And now it’s Newt?
Why has former House Speaker Newt Gingrich suddenly surged in the polls from near-oblivion to the top tier of Republican presidential hopefuls? Credit short memories in the ABM, the “Anybody but Mitt” movement.
The ABM faction of the Grand Old Party has road-tested so many alternatives to persistently high-scoring former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney that they apparently have forgotten all of the perfectly good reasons why they didn’t go for Gingrich months ago.
After all, the man has baggage, personal and public, of the sort that conservatives would decry in Democrats. Twice divorced, he left his first wife following her treatment for cancer. He left his second wife for a staff member who is now his third wife, Callista. Social conservatives don’t like that.
He’s also viewed by many as ethically challenged, having been the only speaker of the House to have been disciplined for ethics violations.
Even right-wing provocateur Ann Coulter vigorously pounces on his electability. “In addition to having an affair in the middle of Clinton’s impeachment; apologizing to Jesse Jackson on behalf of J. C. Watts — one of two Black Republicans then in Congress — for having criticized “poverty pimps,” and then inviting Jackson to a State of the Union address; cutting a global warming commercial with Nancy Pelosi; ... appearing in public with the Rev. Al Sharpton to promote nonspecific education reform; and calling Paul Ryan’s plan to save Social Security “right-wing social engineering,” we found out this week that Gingrich was a recipient of Freddie Mac political money.”
Yes, the money from Freddie Mac, which Gingrich claimed during a recent debate to have been for duties as a “historian,” but later turned out to be as a consultant, is particularly damaging politically. Today’s tea party right views the government-sponsored enterprise as Public Enemy No. 1 in the recent housing and economic crisis.
But for now, at least, many conservatives are willing to overlook those negatives. They want someone who not only can unseat President Barack Obama but also promote “authentic” conservative principles.
Despite his occasional joint appearances with liberals, mostly outside of Congress, Gingrich has unquestionably conservative credentials. His “revolution” earned street cred among conservatives as instigator of a partisan divide in Congress that resulted in a government shutdown in 1995 — and persists in today’s gridlock over budget issues.
Gingrich’s resurrection came after recent debates in which he showed the ferocity of a Rottweiler, not against his fellow Republicans but against an all-purpose whipping boy, the “mainstream media.” The ABMs hope Gingrich is a guy who will spank Obama in debates. If nothing else, they long for the entertainment value.
Gingrich happily endorsed that possibility, telling Politico’s Jonathan Martin Thursday in Des Moines, “If we nominate somebody utterly inarticulate, Obama gets a billion dollars, he spends two months smearing the Republican Party with negativity and we have a candidate who can’t debate him, he might pull it off.”
But even debate victory is not a slam-dunk for Gingrich, who himself admits he has an occasional lack of discipline in staying on message. The former college professor loves to talk — and talk. After he denounced Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s radical budget, for example, as “right-wing social engineering,” he famously reversed himself and warned: “Any ad which quotes what I said Sunday is a falsehood.” At least he was thinking ahead.
When actual voting is held, I still agree with the conventional wisdom that Romney has the best chance to win the nomination. His moderate views frustrate the GOP right wing, but the party’s more mainstream voters recognize he has the crossover appeal to win. Recent polls show him beating Obama among independents these days, the always-persuadable group that ultimately decides the winner.
But I’m not writing off Gingrich or anyone else, considering how the conventional wisdom four years ago at this time was predicting victories for Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. Real votes, not just polls, will determine how far Republicans have moved to the right and whether ABM anger has a future.
E-mail Clarence Page at cpage(at)tribune.com, or write to him c/o Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207.
In the Republican presidential primary nearly $53 million have been spent by political action committees or super PACs on advertising so far to influence voters in the early weeks of the race.
Among the largest contributors is Sheldon Adelson, who is described by Associated Press as a mega billionaire casino owner and staunch conservative who is “by far and away, the biggest patron of Newt Gingrich.”
The $10 million contribution from Adelson and his wife, Miriam, to Gingrich’s presidential campaign is “among the largest known political donations in U.S. history,” reported Associated Press.
“No other candidate in the race to challenge President Barack Obama in the November election appears to be relying so heavily on the fortune of a single donor. It’s been made possible by last year’s Supreme Court rulings — known as Citizens United — that recast the political landscape by stripping away restrictions on contribution and how outside groups can spend their money.”
“Sheldon Adelson is Citizens United come to life,” said AP.
The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling removed restrictions on corporate and union spending in federal elections. While the groups can’t directly coordinate with the candidates they support, many are staffed with former campaign workers who have knowledge of a favored candidate’s political strategy.
While outside spending by individuals isn’t new, the Citizens United ruling gives a billionaire or a group of multimillionaires the green light to virtually buy an election.
In his 2010 State of the Union address to Congress with several members of the Supreme Court sitting in attendance, President Obama took the unusual step of criticizing for the Citizens United ruling.
“Well, I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, and worse by foreign entities,” Obama said. “They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.”
However on Monday night Obama urged wealthy fundraisers to support Priorities USA, a super PAC led by two former Obama aides that has struggled to compete with the tens of millions of dollars collected by Republican-backed groups.
Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in an email to supporters Monday that the president’s campaign “can’t allow for two set of rules” in which the Republican presidential nominee benefits from “unlimited spending and Democrats unilaterally disarm.”
