Jimmy Carter and the Elvis Factor
Jimmy Carter strikes again!
The former President is not content having left office with high inflation, high interest rates and high unemployment. Nor is he content with having signed into law the Community Reinvestment Act — strengthened by President Bill Clinton — which played a major roll in the eventual housing market meltdown. Nor is he content with having cut the legs from under the Shah of Iran, which led to the establishment of the Islamic theocracy in Iran — a state that pursues a nuclear weapon, funds the terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah, and continues to undermine the fledgling democracy of Iraq. Nor is he content — as ex-President — with writing a book in which he likened the state of Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians to South Africa under apartheid.
Now the former President claims the opposition to President Obama in general — and his attempt at "health care reform" in particular — stems from … "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 said in an NBC interview. "Racism … still exists, and I think it’s bubbled up to the surface 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."
That same day, during a town hall meeting at his presidential center in Atlanta, Carter also called Rep. Joe Wilson’s "you lie!" outburst — shouted at Obama during his health care address to Congress — racist. "I think it’s based on racism," Carter said. "There is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president."
Let’s analyze this.
The President overwhelmingly carried "the black vote." Recently, California voters changed the state’s constitution to abolish same-sex marriage. Obama publicly opposed this change. Yet opposition to same-sex marriage by black voters — the very ones who voted for the President — helped to strike down same-sex marriage. Black voters differentiated their general support for the President from their opposition to him on the issue of same-sex marriage.
Similarly, most Republicans who voted against the President in November 2008 support his decision to increase our troop commitment in Afghanistan. Republicans, not unlike the black voters in California, differentiated their opposition to the election of the President from their support for his decision on an issue — the war against Islamofascists in Afghanistan — with which they agree.
In 2000, many Republicans urged a black man, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell, to run for president. If Powell had chosen to pursue it and had secured the Republican Party’s nomination, he could well have become the country’s first black president — with broad GOP support.
In 2006, a black man, then-Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, ran for U.S. Senate as a Republican. Then-Sen. Barack Obama campaigned against him and in favor of his white Democratic opponent. Obama told an audience at the historically black Bowie State University: "Listen, I think it’s great that the Republican Party has discovered black people. But here’s the thing. … You don’t vote for somebody because of what they look like. You vote for somebody because of what they stand for." Did this make Obama a "racist" against his own people by opposing a fellow black?
Mr. Carter, please ponder the following question. Why, in 1993, did "racist" conservatives oppose President Clinton’s attempt at government seizure of health care? Clinton, remember, was — and remains — white.
Do some Americans oppose the President because of his race? Yes, 3 percent. Back in 1958, only 35 percent of whites said they would vote for a black president. By 2006, a mere 3 percent of all voters said they would not vote for a black president. Call it the "Elvis Factor."
A local branch of the Anti-Defamation League, a few years ago, invited me to speak. Before my speech, the head of the organization addressed the audience and gave them the results of the latest poll on American anti-Semitism. Good news, he said, anti-Semitism stood at a historical low — 12 percent.
Before I began my prepared remarks, I commented on the poll results. "Yes," I said, "this is good news that anti-Semitism has declined to its lowest point. But don’t expect that number to get much lower. A recent poll found that 10 percent of Americans believe Elvis Presley is still alive, and 8 percent believe that if you send him a letter — he will get it."
The audience laughed.
But there was a serious point. The notion that we can reach a sort of non-racist, non-sexist, non-homophobic nirvana is romantic, unrealistic and nonsensical. Wing nuts will, unfortunately, always be with us. It is, however, even more unfortunate that a former President of the United States sits among them.