WHAT DO WE THE PEOPLE THINK: The racists of Woodbury County!


Part 2—What Santorum said: What did Rick Santorum say? And why did Rick Santorum say it?

The second part is easy, of course. He said it because he’s a racist.

But what did Rick Santorum say? That part is a bit harder. Did Rick Santorum reference “black people” when he spoke about dependency on government programs in Sioux City last Sunday night? More specifically, which of these two statements did Rick Santorum make?
Santorum's two possible statements:
I don’t want to make 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.

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.
Which of these statements did Santorum make? This has become a major bone of contention in the past few days. Yesterday afternoon, at Salon, Joan Walsh seemed to say that she wasn’t sure:
WALSH (1/5/12): Let me try to give Santorum the benefit of the doubt, for a minute. Even on Monday, I noted that his “black people” comment seemed like a strange non sequitur, because no one was talking about race. The former Pennsylvania senator was in the middle of a typical rant about welfare, specifically Medicare, when he made the remark. On the other hand, I watched and listened to the CBS News video repeatedly, and I had no doubt he said “black people.”


But now he’s telling CNN and Fox News, “I didn’t say black.” Think Progress tracks his changing story. 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 is a word and then sort of changed and it sort of—blah—mumbled it and sort of changed my thought.”

That’s interesting. It’s even possible. On Tuesday, No More Mister Nice Blog, which regularly skewers Santorum and the right, argued that it wasn’t clear Santorum said the word “black,” and that, in fact, Santorum’s larger point was that government programs are out to enslave all of us, not merely black people. Mediaite reporter Tommy Christopher made the same point in a post arguing that Santorum had made a garbled sound, something like “blargh,” rather than saying “black.” I listened closely to the tape again, and I continued to hear “black,” but I acknowledge there’s room to disagree.
"I acknowledge there’s room to disagree,” Walsh said. This means Santorum may not have said it. But so what? Having said that he may not have said it, Walsh began implying that he must have said it, as you can see if you read her full piece. By now, all good liberals know how to do this. Remember, she only said she’d extend the benefit of the doubt “for a minute.”

(For the record, Santorum wasn’t talking about Medicare when he made the remarks in question. See transcript below.)

Did Santorum refer to “black people?” For us, this takes us back to Al Sharpton’s program Monday night (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/3/12). At the start of the program, Sharpton played tape of Santorum speaking to a group of Iowa voters. We heard no reference to race at all. This left us puzzled at Sharpton’s subsequent comments.

But then, MSNBC’s official transcriber didn’t hear a reference to “black people” either! Here’s what the transcript at Nexis said when we looked the next day. Rightly or wrongly, it still says this today:
SHARPTON (1/2/12): Tonight’s lead: Playing ugly in Iowa. Just a day from the first voting of 2012 and the candidates’ appeals just getting uglier. Rick Santorum, the GOP’s newest flavor of the month, is surging, but his words on government and African-American are offensive to watch.

SANTORUM (videotape): What President Obama wants to do, his economic plan is to make more people dependent upon the government, to grow the government to make sure that we have more food stamps and more SSI and more Medicaid. Four in 10 children now are on government-provided health care.

It just keeps expanding. They are just pushing harder and harder to get more and more of you dependent upon them so they can get your vote. That’s what the bottom line is.

I don’t want to make 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 and provide for themselves and their families.
Rightly or wrongly, that’s still what the Nexis transcript says. According to the transcript, Santorum told a gaggle of Iowa’s famous white people that Obama’s folk “are just pushing harder and harder to get more and more of you dependent upon them so they can get your vote” (our emphases). That strikes us as a fairly silly analysis, though it probably isn’t completely bonkers. But rightly or wrongly, the transcript makes no reference to “black people.”

We didn’t hear Santorum say “black.” Neither did the person who prepared the transcript. (As far as we know, MSNBC doesn't post trancripts of Sharpton's show. As far as we know, MSNBC prepares the transcript which appears at Nexis.)

Back to the future: After reading Walsh’s piece, we began looking at tape. In our view, this is a Blow Up/Rashomon episode. Depending on whose tape you watch, depending on the way you’ve been prompted, it sometimes sounds like Santorum said “black.” And it sometimes sounds like he didn’t.

