Obama’s Pickle

After offering an unconvincing explanation for his remarks about Barack Obama’s cocaine use, BET founder Bob Johnson must have decided that a bit more damage control was in order. He sat down with the Washington Post and explained what he meant when he compared Obama to Sidney Poitier’s character in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner :

“What has happened, in my opinion, is that what we have created is the quote-unquote ‘perfect candidate’ that’s like in the movies, that has absolutely no blemishes,” a vision that is unrealistic, said Johnson, who started Black Entertainment Television and has been a friend of the Clintons for two decades.

He said Obama has avoided talking about race, a tactic that Johnson said made him acceptable to the largely white electorate of Iowa . Obama won the state’s Democratic caucuses on Jan. 3. “White America is saying, ‘He’s safe for us, he should be safe for you guys,’ ” Johnson said, referring to blacks. “We’re letting other people pick our leaders.”

It’s quotes like this that illuminate the thin line Obama is walking. On the one hand, by not addressing race, he gets accused by Johnson of being too “safe,” of selling out to secure the white vote. On the other, if he did talk more about race, he would be accused of playing the “race card” in order to attract black voters. It would come off as pandering. And that’s when Clinton’s black supporters—Johnson, Andrew Young, Charlie Rangel—would really pile on. (In fact, Rangel just did , calling Obama’s remarks about Martin Luther King Jr. “absolutely stupid.”) He’s damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t, and especially damned if he tries to do both.