TWO VIEWS ON THE OBAMA RACE DEBATE. Princeton Professor Cornell West’s sharp-edged criticisms of President Obama reached a new height this week when he told Chris Hedges at Truthdig that Obama "has a certain fear of free black men," that he “lacks backbone” and has become "a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats.” This week, Columnists Melissa Harris-Perry and Gary Younge take different points of view.

Described by Andrew Sullivan as the “definitive takedown,” Melissa Harris-Perry fires back in “Cornell West vs. Barack Obama,” pointing out that West’s “thin criticisms” are disingenuous and vague. She pointed out in an appearance on MSNBC’s The Ed Show that the president has, in fact, spoken up for America’s underrepresented in his Supreme Court nominations and signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. 

But, as Columnist Gary Younge points out in "The Paradox of Hope," African-Americans have actually fared worse under Obama: the economic gap between black and white has grown under his presidency. In the ensuing debate in the African-American community and elsewhere about whether Obama should do more, Younge says by concentrating so heavily on race, both sides detract from his responsibilities. Obama should do more for African-Americans: not because they’re black but because they’re suffering most. And they have every right to demand more of him: they gave him a greater percentage of their vote than any other group.

THE DSK AFFAIR. In the wake of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn rape case, Executive Editor Betsy Reed offers an important reminder in "What If DSK’s Accuser Had Been Undocumented": despite the laudable actions of Dominique Strauss Kahn’s accuser–a Guinean immigrant and single mother, the fact that she came forward with rape allegations is anomalous. Citing a study by the Southern Povery Law Center, Reed points out that a majority of women immigrants in the United States experience some form of sexual harassment or coercion on the job, and very few of them come forward. Columnist Katha Pollitt, in “DSK Déjà Vu,” is right to suggest that in a culture deeply hostile to women—reflected in the response from the French political class and others who see the treatment of Strauss-Kahn as “unfair,” feminism’s job is not over.

SLIDESHOW: THE GOP’S PRESIDENTIAL CONTENDERS. On Friday, an aide to Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced Pawlenty would seek the Republican nomination for president. Donald Trump’s conspiracy theory-heavy campaign came to an end this week; Arkansas’s Mike Huckabee also bowed out, and Mississippi’s Haley Barbour has been out since last month. In an effort to keep track of who’s in and who’s out, The Nation has taken a pulse of the polls to provide a rundown of the 2012 GOP presidential field. Take a look at the slideshow here.

OBAMA AND THE MIDDLE EAST. Contributing Editor Robert Dreyfuss offers his own version of what Obama should have said in Wednesday’s speech on the Middle East. In a thorough analysis of Obama’s remarks, Dreyfuss asks: Is the Region Still Listening? And on MSNBC Live with Thomas Roberts Thursday morning, Melissa Harris-Perry argues that the speech was not only for Americans but also for people in the Middle East, where Obama’s poll numbers aren’t so high. Be sure to catch Melissa on MSNBC Live every Tuesday and Thursday between 11am and noon.

AWARD: BEST POLITICAL COVERAGE. We’re proud to be named “Best Political Coverage” by UTNE’s Independent Press Awards. As I said in my interview with UTNE, it’s wonderful because it is a celebration and an affirmation of your work by your peers, and that in many ways is the most heartening, and keeps you going when times are tough. We’re so very grateful for that. And to be in such good company, because it truly is an independent spirited award and publication. Congratulations to Mother Jones, The American Scholar, Bitch and all the other winners!

SPRING BOOKS. We’re proud to feature our bi-annual Books & Arts special issue out this week. The Nation’s Books & Arts section is one of the few remaining free-standing book reviews in the country. This spring’s edition features reviews of David Brooks’s The Social Animal, a meditation by associate literary editor Miriam Markowitz on Janet Malcomlm’s Iphigenia in Forest Hills, and a review of Irving Kristol’s collection of essays, The Neoconservative Persuasion. Be sure to take a look at all the other reviews here.


As always, thanks for reading. I’m on Twitter–@KatrinaNation. Please leave your comments below.