September 18, 2009

God save me from my friends—I can take care of my enemies.

So President Obama must be muttering today.

Ten days ago, the president played his ace of trumps.

He went before a joint session of Congress to lay out his health care plans, confront the “demagoguery” of critics who had resorted to “distortion,” “misinformation” and “tall tales,” and rally progressives and Blue Dogs to reunite and drive on to victory.

Obama’s speech was savagely partisan, but an undeniable success.

After an awful August of town-hall beatings, he was back on offense. As his congressional troops cheered him on, Republicans sat sullen and glum.

Not only did Obama win the night, his victory was capped by a gauche outburst of “You lie!” from South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson, which stunned a national TV audience and embarrassed his party.

Wilson’s wife, Roxanne, asked him after he left the chamber, “Who’s the nut that hollered out, ‘You lie!’”

Berated by his leadership, Wilson apologized and called Obama.

Rahm Emanuel took the call. The president graciously sent back word: Joe Wilson’s apology is accepted.

Obama was ready to move on, as was Nancy Pelosi. But not a seething Black Caucus. Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, who represents the district next to Wilson’s, demanded that Joe be made to apologize on the floor or be formally rebuked by the House.

When Pelosi and Steny Hoyer buckled to the Black Caucus demand, they, in effect, shifted the argument from, “Did Joe behave badly?” to, “Should Joe have his nose rubbed in it?”

Wilson got up on his hind legs: no more apologies. The town hall-Tea Party irregulars cheered Joe’s defiance and sent checks. His Republican colleagues, saying enough is enough, rose to Wilson’s defense.

But the Black Caucus pushed on.

Hank Johnson of Georgia said Wilson had “instigated” racism and must be rebuked. Or else we will “have folks putting on white hoods and white robes again, riding through the countryside intimidating people. That’s the logical conclusion if this kind of conduct is not rebuked.”

Came then Jimmy Carter to remind us why he sustained the worst beating of any incumbent president in a two-way race in U.S. history.

Wilson’s outburst, said the Great Healer, was an act “based on racism. … There is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president.”

The next day, Carter, having reaped reams of publicity, was back at it.

“I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African-American,” Carter told NBC.

“I live in the South, and I’ve seen the South come a long way, and I’ve seen the rest of the country that shares the South’s attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African-Americans.”

Carter’s contribution to the national debate represents a truly rare blend of malevolence, ignorance and moral arrogance.

How does he know what was in Joe Wilson’s heart when he blurted his insult? How does Carter know Wilson was racially motivated?

How does Carter know that an “overwhelming portion” of scores of thousands of agitated Americans who turned out for all those town-hall meetings were motivated by racism, “the fact that (Obama) is a black man, that he’s African-American”?

Six months ago, Obama’s approval rating was 70 percent.

Does Carter think that number has sunk to 50 percent because tens of millions of Americans suddenly discovered Obama was black?

Does it not seem more reasonable to conclude the number cratered because millions who wished Obama well on Jan. 20 have come to conclude this crowd is no more competent than the last one, that Obamacare, up close, seems even worse than the present system?

The stupidity of Carter and the Black Caucus fairly astounds.

As Dana Milbank of the Washington Post writes, “In bringing a House resolution to punish Wilson, Democrats wound up making him a hero and turning the matter into a party-line brawl.” As Obamacare sits in intensive care on Capitol Hill, what is the benefit of having had his team spend 10 days fighting and losing Joe Wilson’s War?

The destructiveness of what Carter has done is hard to exaggerate.

Barack won the African-American vote 24 to 1. But he did better among whites than Al Gore, a Southerner, or John Kerry. One reason, according to pollsters, is that many white folks thought a black president would finally get us out of the cul de sac of race politics. Barack Obama would be a “post-racial president.”

Now, because some folks, in hard economic times, have turned angrily against Obama and health care, Carter calls them a bunch of racists who can’t stand the fact they have a black president.

Well, if we don’t have a black president after 2012, much credit should go to the mean little peanut farmer from Plains.


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