Sharpton Challenges Gingrich On Food Stamps

Via The Huffington Post:

On Saturday Al Sharpton actually asked: “Are we dealing with someone who’s just racially insensitive or someone who’s cynical, who would use race to play and blacks as backboards to score a shot?”

Is the mainstream media trying to help Newt Gingrich win? Do they really think a fight on air between Newt Gingrich and Al Sharpton would do anything but make Gingrich more powerful? Or are they that cynical that they want to drive ratings on the back of Gingrich’s surge?

But Gingrich can’t easily be tarred with the racist brush because he has a long history of supporting blacks as individuals against government largesse.

Here’s what he told ABC in 2008:

There are a lot of good cases to be made that the African- American community has been hurt more by the failures of government than any other community. Look at New Orleans, where the African- American community was devastated by the failure of the federal, state and local governments in Katrina.

Gingrich repeatedly supported outreach efforts toward blacks as Speaker of the House, especially J.C. Watts, who helped oust a younger John Boehner from a leadership position in the party. Gingrich even selected Watts to deliver the rebuttal to Bill Clinton’s State of the Union speech in 1997. Watts is now returning the favor, having endorsed Newt Gingrich in his presidential bid.

But unlike a lot of GOP squishes who seem to think outreach to blacks means gutting the Constitution, Gingrich opposed racial preferences, calling them “quotas” and “set-asides” instead of “affirmative action.” He also favored preserving “a helping hand” for poor Americans that would include vouchers for primary and secondary schooling (The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, November 21, 1997).

He wanted black Americans to be counted as human beings, not as wards of the Democratic party. Newt Gingrich began his political career in the ’60s and ’70s opposing segregation. In the ’80s, he met with leaders and residents in the inner city to try to find solutions to those problems. And in 1991, he asked the Census to fix an undercount of more than 200,000 people, many of them black and poor.

At times, Gingrich’s courting of black voters led to stupid politics. Bill Bennett criticized Gingrich’s decision to reach out to Rev. Jesse Jackson and other liberal black ministers in 1997.

But Newt Gingrich rejected the kind of “apology” politics that led the House to issue an apology for slavery.

“Any American, I hope, feels badly about slavery,” Gingrich said, adding that he would rather focus on stopping drugs, improving education and promoting job creation among African Americans. “I also feel badly about genocide in Rwanda. I also feel badly about a lot of things . . . Finding new, backward-oriented symbolic moments so we can avoid real work doesn’t strike me as a strategy that’s going to solve the country’s problems” (GINGRICH REJECTS APOLOGY FOR SLAVERY; CONGRESS: HOUSE SPEAKER SAYS PROPOSAL IS ONLY ‘EMOTIONAL SYMBOLISM’ THAT WILL NOT HELP ALLEVIATE THE NATION’S RACIAL TENSIONS. Los Angeles Times June 14, 1997).

Gingrich attacked the politics of “emotional symbolism.” How will he do against Al Sharpton, the father of the politics of “emotional symbolism”? I think you can guess. Pass the popcorn.

And if Gingrich is such a racist, what’s he doing with Al Sharpton here?

Trying to encourage educational reform: you know, the kind of reform that would help black Americans? Here he is with Michael Bloomberg, Al Sharpton, and Barack Obama trying to change the conversation.

Bloomberg, Obama, Sharpton and GingrichBloomberg, Obama, Sharpton and Gingrich

Al Sharpton’s desire to make Gingrich look racist will ultimately backfire. If Gingrich really was so racist why did Sharpton appear with him to tout school reform? And if Gingrich isn’t racist what’s going to be the means by which the MSNBC downplays his populism? For Gingrich, there’s an easy rebuttal to conservatives trying to attack Gingrich on his closeness with the man who made Tawana Brawley a household name. It goes something like this: “I’m so good that I can persuade even Al Sharpton to come along with me in my plans to reform public education. I spent more time than Barack Obama–who gutted the D.C. voucher program–caring about the education of black kids than the first black president.”