Roundtable on Carter's Race Comments

Roundtable on Carter's Race Comments

By Special Report With Bret Baier - September 16, 2009


JIMMY CARTER, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: 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 is African-American.


BAIER: Former President Jimmy Carter weighing in on critics of President Obama, adding this, that he believes the criticism has bubbled up to the surface because of a belief among white Americans, white people, many of them not just in the south but around the country, that African-Americans, quote, "are not qualified to lead this great country."

We are back with the panel.

Mara, today the White House came out and said again, Robert Gibbs saying the president does not believe that criticism comes based on the color of his skin, but this is a...

LIASSON: I think Jimmy Carter is working for the Republican National Committee. I really think until comments like that in this particular dustup, the White House had the upper hand.

Joe Wilson was clearly out of line. It was inappropriate...

BAIER: The congressman from South Carolina who yelled "You lie!"

LIASSON: A clear violation of the House rule to call the president a liar, to impugn the president's motives. Members of the House's words have been taken down for many, many years for transgressions like that or less, by Republican speakers, too.

In any event, then Jimmy Carter, you know, stands up and gives this interview and says it's racial. The White House doesn't believe that. The White House doesn't want that to be the line of argument here, and I think that he's really hurt the president.

BAIER: The White House doesn't, Charles, but others have been talking like this in recent days. I mean, we just talked about it last night on the panel.

KRAUTHAMMER: I think there are people who genuinely believe this and then I think there are a lot of people who don't but who want to use it as a way to stifle opposition and debate.

Look, in the Bush years, we were told that dissent was the highest form of patriotism. Indeed, Obama himself as a candidate once used a formulation like that in talking about his refusal to wear a flag pin.

And now, dissent used to be the highest form of patriotism and now it's the lowest form of racism. In August and over the summer it was a form of mob rule, a demonstration of anger, unruliness, anarchy and now it has gotten worse.

Look, this charge is so stupid. It is also so offensive, and it's lacking in any evidence of any kind that I think it's - Mara is right. This only helps the Republicans, and that's why the White House is not playing into it. It will increase the intensity of the opponents of Obama health care and the policies, because people don't want to be told when they genuinely disagree with a policy that the reason is the lowest of all reasons, namely, racism.

BAIER: About rebuking Congressman Wilson, today the Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele responded to one of the most extreme statements about the rebuke if it didn't happen from a Democratic lawmaker. Take a listen:


REP. HANK JOHNSON, D-GA.: I guess we will probably have folks putting on white hoods and white uniforms again and riding through the countryside intimidating people.

MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: What the heck is that? Where did that come from, because I disagree with your healthcare policy, that all of a sudden now people are going to be donning white hoods and robes?

That's that is the level of stupidity in this argument that I think confuses people, distracts us from the real discussion on health care, and it needs to stop.


BAIER: Steve, your thoughts about this issue as it develops over the past couple of days?

HAYES: It is interesting to point out the obvious in the charges being made about a party, the opposition mostly being the Republican Party that is headed by Michael Steele, a black man. And people don't want to make that point, they don't want to say the obvious. But it's worth at least noting.

I mean, what is remarkable about this discussion over the past several days is that there was no precipitating event. There really wasn't anything - Joe Wilson said nothing that had any tinge of racism. He said "You lie."

The panel agreed and we talked about this before, that it was inappropriate. He apologized once. I don't think he needs to apologize for the rest of his life. But other than that, there is no evidence. Nobody can point to anything and say here is where this is coming from.

Jimmy Carter is a tired old man who doesn't make sense on most issues these days. And I wager if you were to poll the people who attended the massive rally here last weekend and attended these town halls all over the country over the past several months, you would probably find less respect for Jimmy Carter than you would for Barack Obama, even as they vigorously oppose Barack Obama's policies.

BAIER: Mara, this is something the White House would rather have go away?

LIASSON: Yes, the discussion about race, sure.

Now, the White House is perfectly happy to make the argument that there are people who are uncivil and that they're not conducting themselves appropriately, and they are fomenting all sorts of lies about the president's policies. But that's quite different than turning this into a racial debate.

KRAUTHAMMER: One note on Jimmy Carter: He is the only person on the planet who has not one but two books on the bin Laden must read list. I'm not making that up. You can't make it up, actually. It's true.

So that tells you a lot about Jimmy Carter and it tells you a lot about the charge of racism that he is now main presenter of that argument. He has really hurt that side, and I think it discredits him and the argument.

BAIER: The lawmakers who bring this up, though, and make this charge, does it backfire?

KRAUTHAMMER: It could work locally in certain highly charged districts. But the worst element of it is it undermines the promise of the Obama presidency of bringing us into a post racial America, and that hurts the Democrats gravely.

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