WASHINGTON — As the debate over jobs turns into the latest political tug-of-war, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri walks a careful but candid line.
As chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, he has been at odds with President Barack Obama over his administration's response to the soaring unemployment rate in the African-American community.
Nearing 17 percent, joblessness among blacks is at a three-decade high and almost twice the size of the overall unemployment rate. The black caucus wants the president to do more.
But the group's efforts are freighted with political sensitivities, given Obama's unique role as the first African-American occupant of the White House and the sometimes untethered animosity that his election has triggered.
"If (former President) Bill Clinton had been in the White House and had failed to address this problem, we probably would be marching on the White House," Cleaver said. "There is a less-volatile reaction in the CBC because nobody wants to do anything that would empower the people who hate the president."