Obama’s rival in the 2008 presidential race, Sen. John McCain recently criticized the Supreme Court ruling and attacked the super PACs unleashed by the ruling.
“I condemn them on all sides,” said McCain said of the super PACs, “and I condemn the United State Supreme Court for their naivety in the in the Citizens United decision which is an outrage.
“On both side we have these incredible amounts of money. And I guarantee you there will be a scandal. There is too much money washing around politics” said McCain.
We agree. The problem of extraordinary amounts of money flowing in elections is bigger than any one donor, candidate, political party or election. The candidacy of Republicans and Democrats will be affected in unprecedented ways by the influence of super PACs.
Congress should act to reverse the Citizens United ruling to help instill more trust and integrity in government.
WASHINGTON — The Republican primary has yet another flavor of the month: Newt Gingrich. Here we go again, as the one-hit ’90’s R&B classic goes. Gingrich now joins a long line of Republican presidential wannabes itching for a ticket to the White House. But, questions loom after so many one-hit campaign wonders like that Portrait song in the prior sentence: Will Newt last?
At the moment, he seems invincible. Clearly, the former House speaker — one of the most infamous and troubled politicians in modern American political history — is experiencing a surge unlike any other in the crowded GOP primary circus. Around Labor Day, the millionaire, dome-of-white hair pol with a penchant for writing revisionist history was deep in the darkest depths of Republican polling at a 4.5 percent average.
Folks had written Newt off in early June when his senior campaign staff quit en masse as he vacationed on the Mediterranean with wife Callista. The impression was that Gingrich could barely manage his campaign — what makes anyone think he could manage a whole country?
Despite the near fatal blow to his presidential prospects, the speaker kept his cool. “The reality of politics is if you have a good enough leader who is positive enough, they can ignore the other candidates,” Newt boasted during an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan. “[T]hey can create a positive majority around a positive set of solutions, and let the other candidate worry about me."
But, a string of masterful tactical moves ended up catapulting Newt to the top. For one, there were extremely successful debate performances in which the real-life embodiment of “Megamind” was able to showcase his superior Republican intelligence. The GOP primary electorate became enamored with the former speaker as he repeatedly and comfortably outsmarted his competitors with brilliant catch phrases and talking points publicly baked as innovative ideas.
Newt, once a career congressman and savvy legislator who bum rushed his way into speakership, was now the beloved rabble-rousing outsider condemning tainted political insiders. He stood out from the pack, from the flip-flopping former Massachusetts governor to a dubious Minnesota congresswoman and former IRS attorney posing as the federal government’s worst nightmare — while on a federal government paycheck.
The other, critical tipping point in Gingrich’s resurgence: Herman Cain.
Cain and Gingrich are not exactly inseparable, but the two Georgia old boys — one Black, the other white — have been known to reserve enormous amounts of respect for one another. Gingrich is near-idolized by the insurgent Black Republican now as disgraced as smashed gum on a sidewalk. Returning the favor was an equally ebullient and red-faced Newt, suggesting the two get together for a Texas Tea Party “Lincoln–Douglass” style debate, a friendly “chat” to discuss the nation’s ills.
What transpired was a turning point in which Gingrich played Cain in a slick tactical Yoda-move that left the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO still giddy while observers furiously scratched for an answer. Why would Cain, clearly not the sharpest policy tool in anyone’s garage, agree to a “debate” with Gingrich?
As Cain imploded shortly thereafter, it was Gingrich standing on the sidelines as the biggest beneficiary of Herman’s demise. Not only will he absorb Cain’s polling numbers, but he’ll also get a chance to tap Cain’s fundraising machine.
But, the debate that played the Cain was symbolic of Gingrich’s enduring relationship with Black Republicans, many of whom seem to be about the only Black people on the planet who love the racially-charged ex-congressman.
Many Black Republicans have now clearly shifted away from Cain and are rooting loudly for Newt.
While Gingrich outfits tailor made racial missives, labeling the first Black commander-in-chief as the “food stamp president,” there is a small, politically disgruntled, yet merry band of Black Republicans who dig the speaker’s style. For some, it’s his boldness and holds-no-punches style attracting the perpetually bombastic Republicans of color, known for constantly disparaging their African-American brethren as “brainwashed” sheep on the “Democrat plantation.”
“Some Black Republicans, certainly not all, but a growing number are supporting Newt Gingrich because they believe Newt is the only candidate left standing who can beat Obama and lead the country out of this mess,” says Crystal Wright, a well-known Black conservative commentator and founder of ConservativeBlackChick.com. Wright, not one to shy away from her core Republican value system, believes that’s one of Gingrich’s strengths. “These same Black conservatives don't believe Romney has the passion or strength for the job of POTUS, he's too busy trying to be perfect. Like white Republicans, Black Republicans relish the idea of Newt debating one on one with Obama cause they know Newt will eat him alive.”
It’s not just respect keeping Newt’s profile larger than life amongst Black Republican rank and file: it’s also Newt’s longtime practice of identifying Black political talent and putting it to work for his political empire. Although Newt’s public profile paints the portrait of a man racially challenged, his private deeds show another picture: a skillful political boss who has created a vast network of minority Republican operatives who credit the speaker with giving them a chance when no one else would.
