Jimmy Carter: Racism behind Joe Wilson outburst

Former President JimmyCarter, in an interview with NBC News, said that racial politics played a role in Republican South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst last week during US President Barack Obama's speech to Congress and in certain parts of the opposition faced by the president since taking office.

If you thought the buzz behind Congressman Joe Wilson's "You lie" outburst last week was over, think again.

Think baseball bat meets hornet's nest.

Nothing stirs up things more than a charge of racism. You put a high-profile figure behind the charge – like former President Jimmy Carter – and you've got front page news again.

And that's exactly what Carter is saying: Wilson's two-word bit of emotionalism last week? Racism.

"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 yesterday (see video below).

"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 shared the South's attitude toward minority groups at that time ... and I think it's bubbled up to the surface," Carter said, "because of a belief among many white people, not just in the South but around the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country."

Maureen Dowd, incidentally, lobbed a similar charge over the weekend. Of course, not everyone's buying it. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who's smashed a few hornets' nests of his own, says enough with the race card.

"I think it's very destructive for America to suggest that we can't criticize a president without it being a racial act," Gingrich told FOX News this morning.

Wilson's son Alan, who is running for Attorney General in South Carolina, also disputed the charge. "There is not a racist bone in my dad's body," Wilson said.

"It's unfortunate people make that jump. People can disagree — and appropriately disagree — on issues of substance, but when they make the jump to race it's absolutely ludicrous. My brothers and I were raised by our parents to respect everyone regardless of background or race," he added.

Maybe there's consensus in the blogosphere? HA! Not so much...

The National Review's Peter Kirsanow lathers on the sarcasm in his blog this morning:

Fresh from having his latest book endorsed by renowned civil-rights leader Osama Bin Laden, former president Jimmy Carter sagely pronounces that Rep. Joe Wilson's "You lie!" outburst was based on racism. It's this type of extraordinary, almost telepathic insight that made Mr. Carter one of the most successful presidents in history.

Our friend Yael Abouhalkah, meanwhile, over at the Kansas City Star sounds a bit like Jack Nicholson in "A Few Good Men" telling those who dispute Carter's claim that they can't handle the truth:

He's just stating the facts, whether Americans want to hear them or not. Carter's complaints aren't aimed at all Americans, just at those who don't think a black person deserves to be president. And there are millions in this country. So as the conservative base and others get whipped into a frenzy over Carter's remarks, they need to cool down.

Will President Obama weigh in on this? He's got one meeting this afternoon where reporters might be able to ask him about it. We'll keep you posted...


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