I have spoken with President Obama once, for about 10 seconds. It was the spring of 2006. He was a senator. I was a reporter. As he walked past my position off the senate floor, I asked his response to those who say illegal immigration has displaced many young black men from the workplace.
Sen. Obama said this as he kept moving: "Well, there are a lot of other issues facing young black men."
Yes, but this is an issue, as a call yesterday from a black man in Georgia to C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" showed.
Said the caller: "There's things that President Obama needs to do. You know, the policies he's put in place have helped gays and lesbians. He's trying to get immigration reform for, you know, the Hispanics and people who are over here illegally. Why not do something like the CETA program [established under the 1973 Comprehensive Employment and Training Act to provide employment and job training] for the urban areas. The black unemployment rate is the highest, and we need some direct help. We voted in the highest percentage for President Obama. It is time that President Obama looked to the black community and helped. Do you agree with that?"
There was an interesting response from "Washington Journal" guest Gail Russell Chaddock, Washington political editor for the Christian Science Monitor:
"Well, the polls certainly agree with it. I was stunned with the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll. It showed for the first time an erosion in the support for this president among his strongest supporters, especially African-American voters, on, I think, precisely the caller's point. You know, after all this time, with, you know, the first black president, I think the idea was that at some point there would be something clear, an improvement."