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PRESIDENT OBAMA: No. Look, I said, during the campaign, are there some people who still think through the prism of race when it comes to evaluating me and my candidacy? Absolutely. Sometimes they vote for me for that reason, sometimes they vote against me for that reason. I'm sure that was true during the campaign, I'm sure that's true now.- Related Topic:
But I think you actually put your finger on what this argument's really about. And it's an argument that's gone on for the history of this republic. And that is what's the right role of government? How do we balance freedom with our need to look after one another?
I talked about this in the joint sessions speech. This is not a new argument. And it always invokes passions. And I— it— it was a passionate argument between Jefferson and Hamilton about this. You know, Andrew Jackson built a whole political party around this notion that somehow— you know— there— there is populous outrage against— a federal government that was over inclu— intrusive.
And— and so what— what I think is going on is that we've got a healthy debate taking place. The vast majority of people are conducting it in a very sensible way. I— I think that every president who's tried to make significant changes along these lines, whether it was FDR or Ronald Reagan, elicit very strong passionate responses.
But I do think that we all have an obligation to try to— conduct this conversation in a civil way. And to— recognize that each of us are patriots. That each of us are Americans. And that, by the way, the— my proposals— as much as you may not like them— if you're— a Republican, or on the right, recognize that this is well within the mainstream of what Americans have been talking about for years, in terms of making sure that everybody in this country gets decent health care. And that— people who have health care are protected.
DAVID GREGORY: Just to be clear though. It wasn't just President Carter. There are others in the Congressional Black Caucus. Other thinkers who have said that they agree. That there is racism out there in that opposition to you. I just want to be clear, are you— are you saying to the former president and others, to speak this way is counterproductive?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, look— David, here's what I'm saying. I— I— I think that— the media loves to have a conversation about race. I mean, the— this is— is catnip to— to— the media because it is a running thread in American history that's very powerful. And it invokes some very strong emotions.
I'm not saying that race — never matters in— in any of these— public debates that we have. What I'm saying is this debate that's taking place is not about race, it's about people being worried about— how our government should operate.