That’s paid dividends for the former Speaker, who rewards loyalty with job opportunities and a solid network. Former Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele, once an obscure, lone chairman of the Prince George’s County GOP (a majority Black county dominated by Democrats), found himself elevated to head of Gingrich’s powerful GOPAC political action committee. That move is what groomed Steele into Maryland’s first Black Lt. Gov. then his unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate in 2006 — all ending up into his short tenure as RNC Chair a few years later.
Wright is more candid. “Gingrich has lots of minorities, including Blacks, working on his staff and volunteering which makes him appealing to Black conservatives like myself.”
“Unlike Romney,” she wryly adds.
Another one of Newt’s most loyal followers is former spokesperson, Princella Smith. She’s already helping raise both funds and support for the Speaker — all the way from China, ironically, for a year while on a policy excursion. Smith acknowledges Newt as both “mentor and friend,” citing him as one of the reasons she’s found opportunities in politics — including a failed attempt at capturing an open Congressional seat in Arkansas.
And Smith is as certain as the sky is blue that Newt will definitely win the White House.
“Newt should never ever be underestimated,” writes Smith from China. “There is a reason that Newt is the only candidate who hasn’t been openly criticized by the rest of the GOP field and why several of them publicly stated that he’d be their choice for Vice President. There is a deep reverence for his intellect. They know that he’s the ‘GOP godfather.’ Most political figures, whether by election or as insider staffers, are either policy wonks or savvy strategists. Newt is a very rare combination of both.”
Meanwhile, Newt is blowing up the polls. And, obviously, Herman Cain’s exit has been a big help to the former House speaker, who is reportedly struggling to keep pace with the newfound popularity. So let’s take a look at what all the fuss is about.
CNN/Time polls have Gingrich leading in most of the first four GOP primary states — which is problematic for Mitt Romney.
Gingrich is 33 percent in Iowa, Romney 20 percent, Ron Paul 17 percent, Rick Perry 9 percent, Michelle Bachmann 7 percent, Rick Santorum 5 percent, John Huntsman 1 percent. He’s 26 percent in New Hampshire against Romney’s 35 percent — Ron Paul is at 17 percent again.
There’s Gingrich, though, at 43 percent in South Carolina (Romney might as well forget about this Southern state while at 20 percent) and in Florida, Gingrich is at 48 percent while Romney is 25 percent.
The latest Farleigh Dickenson poll has Newt nationally at 36 percent at Romney’s 23 percent.
Economist/YouGov shows Newt with 31 percent to Romney’s 15 percent — interestingly enough, Paul is at 11 percent. Gallup Daily Tracking puts out similar numbers, with Gingrich at 37 percent and Romney at 22 percent. The pre-Iowa caucus New York Times–CBS News poll has Gingrich at 31 percent again, blasting Romney who is at 17 percent and — Look here: Paul at 16 percent.
Average it all out through the RealClearPolitics poll aggregator at Gingrich has a 10 point lead over Romney nationally — 31 percent to 20.5 percent.
We Ask America poll’s Iowa and puts the former Speaker at 30 percent with Mitt Romney at 16 percent.
The South Carolina Winthrop University poll shows Newt murdering folks at 38 percent against Romney’s 22 percent. Note: since 1980, every GOP winner of the South Carolina primary ends up winning the nomination.
CNN weekly hit and popular Black Republican commentator Lenny McAllister believes this will stick. “If nothing else, President Obama provided some of the political roadmap that Mr. Gingrich has been using to claw back into this nomination race,” said McAllister, a fierce critic of President Obama. “Americans want a president that can articulate a vision, not just provide experience, at the top. It comes down to a presidential race between two different men: one who can eloquently talk past his personal flaws to address the problems over the past four years; and the other who will have a hard time justifying his record despite his own eloquence. Don’t be surprised if the flaws of one man overcome the flawed administration of another.”
As the Republican presidential race heats up, and Republicans around the country struggle to decide who they want as their eventual nominee — race has found its way into the debate.
Gingrich, who is already under fire for labeling President Barack Obama “the food-stamp president,” touched off further controversy on Thursday for declaring he would visit the NAACP and explain to the organization why African Americans should “not be satisfied with” food stamps.
The former House speaker’s incendiary remarks came on the heels of Rick Santorum’s earlier comment in which he appeared to single out African Americans as recipients of federal aid — a statement that an NAACP official declared “inaccurate and outrageous.” Santorum has denied he was singling out Blacks.
“I didn’t say Black.” Santorum said to CNN and Fox News. He told John King Wednesday night, “I’ve looked at that quote, in fact I looked at the video. In fact, I’m pretty confident I didn’t say Black. I started to say a word, and then sort of changed and it sort of — blah — mumbled it and sort of changed my thought.”
And let’s not forget Ron Paul’s evolving story on his newsletters. Confronted about their racism when he campaigned to return to Congress in 1996, Paul first tried to defend the remarks. It wasn’t until 2001 that he floated the notion that someone else had written the newsletters, and it’s only recently that he completely deplored their racism and claimed he had absolutely no idea what was in them.
Santorum’s comments were criticized by National Urban League President Marc H. Morial as pandering to racist elements within the GOP. Morial also said that 70 percent of people on food stamps are white. The Agriculture Department does not break down food stamp participation rates by race.