If you’re getting nervous now, go read the rest of Walsh’s piece. She will give you ways to feel sure that Santorum did say “black people,” even after she has said it’s possible that he didn’t. This is the way we liberals now play this game. (We have few other moves.)

Walsh appeared on last night’s Ed Show, where she continued to serve comfort food. Here’s how reliable players like Walsh keep the tribe warm and happy:
SCHULTZ (1/5/12): Well, let’s say he didn’t say it. His follow-up has been terrible. Santorum is also trying to play up his work with historically black colleges. Here it is.

SANTORUM (videotape): There’s no one that’s worked more in—when I was a senator from Pennsylvania in the urban communities, both black, Hispanics, as well as whites. Every year, I used to bring all the historically black colleges in to Washington, D.C. to try to help them. I helped to try to introduce them to people in the Department of Education, so they could have more resources. We had two historically black colleges in Pennsylvania.

The Congress, in fact, had a summit every year for historically black colleges, not just in Pennsylvania, of which we have three. So I’ll match my record against any Democrat or Republican in working in African-American communities.

SCHULTZ: Joan, does Santorum's record with African-American communities hold up?

WALSH: Well, you know, if you have to spend the day talking about all the good things you’ve done for black people, Ed, you’re in a little bit of trouble. I don’t think it holds up. I think the people know that he has consistently been a voice for the rich and powerful. He’s Mr. K Street. He has—he talks a good game in terms of Catholic morality, but he ignores Catholic social teaching about the poor of every color.

I just don’t—I just don’t think this is going to work for him.
Quick guess: We’ll guess that Walsh doesn’t know squat about Santorum’s record with African-American communities. In that way, she’s like us. Having said that, we’ll offer another guess: Satorum’s record is almost surely as good as the record Walsh established as editor of Salon, where she did nothing—nada, zilch, rien—to examine issues concerning minority communities.

Based on her record, Joan Walsh doesn’t seem to care a whole lot. But she will please the tribe.

Did Rick Santorum say “black people?” Did he start to say it, then stop? We don’t know—but unlike Walsh, we’ll give the benefit of the doubt for more than a San Fran minute. And we’ll extend that benefit in more ways than one. How about this, for example:

Did Santorum say “black people?” Did he start, then stop? We don’t know, but how about this: How horribly wrong would it be if he did? (We know we're supposed to be horrified.) Granted, white liberals never talk about black children, or about the interests of black citizens generally, except when it lets us parade all about praising our own racial greatness. Granted, white liberals are programmed to explode with (unjustified) rage whenever someone who isn’t part of our tribe dares to discuss such matters. (It isn’t enough to say they’re wrong. By hard tribal law, they're racists.) For ourselves, our reactions are a bit different: After watching the pseudo-liberal world for all these empty silent uncaring years, we would almost find it refreshing if someone stood up and expressed his view about the interests of black citizens in America, whether we agreed with his views or not. You will sure as hell never hear someone like Walsh take the lead on such topics.

Walsh doesn’t give a good flying fig. She has proven this down through the years.

Under the current rules of the game, what happens when non-liberals talk about race? Let’s return to Andrew Rosenthal’s pitiful recent blog post (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/4/12). Bravely, heroically, Rosenthal called the roll of the racists. We’ll highlight one thing he said:
ROSENTHAL (1/3/12): Sometimes the racism is more oblique. Newt Gingrich was prattling on the other day about giving “poor children” in “housing projects” jobs cleaning toilets in public schools to teach them there is an alternative to becoming a pimp or a drug dealer. These children, he said, have no work ethic. If there’s anyone out there who doesn’t get that poor kids in housing projects is code for minorities, he or she hasn’t been paying attention to American politics for the last 50 years. Mr. Gingrich is also fond of calling Mr. Obama “the greatest food stamp President in American history.”
Gingrich’s food stamp language shows very poor judgment. But let’s consider what Gingrich said about “really poor children in really poor neighborhoods,” a phrase Rosenthal doesn’t repeat.

