Dave Weigel’s feces and urine: Is President Obama “the most successful food stamp president in American history,” as Speaker Gingrich announced last spring?
Actually no, he is not. In fact, Obama isn’t a “food stamp president” at all. Neither was President Bush, under whom the use of food assistance rose by more than 60 percent, in part due to broadened eligibility rules. Nor was President Bush “the most successful felled skyscraper president” in our long, glorious history.
It takes a very tangled mind to keep presenting such ugly formulations. Sadly, though, here’s the rating Politifact gave to Gingrich’s statement: Half true!
Half true! Politifact often develops information, as they did concerning food assistance last May. (To read their analysis of Gingrich’s statements, click here.) But their conceptual skills are often extremely weak, and so it was in this case. Sadly, Charles Blow didn’t see what was wrong with their assessment of Gingrich’s stupid remark. In an angry column about Gingrich’s statements, he recently endorsed Politifact’s bollixed judgment:
BLOW (1/6/12): First, some facts. Take the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, commonly known as food stamps. PolitiFact has rated Gingrich’s “food stamp president” charge as only half-true.Gingrich’s statement is only half true! Good lord, our skills are weak!
Why does Gingrich say such things? We’ll let other people mind-read his motives. But as our team has said that it’s all about race—as it may well be—we have done a fairly poor job explaining the basic facts about the food assistance program. Do voters across the country think that food assistance has risen because Obama has made some sort of policy changes?
If they think that, they’re basically wrong. But what do American voters think? Our tribe doesn’t really have any forums which lets us explore such questions. Beyond that, we have very few ways to give people real facts—on the very rare occasion when we actually know some.
What did various voters hear when they watched Gingrich in Monday’s debate? We would have loved to see Ed Schultz interview South Carolina Republicans; we mention Schultz because he’s often able to speak respectfully with people who don’t see things precisely his way. By last evening, that skill had started to fade. On his eponymous program, he scathingly spoke of those voters as “these red-neck voters down in South Carolina,” quickly explaining that he didn’t “mean to be disrespectful.”
What do those voters think has happened to swell the food assistance rolls? And by the way, there are no “food stamps” any more. At our supermarket, many people buy food using food assistance. It’s done by electronic cards.
Gingrich’s statements have been amazingly stupid and crude, in a wide array of ways. On the other hand, he said some things in Monday’s debate we wish we would hear from liberals. And then, after that, there was Dave Weigel’s reaction.
Here at THE HOWLER, we like the fact that Gingrich talks about the interests and needs of poor kids. You sure as hell will never see any of our self-impressed “liberals” do that! (But then, we’re horrible people.) As someone who spent a lot of years in Baltimore’s public schools, we liked the following part of what Gingrich said Monday night. But then, we could picture the beautiful kids who would have been thrilled beyond belief to have a school-based job:
GINGRICH (1/16/12): 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.Having thirty kids work as assistant janitors in one school is a truly ridiculous idea. Your lizard brain will help you see all the other problems with those remarks. But for ourselves, we liked it, a lot, when Gingrich pictured low-income kids getting to work in those various ways. We could picture the actual kids who would have been thrilled by that kind of chance.
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.
Dave Weigel apparently couldn’t. Below, you see what Gingrich said—and you see how Weigel paraphrased his remarks as he rated Gingrich’s performance for Slate:
GINGRICH: 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.It takes an ugly mind to clown your way through life like that. Gingrich imagined poor kids getting to work in the library. Weigel could only picture such kids “cleaning urine and feces.”
WEIGEL: Newt Gingrich: Angry in useful ways. Think about the issues Gingrich made his stands on: Killing people and teaching kids the moral value of cleaning urine and feces out of bathrooms. But hell, the crowd loved it.
We know, we know—he’s just kissing Rachel’s ass; she journeyed to this ugly place first. But you will never, ever hear white liberals like Rachel or perhaps now Dave waste their time thinking about the actual needs of poor kids.
We lofty liberals simply don’t care about low-income kids. This fact is plain in everything we don’t say and don’t do. For ourselves, we’d like to hear liberals speak, just once, about the general topic Gingrich explored. We like to hear liberals talk, just once, about the real-life needs of actual low-income kids.
From here, we’ll turn it back to your lizard brain. It will teach you how to hate—how to joke about urine and feces as you blog from an upper-end bar.
Final question: is it possible that some or all of those redneck voters heard Gingrich's statement with more clarity and more concern than the elite Mr. Weigel did? Could redneck voters be better people than some of our elite tribunes?