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Obama can’t escape race card
Question of the Day
“That is such a distraction and a diversion from the issues that we should be discussing,” he said. “I really want to take the advice of President Obama, and that is that we should be discussing the issues, and that is what I intend to do.”
Republicans, led by the first black to head the party, this week began pushing back - hard.
“President Carter is flat-out wrong. This isn’t about race. It is about policy,” Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele said Wednesday.
“Injecting race into the debate over critical issues facing American families doesn’t create jobs, reform our health care system or reduce the growing deficit. … Characterizing Americans’ disapproval of President Obama’s policies as being based on race is an outrage and a troubling sign about the lengths Democrats will go to disparage all who disagree with them.”
Mr. Steele, who has publicly sparred with Mr. Obama, called out the president.
“As the leader of the Democratic Party, President Obama should flatly reject efforts by those in his Party, including Jimmy Carter and Tim Kaine, to inject race into our civil discourse in ways that divide, not unite, Americans,” he said.
The issue quickly split congressional Democrats. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California at first said it was time to “move on” to the debate on health care, but she and the White House yielded to senior black Democrats, led by House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, who argued that Mr. Wilson’s remark could not go unpunished.
Mr. Clyburn has served as a leader on racial matters and during last year’s Democratic presidential primary contest, criticized former President Bill Clinton for what he felt were racially tinged remarks toward Mr. Obama.
Thomas Mann, senior political analyst at the Brookings Institution, rejected the view expressed by Mr. Carter and others that the public’s anger over Mr. Obama’s policies was rooted in racism.
“Certainly all of the anger at Obama is not based on race, nor is most opposition to his policies rooted in race. Ideology and partisanship explain much more,” Mr. Mann said. “And yet some of the more extreme attacks on him very likely have a racial dimension.”
The issue of race has been swirling around Mr. Obama’s political fortunes for more than 18 months, ever since Rev. Jeremiah Wright, pastor at a Chicago church attended by the Obamas, spewed vitriolic comments during a widely dispersed sermon, at one point declaring, “God damn America.”
Mr. Obama initially defended his friend but eventually was forced to deliver a speech on race, which he did in Philadelphia in March 2008.
“On one end of the spectrum, we’ve heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it’s based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap,” he said then. “On the other end, we’ve heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.”
In April, during a visit to Turkey, Mr. Obama said that the election was, in part, a redemptive act for Americans, a way to prove to the world that they are better than people think.
“I come from a racial minority; my name is very unusual for the United States,” he said. “And so I think people saw my election as proof, as testimony, that although we are imperfect, our society has continued to improve; that racial discrimination has been reduced; that educational opportunity for all people is something that is still available.”
By Tom Harris and Madhav Khandekar
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