I have watched and read Juan Williams for years now, mostly as a commentator on Fox News. I often find myself laughing or scoffing at his points, but I also acknowledge that he is a fundamentally good guy. This morning’s piece in the Wall Street Journal, though, brings my respect for him to an entirely new level. Just as only a President Obama can tell the black community it must take more responsibility and expect less of government, so can only a Juan Williams call out his media colleagues for taking it easy on the first black president. An example of his wisdom:
If his presidency is to represent the full power of the idea that black Americans are just like everyone else — fully human and fully capable of intellect, courage and patriotism — then Barack Obama has to be subject to the same rough and tumble of political criticism experienced by his predecessors. To treat the first black president as if he is a fragile flower is certain to hobble him. It is also to waste a tremendous opportunity for improving race relations by doing away with stereotypes and seeing the potential in all Americans.
Yet there is fear, especially among black people, that criticism of him or any of his failures might be twisted into evidence that people of color cannot effectively lead. That amounts to wasting time and energy reacting to hateful stereotypes. It also leads to treating all criticism of Mr. Obama, whether legitimate, wrong-headed or even mean-spirited, as racist.
This is patronizing. Worse, it carries an implicit presumption of inferiority. Every American president must be held to the highest standard. No president of any color should be given a free pass for screw-ups, lies or failure to keep a promise.