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SCHULTZ: And in my Playbook tonight, the Americans who flooded Chicago`s Grant Park on election night 2008 expected President Barack Obama to usher in a new era of progressivism, giving a voice to the little guy. The president`s plunging approval ratings suggest at least some of them may have been disappointed.
My next guest says, one of them, he says, President Obama would do better if he could do more and be more like Martin Luther King. He thinks the president should be focused on the problems of the black poor in this country and he would end up helping the entire country.
Princeton University Professor Dr. Cornel West joins me tonight on THE ED SHOW. An honor and a pleasure. Dr. West, great to have you with us. Your article most recently in " Playboy Magazine" says that you are disappointed in President Obama. Where has he failed in your opinion or where is he lagging?
DR. CORNEL WEST, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR: First, I just want to salute you, appreciate the job that you`re doing, Brother Ed. The same is true with Brother Keith and Sister Rachel. I think you`re all doing a fabulous job. I also want to extend a happy birthday to my dear brother President Obama.
I know he`s under tremendous pressure and it`s always a question of trying to push him in a direction that accents the best of what progressives are all about. About progressives, I don`t mean just some ideology. I`m talking about those like Martin Luther King Jr. who love poor people, who love working people. And when you love folk, you hate the fact they`re being treated unjustly.
So, the priority of jobs with a living wage, priority of homes and a priority of focusing on the new Jim Crow which is a prison industrial complex aided by a war against drugs that has led towards 72 percent of those in prison or in the soft drug convictions. We`ve got to hit these head-on.
Instead, we`ve seen too much focus on financial oligarchs on Wall Street, corporate elites and big business. And I`m pushing my dear brother Barack Obama in saying you`ve got to bust the Martin Luther King Jr. in the oval when you see him. Look at the poor and working people here. Look at the war in Afghanistan and see the ways in which we`re spending billions and billions and billions of dollars there where we should be rebuilding here.
SCHULTZ: So Dr. West, you`re sounding as if you`re very disappointed in the performance of the president and it`s not even two years into his first term. What does he have to do? Where does he have to shift? You said in that article that it`s getting late. What do you mean?
WEST: It`s getting late because my dear brother, I want not just Barack Obama, I want Congress to treat poor brothers and sisters, not just black, not just Leticia and Jamaal, all poor people with the same dignity and support as they treated investment bankers. I want them to treat poor people the same way they treat corporate elites.
We have to have a democracy in which the least of these, I speak as a Christian who wants to bear witness to truth and justice, the condition of truth to allow suffering to speak. We`ve got too many suffering brothers and sisters of all colors who are not being treated fairly.
And the jobs bill that the Nancy Pelosi is talking about, that`s fine too, but that`s for unemployment benefits, we`re talking about jobs with a living wage, homes they can live in, a prison industrial complex that is fair rather than tilted against the weak.
SCHULTZ: Do you feel that President Obama has left his base? Do you think he doesn`t appreciate what the base did for him?
WEST: I think that he believes that persons like myself who were fundamentally committed to the transforming the situation of the poor and working people have nowhere to go. So yes, I do want to protect him against the vicious attacks on the right. No doubt.
I want to respect him at the same time and I want him to respect me and others. But most importantly, I want to correct him because he assumes persons like myself have nowhere to go, especially black persons like myself. So, he figures.
SCHULTZ: What should he do about the republicans? They`re blocking everything. And here he is, a political pragmatist. Many people on the left are saying that he hasn`t been strong enough. What should he do?
WEST: I think there are three different levels. One is just a bully pulpit, the bully pulpit. I wish he talk about taxing financial transactions. I wish he talk about taxing debt instruments, taxing stock, taxing currency. Wouldn`t affect one working person or one poor person whatsoever. They have the money. Let`s go where it is. I wish he would talk about the prison industrial complex, how do we make it fair so that our poor persons don`t find themselves cannon for such a vicious system.
SCHULTZ: OK. And Dr. West, finally, you made a very interesting comment in that article about Michelle Obama. Is she underused?
WEST: Well, she`s brilliant. She`s courageous. She`s visionary. And I know that she`s in a situation which is similar to all first ladies, but I wish in fact that she were more prominent in dealing with some of these issues as it relates to poor people and working people.
Of course, she comes out of a history of those who are focused on such issues. And I wish in fact that she were able to do that. But of course, I`m not on the insight. I don`t know what the dynamics actually are. So, we shall see.
SCHULTZ: Dr. West, great to have you with us on THE ED SHOW. We`ve got to have you back. I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.
WEST: I appreciate the work that