The top Republican in the House said today that he disagrees that the vehement opposition to President Obama is based on racial animus, saying it is because many Americans deeply disagree with Obama's policies.
"I do believe we're in the middle of a modern-day political rebellion," Representative John Boehner of Ohio said at a news conference. "The American people are saying enough is enough."
Former President Jimmy Carter brought the race issue to the forefront, saying several different times this week that some of Obama's critics are motivated by the belief that an African-American should not be president.
Boehner said such attitudes are "not welcome" in the Republican party, but he said he categorically rejected "this insinuation that the people who are opposing the president's policies are motivated by race, capped off by former President Carter's remarks over the last couple of days."
"When the president was elected in November, I and many Republicans made it clear that this was a defining moment in American history, the fact that America was willing to elect an African-American president. You know, most countries around the world would never have believed that America would do this. And that's why it is a defining moment," Boehner added. "But the outrage that we see in America has nothing to do with race. It has everything to do with the policies that he is promoting."
Boehner cited disenchantment with the "trillion-dollar stimulus bill" because of continuing job losses, "trillion-dollar deficits for as far as the eye can see," the cap-and-trade climate bill that he asserted would raise the average family's energy costs, and well-founded fears of a government takeover of health care.
"And you begin to add all of this up, and Americans are saying stop," Boehner told reporters. "They're scared to death that the country that they grew up in is not going to be the country that their kids and grandkids get to grow up in. And so as a result, you're seeing average Americans who've never been involved in the political process taking a more active role in our society and in this debate. And so, you know, I believe it ought to be civilized, but Americans are speaking up and they ought to speak up."
But the top House Democrat, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said today that she is concerned because some of the heated rhetoric against Obama's health care effort reminds her of the violent debate over gay rights in her native San Francisco in the 1970s.
"This kind of rhetoric was very frightening" and created a climate in which violence took place, she said, according to the Associated Press.
Former San Francisco Supervisor Dan White was convicted of the 1978 murders of Mayor George Moscone and openly gay supervisor Harvey Milk.
"Our country is great because people can say what they think and they believe," Pelosi said. "But I also think that they have to take responsibility for any incitement that they may cause."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.