This week Barack and Michelle Obama hosts rapper and actor Common at a poetry event at the White House amid backlash over some of his lyrics that critics say promote violence. The White House defended the invitation, which was sent by first lady Michelle Obama, stating that Common is not considered a gangsta rapper. Some of his songs and poems, however, feature violent imagery. This is not the standard the President of the United States should uphold. By contrast, Ronald Reagan had so much respect for the Oval Office that he refused to remove his suit jacket while in the office. Compare and contrast that to Barack Obama, who must defend having invited an advocate of killing; poetic or not.
In one poem, he called for the metaphorical burning of President George W. Bush. He also praised convicted cop-killer and former Black Panther Assata Shakur.
"While the president doesn't support the kind of lyrics that have been raised here, we do think some of the reports distort what Mr. Lynn stands for more broadly in order to stoke controversy," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday.
"He is within the genre of hip hop and rap in what's known as a conscious rapper," he said, adding that President Obama appreciates the way Common tries to get children to focus on poetry, "as opposed to some of the negative influences of life on the street."
He appreciates this man's efforts to get children to focus on poetry. When the poetry in question advocates killing the former President of the United States and promotes the killing of police officers, I would prefer that children not focus on it. That Barack Obama would host this thug at the White House says clearly that he is campaigning aggressively for young, black voters, when he should be setting a moral example.
Carney added that he did not know whether the White House vetted the poetry to be recited at the reading Wednesday night.
"The fact is, Mr. Lynn has participated in other events in the past, including lighting the Christmas tree. I believe he's a multi-Grammy award-winning artist and he's been invited to this event about poetry," Carney said.
Some conservatives have howled in protest over Common's invite. "Oh lovely, White House," Sarah Palin said sarcastically in a tweet, while Karl Rove, a former Bush senior adviser, called Common a "thug."
"President Obama last week said he wanted to recapture that special moment we had after 9/11 and here a week later we have an example of how the White House thinks it can recapture that moment by inviting a thug to the White House -- a man who called for the death of President Obama's predecessor," Rove told Fox News.
"Politics is politics and everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I respect that," Common said in a tweet. "The one thing that shouldn't be questioned is my support for the police officers and troops that protect us every day."
This is empty rhetoric. If that were really the case, he would never have advocated killing of any kind, let alone police officers and Presidents.
In a 2007 poem entitled "A Letter to the Law," Common railed against the U.S. invasion of Iraq invasion while urban areas were being neglected. "Seeing a fiend being hung/With that happening, why they messing with Saddam?
"Burn a Bush cos' for peace he no push no button/Killing over oil and grease/no weapons of destruction."
In 2000, Common released an album that included the song, "A Song for Assata," in which he portrayed Shakur, formerly known as Joanne Chesimard, as standing up to an abusive and lawless police force. "Your power and pride is beautiful," he raps. "May God bless your soul." Shakur was convicted in the 1973 murder of New Jersey state trooper Werner Foerster. She escaped prison six years later and is now living under political asylum in Cuba.
Former New Jersey state trooper Sal Maggio, who is the vice president of the Former Troopers Association, told Fox News that he opposes the White House invite to Common on the same week that law enforcement officers are honoring their fallen comrades. "He shouldn't be let into the White House," he said. "I don't think any time is right for a man like this who proposes violence toward police." But Maggio said he thinks that the president and the first lady didn't know about the lyrics to this song.
Common has also defended the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the pastor at the Obamas' church in Chicago who then-candidate Obama cut ties with after videos of his explosive sermons surfaced during the 2008 presidential campaign.
In the sermons, Wright accused the U.S. government of racism and in the days after the September 11 terrorist attacks. "America's chickens are coming home to roost" after it dropped atomic bombs on Japan and "supported state terrorism against Palestinians and black South Africans," Wright said at the time.
"He never really was against white people or another race," Common told Electronic Urban Report in 2008. "It was more against an establishment that was oppressing people. I think we all can see that this country has problems and a lot of it starts in the political system."
Common said during the 2008 presidential race that Wright's sermons were filled with love, not hate. "What I picked up from the pews…was messages of love," he said. "Anything that was going on against that love he would acknowledge and expose. He's been a preacher that's helped raise one of the greatest political figures in the world, and hopefully, the next president. He's also raised one of the greatest rappers in the world."
For the record, I am beside myself for using the phrase Gangsta Rapper and I don't intend to repeat the occurrence.