By Alan Nathan © 2009 Big Hollywood

What do actor/comic Janeane Garofalo, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd and former President Jimmy Carter all have in common? They commit racism in the name of fighting it, but still expect to be taken seriously. In short, their grasp of self-awareness has the finely tuned grip of a yak opening a jar of jelly.

Our health care debate has fortunately exposed much ugliness too long ignored. Like most political animals (elephants or donkeys), these three give a pass to their own for that which they never tolerate from others. They’re the kind of individuals rightly scorned by Shakespeare’s Antonio in The Merchant of Venice when he said, “Oh what a goodly outside falsehood hath,” Act I, Scene iii. More specifically, Garofalo, Dowd and Carter have morphed into the very beings most of us loathe – those who accuse others of the very evil they have done themselves. They are cry-wolf racists.

During her routine at the 9:30 Club in DC on August 21, Janeane Garofalo referred to health care opponents as simply exhibiting “emotion over being angry that there’s a black guy in office.” In true dissenter-phobic zeal (pardon the neologism), she called them “functionally retarded” and “racist.” She speculated that, “You know what they’re really saying is, ‘I want my white guy back.’”

Maureen Dowd offers similar guessing in her New York Times column on September 12:

Surrounded by middle-aged white guys — a sepia snapshot of the days when such pols ran Washington like their own men’s club — Joe Wilson yelled ‘You lie!’ at a president who didn’t. But, fair or not, what I heard was an unspoken word in the air: You lie, boy!

Finally, on September 15, President Carter theorizes on NBC Nightly News:

I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African-American.

Garofalo’s “what they’re really saying,” Dowd’s “unspoken word in the air” and Carter’s “I think…animosity… is based on the fact that he is a black man” share a common denominating theme – they’re supported by zero facts relevant to the specific people getting tarred as racist.

The moment they predicate assertions of racism on grounds that are devoid of any corresponding foundation, they become guilty of using race to marginalize otherwise innocent folks. Whenever you leverage skin color to intimidate opposing speech, BINGO, you’re actually implementing the very racism you claim to despise.

By their measure, no person of color should ever have to defend his or her politics. Are they genuinely unable to discern the difference between issues relevant to racial conflict versus conflict transpiring between those who are simply not of the same race? A Black guy and a White guy can disagree over the same things that might be the case for two Blacks, two Whites, two Hispanics, two Asians or two Semitics. But according to these abridged thinkers, if they’re not of the same race, it’s a racial conflict. This is inexcusably and embarrassingly unevolved.

In the interest of fair disclosure, I’m an aggressive centrist. For example, I concur with most conservatives in my support for the war in Iraq, the war against fanatical jihadists, smaller government, lower taxes, originalist judges and the genuine belief that health care reform should be more targeted and less all-encompassing. However, I’m also a social progressive who’s pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-gay marriage and pro-reparations for African-Americans. I’m additionally of the view that both conservatives and liberals have been responsible for our current health care challenges.

Republicans claim that health insurance out of the workplace would lower costs, but still take funds from HMO lobbyists who want the opposite. Democrats argue that health insurance devoid of waste would cut prices, but continue banking the bucks from trial lawyers opposing the very malpractice reform necessary to make it happen. Consequently, both parties ensure that their moneyed constituents trump their voting constituents.

There are plenty of grounds for legitimate debate. However, fringe folks like Garofalo, Dowd and Carter must learn that invectives without premise are masturbatory. Given their volume, not even a Sham Wow could clean up their mess.