Tonight, the president and first lady will host an evening of American poetry at the White House to celebrate the art form’s influence in American culture and, apparently, to provide the right-wing an opportunity to manufacture another controversy. This time, it’s over the guest list. After learning that Grammy-winning hip-hop artist and long-time Obama supporter Common will attend, conservative news outlets and pundits seized on the artist’s mention of controversial topics in his lyrics to lambast President Obama for hosting a “vile rapper.”
Particularly aghast over the “Burn a Bush cos’ for peace he no push no button” line in Common’s anti-Iraq war song “A Letter to the Law,” Fox News host Sean Hannity invited Bush’s former White House adviser Karl Rove on to berate the president and first lady for “inviting a thug to the White House”:
ROVE: President Obama said last week he wanted to recapture that special moment after 9/11 and here a week later, we have an example of how this White House thinks it can recapture that moment — by inviting a thug to the White House, a man who called for the death of Mr. Obama’s predecessor in office. […]
This guy is a thug! And why they are inviting him at poetry night at the White House speaks volumes about President Obama and this White House staff. Who’s asleep at the vetting desk?…If he believed last week last week that he wanted to re-establish the great tone in the country after 9/11, why would he invite a thug to the White House who said he wanted to kill President Bush for taking the country to war in Iraq?
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The Loop21’s Keli Goff noted last night on Fox News that Common’s “burn a bush” lyric is a rhetorical “play on words” referencing the Bible rather than a call to assassinate the president. “If you said to me that Common threatened the life of President Bush, then I’d be the first person to say he doesn’t belong in the White House,” Goff said.
Goff added that Common is actually not known for his negative lyrics but is widely reputed to be a positive, politically conscience hip-hop artist who actively combats “thug” stereotypes. While Rove relishes in labeling Common with the racially–charged term “thug,” Raw Story points out that a Fox News reporter called Common “very positive” not too long ago:
However, about seven months ago, Fox News interviewer Jason Robinson spoke to Common and praised him, saying he’s “very positive.”
“You’re known as the conscious rapper,” Robinson said. Common responded that being an artist is a “significant role.”
Incidentally, was Rove manning the vetting desk when President Bush invited “the Prince of Darkness” Ozzy Osbourne to dinner at the White House in 2002? Not only has Osbourne bit the heads off multiple animals, he was sued twice for his song “Suicide Solution” after two teenagers took their lives. Hip Hop mogul Russell Simmons even pointed out that he sent rappers from his Def Poetry Jam Broadway show to Bush’s White House. “[The right-wing] didn’t say nothing,” he noted, adding “There’s nothing that Common could say that was more critical of the U.S. government than all the poets of my Broadway show. It won a Tony.”
But the difference now is there’s an African American in the White House — one who also has been labeled a “thug” and, as the American Prospect’s Adam Serwer notes, has “spent the last few years facing accusations of covert black militancy from Republicans.” Thus, for the right-wing, a meeting of two “thugs” must a “faux-scandal” make.
Common responded with this posting on Facebook:
Politics is politics and everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I respect that. The one thing that shouldn’t be questioned is my support for the police officers and troops that protect us every day. Peace yall!
,Today, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that while Obama opposes some of Common’s lyrics, he is still standing by his invitation of the rapper. “He’s known as a socially conscious hip hop artist or rapper, who in fact, has done, a lot of good things,” offered Carney. “You can oppose some of what he’s done and appreciate some of the other things he’s done.”