Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Carter concludes South Carolina Congressman's outburst "based on racism"

As the fallout over South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson's heckling of the president continues to unfold, former President Jimmy Carter told attendees of an Atlanta town hall meeting last night he feels the Republican lawmaker's outburst was "based on racism."

Carter's assessment sparked an almost immediate response from the Republican National Committee. It posted an item on its Web site titled "Consider the Source" that stressed "former President Jimmy Carter claims everyday Americans who object to Obama's health care plan are racist." And RNC chair Michael Steele, who is black, echoed this message in a press release.

"President Carter is flat out wrong," he said. "This isn't about race. It is about policy."

Steele went on to stress he feels this controversy is "a pathetic distraction by Democrats to shift attention away from the president's wildly unpopular government-run health care plan that the American people simply oppose."

This latest controversy erupted the same day the House formally rebuked Wilson for his outburst, but the story continues to grow far larger than one lawmaker's unfortunate decision to heckle the president in the middle of his speech. Bloggers on the Huffington Post and other progressive Web sites have repeatedly pointed out his Sons of Confederate Veterans membership to further their assertion he is a racist. Conservatives, on the other hand, have applauded Wilson for what they contend was his decision to challenge the president. It is arguably never wise to draw a conclusion based on one affiliation or vote or even action, but Carter's comments mandate a more in-depth analysis.

It remains an arguable very sad commentary the majority of Americans and especially their elected officials remain woefully unwilling to engage in a constructive debate on race. The president is the first commander-in-chief of color. The country has certainly made significant strides towards racial justice over the last decades, but Carter's comments and the brouhaha they ignited simply underscore the fact actual or perceived racism remains an all too taboo subject in the United States.

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