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Reframing the debate

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Some top Democrats are now trying to paint the majority of those who oppose health care policies touted by the Obama administration as violent or racist — or possibly both.

    Last week House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in referring to the national debate, made a reference the 1978 murders of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and city Supervisor Harvey Milk stating: “I have concerns about some of the language that is being used because I saw this myself in the late ‘70s in San Francisco.”

    Those remarks came just after former President Jimmy Carter tied the opposition to Obama as racism. Carter said that an “overwhelming portion” of demonstrations against President Obama are rooted in bigotry. He followed those remarks up by saying: “I think people are guilty of that kind of personal attack against Obama, have been influenced to a major degree by a belief that he should not be president because he happened to be African American.”

    That’s hogwash.

    Anyone who witnessed the town hall meeting with Fifth District Congressman Tom Perriello here in Bedford knows better. Was that debate spirited? Yes. Was it racist? Absolutely not.

    Perriello, himself, weighed in on the issue while appearing on a national cable show. The congressman had this to say about the national debate and the charges of racism and violence:

    “Well, you know, making the comment or not making the comment doesn’t change the reality that clearly this is part of what’s going on, but not all of what’s going on. I conducted over a hundred hours of town hall meetings in my district in central and southern Virginia and the vast majority of them were civil; people disagreed passionately on ideological grounds. And there were the rare cases where very racist remarks were made. Sometimes they were called out by neighbors in the audience, sometimes they weren’t. Clearly, race remains a factor in America but there’s also a lot of disagreement here that is genuine and not based on race, so I think we have to have both conversations.”

    In a follow-up statement yesterday, Perriello said he “continues to commend citizens of Central and Southern Virginia for elevating the discourse above what we have seen nationally and on cable news. People in town hall meetings in the 5th District consistently had more thoughtful critiques, were more respectful of differing opinions, and he sincerely appreciates their participation in the civic dialogue.”

    Does racism still exist in America? Yes — in a lot of different forms. But to inject racism into the health care debate is nothing but a scare tactic by Democrats to try and make anyone opposing it feel guilty and ashamed about their views. It’s an attempt to shift the debate away from the merits of the proposals.

    The fact is there are many questions that create legitimate concern, including how the reform would be paid for, whether there would be any substantive changes limiting malpractice lawsuits, what coverage would be offered to illegal aliens and if reform is a stepping stone (as some top Democrats have claimed) to a nationalized single-payer system.

    For his part, President Obama has not fueled the argument that racism is at the heart of those who oppose him or his policies. As he said this week, “I was black before I was elected.” Let’s hope the rest of the leadership of his Party get that same message and begin to debate the real issues as opposed to trying to hide behind a racism cloud.