NAACP President Ben Jealous also criticized Santorum’s remarks.
Food stamp participation and costs have risen under Obama, from 28.2 million participants at a cost of $37.6 billion in 2008, to 44.7 million participants at a cost of $75.3 billion last year, according to federal data of what is officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The increases followed the steep economic downturn that began in 2008.
Gingrich, in a variation of a line he has used in other recent speeches, said in New Hampshire, “I’m prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.”
“And I’ll go to them and explain a brand new Social Security opportunity for young people, which would be particularly good for African-American males because they are the group that gets the smallest return on Social Security because they have the shortest life span. And under Social Security today, you don’t build up an estate,” Gingrich said.
Jealous responded to Gingrich’s incendiary comments Friday with the following statement: “It is a shame that the former Speaker feels that these types of inaccurate, divisive statements are in any way helpful to our country,” said Jealous. “The majority of people using food stamps are not African-American, and most people using food stamps have a job.”
“We invited Speaker Gingrich to attend our annual convention several times when he was Speaker of the House, but he declined to join us,” Jealous continued. “If he is invited again, I hope that he would come with the intention to unite rather than divide. Gingrich’s statement is problematic on several fronts, most importantly because he gets his facts wrong.”
On the website YourBlackWorld.com, political analyst and commentator Dr. Boyce Watkins wrote: “I’m not sure where Gingrich is getting his perception of the Black experience in America. I’ve never asked for a welfare check in my life, and neither have most of my friends.”
The left-leaning Center for American Progress wrote on its ThinkProgress blog: “Not only is his perception of food-stamp beneficiaries prejudicial, it’s false.”
The center took the time to note that whites comprise the majority of people who are participants in the nation’s food-stamp program. In addition, most of the participants on food stamps are either children or senior citizens.
Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond said Thursday in response to the criticism: “Newt believes that every American should have the opportunity to earn a paycheck, rather than be given a food stamp, and he is prepared to make that case in every neighborhood to all groups of all backgrounds in America. Furthermore, this theme of taking the conservative message to every American — including the NAACP — has been a constant refrain during Newt’s entire career.”
Gingrich has actually tried in his recent comments invoking the NAACP to demonstate his commitment to reaching beyond traditional GOP groups to Democratic constituencies.
On Wednesday he said, “My goal is to create a very big coalition. If the NAACP invites me, I will come and speak. If the various Latino groups invite me, I will come and speak. If the construction unions get fed up enough over the [Keystone] pipeline and invite me, I will come and speak.”
And last month in Columbia, S.C., he said, “Outreach is when five white guys hold a meeting and then call you. Inclusion is when you’re in the meeting. And I can assure you precisely because we want to decentralize back home, we want to have people back home with a bigger responsibility, that’s why I’m asking you to be with me. I want every community in America to have a better future.
“And I will tell you, unlike some candidates, if the NAACP invites me to come to their annual convention, I’m going to come there and I’m going to invite them to join us in getting America back on the right track so every American can work.”
Two Gingrich surrogates — former New Hampshire Sen. Bob Smith and former Ohio Rep. Bob McEwen — sought to make the case that their former House colleague would be a stronger candidate in a general election against Obama than Mitt Romney.
“You have to remember that in the Iowa caucus, 75 percent of the voters did not pick Romney,” Smith told reporters in a conference call.
McEwen was even more blunt, saying of Romney, “I don’t know how a party can nominate a guy like that and expect to win.”
In a subsequent interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Gingrich lumped himself in with Santorum and Texas Gov. Rick Perry in further distinguishing himself from Romney.
“Santorum and Perry and I — all three — represent an American conservatism that is dramatically different than a Massachusetts moderate,” he said. “We all naturally have a similar reaction to Romney’s policies ... We three would write a platform more conservative than the platform that Romney would want to write.”
As traditional news organizations like The Associated Press and CBSNews.com picked up Gingrich’s remark — he had said something similar the day before, including an offer to visit Latino groups — the Gingrich campaign recognized trouble.
R.C. Hammond, Mr. Gingrich’s spokesman, was overheard at an evening event in New Hampshire chewing out a reporter over the coverage while kicking a door.
He said Gingrich’s statement was not patronizing, but an act of outreach to an organization usually ignored by Republicans. In a 2007 book, Gingrich criticized President Bush for failing to address the NAACP. It was a sign “to the African American community,” he wrote, “that Republicans did not see them as worthy of engagement in dialogue.”
The National Journal and New York Times contributed to this report.
Zack Burgess is the enterprise writer for The Tribune. He is a freelance writer and editor who covers culture, politics and sports. He can be contacted at zackburgess.com.
Newt Gingrich is playing racial politics and he is playing to win. First he says that Black children should get jobs as janitors (why not suggest they get the same consulting contract he did at Freddie Mac? — I’m with Mitt Romney here, what did Gingrich tell Freddie Mac that was worth more than a million dollars?). Then he says that he wants to tell the NAACP that we should demand jobs, not food stamps. He so bristles at Fox commentator Juan Williams that he gets a standing O in South Carolina. And he has repeatedly described President Barack Obama as a “food stamp” president.
It’s race-baiting, pure and simple, and few have called him on it.
