Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What Jimmy said

After getting frustrated today with trying to find a coherent version of what Jimmy Carter said this week about the militant anti-Obama opposition that we've seen in some town hall meetings in August and this past weekend at the "9/12" rally in Washington sponsored by FOX News, I decided to make my own transcripts of the two relevant videos, at least what I could find of them.

This is my full transcript of the portion of Brian Williams interview with Carter from Tuesday, Sept. 1.

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.

I live in the South. And I've seen the South come a long way. And I've seen the rest of the country that shared the South's attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African-Americans.

That, uh, racism inclination 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. It's an abominable circumstance, and grieves me and concerns me very deeply.

This is the transcript from an AP/Washington Post video of Carter addressing a question about the anti-Obama protests from Carter Cites 'Racism Inclination' in Animosity Toward Obama appearing at the Washington Post Online 09/16/09 with an article by Garance Franke-Ruta, a talented young writer, although I notice on her quote of the sentence with which the video begins, she didn't get the verbatim quote exactly right, though her version isn't materially different. (Having spent the time to transcribe these two short videos, I can't say with confidence that an immaterial slip is easy to make.) The MSNBC video of the interview with Brian Williams quoted above is also embedded there.

Given the polemics going on around this issue and around Joe Wilson 's"You lie!" outburst, I wish this video had included the question to which Carter was responded. It apparently addressed both the teaparty movement's militancy in general and Congressman Joe Wilson's now-infamous "You lie!" outburst during Obama's speech to Congress last Wednesday. Franke-Ruta describes it this way:

"I think it's based on racism," Carter said of the tone of the opposition, in response to an audience question.
The video apparently begins with his next sentence:

There is an inherent feeling among many people in this country that an African-American ought not to be President. And ought not to be given the same respect as if he were white.

And this has permeated politics ever since I've been involved in it back in the 1960s. Not only in the South, but also in many places throughout the nation.

And the outbursts that we see, the scatological language , the sign that I saw on television last night, "We Should Bury Obama With Kennedy", for instance. And "Obama Is A Nazi". And Obama's picture with Hitler's mustache on it. Those kind of things are not just casual outcomes of a sincere debate over whether we should have a national program in health care or not.

It's, it's deeper than that. And I think that that's what has happened, unfortunately, in our country. I believe it's going to be self-correcting. And in the US House of Representatives debate today, they condemned Joe Wilson for having made that kind of remark to the President of the United States.

We have to remember ... [applause] We have to remember that, that this kind of thing goes on in Great Britain in the debates in the, in the Parliament. I've been there, and I've seen it. It's, it's, it's, it's very vituperative sometimes. But, but that's different. You, you wouldn't hear one of those members of the British Parliament say that about a Queen of England who's the head of state.

In our country it's different. The President is not only the head of a government, he's also the head of state. And no matter who he is or no matter how much you disagree with his policies, he ought to be treated with respect in a, in a, in a official forum like a Joint Session of the United States Congress.

I think it was a dastardly thing to do, and I believe it was so bad that it's going to be corrected by an overwhelming majority of Democrats and Republicans in the, in the [unintelligible].
A few comments about Carter's statements as I've quoted them here.

Carter knows white racism, and he knows how it manifests itself in politics, and he has fought against it during a long political career. He's not just mouthing some superficial notion.

Unlike many of our celebrity pundits who love to talk about race but have not much useful to say, as a rule, Carter doesn't base what he's saying on some false assumption that the protests against Obama are more intense than the incredible accusations that were slung at Bill Clinton throughout his Presidency. (Bob Somerby reminds us that by summer of 1994, there had been two active assassination attempts on Clinton. One of them involved a private plane crash-landing on the White House lawn that had apparently been aimed at the Clintons' bedroom. Condi-Condi Rice apparently forgot about that incident when she said no one imagined that someone would think of converted an airplane into a weapon.)

Carter explains a concept we almost never hear mentioned but I know from experience from my European friends and in-laws can be confusing. The President is the head of state as well as the head of government. A simple concept, but probably far above the heads of our celebrity pundits.

And Carter did not say that no one should ever heckle the President or protest in his presence. He was very specific about the context of the Joint Session of Congress in which the President should be shown the courtesy due a head of state. He didn't mention it specifically in what I quoted, but as I understand it, the formal rules of Congress specify something along those lines.

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