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Obama agenda: Staying above the fray

The Washington Post and New York Times note that the White House tried to stay above the political fray over Jimmy Carter's comments about race. Here's the Washington Post: "[A]t the White House, the official line is: Race issue? What race issue? 'I'm not sure I see this large national conversation going on right now,' White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday. He said Obama 'does not believe that that criticism comes based on the color of his skin,' attributing it instead to honest policy disagreements."

The New York Times: "Mr. Obama's response to all this, aides say, has been to tell his staff not to be distracted by the charges and to focus on health care and the rest of his policy agenda. 'He could probably give a very powerful speech on race, just as he did in the course of the campaign,' said Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama. 'But right now his top domestic priority is health care reform. It's difficult, challenging and complicated. And if he leads by example, our country will be far better off.'"

The New York Daily News on the Carter story: "White House to Jimmy Carter: Stop helping us. ... Obama has long worked to project a 'postracial' view of the world, addressing matters of race only when forced. That happened during the presidential campaign when Obama had to defuse an uproar over his ex-pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. As President -- a job that requires him to cobble together disparate factions --  talk of racism is about as welcome in the White House as a case of swine flu."

"White House press secretary Robert Gibbs fired back at GOP critics of White House czars on Wednesday," The Hill writes. "Gibbs said GOP 'silence was deafening' on the issue of czars during former President George W. Bush's administration.  'You've read Sen. Bennett was pushing for a Y2K czar that he didn't think was powerful enough,' Gibbs said. 'You've seen Lamar Alexander call for a manufacturing czar.' He also brought up the name of Randall Tobias, a Bush administration deputy secretary of State and 'abstinence czar' who resigned after it was discovered his name was on a prostitution-services call list. 'You know, somebody referred to in the Bush administration as the abstinence czar was on the D.C. Madam's list,' Gibbs said. 'Now, did that violate the Constitution, or simply offend our sensibilities?'"
And in apparently coordinated push back, White House adviser Anita Dunn blogged about the Bush czars "[I]t's really the hypocrisy here that is noteworthy," Dunn writes. "Just earlier today, Darrell Issa, a Republican from California and one of the leaders in calling for an investigation into the Obama Administration's use of 'czars', had to admit to Fox News that he had never raised any objections to the Bush Administration's use of 'czars'. Many of these members who now decry the practice have called on Presidents in the past to appoint 'czars' to coordinate activities within the government to address immediate challenges. What is clear is that all of this energy going into these attacks could be used to have a constructive conversation about bringing this country together to address our challenges moving forward -- and it doesn't take a 'czar' to bring that about! Just some folks willing to act in good faith."

Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee has a new Web video pointing out the hypocrisy of the conservative/GOP criticism aimed at the Obama administration's numerous czars.

Does increased health-care spending mean less money for the military? That's what Greg Zerzan, a former Bush Treasury official, argues in the Wall Street Journal.