South Carolina Republican Rep. Joe Wilson may have unexpectedly ignited an explosion of race rhetoric with two words in the House chamber -- "You lie" -- but I can snuff it out with two words in a newspaper -- "Jimmy Carter."
The former president threw rhetorical kerosene on the political flames this week when he twice advanced the lowdown argument that political opposition to Barack Obama -- in town halls, faltering presidential poll numbers, the colossal anti-Obama demonstration in Washington -- boils down to "racism."
The allegation is contemptible but, particularly in the wake of the Wilson story, has been pushed by journalists on the Left and Democratic U.S. Representatives mainly from the Black Congressional Caucus. Evidence of racism is so thin, though, the racism-ists must invent lurid details. The New York Times' Maureen Dowd writes that when she heard Wilson say "You lie" she felt as if, "fair or not," she heard him say: You lie, boy! Georgia Democrat Rep. Hank Johnson draws a straight line from Wilson's remark to "folks putting on white hoods and white uniforms again and riding through the countryside intimidating people." Yeah. En route to Bellevue.
It would almost be funny if it weren't so grotesque. Of course, Jimmy Carter, who last appeared in this column after he laid red roses on the grave of Yasir Arafat before resuming his pursuit of face-time with Hamas terrorists, is no stranger to grotesque. Certainly after Osama bin Laden this week actually endorsed Carter's anti-Israel book, "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid," the former president needed a good, unctuous wallow in sanctimony to deflect our attention from his new fan. But Carter went too far -- even for him.
"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," Carter told NBC. There exists the belief "among many white people, not just in the South, but around the country," he continued, "that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It's an abominable circumstance, and grieves me and concerns me very deeply."
What's "abominable" here is the spectacle of a former president attempting to asphyxiate democratic debate with the stranglehold charge of "racism."
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