President Jimmy Carter, I have a request: sit down and shut up. Please. We all know you were well intentioned, but saying that anti-Obama protests is fueled by racial tensions serves no constructive process. In fact, since the comments were aired the hostility has only grown. So for the sake of all who are sick of the partisan vitriol in Washington and want results, please keep your thoughts to yourself — or at least think about the consequences of voicing them aloud. Thank you.
To those who are offended by my literary rebuke of the former president, I apologize. I should respect my elders. In his 84 years, President Carter has done much more than the average man. A Noble Peace prize winner and global humanitarian, he has accomplished after his time as the nation’s 39th President. Nevertheless, his achievements are no license to speak mindlessly.
Perhaps Carter simply was caught in the moment. We have recently seen some of the most memorable and polemic displays of political opposition in recent memory. As a general rule, it has trended to the fanatical rather than the substantive. It began with town halls and progressed to equally vociferous comments on conservative television. In August, Los Angeles was flooded with posters depicting Obama with joker-style face paint. The recent tea-party rally in D.C. featured pictures of the president as Chairman Mao, Josef Stalin and even Hitler.
It’s more than understandable to be angered by these actions. They are unproductive at their best, moronic at their worst, and truly represent the mindlessness that the debate over Obama’s proposed health care and economic reforms has devolved into. Calm, thoughtful responses are needed to deal with this mess, in order to elucidate the difference between oneself and the opposition. Calling the other side racist? Not helpful, Jimmy, not helpful at all.
Being labeled as a racist is never appreciated, and protestors have responded accordingly. Conservative leaders — both in Congress and in the media — cried foul. Pundit Glenn Beck accused Carter of race-baiting while “using terror to shove their agenda down the world’s throats.” Clearly Carter’s attempt to shame Obama’s critics has simply motivated them further.
Immediately after the comments were made, Press Secretary Gibbs devoted a significant amount of time to the issue in his daily press conference. The White House issued supporting statements throughout the week. The issue sidetracked the president on his Sunday media blitz. Obama assured America that “setting aside race ... I think [people] are more passionate about the idea of whether government can do anything right.”
We know this. The point is moot. And yet the president needed to stress it during valuable interview time anyway. Had Carter not looked at the protests through a racial prism, Obama could have dedicated more time to actually pushing reform.
So please, President Carter — and anyone with the urge to inject race into the issue — when it comes to describing the debate gripping the nation, sit down and shut up.