Feature

Jimmy Carter, Joe Wilson, and racism

The former president reignites the debate about Wilson's heckling of President Obama

"If you thought the buzz behind Congressman Joe Wilson’s 'You lie' outburst last week was over, think again," said Jimmy Orr in The Christian Science Monitor. Former president Jimmy Carter gave the controversy new life by saying that Wilson's jab and much of the most intense animosity toward President Obama "is based on the fact that he is a black man." (watch NBC's report on Jimmy Carter's comments on racism; watch more Carter comments on racism) Predictably, the blogosphere went wild.

Jimmy Carter's broadside was the "last straw," said John Tantillo in Fox News. "The widespread anger and doubt (the hundreds of thousands marching on Washington) is about genuine ideological differences between the president and his opposition"—not racism. Unless Democrats start paying attention to the "palpable fear that the Obama brand" is pushing big-government change many Americans don't want—instead of crying racism—they'll divide the nation further, and hurt their own cause.

Please, said Maureen Dowd in The New York Times, "some people just can’t believe a black man is president and will never accept it." No Democrat shouted "liar" at George W. Bush "when he was hawking a fake case for war in Iraq." Wilson—who belonged to the Sons of Confederate Veterans and led a 2000 campaign to keep the Confederate flag waving above South Carolina’s state Capitol—clearly just didn't like being lectured "by the brainy black president presiding over the majestic chamber."

Okay, so Joe Wilson shouldn't have interrupted President Obama during his address to Congress, said Michael Meyers, executive director of the New York Civil Rights Commission, in the New York Daily News. "By the same token, can't those who object to Obamacare and an Obama Nation be recognized as wholly within their rights to speak up and to ridicule the man who temporarily occupies the White House"? We liberals need to make "intelligent arguments" for our policies instead of accusing people who disagree with us of racism.

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