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Obama: Racism not driving health care debate

September 19, 2009

President Barack Obama said Friday that angry criticisms about his health care agenda are driven by an intense debate over the proper role of government — and not by racism.

“Are there people out there who don’t like me because of race? I’m sure there are,” Obama told CNN. “That’s not the overriding issue here.”

The nation’s first black president spoke about the issue of race during a battery of interviews on Friday. In a media blitz aimed at pounding home his health care message, he taped interviews with ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and Univision to be shown during the networks’ Sunday morning talk shows.

Some excerpts aired during Friday night broadcasts.

Time and again, Obama was asked about whether the tenor of the health care debate turned nasty because of undercurrents in racism. Former President Jimmy Carter raised the point prominently this week when he said the vitriol was racially motivated.

Not so, Obama said.

“There’s been a long-standing debate in this country that is usually that much more fierce during times of transition, or when presidents are trying to bring about big changes,” Obama told CNN.

To NBC News, Obama put it this way: “It’s an argument that’s gone on for the history of this republic, and that is, What’s the right role of government? How do we balance freedom with our need to look out for one another? … This is not a new argument, and it always evokes passions.”

Obama said most people across the country are just trying to follow the debate and figure out how proposed changes would help them.

“Now there are some who are, setting aside the issue of race, actually I think are more passionate about the idea of whether government can do anything right,” Obama said told ABC News. “And I think that that’s probably the biggest driver of some of the vitriol.”

Some health care town halls over the summer had bitter moments of confrontation. And South Carolina Republican Rep. Joe Wilson shouted “You lie!” at Obama during the president’s address to a joint session of Congress last week. The White House has said for weeks that such moments are not representative and overblown.

Obama told CBS News that the media was partly to blame.

“The 24-hour news cycle and cable television and blogs and all this — they focus on the most extreme elements on both sides,” Obama said. “They can’t get enough of conflict. It’s catnip to the media right now.”

Obama also is visiting David Letterman on Monday, the first appearance ever by a sitting president on Letterman’s “Late Show.”

7 Responses to Obama: Racism not driving health care debate

  1. bryan mcclellan

    September 19, 2009 at 7:56 am

    From here Mr President it is indeed not about race but about your refusal to fulfill your oath to uphold the Constitution. You stated that you would begin at the begin, but you jumped to the middle and now find yourself with zero credibility and an albatross necklace of broken promises.

    Then again maybe it is about race.
    The race of people called politicians.
    The one race of individuals that need an ass kickin reality check, or is it a hearing test, or maybe a good ole bar of lye soap across the teeth every time you lie to the people who hired you.

    Any way one wants to perceive it the fact remains that you shed your American skin and donned the reptilian suit of your predecessor as the gang welcomed you down into the fetid murky depths from which none return untainted…HACK!

  2. Sandra Price

    September 19, 2009 at 10:21 am

    Bryan, you put it clearly on the line. I am having a problem trying to figure out why he continues to play the Bush 43 game. He laid out his agenda clearly and then backed away from it. I did not vote for him but was pleased that he won. I figured that if anyone could get a health care program together and get us out of the Middle East; he could do it.

    The Republican Values Forum in D.C. this weekend is following the direction of the Social Conservatives and have nothing to offer America except prohibitions. The choice is too narrow for most of us and a third party may be the only answer.

  3. bryan mcclellan

    September 19, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    I too participated in the collective sigh of relief on 1/20/09, but it didn’t take long to detect the same acrid cloud of sameness Sandra, and with the lifting of restrictions on soft money I fear the further entrenchment of the duopoly signals the demise of any efforts for a viable third party.

  4. AustinRanter

    September 19, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    If there is any need to examine the dynamics related to prejudices and discriminatory behaviors…and specially aimed at President Obama…regardless of the issues he’s addressing…then I think that we’ve been witnessing way more bigotry than racism.

    All racist are bigots…but not all bigots are racist.

    With Respect to Bigotry and Racism…

    I think that the danger lies in Obama’s failure as a president, such as Carter. Obama’s failure as president will, I believe, create bigoted and racist type behaviors to expose themselves much, much more…”should an other African American runs for president” than during Obama’s bid, winning, and term as president

  5. almandine

    September 19, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    Small wonder that bigotry takes hold in such a debate. Given all the BS told by every pol in DC, and given the BS in the health care debate passed off as truth, who could possibly be broad minded enough to believe all the crap?

    The Big O and Congress are reaping all they’ve sown. Bigotry – that is, narrow-mindedness, intolerance, and discrimination are rightfully in full force. To believe otherwise is to set oneself up to be fooled.

  6. sherry

    September 19, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    Austin writes:I think that the danger lies in Obama’s failure as a president, such as Carter. Obama’s failure as president will, I believe, create bigoted and racist type behaviors to expose themselves much, much more…”should an other African American runs for president” than during Obama’s bid, winning, and term as president

    Autin, I normally agree with you, but in this instance, no. People are so desperate for an honest broker in the WH, they would vote for a Blue Person if they beleived that person would clean this country up.

    It would be nice if we had a POTUS who would swear off employees who are also members of Council on Foreign Relations, Trilateral Commission, Bilderbergers, et al.

    Ever notice the same sewage works for every administration?

  7. bryan mcclellan

    September 19, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    Nice AL; may I respectfully add, it is also due to the incessant need of this Race of people (politicians) to make it a race to climb over the backs of one another with the knife at the ready, instead of holding the doors open for all.