President Barack Obama has faced “the most obstruction of any American president,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview.
“Republicans said their first objective was not to build the economy, not to provide healthcare but to defeat him, make him a one-term president,” says Jackson, founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. “So you’ve got ideological attacks.
“Congressmen have called him a liar from the well of the Congress. They’ve argued about his birth place, his birth certificate, his religion.
“These obstructionist, ugly attacks have not been good for the country,” Jackson added. “They may have been some people’s short-term pleasure, but it’s been long-term pain for the country. So he has had to climb a steeper hill facing rocks.
“He’s done so with amazing dignity and a low sense of retaliation – and that’s the good news. I hope in the next session of Congress, we will get beyond this one-term, destroy-the-president-at-all-costs mentality. It’s not good for the nation.”
Jackson, who sought the Democratic nomination for president in 1984 and 1988, said that Obama’s policies were not to blame for the near-doubling – from 26 million in 2006 to 47 million currently – of Americans now on food stamps.
“Of course not. When we came into office, we were losing – and had lost – four million jobs in four years. Losing 800,000 a month,” he said. “We’ve now gained 4.6 million new jobs. That’s a swing of nine million workers. They are out of poverty. Working women are able to make a better salary. They are working their way out of poverty.
“The automotive industry had virtually collapsed – and many had given up on it. It’s No. 1 again. Three shifts are working, and they’re hiring again in Illinois. They’re not in that number.
“A part of the poverty is driven by the fact that we had started two wars and cut taxes, and our banking collapse drove our crisis,” Jackson added. “So we’ve been in a deep hole but we’re on the way out.”
He said GOP presidential challenger Mitt Romney’s recent remarks that 47 percent of Obama’s supporters were dependent on the government were “misguided and for so many working people, taxpaying citizens, an insult.
“You must remember that everybody pays taxes when you’re buying gas or buying food. We’re all paying taxes, but we should not demean each other based upon an unforced predicament, which may be the desire to work without a job. It may be student-loan debt creating credit-card debt. … Poor people or rich voters – it was not a good thing for him to say.”
As for Obama’s support among African-Americans, Jackson expects it to be “as strong or stronger” than the 96 percent who voted for him in 2008.
“There are 30 million new Americans in healthcare, 7 million are African-American. We’re all in this situation together. When we revived the automotive industry, blacks benefited, and whites and Latinos as well. When he raised Pell grants for students to help lower tuition costs, it helped us all. So we are better off today than we were four years ago.
“When he came into office, banks collapsed. Automotive industry collapsed. Healthcare – lack of access expanding. War in Iraq expanding. All of those downward trajectories have now been pointing up – and that’s a good thing.”
Jackson added that while Obama’s support for gay marriage has alienated some African-Americans, “no one can be a one-issue voter.”
“We live in our faith. We live under the law. The Constitution says all citizens have equal protection under the law.”
“What is affecting us so much today is the impact of too much violence,” he observed. “You see access to semi-automatic weapons. You see the highest suicide rate in the world. Two very unnecessary expensive wars.
“We spent $1 trillion to $3 trillion on the Iraq War. What could a trillion dollars do today? Wipe out every state budget deficit, rehire policemen, every teacher, every fireman. Put America back to work. Obama’s had to change the course – and all of the arrows are pointing upward.”
Last week, Jackson helped free two Gambian Americans – a former University of Tennessee professor and an Operation Desert Storm veteran – who were serving long prison terms for treason in the West African country, after appealing to the country’s president, Yahya Jammeh.
Jackson had a personal connection to Jammeh, who seized power in 1994 and whose regime is widely known for human-rights abuses.
“We got the word, about two weeks ago, that nine Gambians had been executed and that 38 more were going to be executed,” he said. “We immediately called the president’s office and asked for a meeting, appealing to him to please stop until we could talk. So he put on that temporary state.
“We got there on Monday and after a five-hour discussion, he agreed to an indefinite moratorium on the executions,” Jackson said.
“We found there were two Americans who were imprisoned there, not on death row – and he was good enough to pardon them. We hope that that crack will get wider because there are others there whose freedom we seek.”
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