Presidents vs. Racism

Remember last week, when I ranted about allegations of racism in the healthcare debate? Well, former President Bill Clinton weighed in on the matter Monday night on Larry King Live. When I first saw the headline Bill Clinton sounds off on Obama racism charge, I cringed, fearing the worst… But I was delighted to see what Pres. Clinton actually had to say.

“I believe that some of the right-wing extremists which oppose President Obama are also racially prejudiced and would prefer not to have an African-American president,” Clinton told CNN’s Larry King in a wide-ranging interview aired Monday evening. “But I don’t believe that all the people who oppose him on health care — and all the conservatives — are racists. And I believe if he were white, every single person who opposes him now, would be opposing him then.”

He went on to say, “While I have devoted my life to getting rid of racism, I think this [health care] is a fight that my president and our party — this is one we need to win on the merits.”

Bravo, Mr. Clinton! Way to stay above the fray on this one. It’s the health care policy that needs to be addressed here, not the politically-charged claims of racism.

AND THEN, on the same night, President Obama appeared on Letterman and refuted the claims of racism also. He pointed out that he was black before the election, and the American people voted him into office anyway, which “tells you … a lot about where the country is at.” (Side note: Presidents shouldn’t end sentences in prepositions on national television.)

“I think that what’s happened is that whenever a president tries to bring about significant changes, particularly during times of economic unease, then there is a certain segment of the population that gets very riled up,” he said, and I agree completely.

Did they coordinate their messages so they’d be sharing a similar theme? Maybe, probably, who cares? Either way, two very influential politicians are expressing an important sentiment, and I’m delighted. Charges of racism on this issue are a distraction, plain and simple — let’s focus on the real issue and find a reasonable consensus among subject-matter experts.

(For the record, they only get props from me on this once… if they keep harping on how racism isn’t the real issue, but are saying that instead of getting back to the real issue, then they’re just dragging the distraction out longer.)

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