Ken Connor

Americans are disappointed with President Obama's decision to bail out the banking and auto industries. They are frustrated that billions of dollars allocated for "recovery and reinvestment" have done little to stem the tide of rising unemployment. They are chagrined that the bureaucratic mismanagement associated with the programs of Mr. Obama's predecessors have come to characterize his own. They are irritated that President Obama's pledge of transparency and accountability was an empty campaign slogan, as evidenced by a steady stream of 1000-plus page legislation that no one—not even Congress—has the time to read or understand. They are exasperated at his hedging on social issues like abortion and gay marriage. Hence, for the increasingly disappointed multitudes, the President's plan for the American health care system is simply a bridge too far.

Opposition to President Obama's health care plan has nothing to do with race and everything to do with competing philosophies of government. President Obama has made clear his belief that government should have a prominent role in the lives of the citizenry—a role that influences virtually every facet of our lives, from the kind of car we drive to the kind of health insurance we have to the kind of education our children receive. For those who agree with Thomas Jefferson that "a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement," the President's plan for health care "reform" represents nothing less than a sacrifice of individual liberty in exchange for servitude, and the destruction of the free market in favor of a government planned economy.

Instead of addressing this issue on the merits, people like Nancy Pelosi and Jimmy Carter would rather sling mud. Once the race card was played, they were counting on the fact that opposing points of view would be effectively muzzled. After all, who wants to be branded a racist? This shameful tactic—calculated to quench rather than foster debate—is nothing more than a confirmation that the Democrats' proposal for overhauling the health care system is indefensible.

Where were Mr. Carter's cries of racism when Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice were subjected to the basest of racial epithets for daring to work for a Republican administration? Where were Ms. Pelosi's crocodile tears and prophesies of violence when anti-war protesters marched with signs advocating the assassination of President Bush? Apparently, only when an African American opposes the Republican agenda or protesters incite violence against a white Republican president do Pelosi and Carter see patriotic dissent.

President Obama, for his part, deserves great credit for refusing to participate in the race baiting. He seems to understand the damage such irresponsible rhetoric would inflict upon his legacy, the health care debate, and the mood of the American people.

It's too bad that other political leaders refuse to follow the President’s lead and lack the integrity to drag themselves out of the gutter and address the merits of an issue that will affect all Americans.

Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.