard time reading the rest of it after I got to the part where anonymous basically said that Scandinavia is THE global thought leader. It reminded me of when Romney said something about how Israel must be morally superior to Palestine due to their GDP. Oh my!!!!!

    2. I guess I'm at a loss to understand how you two couldn't view those Nordic countries as the global thought leaders on social welfare legislation? Is it a conspiracy that they all rank more highly than the US on most every OECD metric about human progress? No, they're just countries that have minimal problems at home or abroad and spend a ton of money on social services. It has nothing to do with their inherent character as a people or with their skin color. Americans are the global leaders in fossil fuel production and information technology, I would expect the Chinese (for example) to want to copy us on that stuff.

      Saying President Obama and his government aren't global thought leaders isn't a knock on them, they're Americans, they're playing from behind in the game. Obama himself is the most prominent and noteworthy American political theorist and philosopher of his time, but there's little in his agenda that is globally trendsetting. His biggest accomplishment is near universal health care which other countries managed to accomplish some 50+ years ago. It's a big planet, there's more than one relevant frame of reference, our history is not the only history. Scandinavia does more with less, and the President's agenda is to get America to finally do more with more.

      As for the movie, I'm pretty sure the character was written and acted by Beatty so it's entirely his conception. It's the sort of protest only a white Hollywood liberal would come up with, with the security of being an outsider by choice. I'm sure the President would love to rant about how the Republicans have perverted congress from serving the public good, but it's not his job to speak truth to power. It's his job to be power. If he acted like a movie character, I would think he was cracking up.

      Imagine if he ever actually went off on everything that is fucked up about the country, wouldn't that just be an indictment of his leadership or an admission of defeat?

  4. Anonymous, you ending your comment with your imagining question would be, in this case, what "going Bulworth" would be precisely about.

    I'm not saying that President Obama is THE global thought leader, but you appear to be saying that he's not one at all. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding. Again, Nobels are awarded to thought leaders. Global thought leaders.

    He, actually has spoken about how Republicans have perverted congress from serving the public good. He's even told THEM about it, much less us. To their faces. At their Retreat (and to Paul Ryan and his insane budget. told him directly that he wasn't a Patriot). With cameras blazing. At least to and for me, I believe Presidents can speak the truth to power and whatever else they need to speak truth to. And, hasn't been nor will it yet be an indictment of his leadership nor an admission of defeat. This is a framing of his situation that, yeah, we hear in the main stream media pretty regularly. And, I know you know that, as a political strategy, the Republican leadership, after the initial election and before his inauguration, decided that they would oppose anything that he'd try to do. Regardless. Governance be damned.

    I don't care who it is, one cannot lead ANYbody whose expressed intention is NOT to follow. And, re: an admission of defeat...

    You know how our government works and you know he isn't the dictator/King. Therein, there's this event coming up next year that I know you're familiar with. It's the 2014 mid-term election.

    He's told us and shown us what type of leader he is and what he wants for this country. So, the question is not what does HE want to do? We know what he wants to do. The question is what do WE want to do.

    That's pretty much the main thrust of this blog.

    Not him.



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