The true food stamp story goes something like this: In 2006, just 26.5 million Americans received food stamps. By 2011 the number had spiked to more than 45 million people. This has been the result of the Great Recession that has left at least 13 million people officially unemployed for an average of 40 weeks. Those are the official numbers, but they may be twice as high when we consider the people who have part-time work and want full-time work and those who have dropped out of the labor market because it costs too much to look for work. President Obama is not a food stamps president; he is a president who inherited an economic crisis. Newt is being extremely disingenuous and extraordinarily racist in his food stamps rap.
While about 14 percent of all of us — one in seven — get food stamps, in some states the number is as high as one in five. In South Carolina, for example, poverty is greater than it is in the nation, and 18.2 percent of South Carolinians get food stamps. The number in Maine is 18.6 percent, in Louisiana 19.2 percent, in Michigan 19.7 percent, in Oregon 20.1 percent, and in Mississippi 20.7 percent. Given the racial dynamics in South Carolina, did Newt decide to show off in a state where there is more poverty than elsewhere, and when the racial resentments (remember I said Confederate flag-waving) don’t need much fuel to turn to fire? He got a standing O by pandering to racial stereotypes. And that pandering may well have propelled him into victory.
Newt has managed to paint food stamps as a Black program, partly by describing our president as a “food stamps” president, and partly by putting food stamps in context with the NAACP. But Mr. Gingrich, often touted for his intelligence, must be bright enough to know that most food stamp recipients are not African American. Indeed, according to the Associated Press, 49 percent of food stamp recipients are white, 26 percent are African American, and 20 percent are Hispanic. Indeed, some of the folks who gave Newt a standing O are food stamp recipients, but they chose to bond with Newt’s racially coded messages instead of their own economic reality.
Poverty has a different face than it has ever had before. People who used to have big jobs and fancy cars are now struggling to make ends meet. People who always struggled are now strangling. More than 2 million families have doubled up in the past year because they needed a family lifeline to save their lives and their worlds. More than 40 percent of African-American children live in poverty. Newt Gingrich would blame the poor for their situation, but the economy that President Obama inherited is an economy that has thrust people into despair. Food stamps are a lifeline for many. How dare candidate Gringrich attack President Obama for providing relief to 45 million Americans!
Most food stamp recipients are people who used to work, and they would, frankly, rather be working than receiving assistance. But they have downsized their lifestyles, their dreams and their expectations. They are waiting for the job market to roar back. Half of the 45 million are white, and some of them stood to applaud Gingrich. Do they really think that a man who disdains the poor will provide them with a lifeline? Do they really believe that a man who is selling wolf tickets to the NAACP is really concerned with the well-being of the least and the left out? The poverty that too many Americans experience is repugnant. The extent to which politicians trivialize such poverty is character-revealing. Who will put Americans back to work? Who will alleviate poverty? — (NNPA)
Julianne Malveaux is president of Bennett College in Greensboro, N.C.
Vice President Joe Biden sparked controversy for telling an audience in southern Virginia that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney wanted to put them “back in chains,” by deregulating Wall Street.
Romney criticized Biden, saying the remarks were part of a pattern of “reckless” comments by the Obama campaign and his surrogates “that disgrace the office of the presidency.”
Biden’s comments drew a rebuke from conservative media and leaders as well as from L. Douglas Wilder, a former Democratic governor of Virginia and Artur Davis a former Democratic congressman from Alabama who is now a Republican.
Wilder and Davis, who are both African Americans, said Biden’s remarks were inappropriate appeals to race.
“Biden’s remarks brought race into the campaign and they were not necessary,” said Wilder, who served as governor of Virginia from 1990 to 1994 and later served as Richmond’s mayor.
Others including President Barack Obama, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Newark Mayor Cory Booker, said the remarks were not appeals to race.
The evidence suggests that Biden’s remarks were not an appeal to race and not an allusion to slavery.
Biden was not speaking to audience composed of only African Americans or at an African American-sponsored event. His comments were made during a speech to a racially mixed crowd of nearly 900 at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research.
Biden was not speaking about civil rights or some other issue commonly associated with African Americans. He was speaking about Wall Street.
“Romney … said in the first 100 days he’s going to let the big banks once again write their own rules — unchain Wall Street,” Biden. “They’re gonna put y’all back in chains.”
Obama defended Biden in an interview with People magazine. The president said Biden meant consumers would be worse off if Republicans were able to eliminate new restraints on financial institutions.
“In no sense was he trying to connote something other than that,” Obama said.
Based on the audience Biden was addressing and the context of the speech, Obama is right to conclude that the vice president was not making a racial appeal.
At their worst, Biden’s remarks were poorly phrased.
He conceded he meant to use different words. He said he meant to say “shackle” to counter Republicans who say they want to unshackle Wall Street.
The irony of the so-called controversy is that there have been clearly inappropriate appeals to race and loaded code words that have largely gone unchallenged.
During the primary campaign, Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum accused Obama of actively seeking to put more people on food stamps rather than proposing policies that would help create more jobs.
Gingrich frequently referred to Obama as the “food stamp” president.
Journalist Juan Williams questioned Gingrich on his race-baiting remarks during a presidential debate.
Romney recently accused Obama of seeking to undermine welfare reform legislation passed in the 1990s.
Conservative media repeatedly bring up the New Black Panther Party, as if the small fringe group has any relevance to the presidential race.
