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Playing The Race Card

Reported by Ellen - April 13, 2005

Last night, the opening segment on Alan Colmes' FOX News radio show was a debate about President Bush's Social Security privatization scheme and African Americans. On the pro-Bush side was FOX News fave Reverend Jesse Peterson, radio talk show host, who also happens to serve with Sean Hannity (and a large percentage of white people) on the Advisory Board of the African American Republican Leadership Council. On the other side was Dr. Maya Rockeymoore, from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. Peterson came off as an uninformed idealogue who merely repeated the same trite talking points again and again. Host Colmes did an excellent job of debating him, so much so that Dr. Rockeymoore didn't get much opportunity to speak. Nevertheless, she made some excellent points that Peterson was either unprepared or unable to refute.

Right at the start, Colmes addressed the ludicrous GOP claim that privatization is better for African Americans because they die younger. "If they really care about African Americans, why not address this issue by changing the health care in this country so that we can even up the score of life expectancy. That's the issue, isn't it?"

Peterson said, "Now that Black America will have a choice as to what they want to do with their own money, they can afford to buy health care."

Colmes: That's ridiculous.

Dr. Rockeymoore said that if Bush is so concerned with Blacks' life span, why is he "open" to raising the retirement age? "How cynical is that?" she asked.

Time and again, Peterson returned to Ann Coulter-esque talking points that really had nothing to do with Social Security such as, "The Democratic Party is working to keep Black folks on the plantation of the government."

Colmes did a good job of steering him back to the subject and back to the truth after Peterson started insisting that Bush's plan allows people complete freedom of choice in investing their money. "It's still a government plan," Colmes said, noting that choice is restricted to about five funds selected by the government.

At first, Peterson kept insisting that was not the case. He also claimed that a Zogby survey in January showed that most Blacks "agree with this great president and that Black folks need to have freedom of choice." (Comment: Apparently Peterson was unaware of the latest Pew Research survey showing that "support among African Americans for private accounts also has slipped from 50% to 36%, despite Bush's concerted efforts to promote his plan with blacks.") When Colmes effectively argued away those two points, Peterson tried to change the subject. "Alan, don't you feel ashamed for those Black folks who are calling this a race issue?"

"No, I am ashamed that you are misrepresenting the plan here. You are not accurate."

"People like Charles Rangel from New York, NAACP, Julian Bond of all people, one of the most racist demagogues..."

Colmes interrupted and said, "Rather than calling people names, Reverend Peterson, why don't you accurately represent the government plan."

"I have yet to hear Liberals come up with a plan..."

Dr. Rockeymoore interjected "Social Security is the plan... It's highly successful and it does what it's supposed to do."

Peterson: Rangel called the president a racist.

Colmes: No, he said he was playing the race card.

After that, it was time for phone calls. The first caller was a trucker from California named Dolores. She said, "I don't think this preacher has any idea of what's in President Bush's plan any more than he has any idea of what Black people really want."

Peterson said he had read the plan, then he went back to his talking points. "Democrats need to realize that after 40 years, Black folks are starting to wake up and realize that they have a choice. They don't have to depend on the government... Unlike the Democratic party, the Republican Party, i.e. President Bush - one of the greatest presidents we have ever known..."

"Oh, God," Dolores moaned.

Colmes burst out laughing and so did I.

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