Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Jimmy Carter, the sage of Plains

This one is great. Now, I'm no defender of Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), for two reasons: first, what he did during Obama's speech was rude, boorish, and silly; second, he's from South Carolina, which contains the most annoying stretch of interstate highway in all the land -- and it's annoying not because of the road, but because the SC drivers make it so intolerably miserable.

Anyhow, here's Jimmy Carter, adding his own folksy wisdom to the debate over health care:
ATLANTA (AP) - 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 in response to an audience question 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."

I'm unclear how Jimmy has determined that the "inherent feeling" that "many in this country" believe Obama shouldn't be president this based upon evidence? Is this based upon the statements of people in power? How many people are the "many" to which he refers? Is it the 60 million or so who didn't vote for Obama? Is it six dudes in south Georgia sitting on a porch drinking Dixie Beer? Or is it based in Jimmy's wisdom of the ages (i.e. he's just making shit up)?

The point, dear reader, is this: saying that people, including elected representatives, who oppose the policies of the Obama administration are doing so because they are racist is, essentially, and invocation of Godwin's Law on racial terms. If you can assign racist motives to the speaker, you don't have to engage the substance of his argument. Joe Wilson's point, poorly made as it was, was that the administration's proposed health care plan likely would cover illegal/undocumented aliens. There is considerable debate over this issue -- the plan says it won't cover anyone other than Americans, but apparently does not require proof of citizenship, nor is there any discernable enforcement mechanism. I'm sure that will change as the bill winds its way through the House and the Senate -- it may have already.

Now, whether it's kosher to shout "You Lie!!" during the President's address is one question (Wilson has received an official rebuke for it). Whether the health care bill in its current form would end up with taxpayer funded coverage for illegal aliens is another question, and one that clearly deserves a fair debate -- and there is a debate going on, so let's have it.

But for a former president to come out and say your opposition to Obama's health care plan is due to your being a racist, based upon nothing other than an "inherent feeling" and your opposition to the policies being debated is nothing short of astonishing. Set aside the supposed dignity of the office of ex-president--Carter just called those of us who disagree with Obama's policies racists!! And the best part -- because these "racist" outbursts are an "aftershock" of America's racist past, you may not even know you're being racist when you speak! And who gets to decide if you're racist? Jimmy Carter, that's who!

Are there racists out there? Sure there are. However, there are waaaaay more of us non-racists out here, struggling with notions of freedom vs. the concentration of power in the federal government, struggling with how best to remedy the problems of our health care system, struggling to determine how best to vindicate the rights we have under our constitution, and much more. So before you call people "racist" for opposing Obama's policies, you better be prepared to debate on the substance of the issue.