by Max Brantley
Charles Blow of the New York Times found lots not to like in the M.L. King Day Republican presidential debate in South Carolina, what with phrases like "food stamp president" being thrown about. Questioner Juan Williams went after Newt Gingrich for some of his racial rhetoric, masquerading as something else. Gingrich, naturally, was unapologetic for sneering at the work ethic of poor and minorities. He was in South Carolina after all.
Blow was almost admiring of Gingrich's ability to reach his audience.
Gingrich seems to understand the historical weight of the view among some southern whites, many of whom have migrated to the Republican party, that blacks are lazy and addicted to handouts. He is able to give voice to those feelings without using those words. He is able to make people believe that a fundamentally flawed and prejudicial argument that demeans minorities is actually for their uplift. It is Gingrich’s gift: He is able to make ill will sound like good will.
Martin Luther King, recipient of so many boilerplate tributes from Republicans massaging social media yesterday, I'm sure would have applauded with the South Carolina Republicans such Gingrich comments as:
It tells you everything you need to know about the difference between Barack Obama and the five of us: that we actually think work is good (applause). We actually think saying to somebody “I’ll help you if you’re willing to help yourself” is good (applause). And we think unconditionally efforts by the best food stamp president in American history to maximize dependency is terrible for the future of this country (applause).