Granted, Rosenthal isn’t real sharp. He holds his post because he’s a legacy; his late father, A. M. Rosenthal, was a major Times honcho for many years. But good grief! Of course Gingrich was discussing minority kids when he spoke about “really poor children in really poor neighborhoods!” Rosenthal seems to think he has teased this fact out, exposing a "code" and revealing “racism.” But Gingrich’s reference was blindingly obvious. Note to the self-impressed pitiful editor: There was no "code" involved here!

Obviously, Gingrich was discussing minority kids (among others). And by the way—this is something we white liberals simply never do! (This may explain why we get so confused when someone like Gingrich does.) The white liberal world does not discuss the lives or interests of black kids! And when other people do, we run off and say that they’re racists!

Earth to pseudo-liberals: Whatever you think of their ideas, conservatives have discussed the interests of black children much more frequently than liberals have done in the past dozen years. Our tribe never discusses black children—except when we get to rampage around praising ourselves for our greatness. But then, we are very bad people—fake phony posers. And we seem to get worse all the time.

For our money, Santorum’s overall claim was pretty silly. In the main, we don’t think the Obama administration is “just pushing harder and harder to get more and more of you dependent upon them so they can get your vote.” But did Santorum start to reference black people at this point in his remarks? Did he start to say “black people,” then change his mind? Like Walsh, we don’t know; unlike Walsh, we don’t hugely care. Unlike Walsh, we don’t spend our daily hours praying for the chance to call the other team names. Walsh can’t wait to play this trick, having spent years at Salon ignoring black children and the interests of black people generally.

(We “liberals” love to pose about welfare reform. Have you ever seen an article about this topic at Salon? Do you ever see this topic discussed during your tribal rounds? Of course you don’t! The heartfelt concern we like to express is just one more obvious pose!)

Did Santorum start to say “black people?” We don’t know—and we don’t hugely care. By way of contrast, every good pseudo-liberal knows how to rage against such atrocities, real or imagined. Everyone knows how to rattle the scripts, explaining what's wrong with such words.

We would have liked to see Ed Schultz speak to the racists of Woodbury County. What did they think Santorum said? More generally, what did they think about his remarks? Do they believe that Obama is trying to reel them in with SSI? (Not with Medicare.) Why do they think the economy collapsed? Why do they vote Republican?

Almost surely, progressives will never achieve real success until we learn how to speak to our lessers, Republicans and independents alike. But that isn’t what pseudo-liberal politics is currently designed to do. Based on her career at Salon, Joan Walsh doesn’t care about black kids at all—except to use them as a way to pimp her own tribe’s self-admitted grandeur.

It’s good for business—very good. Then again, it’s bad for the future.


  1. Well, it reasonable to assume that Santorum is referencing the standard GOP meme that the Democrats want to give black people free shit so they are dependent on them (and the corollary is the Democrats are taking away from white suburban small business owners via taxes to give to black people).

    All GOP pols at least hint at this theory and it's widespread if one goes to conservative places like Fox.

    Of course black folks are very loyal to the Democratic party so there is some truth that the Democrats count on black votes. So I can see how right-wingers think black people are voting against their interests--kind of like liberals think poor white people vote against their interests when they vote conservative.

    But I have no doubt that Santorum, and any other GOP pol that references the welfare dependency meme, is relying on race factors (usually this argument is supported by reference to ACORN).

  2. But bang up job pointing out the hypocrisy of liberals like Walsh.

    You're right they could care less about poverty policies and the only reason they reference these policies is to try to score political points.

    The Democratic party and their sycophants like Walsh are morally bankrupt.

  3. Bob, put yourself in Rick's shoes and suppose you didn't say "black people", but people accused you of saying "black people."

    Would you, when asked about this by a reporter, say this:

    "...I’m pretty confident I didn’t say black."

    Wouldn't you say:

    "I didn't say black."

  4. This discussion was handled well. The point is that the Democratic game is often now to call anyone a racist for any reason, simply to intimidate.

