When Gov. Mark Sanford compared President Barack Obama’s massive stimulus spending to the nation of Zimbabwe’s disastrous example, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said, “For him to compare the president of this country to [President Robert] Mugabe … It’s just beyond the pale.”

When asked if Sanford’s example had racist implications, Clyburn replied, “I’m sure he would not say that, but how did he get to Zimbabwe? What took the man to Zimbabwe? Someone should ask him if that’s really the best comparison … How can he compare this country’s situation to Zimbabwe?”

Appearing on Countdown with Keith Olbermann, the MSNBC host blustered that Sanford was playing the “race card” and was comparing Obama to Mugabe, the notorious Zimbabwe dictator. Clyburn did not disagree.

Last month, when a number of Southern Republican governors, including Sanford, spoke out against Obama’s stimulus, Clyburn said that the actions of these four governors was “a slap in the face of African-Americans.”

Speaking of Sanford specifically, Clyburn added “He may not need help for the plantation his family owns, but the people whose grandparents and great-grandparents worked those plantations need the help.”

The ridiculous extent to which the word “racist” has been used and abused has now rendered the term completely meaningless. Individual and institutional racism prevalent during slavery and segregation was glaring and obvious. Today, genuine racism is less obvious, yet it undoubtedly still exists. And a word to label such instances might be useful. But the word “racism” itself has been thoroughly discredited because of men like Clyburn.

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