Beyond real or perceived racial remarks there are serious issues of concern where race and ethnicity is a factor. Many African-American and Hispanic voters see efforts to clamp down on voter fraud such as new photo ID laws and purging non-citizens from the voter rolls really efforts by Republicans to suppress votes.
The U.S. Justice Department is looking into voter ID laws in Pennsylvania and suing Florida over the purge.
These are the real issues that voters should be outraged about.
What do you do when you’re a presidential candidate like Newt Gingrich who lugs so much baggage that your baggage has baggage? That’s easy. You reach up your sleeve and.... Oh, yes. You play the umbrage card. You fume and fuss with outrage over the question and hope no one demands an answer.
Campaigns bring out the best and worst in candidates. Gingrich at his best is an excellent debater. He thinks on his feet, dazzles with obscure historical fact nuggets and skillfully connects with friendly crowds. At his worst, he’s a demagogue, a bully and serial exaggerator, especially when sticky questions put his back up against a wall.
For those avenues to his victory in South Carolina’s pivotal Republican primary, Gingrich can thank the mainstream media that he loves to bash. They provided two convenient punching bags: CNN’s John King and Fox News’ Juan Williams.
Moderator King opened a debate in Charleston by offering Gingrich a chance to respond to claims by his second wife that he asked for an “open marriage” before they split. Gingrich responded by ripping into King and “the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media that makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office.” As the crowd roared its approval of Gingrich, a visibly shaken King tried to defend his question. But amid boos from the crowd and angry scolds from the “decent” Gingrich, it was useless.
Funny, but I don’t recall Gingrich complaining about “negative” news media when ABC’s Brian Ross, the reporter who interviewed his ex-wife, broke the Rev. Jeremiah Wright story four years ago. Nor do I recall his complaining about attracting “decent people” to run for office as he pushed for Bill Clinton’s impeachment during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, another story reported by the supposedly biased liberal media.
But that’s the joy of the umbrage card. If the facts are against you, attack the media who report the facts. Show enough outrage and nobody calls you on your hypocrisy, even when it goes directly to such key questions as your electability — and trustworthiness.
Such was the case a few nights earlier in a Myrtle Beach debate, when Fox’s Juan Williams challenged Gingrich’s well-known comments that poor kids should be employed as school janitors, that Obama was a “food stamp president” and that Black Americans “should demand paychecks instead of food stamps.” Were such statements not “at a minimum, insulting?” Williams asked.
Gingrich said no, bringing cheers and applause from the audience as he launched into a lecture about the value of work, about his own daughter Jackie’s janitorial work for her first job and his often-repeated claim that “more people have been put on food stamps under Barack Obama than any other president in history.” That exchange brought a standing ovation from the crowd and congratulations from at least one woman at a later South Carolina campaign stop for “for putting Mr. Juan Williams in his place.”
Yet Gingrich’s food stamp claim is misleading on several counts. For one, food stamp recipients increased during seven of President George W. Bush’s eight years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The growth came largely because of policy changes that encouraged more participation by eligible Americans. But Gingrich is not about to let details get in the way of a chance to sound offended, even as he insults by implication Americans of all colors who need food stamps to help feed their families.
Many in the crowd undoubtedly fantasized with glee that Gingrich might someday do the same to Obama — or as one man told Gingrich during a South Carolina town hall, “bloody Obama’s nose.” Gingrich responded, “I don’t want to bloody his nose, I want to knock him out.” Yes, the man knows his audience.
And that’s Romney’s big challenge. The former Massachusetts governor has improved his debate skills, but shows visible discomfort at the attack-dog role in which Gingrich excels. Considering the Grand Old Party’s need to win moderate swing voters in November, Romney has to sell a difficult message: Gingrich might be a fun date for now, but they really don’t want to marry him.
Email Clarence Page at cpage(at)tribune.com.
Can we please bury the notion that Newt Gingrich is some kind of deep thinker? His intellect may be as broad as the sea, but it’s about as deep as a birdbath.
I’m not saying the Republican presidential front-runner is unacquainted with ideas. Quite the contrary: Ideas rain through his brain like confetti, escaping at random as definitive pronouncements about this or that. But they are other people’s ideas, and Gingrich doesn’t bother to curate them into anything resembling a consistent philosophy.
The week’s most vivid example of Gingrich’s intellectual promiscuity sent principled conservatives into apoplexy. Mitt Romney, his chief opponent for the GOP nomination, had called on Gingrich to return the $1.6 million in consulting fees he received from housing giant Freddie Mac. Gingrich replied that he would “be glad to listen” if Romney would first “give back all the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees” during his time as head of the investment firm Bain Capital.
If this were a column about Gingrich’s hypocrisy, the point would be that he has been scorchingly critical of Freddie Mac while at the same time accepting tons of the firm’s money. But this is about his shallowness — and the fact that in blasting Romney he adopted the ideas and rhetoric of Occupy Wall Street.
Republicans are supposed to believe that “bankrupting companies and laying off employees” is something to celebrate, not bemoan, because this is seen as the way capitalism works. Even in the heat of a campaign, no one who has thought deeply about economics and adopted the conservative viewpoint — which Gingrich wants us to believe he has done — could possibly commit such heresy.
