Juan Williams asked Newt Gingrich in tonight’s debate about his comments regarding Black Americans demanding paychecks and not food stamps, plus his statements about poor children working as janitors in their schools and firing unionized janitorial labor. Gingrich attempted to make his case by doubling-down on each idea.
This whole exchange was utterly offensive on Gingrich’s part and was compounded by the audience booing Williams for asking the question. Here’s the full back-and-forth - it really must be read to be believed:
WILLIAMS: Speaker Gingrich, you recently said black Americans should demand jobs, not food stamps. You also said poor kids lack a strong work ethic and proposed having them work as janitors in their schools. Can’t you see that this is viewed, at a minimum, as insulting to all Americans, but particularly to black Americans?
GINGRICH: No. I don’t see that.
You know, my daughter, Jackie, who’s sitting back there, Jackie Cushman, reminded me that her first job was at First Baptist Church in Carrollton, Georgia, doing janitorial work at 13. And she liked earning the money. She liked learning that if you worked, you got paid. She liked being in charge of her own money, and she thought it was a good start.
I had a young man in New Hampshire who walked up to me. I’ve written two newsletters now about this topic. I’ve had over 50 people write me about the jobs they got at 11, 12, 13 years of age. Ran into a young man who started a doughnut company at 11. He’s now 16. He has several restaurants that take his doughnuts. His father is thrilled that he’s 16 because he can now deliver his own doughnuts.
What I tried to say — and I think it’s fascinating, because Joe Klein reminded me that this started with an article he wrote 20 years ago. New York City pays their janitors an absurd amount of money because of the union. You could take one janitor and hire 30-some kids to work in the school for the price of one janitor, and those 30 kids would be a lot less likely to drop out. They would actually have money in their pocket. They’d learn to show up for work. They could do light janitorial duty. They could work in the cafeteria. They could work in the front office. They could work in the library. They’d be getting money, which is a good thing if you’re poor. Only the elites despise earning money.
WILLIAMS: The suggestion that he made was about a lack of work ethic. And I’ve got to tell you, my e-mail account, my Twitter account has been inundated with people of all races who are asking if your comments are not intended to belittle the poor and racial minorities. You saw some of this reaction during your visit…
… to a black church in South Carolina. You saw some of this during your visit to a black church in South Carolina, where a woman asked you why you refer to President Obama as “the food stamp president.” It sounds as if you are seeking to belittle people.
GINGRICH: Well, first of all, Juan, the fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history.
Now, I know among the politically correct, you’re not supposed to use facts that are uncomfortable.
Second, you’re the one who earlier raised a key point. There’s — the area that ought to be I-73 was called by Barack Obama a corridor of shame because of unemployment. Has it improved in three years? No. They haven’t built the road. They haven’t helped the people. They haven’t done anything.
BRET BAIER: Finish your thought, Mr. Speaker.
GINGRICH: One last thing.
BAIER: Yes, sir.
GINGRICH: So here’s my point. I believe every American of every background has been endowed by their creator with the right to pursue happiness. And if that makes liberals unhappy, I’m going to continue to find ways to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job and learn some day to own the job.
For example, when asked a question about welfare 2 days before the Iowa caucuses, Rick Santorum replied “I don’t want to make Black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.” The problem is that the question didn’t mention blacks at all, and statistically far more whites receive low-income assistance than blacks. But somehow the word “welfare” has become coded as referring to blacks.
In addition to the quote in the comic, Newt Gingrich called Obama “the most successful food stamp president in American history.” I’m not even sure what that’s supposed to mean, but it sure sounds like someone tossing out red meat to the base.
UPDATE: Here’s some commentary from Jen Sorensen on her comic:
You’d think that decades in politics would knock the racist claptrap out of someone like Newt Gingrich, but, well, this is the GOP we’re talking about. Instead, he just substitutes polite-sounding phrases like “African-American community” and “demand paychecks” for “those lazy blacks.” How does one go about demanding a paycheck, anyway? I’d like to be able to do that, and have one show up. That would be cool.
The dialogue in the third panel refers to Ron Paul’s Paranoid Kook Reports, which contained the theory that the LA riots only came to a halt because everyone went to pick up welfare checks. And right-wing noise machine poopshoveler Brent Bozell said on Fox News that Obama looked like a “skinny ghetto crackhead.” Rick Santorum has also made similar comments to Newt’s.
For data on food stamp usage, I looked at this USDA report (big PDF, via the ThinkProgress article linked above; page 75 has the breakdown) and this, which documents disproportionate rural usage, largely by children.
This is pretty neat: Tonight, Twitter is introducing a feature allowing viewers to share whether they think the candidates participating in tonight’s Fox News GOP debate in Iowa are answering the questions being posed to them or dodging them altogether.
* When a candidate answers a question, tweet that person’s name with #answer (if you think they answered the question) or #dodge (if you think they, well, dodged the question). Example: “gingrich nailed that #answer” or “gingrich is avoiding the issue #dodge”.
* Watch the live results over at live.foxnews.com.
