Tavis: Always pleased to welcome Dr. Cornel West to this program. The Princeton professor and best-selling author is also, I am proud to say, in terms of full disclosure, co-host of “Smiley & West” on public radio, distributed by Public Radio International. Doc, as always, good to see you on the West Coast.
Dr. Cornel West: Always a blessing, my brother. Sunshine, I like.
Tavis: Yeah, good to see you, good to see you. I have some blue cards in my hand. I’m not a blue card sort of guy, as you know watching this program every night, but I wanted to have these cards in my hand because I really want to go through the particulars of this interview you gave with Chris Hedges on Truthdig some days ago that has caused such a furor in the Internet space, the blogosphere, amongst progressives, amongst the Black academy, specifically; in the academy more broadly, given what “The Boston Globe” had to say about you the other day.
West: Oh, yeah.
Tavis: So you’ve kicked up quite a controversy, as you know, with your comments about President Barack Obama, specifically your critique of him not being progressive enough – those are my words, not yours. So to jump right into the conversation and make the most of the time I have, let me pull out some of these quotes that you offered in this interview that you’ve been taken to task for and give you a chance to respond so that I and the viewer understand better what it is you were saying.
In no particular order, number one, you referred to the president as “A Black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a Black puppet of corporate plutocrats. And now he has become head of the American killing machine and is proud of it.” Talk to me.
West: Yeah, well, one, I had in mind the fact that as a progressive you begin with the plight and predicament of poor people and working people, and you see their situation with a sense of urgency. It’s a state of emergency, so that mass unemployment, mass under-employment, mass incarceration, massive lack of quality education and housing itself becomes part and parcel of a national security issue.