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Special Report

Is Criticism of Obama Based on His Race?

Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Racial Issue?

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote on Sunday, September 13 that Wednesday's (September 9) outburst by South Carolina Republican Congressman Joe Wilson during President Obama's address to a joint session of Congress was racially motivated. As we told you earlier, Wilson shouted, "you lie," when the president said his health care plan would not cover illegal immigrants.

Dowd writes: "What I heard was an unspoken word in the air — you lie, boy!... Wilson clearly did not like being lectured and even rebuked by the brainy black president presiding over the majestic chamber."

Liberal columnists are not alone in suggesting that any opposition to the president is race-driven. Texas Democratic Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson tells the Politico: "As far as African-Americans are concerned, we think most of it is."

And California Democratic Congressman Mike Honda adds: "There's a very angry, small group of folks that just didn't like the fact that Barack Obama won the presidency. With some, I think it is (about race.)"

But White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says to CNN: "I don't think the president believes that people are upset because of the color of his skin."

Help Wanted

The White House is filling policy positions at two of the most important departments to the president's domestic agenda at a slower rate than elsewhere in the administration.

Despite overseeing one of the largest financial rescue plans in history, the Treasury Department has filled just 11 of 33 high-level posts requiring Senate confirmation. And just eight of the top 20 positions have been filled at the Health and Human Services Department, although it is responsible for responding to a potential outbreak of the H1N1 flu.

Only the Justice Department has had a slower rate of confirmation.

Number Confusion

There have been conflicting reports on the number of protesters who marched on Washington this weekend in opposition to what they see as out-of-control federal spending and the expanding size of government.

Some media outlets put the number at 60,000, while FOX News reported the number to be in the "tens of thousands." A spokesman for the D.C. Fire Department says 60,000 was an early estimate and that the real figure was in excess of 75,000. But that continued to grow throughout the day.

But a time-lapse video making the rounds online indicates there may have been even more than that. Capitol Hill police were not giving estimates and have refused to do so following past criticism that their estimates were somehow politically motivated.

— FOX News Channel's Zachary Kenworthy contributed to this report.