Gingrich doesn’t just borrow ideas from the protesters he once advised to “get a job, right after you take a bath.” He’s as indiscriminate as a vacuum cleaner, except for a bias toward the highfalutin’ and trendy.
Take his solution for making the federal government so efficient that we could save $500 billion a year: a management system called Lean Six Sigma. There’s no way Gingrich could resist such a shiny bauble of jargon.
I won’t argue with the corporate executives who say that Lean Six Sigma works wonders for their firms. But is a technique developed by Motorola to reduce the number of defects in its electronic gear really applicable to government? There’s no reason to think it would be, unless you somehow restructured government to introduce competition and a genuine, not simulated, profit motive.
Another example is Gingrich’s bizarre claim last year that “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior” was the key to understanding President Obama. Aside from being one of the stranger, least comprehensible utterances by a prominent American politician in recent memory, it was also completely unoriginal. Gingrich was citing and endorsing a hallucinatory piece in Forbes by Dinesh D’Souza. It was merely the idea du jour.
Gingrich finds it hard to watch an intellectual fad pass by without becoming infatuated. Do you remember Second Life, the digital realm? In 2007, he told us it was “an example of how we can rethink learning” and potentially “one of the great breakthroughs of the next 10 years.” I know Second Life still exists, but have you heard a lot about it recently? Has it changed your world?
Gingrich didn’t originate the idea of solving the health insurance problem through an individual mandate, but he supported it — before bitterly opposing it. Nor was he saying anything new last week when he made the offensive claim that Palestinians are an “invented people.” His xenophobic views about the alleged threat to the United States from Islam and Sharia law are in conflict with earlier statements praising immigration and the melting pot as great American strengths. But for Gingrich, the word contradiction has no meaning. His discourse knows no past and no future, just the glib opportunism of now. — NNPA/St. Louis American
Struggling to get out their message versus wall-to-wall coverage of Hurricane Isaac battering the Gulf Coast, the GOP took an unusual stab at something it doesn’t have much of these days: diversity.
An entire, abbreviated week of the Republican National Convention seemed as much about its star-studded line-up of speakers than the former Massachusetts governor it was set to nominate. As strange — for the GOP — was that the party typically maligned as an all-white country club appeared pressed to choreograph more color on the Tampa Bay convention stage than was present in the audience.
It was odd and somewhat sudden behavior for a party that watched its primary candidates alienate every demographic group from women to Latinos to African Americans. Republican candidates from former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich played with caustic messaging on the very edge of deep, itchy racial tensions. Others were accused of being just as blatant, whether it was Ron Paul’s history of racially-tinged newsletters in the ’90s, or Michelle Bachmann goofing up the history of slavery.
But, as the Republican primary came to its bloody end, and candidates entered into the general election phase, observers expected a moderation in tone and image from the GOP, in an attempt to soften both message and appearance before a wider swath of voters.
Since Mitt Romney became the nominee, that goal has become problematic for Republicans in an election that is increasingly defined by the subtext of race. Many observers suggest that the 2012 election has become just as racially charged as 2008, a time when mass euphoria and shock over the epic rise of the nation’s first Black president appeared to offer a healing salve for a notorious 400-year-old wound.
In what was supposed to be a “post-racial” electoral landscape, many now point to a string of statements, slights and unspeakable gaffes on both sides of the partisan aisle, from a Romney advisor in England on “special” Anglo relationships to Vice President Joe Biden’s “chains” comment. In recent weeks, accusations of racism flew angrily from side to side, with the Romney campaign releasing what was described after fact-checking as a baseless campaign ad charging that President Obama waived the work requirements for welfare recipients.
“While that charge may seem race-neutral, there is a long-standing and strong association in white Americans’ minds between welfare and ‘undeserving’ African Americans,” observes Brown University’s Michael Tester, who recently examined the racial impact of the ad in a ModelPolitics survey for pollster YouGov. “The results from our experiment suggest that ads like the one in this post may well contribute to the growing polarization of public opinion by racial attitudes beyond the voting booth in the age of Obama.”
Others point out that the overtly racial dialogue taking place is becoming a major distraction at a time when African Americans need both parties to seriously address problems such as high unemployment, foreclosures and crime. Republican strategist and CNN commentator Lenny McAllister, while in Tampa, called it “junk food journalism” during a brief exchange in which he described Black media coverage as too focused on trivial sideshows amid other, more important matters. Black unemployment is twice the national average at nearly 15 percent and the Black middle class has shrunk rapidly in the wake of the recession and budget cuts. And in cities with large Black populations such as Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit, violent crime is on the rise with the Windy City reporting 9 homicides and 28 injuries in just one weekend.
“Let’s be honest here. If anyone on the right has a solution for Black people, and this is speaking as someone who isn’t some hardcore liberal, I haven’t seen evidence of it,” says HipHop Wired Senior Writer and NewsOne contributor D.L. Chandler. “I’ve yet to witness anyone during the RNC, replete with its fat cats and good old boys with plump wallets and plumper gullets, truly speak to the socio-economic woes of the lower-middle class and minority issues aside from Hispanics.”
“As of now, there’s no solid solution for the economic struggles of Blacks coming out the Romney–Ryan camp, and Obama’s re-election campaign has skirted the issue time and again.” adds Chandler. “All it does is add to the spinning wheel of media pull quotes, Web visits and blog hits. Nothing in the way of tangible solutions has been offered to the public.”
