President Barack Obama has no plans to wade into the raging debate about race and the role it plays in an increasingly divided public discourse in America.
Senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett said she does not believe the president needs to give a speech about race, as he did last year. "Right now, the president is focused on health care reform," she said, which "the people need.
"The president gave an outstanding speech on race during the campaign," Jarrett said by e-mail this morning. "People should be encouraged to re-read it."
The president will instead remain focused on the difficult and challenging efforts to overhaul health care, she said.
But whether the White House chooses to engage in the issue, the debate is swirling around the president.
Former President Jimmy Carter weighed in Wednesday for the second time in a week.
Speaking at Emory University in Atlanta, Carter blamed "a radical fringe element of demonstrators" for attacking the president. He referenced scattered signs depicting Obama as an animal or a re-incarnation of Adolf Hitler that were seen among the crowd of thousands at a protest rally last weekend in Washington, D.C.
"Those kind of things are beyond the bounds of the way presidents have ever been accepted, even with people who disagree," Carter said. "And I think people that are guilty of that personal attack against Obama have been influenced, to a major degree, by a belief that he should not be president because he happens to be African-American."
Many conservatives object to that characterization.
Radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh suggested Wednesday that conservatives can't win. "Any criticism of an African-American president's policies, statements or policies, is [seen as] racist. And that's it," Limbaugh said.
Limbaugh has been criticized by some liberals for comments he made on his show Tuesday. He talked about a violent school bus brawl in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis, that was caught on surveillance tape. Two black high school students were suspended after allegedly attacking a white student Monday.
Limbaugh's producers called his words a "send up" of Obama's supposedly harmonious post-racial America.
"Greetings, my friends," Limbaugh began. "Well, it's Obama's America, is it not? Obama's America. White kids getting beat up on school buses now. I mean if you put your kids on a school bus you expect safety but in Obama's America, the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering, 'Yeah, right on, right on, right on.' And, of course, everybody says, 'Oh, the white kid deserved it. He was born a racist. He's white.'"
Limbaugh's tone is dripping with sarcasm as he goes on to poke fun at the notion that all white people are racists.
"We know that white students are destroying civility on buses," Limbaugh said. "White students destroying civility in classrooms all over America. White congressmen destroying civility in the House of Representatives. ? Let's have an open conversation, an honest conversation about all of our typical white grandmothers. You had one. I had one. Obama had one. They're racists just like our students are."
Limbaugh's assistant, Kit Carson, says his audience understands he was being sarcastic.
But even some conservatives are saying that kind of talk is dangerous.