I didn't catch it (though I read the transcript), but a couple of nights ago on Bill O'Reilly's Fox show, Juan Williams said Michelle Obama had "this Stokely Carmichael-in-a-designer-dress thing going," and claimed "her instinct is to start with this 'blame America,' you know, 'I’m the victim.' ”
All this, Williams said, could pose problems for the president because "people will go bananas and she’ll go from being the new Jackie O to being something of an albatross."
Now, I've known Juan for more than 30 years. We were students at Haverford College (he was several years behind me) and colleagues at The Washington Post. When Juan started as an intern at the paper in the mid-'70s (I was a copy-boy on the Metro Desk), he stayed at my apartment while he looked for a place to live. Over the years, we've wound up in the same neighborhoods--first Washington's Bloomingdale-Le Droit Park and then Takoma, D.C, where we'd see each other walking our dogs or hanging out with our kids.
So I've known Juan for a while. But apart from the need to be provocative so he can continue as Fox News' HNIC (Google the term if you've never heard it), what the hell was he thinking?
Over the years, too, I've had occasion to defend Juan to some (of our mutual) black friends. He's an intelligent man and an indefatigable reporter, though perhaps not an especially elegant writer. Like Shelby Steele (or Stanley Crouch) he's an iconoclast whose ideas go against the grain but are often worth listening to.
But for reasons I can't quite understand, Barack Obama seems to have stuck in his craw. During the primary and the election, he couldn't let go of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, even when most of the media moved on. And when, with a few exceptions, most folks were praising Obama's speech on race, Williams was dismissive, calling it ordinary and saying it didn't go far enough.
I'm not trying to say that either of the Obamas should be above criticism. "Dreams From My Father" was a little too PC for me, and I wound up selling my first edition on eBay days after Barack Obama's breakthrough speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. (I made a ton of money, but I wound up giving it to the campaign last year.) And Michelle, well, there've been times listening on television where I've been thankful I never had to work for her.
But "Stokely Carmichael-in-a-designer-dress"? Or blaming America and casting herself as a victim?
It's been years since I talked to him, so I'm not the one. But somebody needs to sit down and talk to Juan to try to get him to quit putting his foot in his mouth.