Editorial by John Ziegler

Barack Obama is NO Tiger Woods

3/14/2008

Barack Obama is no Tiger Woods

On the surface, Tiger Woods and Barack Obama seem to share much in common. While both are obviously among the most charismatic, talented and famous people in the nation (if not the world) it is in the area of race where their apparent similarities have received by far the most attention.

Racially, both are described as 'multi-ethnic' and are largely perceived to be 'Black' (even though technically Woods is more 'Asian' than 'Black,' and Obama is at least as 'White' as he is 'Black'). By quickly reaching heights that no one of their backgrounds has ever attained before, both have been given credit for creating, as well as taking advantage of, a so-called 'post-racial' dynamic that many herald as the beginning of the end of our country's often disgraceful history when it comes to race.

Some commentators (including in Sports Illustrated) have even speculated that the meteoric rise of Tiger Woods as an unprecedented and unblemished cultural icon has indirectly paved the way for Obama's rocket-like journey to the brink of the Democratic Presidential nomination. After all, millions of White men (with whom Obama polls extremely well) have seen and admired what Woods has accomplished on and off the course and have gotten far more comfortable, subconsciously at least, with the concept of a multi-ethnic hero with brown skin, a mini-afro, and a parent from another Continent.

However, it must be pointed out that in reality there are stark differences in the way that Tiger Woods and Barack Obama have approached the issue of race in their careers. Only twice in Woods' public life has he ever come close to playing the 'race card.' When he first turned pro he did an ill-advised Nike commercial were he absurdly claimed that 'there are still courses in the United States that I can not play because of the color of my skin.'

The second occasion came just months later when he let Fuzzy Zoeller twist in the wind after making a stupid joke at the Masters about what Tiger would serve at the next year's Champion's dinner. It should be noted that Tiger's late father Earl, known to be far more militant on racial issues, was still a strong advisor to Tiger at that time. When earlier this year a female Golf Channel announcer made a similarly bad joke with the word 'lynch' in it, Tiger, now older and on his own, immediately made it clear that there was nothing to be concerned about and the matter was essentially dropped.

Contrast that reaction with that of Obama's when Geraldine Ferraro had the gall (perhaps "audacity"?) to state that he would not be on the verge of being the Democratic nominee if he were not a Black man. Let's forget for a moment that to many people (including myself) it appears to be blatently obvious that if Obama were simply a White, first-term Senator with no notable achievements, that he would have even been taken remotely seriously as a Presidential candidate and certainly would not be treated as the Chosen One by news media (heck, he said himself in 2004 that it would be out of the question for him to be ready to run nationally in 2008). Obama's reaction to this 'controversy' was far more like the young and inexperienced Tiger Woods rather than today's seasoned version.

Obama called Ferraro's assertion 'ridiculous' and claimed that no one could possibly think that 'being Black and named Barack Obama' could be a help in running for President (I guess he is allowed to make an issue of his name, but no one else is). His campaign demanded that Hillary Clinton condemn Ferraro and remove her from any role in her campaign. In short, Obama played the part of racial victim, a character totally out of step with the alleged 'post-racial' promise that makes up so much of his appeal (by the way, how is it that his race gets to be part of why his election would be so meaningful, but you aren't allowed to say his campaign benefits because he is Black').

What made all of this laughable is that it came in the same week where Obama won 91% of the black vote (and lost the white vote) in Mississippi, and where it was revealed that, Jeremiah Wright, his Pastor of 20 years (who happens to be Black and was the inspiration for Obama's book "The Audacity of Hope") has made some of the most racist and anti-American statements from the pulpit imaginable. Despite the nearly simultaneous flap over Ferraro, there was somehow almost no immediate pressure for Obama to repudiate his Pastor, about whom he has remained complimentary to this day.

The immense cross-cultural appeal of Tiger Woods is based on many aspects of his profile (foremost among them, of course, is that, unlike Obama he has already transformed his incredible potential into actual accomplishments). While at first glance Barack Obama appears to possess many of those same qualities, when you scratch below the surface it becomes clear that his resemblance to Tiger Woods is literally only skin deep.

The Orange County Register's version of this column scheduled to run in this Sunday's paper can be found at: http://www.ocregister.com/opinion/obama-woods-tiger-1999264-black-race

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