Obama: racism not 'the overriding issue' in criticism

WASHINGTON, Sept 19, (AFP) -US President Barack Obama does not think racism is “the overriding issue” in the fierce debate surrounding health care, but that tempers are rising over government roles in daily life, according to interviews to be broadcast Sunday.

“Are there people out there who don't like me because of race? I'm sure there are. That's not the overriding issue here,” Obama insisted in an excerpt of an interview to be broadcast on the CNN show “State of the Union.”The US leader, in a media blitz to shore-up popular support for health care reform, is taking to all five major Sunday news shows this weekend, after commandeering prime-time television earlier this month with a major address to Congress on the issue.Obama has been pushed to weigh in on the controversial issue of race after former president Jimmy Carter claimed racism was driving demonstrations and rhetoric on the president's health care reform plans and spending policy.

Protesters against US President Barack Obama's healthcare reform stage an act outside the Comcast Center where Obama held a rally on healthcare in Colleage Park, Maryland, on September 17. AFP

“The overwhelming part of the American population” is much more concerned with how the health care reform proposals will affect them, Obama stressed, according to an interview excerpt released by ABC News.

The “biggest driver” for the more intense opposition to his administration's proposals, Obama told the network's “This Week” programme, is more likely to be from people who are “passionate about the idea of whether government can do anything right.” The president similarly told NBC's “Meet the Press” program that it is 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?”

“The kind of vitriol espoused in the 1930s about then US president Franklin Roosevelt “are pretty similar to the things that are said about me -- he was a communist, he was a socialist,” Obama said in an excerpt released Friday by CNN.

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