Bill Clinton: Race 'Not Driving Opposition to President Obama on Health Care'

Former president on health care reform, and next steps in Afghanistan.

ByABC News via GMA logo
September 21, 2009, 8:43 PM

Sept. 22, 2009— -- Former President Bill Clinton believes some of the harshest criticism of the Obama administration's health care plan is "racially prejudiced" but said that what's really driving the opposition is a philosophical or emotional aversion to reform.

"I think some of the extreme right who oppose him on health care are also racially prejudiced," he told "Good Morning America" co-anchor Robin Roberts. "If you look at some of the signs, listen to some of the rhetoric, there's no question that's true. But I believe if he were not an African-American, all the people who were against him on health care would still be against him. Because they were against me too. He believes that."

Clinton said he can "sympathize with" fellow former president and Southerner Jimmy Carter's statement that an "overwhelming portion of the animosity toward President Obama is racially motivated."

"If you're a Southerner and you fought the battles, you're super sensitive of any manifestation or discrimination based on race. But what's driving the opposition to President Obama on health care is not race. Some of his opponents have racial discrimination in their heart. But that's not what's driving them. What's driving them is they don't want health care. They don't want the government to take care of people who are ... left behind."

Obama has also rejected the idea that race is the cause of the criticism of his health care proposals.

"Are there some people who don't like me because of my race? I'm sure there are," Obama told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos. "The overwhelming part of the American population, I think, is right now following this debate and trying to figure out 'Is this going to help me? Is health care going to make be better off?'"

He joked on "The David Letterman Show" Monday night that, "I was actually black during the election."

Nearly two weeks after Obama addressed a joint session of Congress on health care he is still trying to push through reform.

After weeks of closed-door meetings, the Finance Committee chairman, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., unveiled his highly anticipated bill last week. The Baucus plan is expected to cost $856 billion over the next 10 years.