Sunday, September 20, 2009

The president on racism and health care

Sometimes, I have a great deal of respect for President Obama. Today he was on NBC's Meet the Press. You can watch the video of his part of the show here. You can also click on "transcript" and read what he had to say. Some quotes below are from that transcript.

Recently, a former president said that some of the negativity around health care were driven by racism. When asked about that in today's interview, President Obama said "Look, I said, during the campaign, are there some people who still think through the prism of race when it comes to evaluating me and my candidacy? Absolutely. Sometimes they vote for me for that reason, sometimes they vote against me for that reason. I'm sure that was true during the campaign, I'm sure that's true now."

The president gets it. True, there are some racists out there. Some vote with him because he's black, some vote against him for the same reason. Pure and simple. But he doesn't fret about it. He can't change other people, so he goes on about his business. He said this during the campaign and I (sadly) think he'll have to say it again.

More importantly, the president gets the real reason for the debate on health care. The president realizes it's "an argument that's gone on for the history of this republic. And that is what's the right role of government? How do we balance freedom with our need to look after one another?"

As my British friend would say, Spot on! He even goes on to tell us some of the history behind the argument - "This is not a new argument. And it always invokes passions. And ... it was a passionate argument between Jefferson and Hamilton about this. You know, Andrew Jackson built a whole political party around this notion that somehow ... a federal government that was over ... intrusive."

Mr. President, I agree. The argument is about the role of government, and I, along with others, think the federal government is intrusive. I think you should have said we need to balance freedom with personal responsibility.

Unfortunately, there are times where I believe the president is somewhat disingenuous (lacking sincerity). When discussing the way the news gets hyped, the president said "that's something that I think has to change. And it starts with me."

I wish he actually took this to heart. The president has had SEVERAL chances to start the change. He could have spoke out quickly when former President Carter made his comments. He could have spoken to the House of Representatives leaders who pushed for reprimand of Rep. Joe Wilson. Anytime the race card is played, the president can speak out and quiet the rumors quickly. Instead the president doesn't speak and lets the fire start burning.

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