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Political Notebook

Holder had a point in his remarks on race, Obama says

March 8, 2009
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WASHINGTON - Asked if he agreed with comments on race made by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., President Obama told The New York Times, "I think it's fair to say that if I had been advising my attorney general, we would have used different language." In an interview Friday, the president said that despite Holder's choice of words, he had a point.

"We're oftentimes uncomfortable with talking about race until there's some sort of racial flare-up or conflict," he said, adding, "We could probably be more constructive in facing up to sort of the painful legacy of slavery and Jim Crow and discrimination."

Holder made his comments last month during an address to employees at the Justice Department, saying that "though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial, we have always been and we, I believe, continue to be in too many ways essentially a nation of cowards."

His remarks ignited protest, particularly from conservatives. One post, by Stephan Tawney, on the American Pundit blog said "our attorney general is black, both major parties are led by black men, the president is black."

"And yet," Tawney wrote, "we're apparently a 'nation of cowards' on race."

Obama was asked whether he agreed with Holder.

"I'm not somebody who believes that constantly talking about race somehow solves racial tensions," Obama said.

"I think what solves racial tensions is fixing the economy, putting people to work, making sure that people have healthcare, ensuring that every kid is learning out there. I think if we do that, then we'll probably have more fruitful conversations."

NEW YORK TIMES

Obama: Economic crisis can be opportunity for US
WASHINGTON - Overseeing a dispirited nation, President Obama yesterday sought to assure people that bleak times will give way to better days, calling the mounting economic crisis a time to discover America's next "great opportunity."

"That is what we can do and must do today," Obama said in his weekly radio and video address, taped on Friday at the White House. "And I am absolutely confident that is what we will do."

Yesterday morning, the president and Michelle Obama flew by helicopter to the presidential retreat in Camp David, Md., for the weekend.

The work week ended on more down news, with the report of 651,000 more American jobs slashed and an unemployment rate climbing to 8.1 percent. That is the highest rate of people out of work in more than 25 years, as the recession continued to put enormous pressures on families and industries.

Obama recapped the work of the latest hectic week in his young presidency. His goal was to reassure the country that he and his team are taking specific steps to create jobs in the short term and begin to address huge issues such as healthcare.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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