The Democrats must pass health care reform. If they pass the legislation, they are still going to get hammered in the mid-term elections. If they don’t pass the bill, the hammering will only multiply in its intensity. Right now, our Congress finds itself in a terribly complex situation, with terms like “reconciliation” and “deem and pass” being thrown around like profanity against a growing backlash from a portion of the American public. If we could go back in time, President Obama would never have taken on this issue.

I watched President Obama’s interview with Brett Baier on Fox News with intrigue. I wondered why Obama would want to appear on a network that has spent hundreds of millions of dollars undermining the White House. I then realized that Obama’s appearance is likely in line with the White House strategy of taking on the Republicans face-to-face. Rather than appearing to be an elitist leader who hides from his adversaries (as George Bush might have done), Obama is walking into one lion’s den after another, making his presidency even more interesting than it was when he arrived. Also unlike President Bush, Obama is savvy and intelligent enough to debate 100 Republicans in a single bound, the way Tiger Woods can dominate a golf course with scores of non-black competitors. Barack Obama is his own greatest asset.

What got the nation’s attention in last night’s Fox interview was Baier’s blatant disrespect for the president. In one instance after another, Baier would cut Obama off in the middle of his answers and wouldn’t let him finish his points. He was appeasing his right wing supporters by chopping the presidency down to size, and putting Obama “in his place.” I could understand the source of Baier’s frustration, since Obama and the Democrats are not exactly listening to the Republicans as they put forward their talking points, and this was their chance to come after Obama.

The Baier-Obama episode was disturbing to quite a few Americans, and should have been disturbing to members of the right wing. As much as they may disagree with Obama and what he is trying to do, Republicans should realize that when they disrespect the presidency, they are disrespecting themselves. The idea that a Republican fringe is working to unravel our democracy in such a unapologetic way should cause all of us to take notice. Anyone who has witnessed this kind of uprising in a third-world country knows that the actions of Tea Partiers and others are incredibly problematic.

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One must also acknowledge the significant racial undertones of Republican attacks on President Obama. Starting with Congressman Joe Wilson’s decision to yell “You lie!” in the middle of Obama’s address to Congress, we can see that there are some Americans who feel that having a black man in the White House is worth destroying the White House itself. The anger from those who are not accustomed to having a black authority figure has shed light on the worst aspects of their collective humanity.

As a black professor who has taught white students for 17 years, I have personally witnessed this kind of resentment up close, especially if you are pursuing an agenda that the dominate majority does not appreciate. There is also the standard contention that minorities are not qualified for leadership positions, producing only small, fragile amounts of minuscule trust and respect that are easily undermined: the white professor who makes a mistake is believed to have made an error. The black professor who does the same thing is considered unqualified for the job. The right wing doesn’t hate Obama just because he’s black. They hate him because he’s an “uppity negro” who doesn’t agree with them. This story was predictable long before it ever took place.

In light of the terribly disrespectful interview that Brett Baier did with President Obama, I would love to see Republicans show enough integrity to condemn Baier’s treatment of the presidency and communicate that they’d like the health care debate to be one of mutual respect. By not allowing the president to speak and trying to yank the White House into a street fight, Brett Baier, Fox News and the right wing have debased the very government they claim to love. So, for every “Tea Party Patriot” who cheered while watching this interview, you might want to stop and realize just how unpatriotic you’ve actually become. This is how democracies die.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and the initiator of the National Conversation on Race. For more information, please visit>