Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Carter Says Outburst toward Obama maybe motivated by Racism

Former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday that U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst to President Barack Obama during a speech to Congress last week was an act "based on racism" and rooted in fears of a black president.

"I think it's based on racism," Carter said at a town hall held at his presidential center in Atlanta. "There is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president."

The Georgia Democrat said the outburst was a part of a disturbing trend directed at the president that has included demonstrators equating Obama to Nazi leaders.

"Those kind of things are not just casual outcomes of a sincere debate on whether we should have a national program on health care," he said. "It's deeper than that."

Elephant in the room: Race also present in rebuke of Wilson
WASHINGTON — In their effort to admonish Rep. Joe Wilson, both white and black lawmakers in the House of Representatives voiced deep concern over a string of what they think are racially motivated attacks on the nation's first black president.

"There's no question that if you look at some of the actions and comments being made, there's a fringe element that has staked out a racial position towards African-Americans that never has been open for public display" until now, said Rep. Henry Johnson, D-Ga., a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Wilson "didn't help the cause of diversity and balance with his remarks."

The 240 to 179 vote Tuesday, largely along party lines, formally reprimanded Wilson, a South Carolina Republican, for shouting "You lie!" to President Barack Obama during his address last week to a joint session of Congress.

However, some Black Caucus members said that Wilson's outburst is but the latest in a long string of ugly events rooted in racism, such as last week's flap over Obama addressing the nation's schoolchildren, protesters showing up outside Obama events carrying licensed firearms, and "birthers" questioning Obama's citizenship. Black Caucus members say such incidents are designed to disrespect the office of the president now that a black man holds it.

The push, experts said, reflects growing anger in the black community over how Obama is being attacked with venomous and false charges that he's a socialist, born in Kenya, a Muslim, and somehow un-American.

"It feels very O.J-ish," said Kathryn Russell-Brown, the director of the Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations at the University of Florida, referring to the racial divide in public opinion over the guilt or innocence of former football star O.J. Simpson for the 1994 murder of his white wife. Surveys found that white majorities thought Simpson guilty was and blacks didn't. Simpson was acquitted in 1995. "It's deja vu all over again. People have staked out their ground: 'It's about race; no it's not about race.'"

Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., also black, said that the racial undercurrent against Obama has been the least discussed aspect of his presidency.

Scott said he experienced some of the racial vitriol aimed at Obama when someone painted a swastika on his Smyrna, Ga., office following a contentious town hall meeting on health care last month.

"The folks are not going to stand for socialized medicine even though negro's (sic) refuse to stand on their own two feet," another letter read.

Georgia's Johnson said that Wilson's outburst, and the House Republican leadership's response to it, gives a wink and a nod to racist behavior and that Tuesday's resolution was needed to restore civility.

"The other party has been stoking the flames of disrespect among the people," Johnson said, adding: "I guess we'll have people putting on white hoods and uniforms."

Not every Democrat, however, was anxious to punish Wilson or viewed his outburst through the prism of race. Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., said Wilson's shout at Obama reflected the passion of the current political debate that's going on in the country.

"Part of this is a fundamental debate about the role of government, and their people are really loud," said Edwards, a Black Caucus member who added that Wilson needed to be disciplined nonetheless. "This is about how we go forward as a republic and as an institution. This (behavior) cannot be allowed without any sanction."

Democrats voting no: Mike Arcuri (NY), Bill Delahunt (Mass.), Gabrielle Giffords (Ariz.), Maurice Hinchey (NY), Paul Hodes (NH), Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), Daniel Maffei (NY), Eric Massa (NY), Jim McDermott (Wash.), Gwen Moore (Wisc.), Gene Taylor (Miss.), Harry Teague (NM).Democrats voting present: Eliot Engel (NY), Bill Foster (Ill.), Barney Frank (Mass.), Carol Shea-Porter (NH), Ike Skelton (Mo.)

Republicans voting yes: Joseph Cao (La.), Jo Ann Emerson (Mo.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Bob Inglis (SC), Walter Jones (NC), Thomas Petri (Wisc.), Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.).

GOP South Carolina lawmaker: Wilson should apologize again
Rep. Bob Inglis of South Carolina on Tuesday became the first Republican lawmaker to make a public appeal to Rep. Joe Wilson to apologize to his colleagues in the House of Representatives for yelling "You lie!" at President Barack Obama last week as he addressed Congress.

Inglis, who represents the conservative Upstate section of South Carolina, said Wilson's apology to Obama immediately after his speech wasn't enough.

"Joe also broke House rules," Inglis said. "That problem could easily be fixed by an apology to the House. In the absence of an apology, the House could choose to police itself through a resolution of disapproval."

Inglis took his hard stand shortly before the House was scheduled to take up a "resolution of disapproval" reprimanding Wilson, who's also a South Carolina Republican, under rules governing conduct of the chamber's 435 members.

Inglis spoke before the session with Wilson, who reiterated that he won't apologize to his colleagues as House Democrats have demanded, Inglis said.

After Inglis explained his position to his colleagues, Boehner returned to the podium and again urged a unified Republican vote against the resolution of disapproval.

"I have to go home to five kids who are always told to do the right thing," Inglis told McClatchy. "It's a matter of redeeming the rule of law. There are rules of the House; they must be followed, and when they're broken, there are consequences."

Inglis said several Republican lawmakers came up to him after the meeting and said they agreed with him but wouldn't be able to vote for the resolution. Inglis predicted that he'd be among only a handful of Republican members who'd vote for it.

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh said Tuesday that Wilson would get more campaign contributions than any House candidate ever if he were sanctioned.

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