Obama: I'm not opposed because of race

By Jason Seher CNN Associate Producer | 8/29/2013, 9:44 a.m.
President Barack Obama echoed past statements in a Wednesday interview with PBS' "Newshour," telling the show's anchors that Republican opposition ...
President Barack Obama delivers remarks from the Lincoln Memorial on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington on Wednesday, August 28, 2013. (Photo by Pete Souza/The White House).

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama echoed past statements in a Wednesday interview with PBS' "Newshour," telling the show's anchors that Republican opposition to his agenda isn't motivated by the color of his skin.

"It doesn't have to do with race in particular," Obama said. "It has to do with an effort to make sure people who might otherwise challenge the existing ways that things work are divided."

Amid celebrations across the country commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the comments place the focus back on bridging the partisan divide - not necessarily a racial one.

In the interview with PBS anchors Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill, the president said the GOP's attempts to obstruct his policies stem from their ideological opposition to government-led reforms. Obama insisted his partisan foes dole out bitter pills of rhetorical bluster in equal doses across racial lines.

"It's directed at Bill Clinton or Nancy Pelosi just as much as its directed at me," the president said.

Clinton struck a similar remark earlier in the day. While delivering his speech paying tribute to the thousands who marched down Constitution Avenue in 1963, Clinton railed against red-and-blue colored Maginot Lines impeding the country's progress.

"Martin Luther King did not live and die to hear his heirs whine about political gridlock," Clinton said. "It is time to stop complaining and put our shoulders against the stubborn gates holding the American people back."

But both remarks from Obama and Clinton come in a year very much tinted by a national discourse on race. The president, notably, commented on the Trayvon Martin trial after a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman of second-degree murder, telling reporters in late July, "Trayvon Martin could have been me."

Other high-profile politicians have garnered attention by accusing some in the Republican Party of basing their opposition to the president on his being black.

In a radio interview with a Las Vegas-based NPR affiliate, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, created a miniature maelstrom when he wondered aloud if the GOP's unwillingness to cooperate with the president was "based on substance and not the fact that he's an African American."

Former Secretary of State, Gen. Colin Powell, made similar waves in January, when he told NBC's "Meet the Press" he, too, suspected some within more conservative wing of the Republican Party harbor racist beliefs.

"There's also a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party," Powell said. "They still sort of look down on minorities."

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