I’ll give you a hint: Last night’s debate kept fact-checkers busy…
“It’s because Iran has announced they plan to strike Israel. They’ve stated as recently as August — just before President Ahmadinejad came to the U.N. General Assembly, he said that he wanted to eradicate Israel from the face of the Earth. He has said that if he has a nuclear weapon, he will use it to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth, he will use it against the United States of America.”
Bachmann is again overstating the case here. Iran appears to be pursuing a nuclear weapons program, but Iranian officials have never said they have a nuclear weapon. In fact, they have repeatedly denied having such a program.
Moreover, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has never said he would use a nuclear weapon against Israel and in fact, as we examined recently, he may not have ever said he wanted to wipe Israel off the map. There is substantial dispute on whether this was actually a mistranslation of his words.
I remember hearing her say this and thinking to myself “BULLSHIT!”
“We know that terrorists have come into this country by way of Mexico.”
— Herman Cain
Cain is wrong. The Houston Chronicle looked closely at this question and found that no one arrested at the border has faced terror-related charges or carried out a terrorist act.
Again, I yelled at my TV “BULLSHIT!”
To summarize, I yelled Bullshit a lot last night.
Of course the debate had to kick off with introductions. Like we had no clue who these people on stage were or why they were there…
My first thought: I cannot believe anyone but Huntsman has a serious chance. My second thought: There’s no way anyone but Huntsman should be anywhere near the nuclear football. Shit, Huntsman is the only one who can properly pronounce “nuclear” with consistency.
Herman Cain got hardly any questions, and completely, utterly boned the questions that he did answer. So much for the Cain train, folks. Cain claimed our national security has been downgraded. Obama sighed and reminded Cain about this one dude named Bin Laden. He claimed we couldn’t bomb Iran because it has mountains(?), and that if we left Afghanistan, they’d suddenly become BFFs with Iran. Further, he said we must cut off foreign aid to Africa unless we see results. Not too controversial until you place it in context - he was talking about foreign aid for prevention and treatment of HIV. He also managed to fumble Wolf Blitzer’s name, calling him “Blitz.” In short, he knows nothing about national security, places with mountains can’t be bombed because reasons, and fuck people with AIDS in Africa.
Michele Bachmann went off again about the ACLU controlling CIA interrogations under Obama. Rep. Bachmann, the ACLU would like to have a word with you. Then she launched into a strange point about terrorists and technology changing. Basically, when we first thought about terrorism, phones were attached to the wall with wires and now terrorists have cell phones. Whatever that means. She then claimed Pakistan and the Middle East have seen six attempted terrorist attacks on nuclear facilities. Bachmann also called Perry naive and claimed Obama is threatening national security by canceling the Keystone Pipeline. It’s not cancelled - the U.S. State Department ordered a new route be found for it. Plus, the governor of Nebraska called for the delay, not Obama. Yep. She kept babbling about magnets in regards to immigration.
Shorter Bachmann: Magnets. How do they work? Fuckin’ miracles. On Iraq, she claimed “We need to remember, we won the peace in Iraq. And now President Obama is intentionally choosing to give that peace away.” Uh-huh. Her true gem was when she said she knows all about existential threats. I’m sure Bachmann knows all about existential threats. I question her existence as a serious candidate often.
Jon Huntsman came out strong. He was emphatic that the military buildup overseas and defense budget we are currently running is unnecessary and repeated that any nation building must first begin at home. Huntsman also said strengthening the PATRIOT Act is not the best national security policy because it involves forfeiture of liberties at home - a point introduced by Ron Paul. He called for negotiation with both allies and enemies. Huntsman also ripped Romney a new one after Romney accused Huntsman of wanting America to fail because he suggested drawing down troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. According to Huntsman, indefinite war is expensive and makes us no friends. Who knew? Essentially, his opinions were well-reasoned, thought-out policy positions versus talking points, and he’ll never succeed in the polls with the current GOP. He has the best quote of the night:
“I have to say that our biggest problem is right here at home. And you can see it on every street corner. It’s called joblessness. It’s called lack of opportunity. It’s called debt, that has become a national security problem in this country. And it’s also called a trust deficit, a Congress that nobody believes in anymore, an executive branch that has no leadership, institutions of power that we no longer believe in. How can we have any effect on foreign policy abroad when we are so weak at home? We have no choice. We’ve got to get on our feet here domestically.”
Newt Gingrich bloviated whenever the camera was on him. His speech was slurred and he lost his train of thought a few times, but compared to Perry, etc. he was put together. Personally, I thought Newt looked exhausted or ill. He finally found his pet moderator, Wolf Blitzer. Blitzer kissed his ass several times, with questions like, “Mr. Speaker, I remember you and Reagan did x…” and turned to Newt for historical “fact” - until Blitzer led him into the minefield of immigration. Suddenly, friends off. Gingrich posited a fairly reasonable solution (compared to others) in regards to immigration, though after reactions from other candidates, he became slightly incoherent. His idea was that immigrants found to be undocumented, who have close ties to the U.S., would not necessarily be deported. Slightly less radical than Cain’s electric fence. The other candidates pushed him off the moment of compassion, and as soon as CNN started their post-debate coverage, he was all about take-backs with his immigration stance. He also made an odd point about defeating Nazis with our natural resources like oil and our confidence. Gingrich called Ron Paul “my friend” and I think Paul nearly came over the podium.
