Tavis Smiley To Obama: "You Cannot Lead From Behind" On Race

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TAVIS SMILEY: I appreciate and applaud the fact that the president did finally show up. But this town has been spinning a story that's not altogether true. He did not walk to the podium for an impromptu address to the nation; he was pushed to that podium. A week of protest outside the White House, pressure building on him inside the White House pushed him to that podium. So I'm glad he finally arrived.

But when he left the podium, he still had not answered the most important question, that Keynesian question, where do we go from here? That question this morning remains unanswered, at least from the perspective of the president. And the bottom line is this is not Libya, this is America. On this issue, you cannot lead from behind.

What's lacking in this moment is moral leadership. The country is begging for it, they are craving it. And I disagree with the president respectfully that politicians, elected officials, can't occupy this space on race. Lincoln did, Truman did, Johnson did; President Obama did. He's the right person in the right place, at the right time. But he has to step into his moment. I don't want him to be like Bill Clinton, when he's out of office, regretting that he didn't move on Rwanda. I don't the president to look back, David, and realize that he didn't do as much as he could have in this critical moment. (Meet the Press, July 21, 2013)

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