Cynthia Tucker argues that Newt Gingrich’s comments on poor children in America were clearly intended to exploit racial tension in her column, “Gingrich Still Relishes His Role As Provocateur:”
Newt Gingrich has always had a way with words — provocative words, harsh words, incendiary words. He and GOP consultant Frank Luntz pioneered Republicans’ use of catchy phrases and misleading language not only to demean their rivals but also to redefine their rivals’ policies.
As speaker of the House, Gingrich famously fined his caucus members any time they failed to call the estate tax a “death tax.” He was so successful that he apparently persuaded many Americans that the estate tax, levied only on the richest Americans, was routinely assessed on the corpses of common folk.
It’s no accident, then, that Gingrich recently spoke of poor children with mean-spirited condescension, suggesting that many of them are criminals. He told a Des Moines audience, “Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works. So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash,’ unless it’s illegal.”
After he was roundly and deservedly criticized, Gingrich claimed that he only meant to point out the need for a strong work ethic, a fundamental all-American virtue. But if he had meant that, he would have said that. Many public figures, including President Obama and comedian Bill Cosby, would surely agree.