President Barack Obama at his best and White House aides at their worst were on display during the president’s visit to Indianapolis last week.
In front of 390 people at Ivy Tech, the president made remarks about the middle class in a 70 minute Town Hall meeting.
Speaking without a teleprompter, script or notes, the president displayed the personal “I care about you” style we saw numerous times in his Indiana campaign appearances in 2008. Obama was funny, down to earth, empathic and effectively shared personal stories of his own family to relate to others.
The president has been deliberately traveling to Republican-dominated states recently to push his agenda focusing on the middle class.
It was a brilliant move by White House aides to highlight Jylian Milham, a divorced mom of four from Fishers, who struggled to make ends meet, then attended Ivy Tech to improve her skills, job prospects and life. Milham is an example of those 23 percent of Hoosier households described by United Way, where breadwinners earn above the minimum wage, but struggle to make ends meet. Even in rock-ribbed Republican Hamilton County.
In my view, Milham exemplifies the Americans Obama is trying to help and that Republicans, including Indiana’s super legislative majority, are trying to hurt.
It was brilliant political stagecraft and theater; Obama taking questions from mostly ordinary folks about higher education affordability, problems of veterans, aid for HBCU’s and the other subjects in the 10 questions the president answered.
However, the White House stumbled badly, insulting many Indianapolis Democratic officials and activists, especially African-Americans, with the decision to have Mayor Greg Ballard introduce the president.
Since Obama became president, Ballard has taken a standoffish position. Ballard’s never publicized the few times he’s visited the White House; most notably a sit-down a year or so ago with other mayors and the resident.
In his introduction of Obama, Ballard sounded like a game show announcer as he thanked the president for $20 million dollars for the Cultural Trail and helping plan a bus transit line. Ballard praised the president for approving Gov. Mike Pence’s Medicaid expansion. And Ballard praised the president’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative.
Yes, in front of a global audience, Ballard bragged that he’s worked closely with an African-American, Democratic elected official “on important programs” that helped Indianapolis.
The same mayor who has stiff armed African-American elected Democratic legislators, City-County Councilors, neighborhood leaders was talking about how great he works with the president.
One of the Obama Administration staff’s shortcomings is their horrendously poor relationships with elected officials. Privately, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Washington bitterly complain about White House staff’s ineptitude in dealing with elected officials.
Longtime associate Valerie Jarrett, who is probably the closest advisor to both the president and First Lady, accompanied Obama to Indianapolis.
Indianapolis’ African-American politicians and leaders need to loudly complain to Jarrett about the Obama Administration’s uplift of a Republican mayor who’s gone out of his way to belittle and ignore Black political leaders and the community they serve.
Meanwhile, I’d been hearing rumors Ballard might be downplaying Indy’s efforts to find money to deal with the problems of Indy’s young Black men that were documented by the My Brothers Keeper/Your Life Matters Task Force. Seems, the rumor went, that Ballard would push for big money for a program targeting at-risk children under age four.
Well, it seems Obama let the cat out of the bag during his remarks when he said, “The mayor is talking to folks about doing a zero-to-three program, because we know if you invest early in young people, they are much more likely to succeed in school.”
Gee, when is the mayor going to tell Indianapolis about this? Why is that more important than helping young Black boys and men?
What I’m Hearing in the Streets
I can only speculate on the intense pressure Olgen Williams was put under that led him to abandon his campaign for mayor. Just 19 hours before the deadline to file, a day after he appeared on WTLC-AM1310’s “Afternoons with Amos” talking up his campaign, Williams dropped out of the race.
It leaves Jocelyn-Tandy Adande as the only credible challenger against the mysterious Brewer.
I say mysterious because numerous questions are being raised about Brewer, fueled by the extraordinarily skimpy resume Brewer’s provided the media and public so far.
Meanwhile Democrats held their “pre-Primary” convention and formally endorsed Joe Hogsett for mayor.
The big primary fight among Democrats is in the Northwest side of District 1 where incumbent Councilwoman Angela Mansfield squares off against Councilman Leroy Robinson. Robinson won the party’s endorsement 25 to 18, but Mansfield is taking her case to the voters in a district she’s partly represented for 12 years, whereas Robinson had to move into the district since he’s one of the now abolished At Large Councilors.
The biggest surprise is in the Black-majority Democratic Council districts. For months some activists have complained about Black incumbent Councilors.
Yet only an unknown candidate, Floyd Covington, is opposing incumbent Monroe Gray, the Council Majority Leader. The Council’s other Black incumbents – William Oliver, Joe Simpson, Maggie Lewis, Vop Osili, Rev. Stephen Clay and LaKesisha Jackson are unopposed in the primary.
You can’t complain about the system, then fail to get engaged to change it!
See ‘ya next week!
You can email Amos Brown at email@example.com.