During a sometimes-raucous session of what's being called the "For the People" Jobs Initiative tour, a key member of the Congressional Black Caucus told an audience in Detroit Tuesday that the CBC doesn't put pressure on President Obama because he is loved by black voters. But at the same time, Rep. Maxine Waters said, members of the CBC are becoming increasingly tired and frustrated by Obama's performance on the issue of jobs. Even as she expressed support for the president, Waters virtually invited the crowd to "unleash us" to pressure Obama for action.
"We don't put pressure on the president," Waters told the audience at Wayne County Community College. "Let me tell you why. We don't put pressure on the president because ya'll love the president. You love the president. You're very proud to have a black man -- first time in the history of the United States of America. If we go after the president too hard, you're going after us."
The problem, Waters said, is that Obama is not paying enough attention to the problems of some black Americans. The unemployment rate for African-Americans nationally is a little over 16 percent, and almost twice that in Detroit. And yet, Waters said, the president is on a jobs-promotion trip through the Midwest that does not include any stops in black communities. "The Congressional Black Caucus loves the president too," Waters said. "We're supportive of the president, but we're getting tired, y'all. We're getting tired. And so, what we want to do is, we want to give the president every opportunity to show what he can do and what he's prepared to lead on. We want to give him every opportunity, but our people are hurting. The unemployment is unconscionable. We don't know what the strategy is. We don't know why on this trip that he's in the United States now, he's not in any black community. We don't know that."
As she discussed her dilemma -- frustrated with the president but hesitant to criticize him lest black supporters turn on her -- Waters asked the crowd for its permission to have a "conversation" with the president. "When you tell us it's alright and you unleash us and you tell us you're ready for us to have this conversation, we're ready to have the conversation," she said. Some members of the crowd immediately voiced their approval.
"All I'm saying to you is, we're politicians," Waters continued. "We're elected officials. We are trying to do the right thing and the best thing. When you let us know it is time to let go, we'll let go."
"Let go!" some in the audience yelled.
Waters attended the meeting with fellow members of Congress Reps. John Conyers, Hansen Clarke, Emanuel Cleaver, and Gregory Meeks. The panel discussion in Detroit was moderated by Jeff Johnson of TheGrio.com, who wrote an account of the session here. The tour included a stop in Cleveland and will also go to Miami, Atlanta, and Los Angeles.