As Billy Joel once sang, "We didn't start the fire". But last week, two liberal stalwarts; syndicated columnist Maureen Dowd (of the very unbiased New York Times) and former President Jimmy Carter sparked such a fire in referencing the verbal charge of "liar!" shouted by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) as racist (Dowd), or as racism being a significant component of opposition to Obama in general (Carter). Or did Wilson ignite the spark?
Where to start? First of all, Rep. Wilson would appear to be a prime candidate best advised to adhere to a twist on an old adage, to wit: "Idiots should be seen but not heard". In an era where the opponents of President Obama will be forced to walk on eggshells due to the ever-present "race card", Wilson is the last person who should violate Congressional decorum and call out a sitting President--- face-to-face. He is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. In and of itself, that doesn't bother me...much. Many of "us" southerners had relatives who fought on the wrong side of the war, yet recognize that, like most soldiers, they were doing what their country requested...even if that country was illegitimate. However, it takes something inherently misplaced to join such an organization in this day and age. Yet more study reveals Wilson also defended the continuation of flying the Confederate flag over the South Carolina capitol building--a position that cannot be intellectually defended under any circumstances. On the other hand, in the end, Obama was allowed to distance himself from the church organization he belonged to, even though his minister made controversial remarks regarding race, ethnicity, and government conspiracy.
And, when Strom Thurmond, the segregationist Democrat turned Republican was cited by a black woman as her real father, Wilson publicly called the scenario a "smear". Problem is, he was wrong--- the woman was right, and Wilson came across as..well...not racially tolerant.
Yet, and this is important..no one can know what motivated Wilson to call Obama a liar. We need to be really honest here. During the eight years of the "W" presidency there was absolutely no respect shown to the President by the left. Pelosi called Bush an "utter failure" virtually any time a mic was shoved in her face. Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) called Bush a liar twice in a House floor speech, and Dowd's new found respect for Congressional decorum aside, it makes little difference to me whether I am present or not when someone accuses me of lying. If Dowd wants to split semantic hairs, so be it. In doing so, she is still intellectually dishonest and childish..a character trait the left usually reserves for Neanderthal conservatives. In fact, given the myopic tunnel vision expressed by many on the left vis a vis conservatives, I am shocked that MoveOn.org hasn't debuted an ad campaign proclaiming "Republican. So Backward Even a Caveman Can Join". Also, as mentioned above, its unfair to assign a racial motivation to Wilson based upon his association with certain groups if people like Dowd are willing to give a pass to Obama concerning his former church and its pastor.
If we are to transcend race, then Obama, an avowed liberal, and his supporters, including Jimmy Carter and Maureen Dowd must acknowledge that conservatives possess a legitimate, ideological right and duty to oppose many of Obama's programs. And any form of nationalized heath care is certainly something any red-blooded anti-Leviathan might find disturbing. And just as liberals were fired up about conservative "intolerance", conservatives have a right to oppose the growth of the State without liberals like Dowd and Carter turning such opposition into an issue of race.
I'm not sure where the answer lies, and given Wilson's pedigree, he didn't help matters much. Yet, liberals need to be very careful when raising "race" as a foil to legitimate doctrinal differences. And Republicans need to look closely amongst their own number and learn to disavow and disown those who might be rooted in the antebellum era. A card carrying Son of the Confederacy isn't your best representative to be the first Congressman of the modern era to break protocol and blurt accusations at a sitting President during an important policy speech. Both parties, and their fellow-travelers need to take a deep breath, remember 1968, and from the right-- refrain from racially oriented messages, or conversely, from the left..think long and hard before raising race as an issue where no such proof is present.