Pete Buttigieg, Mayor Pete of South Bend, is the rising star of the Democrats this month, Beto having already had his 15 minutes of fame. Mayor Pete and his prospective first lady (sex no longer has anything to do with who’s a lady and who’s a gent) even made the cover of Time magazine.
But of lasting importance, Mayor Pete stopped in Harlem to be seen dining with the Rev. Al Sharpton, which seals all the qualifications he needs to be the president of the United States.
Stopping to kiss the ring of Reverend Al is a traditional stop for any ambitious Democratic politician. Tradition once dictated that such a photo op should be on a factory floor, at a hospital, a public school, an orphanage or any place crowded with common folk.
Mayor Pete was actually late arriving to kiss the Rev’s ring. The Rev held a four-day conference of his National Action Network the other day and every Democratic presidential candidate who could croak a note showed up to join the hallelujah chorus. Bernie Sanders was there. So were Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren in her war paint, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar. Even Beto made a cameo appearance, if only for old times’ sake. So did Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who may not have yet heard that the U.S. Constitution, if it still matters, requires a president to be 35 years old.
Joe Biden skipped out, but he had appeared on another stage a few days before that and he was counting on Rev. Al not holding a grudge. The Rev has to be feeling pert these days. Not only do leading politicians pay homage to him, but he imagines that’s a breeze at his back. “A lot of the issues that we have been at the forefront of — in terms of criminal justice reform, in terms of voting rights, in terms of racial disparities, in terms of the economy — have become mainstream issues,” he says.
But Rev. Al has a past, and it’s an ugly one. Matthew Hennessy, an editor at The Wall Street Journal, reminded the Rev, his readers and amnesiac Americans of why the Democrats’ embrace of that past still has the power to shock an inquiring mind that wants to know.
The Rev is remembered first and foremost for a hoax. “Mr. Sharpton was chief spokesman for the family of Tawana Brawley, a black teenager who ran away from home, then falsely claimed she’d been abducted and raped by a gang of white men,” Mr. Hennessy writes. “Ms. Brawley’s lawyers, Alton Maddox and C. Vernon Mason, accused Fishkill [New York] police officer Harry Crist Jr. of orchestrating the abduction. Crist couldn’t defend himself because he had committed suicide the same week Ms. Brawley went missing. ”
A grand jury determined the abduction was fake and found no evidence that Ms. Brawley had been assaulted. A onetime aide to the Rev conceded years later that the incident had been “only a media show.” Rev. Al has never apologized.
There’s more. “Mr. Sharpton also has a history of anti-Semitic agitation,” Mr. Hennessy reminds us. “In August 1991 an Orthodox Jewish driver ran a red light and swerved into Gavin Cato, an 8-year-old black child, in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. The following night a mob set upon 29-year-old Yankel Rosenbaum — an Australian student who had nothing to do with the accident — and stabbed him to death. At Gavin’s funeral, Mr. Sharpton caricatured Jews as ‘diamond dealers’ and, according to a report in [the newspaper] Newsday, seemed to scoff at labeling Gavin’s death an accident.”
The Rev even helped start a race riot. His National Action Network led daily anti-Semitic protests in front of Freddy’s Fashion Mart in Harlem every day in the summer of 1995. He didn’t like Jews doing business in a black neighborhood. One day the “peaceful” protests turned deadly. A protester burned down Freddy’s Fashion Mart. Seven people died.
You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs, and all that, and there are all sorts of indignities associated with running for president. There’s fundraising, which is mostly calling up rich people and asking for money. Long-held convictions have to be abandoned to give way to pandering. Kissing babes, as Joe Biden is learning, has become a misdemeanor. But sucking up to a demagogue seems to be fun.
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