I believe Obama rejects Carter's charge – UPDATED

I believe Obama rejects Carter's charge – UPDATED September 16, 2009

In a post below, I noted a tweet from CBS’ Mark Knoller:

Rejecting Jimmy Carter analysis, WH spksmn Gibbs says Pres. Obama does not blv that criticism of him comes based on the color of his skin.

I twittered back: I believe this constant cry of racism is probably disheartening and distasteful to Obama. Perhaps he should say something.

To which Knoller replied: i’m sure he would if asked since a former US pres made the comment.

Whether a president who sees his country coming to a full rolling boil
over charges of racism needs to be asked before he says something about it is another story, but I meant what I twittered to Knoller, and I forwarded his tweet to a newsgroup I belong to.

They seemed underwhelmed by Gibbs’ representation and wondered if Obama “meant it.” And others have expressed to me their distrust in the sincerity of the WH on this.

But I believe Obama does disagree with Jimmy Carter when Carter (for whom I voted in 1976, before he became bitter) when Carter claims that opposition to Obama’s healthcare and other policies has a racist foundation; I believe it just as I am absolutely convinced that Obama thinks Kanye West is “a jackass.” I have no reason not to believe it. I know many of you will call me stupid or naive for this, particularly when, in terms of policy Obama really has lost my trust and has contributed to my nurturing of a garden of cynicism I would rather not grow.

I do believe that Obama cannot be anything but appalled to see this very destructive back-and-forth between the congresspeople, pundits and mediafolk who have responded to an inappropriate outburst from a member of congress, a peaceful protest march, and grass roots opposition to policies with cries of “racism,” and an increasingly angry and frustrated populace who objects to their legitimate concerns being so disdainfully dismissed. No president could like to see this going on under his watch, because it is sheer poison to the society, a destroyer of trust and a silencer of thoughtful debate. Moreover, if the “racism” narrative -which some seem determined to construct- really inserts itself into into Obama’s presidency, all of his accomplishments may be forever asterisked in the manner of a steroid-using ballplayer’s stats; the notation will read, “voted into office on a theme of hope, and promising to bring a post-partisan, post-racial era to the United States, which he did not deliver.”

Obama’s post-partisan presidency has thus far been an epic fail, and for that he must shoulder some of the blame, for the fail began at his own inaugural, where he could have won the goodwill of those who voted against him by extending a traditional measure of graciousness to his predecessor, but chose instead to play to his base; he left no one in doubt that he was disrespecting the man who -even Bushhaters admitted- had bent over backwards to make Obama’s transition into office the smoothest in memory.

When Republican senators and congressmen wanted their ideas to be considered, he sniped, “I won.” When Nancy Pelosi shut the Republicans out of the stimulus-bill process, Obama -as leader of his party- could have insisted that the Congress work together, but he did not. When the GOP submitted their own ideas on healthcare, the president used the “their idea of change is the status quo” strawman, and (figuratively) shut them out, too.

So, the post-partisan thing, that’s not happening.

But Obama can still turn the post-racial presidency around, and achieve something worthy of Mt. Rushmore, if he can take the leadership position and guide his country through what is becoming a searing, divisive and unhealthy stench of a stall.

In her most recent rambling discourse Maureen Dowd writes that President Obama is “at the center of a period of racial turbulence sparked by his ascension.”

Is that true? Have we had 9 months of “racial turbulence” or have we had about six weeks of it, spurred on in great measure by a press/punditry corps has been wondering “is this opposition actually racism?” since the springtime Tea Parties, but really starting panting the question once the August townhall meetings got hot and it became clear that the Democrats were not effectively selling their bill.

In the commentary over at my piece on the main page, a commenter mentioned one of Rod Dreher’s recent posts and wrote:

Please tell me what’s wrong with this claim by Rod Dreher. I think it’s spot on and it’s why I commented on today’s “On the Square” post:

“To say that it is always unjust to accuse Obama critics of racism is a form of political correctness that is in its own way as hostile to the truth as people who say that criticism of Obama can only be motivated by race hatred.”

If Elizabeth Scalia were to affirm Dreher’s point, we could perhaps clear up any misunderstanding on my part.

Well, Rod is correct and I do affirm his point, a point so obvious I am surprised it needed stating or affirming, but I guess one can never cross too many t’s or dot too many i’s.

I believe that Obama rejects Jimmy Carter’s misbegotten characterization; it may be that I believe it because I choose to believe it, but sometimes one does have to make that choice, and see how a thing plays out. At some point, there has to be a measure of good faith between people. I would prefer to hear it from Obama’s own lips, and not Gibbs,’ but I believe Obama would prefer that these race cards not be played in such out-of-control fashion.

If we cannot believe anything that anyone says, ever, and I say this understanding just how polarized the nation is, and add my own culpability to the huge number of people on the air, on the internets and in just about every elected office who have contributed to it. The division of our country has been a truly “bipartisan” affair. But if we cannot argue in good faith, and occasionally give each other the benefit of a doubt, then we are all wasting our time in trying to effect any sort of reasonable dialogue, and there is no hope for us as a nation.

And that would be a tragic asterisk beside the name of Barack Obama, who has it in his power to take control of the issue of race in America and lead us out of the blistering heat of shouting and finger-waving acrimony, and into that place we hoped for, back when Martin Luther King had a dream.

See, I believe that we are on our way there, and have been for quite a while now, but that we have hit a swamp -partly because no path is ever fully clear, no journey is without its difficulties- and partly because many voices are shouting many directions, from many maps.

All the voices are necessary, and the maps, too; to silence them, or take away the maps would be a violation of everything America stands for. But when you’re traveling en mass, and a wrong-turn has you stranded, someone has to show enough leadership to tell everyone else to pipe down and start working together, or the swamp will become their home.

Mr. President, sir, this is your cue. Get your country out of this swamp -with everyone’s dignity and rights intact- and you’ll have a much easier time guiding the rest of the journey.

UPDATE: Sadly, it appears the president has decided to vote present and let the country rip and tear.

“He could probably give a very powerful speech on race, just as he did in the course of the campaign,” said Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama. “But right now his top domestic priority is health care reform. It’s difficult, challenging and complicated. And if he leads by example, our country will be far better off.”

The president’s focus is on “health care reform” (not, as some tell me, “health insurance reform”). Not on creating jobs, not on leading a country that is on simmer and wants to boil. His whole priority is the very policy that is igniting so much anger and distrust, and that a majority of Americans say they don’t want. His priorities are skewed.

But I will continue to hope that he will finally show some genuine leadership, rather than simply “moving forward” in his quest to ram a very divisive bill down our gullets. Doing so might actually be a teachable moment for him, and it might change everything.

tongue in cheek, if anyone is still able to laugh.

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