Frank Rich sat down with Chris Rock and talked about politics, Obama, race, pop culture, comedy, and life.
Q: We’ve just come through an election that was a triumph for Fox News and a fiasco for Obama. What do you make of it?
Jon Stewart has said the reason Fox News works better than CNN is because the people at Fox News figured out how to make themselves into victims.
Q: So will it now be harder for Republicans to play victims?
They have no problem playing victims.
Q: Even in victory?
Even in victory. America — not black America, but America as a whole — started in England and was ruled by kings and queens and had a class system. I’m almost of the mind that that’s what America wants at the end of the day. Maybe America wants monopolies.
Q: They always seem to want a Bush or a Clinton.
Maybe they just want a Bush. Maybe they want no regulations. It’s hard for me to figure out people voting against their own self-interests. At some point you go, Okay: Is that what they want?
To be clear, this is one of the things that often confuses me with GOP supporters, especially the middle-class and poor supporters. They are supporting politicians whose economic policies definitely don’t line up with their own interests–in fact they often work against their interests–but instead support the GOP because of…racism? I’m not sure, I’m still confused about it.
On liberal disappointment with Obama:
Q: What do you think of how he’s done? Here we are in the last two years of his presidency, and there’s a sense among his supporters of disappointment, that he’s disengaged.
I’m trying to figure out the right analogy. Everybody wanted Michael Jordan, right? We got Shaq. That’s not a disappointment. You know what I mean? We got Charles Barkley. It’s still a Hall of Fame career. The president should be graded on jobs and peace, and the other stuff is debatable. Do more people have jobs, and is there more peace? I guess there’s a little more peace. Not as much peace as we’d like, but I mean, that’s kind of the gig. I don’t recall anybody leaving on an up. It’s just that kind of job. I mean, the liberals that are against him feel let down because he’s not Bush. And the thing about George Bush is that the kid revolutionized the presidency. How? He was the first president who only served the people who voted for him. He literally operated like a cable network. You know what I mean?
Q: Well, that would be much more revealing.
Yes, that would be an event. Here’s the thing. When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.
Q: Right. It’s ridiculous.
So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years. If you saw Tina Turner and Ike having a lovely breakfast over there, would you say their relationship’s improved? Some people would. But a smart person would go, “Oh, he stopped punching her in the face.” It’s not up to her. Ike and Tina Turner’s relationship has nothing to do with Tina Turner. Nothing. It just doesn’t. The question is, you know, my kids are smart, educated, beautiful, polite children. There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.
I have no idea what it’s like to be black in America and I’m not naive enough to think that being gay is enough to understand. While I’ve definitely experienced homophobia and have been threatened with violence, I do not have to step out into a world that was built to keep me down. I’m white and because of that I enjoy a completely different world, one in which I don’t have to fear for my life. What is happening now, with Mike Brown and Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, disgusts me. I feel ashamed that I’ve been complicit in the system.