As a curmudgeonly conservative Republican who’s pushing 60, I have to fess up: I like rap music.
Hey, rap music helped kill disco. I feel I owe rap and rappers a debt I can never repay. One of the rappers I like is that guy named Common.
His moniker might ring a bell because Common’s the rapper who was invited to “An Evening of Poetry” at the White House a couple of weeks ago. Common’s invitation caused quite a few conservative noses to get twisted out of joint.
Here was Karl Rove’s huffy reaction:
“Yes, let’s invite a misogynist to the White House, a guy who’s called for violence against police officers, and called for the killing of the former president of the United States, George W. Bush. This guy is a thug. And why they are inviting him to poetry night at the White House speaks volumes about President Obama and this White House staff.”
Eleven years ago, Common dedicated a song to Assata Shakur, who was convicted in the 1973 murder of a New Jersey state trooper. So it was perhaps not unexpected that the president of the New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association, David Jones, weighed in on Common’s White House invitation.
“We have this man, this mutt, this nitwit,” Jones said. “This complete fraud, and that’s what he is. This is just an individual who absolutely embraced this mentality of anti-establishment.”
It is, regrettably, at this point I have to offer a few words in Common’s defense.
1. The guy isn’t a thug.
2. Common is not a misogynist. In fact, he’s been praised because the lyrics to his raps have steered clear of misogynistic, “gangsta” language.
3. The business with Assata Shakur is not all that clear cut.
Shakur was known as Joanne Chesimard when she was a member of the Black Panther Party. She and other Panthers split from the party and formed something called the Black Liberation Army. (Shakur has denied being in the BLA.)
The incident that left the trooper dead was in fact a shootout involving two state cops and purported BLA members. Shakur was one of them. A trooper did die, and so did one of the BLA members. Shakur was wounded. At her trial, the defense brought in expert witnesses who testified that her wounds were consistent with those that might have been received if a person receiving them had his or her hands raised in the air.
Maybe the White House should not have invited Common. Perhaps they could have invited Motown legend Smokey Robinson — still alive, still kicking and still, as Bob Dylan called him, “America’s greatest living poet.”
But there’s no need for the right to exaggerate Common’s vices.
Examiner columnist Gregory Kane is a Pulitzer-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to Sudan.