The polarizing temperature rose faster earlier in the Republican convention week when MSNBC host and Philly native Chris Matthews exploded on RNC Chair Reince Preibus, chiding him over Romney’s birther joke (“It just seems funny that the first joke he ever told in his life was about Obama’s birth certificate,” growled Matthews). When Preibus, clearly on the defensive, charged on about the president following European policies as a guide — injecting the “Obama-as-socialist” narrative — Matthews blasted back hard, “Where do you get this from? This is insane. [You’re] playing that race card again.”
Whether racially unhinged or not, events over the past week suggest a Republican party making slow pivots on the issue of race. Some experts suggest that the 2012 election could be the very last cycle that Republicans almost exclusively tailor their rhetoric and strategy for white voters, who constitute 74 percent of the larger electorate. In a recent and very revealing National Journal article by Ronald Brownstein, a GOP strategist is quoted as saying “[t]his is the last time anyone will try to do this,” a hint that this could be the end of the road for such gimmicks as Willie Horton ads and birtherism appeals to undereducated, working class white voters.
Former Congressional candidate, ShePAC board member and Gingrich staffer Princella Smith would take exception with that assessment. “The Republican Party is more diverse than the media and certain associations with an agenda have made it out to be,” said Smith when asked by the Tribune if a “tipping point” was taking place. “The people who spoke this week are all rising stars of the party, and they were all from diverse backgrounds.”
Using New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as a main attraction was clearly timed to boost the Republican state executive’s credentials for 2016 — but, it was also a very subtle pre-season attempt at showcasing a much more moderate GOP (thereby explaining the absence of tea party luminaries such as 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin).
Christie, notably tepid in one of the more important speeches of his political life, acknowledged such by offering the crowd what many panned as a vanilla opposite to the normally bullish Jersey governor. But, it would ensure that he didn’t arouse bad feelings back home in the Garden State as reports began surfacing that Newark Mayor Cory Booker was seriously contemplating a run for governor in 2013. And it cements warm feelings from independents and stray Democrats who would look at that tape during his planned presidential run in 2016.
It wasn’t just Christie, however. Despite the obvious lack of faces of color in the convention hall, party leaders seemed to make great pains toward rolling out a thick bench of Black and Latino political stars and new flavors. There was former Democratic Congressman Artur Davis, a 2008 Obama co-chair now turned Republican, promoting a new era sans his former political boss. Others included former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and New Mexico Governor Susanna Martinez, both giving stirring and personalized speeches; Florida Senator Marco Rubio, once floating at the top of Romney’s veep list, was still the keynote introducing the governor for his official nomination speech.
Still, critics like BET.com’s Jonathan Hicks express skepticism and disappointment. “There has been little from the Republican convention, or the Republican campaign that speaks to the issues of African Americans in terms of jobs, education or anything of true importance to their lives,” said Hicks. “To his credit, the president has unveiled some initiatives regarding those issues.
When pressed about the level of racial hubris on both sides of the aisle, Hicks was guarded. “Some if it is about political gain on the part of the Democrats, of course. But when you’re campaigning against a political party that is the champion of voter suppression, you have your hands full.”
Last Friday an extraordinary event took place when President Obama and Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich all spoke out on the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin.
To varying degrees they all spoke on the death of Martin, the 17-year-old unarmed Black teenager who was shot to death last month by a neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Fla., a suburb of Orlando.
The shooter, George Zimmerman, 28, claimed he shot Martin in self-defense, a questionable claim since Zimmerman pursued Martin with a 9mm. Martin was carrying an iced tea and a bag of Skittles.
Martin’s death has sparked a national outcry and the demand that Zimmerman be arrested and charged.
Yet the comments by Obama, Romney, Gingrich and Santorum last Friday on such an explosive case were remarkable.
Obama spoke in highly personal terms about how the shooting of Martin had affected him, saying that “if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
He cautioned that his comments would be limited because the Justice Department was investigating.
“I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this,” Obama said.
The comments by the president were remarkable because he has been careful not to speak on racial sensitive issues.
The Republican presidential candidates also remarked on the Martin killing.
Romney, the presumed front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, said: “What happened to Trayvon Martin is a tragedy. There needs to be a thorough investigation that reassures the public that justice is carried out with impartiality and integrity.”
Santorum’s pointed remarks criticized the police handling of the case and rebuffed suggestions that Florida’s stand your ground law — which give citizens wide latitude to use deadly force rather than retreat — should be applied in this case.
“Well, stand your ground is not doing what this man did,” he said. ‘There’s a difference between stand your ground and doing what he did. It’s a horrible case. I mean it’s chilling to hear what happened, and of course the fact that law enforcement didn’t immediately go after and prosecute this case is another chilling example of horrible decisions made by people in the process.”
Gingrich said the district attorney had done “the right thing,” in empanelling a grand jury. But speaking of Zimmerman, he said it was “pretty clear that this is a guy who found a hobby that’s very dangerous.”
Both Santorum and Gingrich had played to racial politics earlier in the campaign by linking Obama and African Americans in general with increased food stamps usage.
But their comments reveal how the national outrage and grassroots protests over the Martin killing have shaken the nation’s political establishment.
The hope is that this case will not be racially or politically exploited.
Justice must be served.