08.04.12

Man Up, Mr. President: D.L. Hughley on Obama’s Bullies

In a new book, comedian D.L. Hughley says Obama needs to demand his opponents' respect, and learn that doing the "right thing" sometimes gets you nowhere. He talks to Allison Samuels

Comedian D.L. Hughley says he has great affinity for the current president of the United States, Barack Obama. The 49-year-old television star, talk-show host, and now author believes Obama’s introduction of the Affordable Care Act was one of the most crucial bills passed by a president during his lifetime. But it’s not all love between Hughley and Obama, as the comic explains in his new book, I Want You to Shut the F#ck Up: How the Audacity of Dopes Is Ruining America. The former host of CNN's D.L Hughley Breaks the News holds little back as he uses humor and savvy to describe the impact of the first African-American president, Tea Party tactics, and exactly how President Obama should and could have stopped the right-wing push-back before it ever began.

You have a lot of interesting observations about Barack Obama as president in your new book, but what did you think of him when he first came on the scene?

I’m always fascinated by anyone who is unknown but already has a book about their own life for you to read. You have to love the person who controls the narrative before it even begins, and that’s what Obama did with Dreams From My Father. I was interested in him from that standpoint very early on because that’s a smart dude.

In the book you compare President Obama to the character Carlton Banks from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Carlton was Will Smith’s nerdy and slightly corny cousin. How does that fit with Obama?

I just meant the president was fortunate enough to grow up in a world early on where he could believe that everything was all good and life was fair and wonderful if you did the right things. That’s how Obama was raised by his family in Hawaii and I get that. But part of me resents that because I’m a black man too and I didn’t grow up in that kind of world. I couldn’t grow up thinking everything would be OK because it wasn’t for a lot of people I knew.

How has his "it’s all good" worldview impacted the Obama presidency for better or for worse from your standpoint?

I think he was surprised that the right wing would actually let this country fall apart just to get the black guy out of office. I don’t think he realized how we as a country have not gotten that far race-wise. White people are cool with black people at work, living in the neighborhood and having a few as friends. But let someone black marry their daughter or let a black man run the free world and you see the real feelings. I think Obama thought everyone would come together for the good of the country. He believed that people are basically patriotic. They are until there’s a black head of state.

He believed that people are basically patriotic. They are until there’s a black head of state.

You give funny details about being bullied in school as a child by a kid named Bubba Rankin and how you’re sure Obama wasn’t bullied as a kid because of the way he’s handled those who have opposed him. You really feel our president has allowed himself to be bullied by the right wing?

Absolutely. The day Rep. Joe Wilson yelled out "you lie" while President Obama was speaking to congress defined his presidency as far as I’m concerned. Obama not addressing that situation gave a pass to people to keep disrespecting him. Had he just said, "You don’t have to respect me but you will respect this office," and then said, "Guards, remove him," a lot of things would be different now. Incidents like that show you he wasn’t raised by a black father because a black father would have taught him that you can’t let someone disrespect you but one time. You let someone take your lunch from you that one time without doing anything and they’ll be eating your lunch the rest of your life. That incident made it clear to me that he was raised by his grandparents from Kansas.

Do you think Obama will be more forceful in the way you’d like if he is reelected for a second term? Many African Americans feel he’ll fight harder for minority issues during his second term simply because he won’t have to worry about being reelected.

No, I don’t feel that way at all. He is who he is and that’s not going to change. He’s a diplomatic guy who feels things should be done in a certain way and handled with a certain amount of intelligence and thought. I admire him for that and all but everyone doesn’t feel that way or handle themselves in that matter, which is a huge problem for him. Everyone isn’t going to fight fair or work with you because it’s the right thing to do. But Obama’s core is about doing the right thing in a certain way. I don’t see that changing but so much.

Many African Americans are critical of those who are critical of the first African-American president. Were you worried that you would get backlash from your fans for your brutally honest observations?

Not really. It’s all in the way you do it. I respect President Obama a great deal and he’s done so many good things for this country. But we all can do better and we only do better when people that care about us push us to reach our full potential. Anyone who is great is great because someone somewhere kept telling them they could do more.