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I never thought I’d be nodding my head in agreement with Al Sharpton. However, I certainly was when, at the conclusion of his address to the Democratic National Convention, he noted that only in a country as great and free as ours could someone like him run for the nomination for the presidency.

Unfortunately, I had to sit through a whole speech of impassioned distortions and insults to America, Americans and particularly black Americans, waiting for Reverend Al to stumble into something true.

Drawing on his vast foreign-affairs experience acquired on the streets of Brooklyn, Sharpton opened his remarks by criticizing President Bush’s foreign policy. It was entertaining to hear the man who achieved fame with the Tawana Brawley charade attack the president for supposedly misleading the nation.

Clearly, Sharpton let our black secretary of state and our black national security adviser off the hook for supposedly misleading the nation on Iraq because surely, in his view, they are just puppets, like all black Republicans, so they can’t be held responsible.

My particular concern is the destructive and wrong message that Sharpton delivered to all African-Americans in inner cities around our country who listened to his address. What did he tell them? That government doesn’t care about your personal life, your moral life or how you conduct yourselves as citizens and as people. But it is the government’s job to “guarantee” that food is in your refrigerator.

This is exactly what a community that is being torn apart by AIDS, illegitimacy, abortion, crime and 50-percent school dropouts needed to hear. Particularly from someone who calls himself a minister.

Sharpton then went on to infer that without political intervention, Clarence Thomas would never have gotten through law school. Another beautiful message to black children. You’ll never make it on your own. You’re a basket case without government. Don’t even believe that that black man who is a justice on the United States Supreme Court is there because of his brains and talent.

Is it any wonder we have problems in the black community? In the Al Sharpton view of the world, blacks who are making it in our country today fall into two categories: those who are making it because government makes it possible for them to make it, and those who are making it because they have sold out and have been bought off by the white establishment.

The idea that a black man or woman has innate ability and can make it under any circumstances with faith, values and hard work is either incomprehensible to Al Sharpton or an idea that he perceives too incompatible with his career path to be given any credence.

Sharpton claimed that his remarks were constructed to answer the questions that George W. Bush posed in his recent address to the Urban League. Frankly, I would have found it much more interesting if Sharpton chose instead to answer Bill Cosby’s questions about why blacks are not waking up to the fact that they need to dump the politics of impotence and victimization and start taking personal responsibility for their lives.

There seems to be some good news here, however. Sharpton, in his nomination bid, picked up a whopping 26 delegates, barely 1 percent of the 2,000-plus needed. He finished nowhere in the South Carolina primary, heavily dominated by black voters.

Clearly, the Sharpton message to continue worshipping the welfare state is not selling well to black voters. This leaves two questions.

First, why did the Democratic Party give a man with no political future – whose presidential bid was a joke – a high-profile speaking slot at the convention? Why, for instance, if they wanted to showcase a black politician, didn’t they give the slot to someone like Rep. Harold Ford, who talks about ownership and choice and new ideas for the Democratic Party? The answer here is clearly that the Democrats wanted a black preacher who could stir the crowd up, play to their worst fears and drive home the true agenda of the Democratic Party, which is exactly the left-wing, big-government, welfare-state stuff that Sharpton is talking about.

The next question is: If black voters are not buying this agenda from Al Sharpton, why are they buying it from two mega-millionaire white guys who know as much about the realities of life in the inner city as black kids in South Central Los Angeles know about life at Yale? The Kerry-Edwards ticket is perhaps the wealthiest team to ever run for the White House. Do blacks really need these guys – with their $2,000 suits and $300 haircuts – telling them they need government to solve all their problems, decide where and how to educate their kids and provide for their health care?

As the rappers say, “Let’s get real.” The Democrats should have just nominated Al Sharpton.

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