Ron Paul continued his powerful performance in the debates. He unequivocally opposed the extension of the PATRIOT Act and said we need to get out of the conflicts we’re involved in due to expense and the fact that we’re not directly threatened by any countries with which we’re currently engaged. Paul stated the PATRIOT Act undermines liberty and when several candidates endorsed profiling Muslims (really) Paul just about lost it. He emphasized white people, specifically, American white people, have committed acts of terrorism as well. Remember Timothy McVeigh? Ron Paul does. He also refused to pander to the pro-Israel folks, saying Israel can stand on its own and if it attacks other countries, it should pay the price like any other nation. Paul also said we should end the war on drugs immediately, particularly for medical marijuana patients. Too bad his compassion doesn’t extend farther. Say what you will about Paul, at least he’s consistent. Then he went all Grampa Simpson and said we should export the free market to Africa. We did. It’s called exploitation.
Rick Perry got little airtime. He had the same night Cain did. Perry kept harping about sanctioning Iran’s bank, which the Obama administration stopped just of doing recently. He criticized the Obama administration for being ineffective, yet praised “our security forces” in regards to stopping recent terroristic threats. Apparently, he’s forgotten Obama is still the commander-and-chief. He finally said that intelligence under the Obama administration has been a failure, apparently forgetting about Osama bin Laden. Perry wants to make TSA more effective by privatizing it, because TSA’s main problem is unions. He endorsed racial profiling like nearly every other candidate. He also said Obama’s debt committee failure was because of the trigger (a republican measure - remember Boehner said they got 98% of what they wanted). His explanation:
“So the idea that you can’t sit down and work with people on both sides of the aisle, but just to, you know, throw us into — into that briar patch at this particular point in time and say, what would you do — we would never have gotten into that situation if I were the president of the United States. I’d have been there working day in and day out so that we had a budget that not only — I’ve laid out a clear plan to — flat tax of 20 percent; cut the spending; and put a 20 percent corporate tax rate in. And, as a matter of fact, they ought to make the legislature, the Congress, part-time, and that would make as big an impact in this city as anything I can think of.”
So yeah, if you can parse that, more power to you.
Mitt Romney was slicker than usual. He didn’t have the tousled hair of a few debates ago. He looked like a presidential Ken doll. Romney suggested TSA needs to be more efficient with pat downs and that some folks could go through faster than others. Oh, and maybe we don’t need to do pat-downs but whatever, sure, next talking point. This caught my attention (emphasis mine):
We need tools when war is waged domestically to ensure that as president of the United States you can fulfill your first responsibility which is to protect the life, liberty and property of American citizens and defend them from foes domestic and foreign. That means yes we’ll use the constitution and criminal law for those people who commit crimes but those who commit war and attack the United States and pursue treason of various kinds we will use instead a very different form of law which is the law afforded to those who are fighting America.
What law? That’s called the Geneva Convention first off - and Romney’s endorsed torture. This is some serious pandering. What about Americans suspected of terrorism? Is that the same as treason? Scary shit, folks. Romney also mispronounced “modernity” multiple times and I feel that says a lot about the GOP. He pointed out America’s approval rating in Pakistan is 12% and we should work with them. I don’t see why Romney is too worried - that’s three points above Congress in a recent CBS/New York Times poll.
Rick Santorum is batshit. Period. I’ll just give a sample of what he said…
On profiling: “Well, the folks who are most likely to be committing these crimes. If you look at — I mean, obviously, it was — obviously, Muslims would be — would be someone you’d look at, absolutely. Those are the folks who are — the radical Muslims are the people that are committing these crimes, as we’ve — by and large, as well as younger males. I mean, these are things that — not exclusively — but these are things that you profile to — to find your best — the most likely candidate.”
On holy war: “We are not fighting a war on terrorism. Terrorism is a tactic. We’re fighting a war against radical Islam.”
On redefining geography: ”Africa was a country on the brink. On the brink of complete meltdown and chaos, which would have been fertile ground for the radical Islamists to be able to — to get — to get a foothold.”
On alliances: Well, I’ve spent a lot of time and concern — and Rick mentioned this earlier — about what’s going on in Central and South America. I’m very concerned about the militant socialists and there — and the radical Islamists joining together, bonding together. I’m concerned about the spread of socialism and that this administration, with — time after time, whether it was the delay in moving forward on Colombia’s free trade agreement, whether it was turning our back to the Hondurans and standing up for democracy and the — and the rule of law. And we took the side with Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro for a corrupt President. We’ve sent all the wrong signals to Central and South America.
Winners: Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Magnets, the ACLU, Barack Obama
Losers: Brown people who wish to fly without being profiled, liberty, Americans living in poverty, Herman Cain
Here’s my comments during the debate:
Newt Gingrich on his relationship with Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac, who gave him 300k for “advice.”
Newt’s dissertation was “Belgian Education Policy in the Congo: 1945–1960.” What the hell kind of historian advice did he qualify to give them? I’m surprised the moderator didn’t laugh at his answer.