  5. Bob Somerby points out that Democrats and liberals in general don’t really give a damn about the plight of minorities.
    He doesn’t say how long this has been going on, but the facts are that Democrats have pretty much taken the votes of Blacks, labor unions, and liberal Jews for granted for more than 50 years.
    During that time, leaders of those groups pointed this out over and over, but Democrats provided little more than lip service to these voting blocs.
    How do I know this? I saw it with my own eyes. I lived in the DC area, and worked for the DC Democratic Party in the brief period between the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy.
    After Kennedy’s assassination, I moved to New York City.
    I saw the urban renewal projects in Southeast Washington, and in the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn, NY.
    James Baldwin coined a phrase that became a catchphrase for the more cynical blacks, union leaders and Jewish leaders.
    He renamed Urban Renewal “Negro Removal”; declaring government housing projects were effectively instant ghettos.
    In most cases that’s all they were. A few exceptions were condos in Southeast Washington, west of the Anacostia River, that were quickly filled with affluent, educated blacks, many of whom were federal employees.
    The projects built in the area east of the Anacostia River, appropriately called Anacostia, were instant slums.
    Bobby Kennedy declared the Brooklyn projects of Brownsville and Williamsburg to be the worst slums in America.
    Almost all welfare in the past was simply giving poor people cash, free housing, and food stamps.
    The most notable exceptions were Richard Nixon’s Earned Income Tax Credit, and Bill Clinton’s Workfare. Both programs gave incentives for poor people to get off welfare without losing all government assistance immediately. “Weaning” was the term used.
    It is important to remember that both parties supported handouts to the poor for many decades, and both parties came to realize that some caretaking, along with higher expectations, was the best course of action.
    Note also that Nixon was not considered to be a true conservative ideologue, and Clinton was not considered to be a true liberal.

    The philosophy then was to give them money and public swimming pools so they wouldn’t riot. Things are better now, but not by much.
    Rick Santorum espoused a rational concept when he said to provide jobs instead of welfare.
    That said, I think Rick Santorum is a nut case, and should never be allowed to make decisions that affect other people’s lives.

  6. Bob,
    The last republican with a national reputation that I can remember who refrained from using a racial appeal was Nelson Rockefeller. You can defend them to the high heavens but the 'Southern Strategy", "Welfare Queens", "Willie Horton", etc., became embedded through republican efforts. You are correct in describing so called "liberals" as having no interest in the fate of black children but to excuse republican politicians for their hatred of black people is pathetic. Santorum meant to say what he said; Gingrich intended to say what he said. They meant what they said.
    Criticize democrats, but don't become an apologist for republicans and their overt racist appeals.

  7. Funny that the President who presided over the political strategy to de-emphasize fighting poverty and promoting welfare programs -- i.e., giving a fig about black kids -- was also a very popular President in the black community -- indeed, "the first black President" according to Toni Morrison.

    I suppose the Daily Howler's response would be that African-American adults just don't care about their own black kids themselves -- or don't have the Harvard degrees required to understand what's going on. Above all, the everyone-else-but-me-is-tribal narrative must be maintained.

    However, the modern-day focus by liberals on the "middle class" is a political strategy to regain and retain majority support, not in most cases a lack of interest in black kids. It was kicked off by Clinton's Sista Souljah diatribe in 1992. Most blacks seem to have understood that and continued to have warm feelings for Clinton.

    Maybe the Howler's "phony-liberal" drumbeat needs a bit of revision to separate the wheat -- and yes, there's plenty of that -- from the chaff. I for one would prefer to see in the national media the growing minority of imperfect liberals who nevertheless articulate a core of good principles compared to the recent alternative of nothing but Limbaughs, Hannitys, Brian Williamses and Tim Russerts.

    As any competent teacher knows, you should attack the behavior when it occurs, not the person.

  8. I would also like to see the defense as not racist of Gingrich's offer to talk about food stamps to "the NAACP." Why them, and why does that show genuine interest in black kids?

  9. Bob, really!?
    "How bad would it be..." You see no harm in helping needy people solely because they're black?
    "Granted, white liberals never...generally..."
    Granted by whom? Never! As in not once in the history of mankind!? Or, never "generally" but sometimes "specifically".
    And then "we" go from "liberal" to "psuedo-liberal". You do realize those terms are contradictory, you can't be both.
    "Walsh doesn't give a flying fig". And,"Walsh spends her daily hours praying for the chance..."
    I don't know who Walsh is but I don't know who you are or how you know what she does in her daily hours.
    "Discussing minority kids something we white liberals never do."
    There you go again with the "we" and the "never"

    The illuminating bottom line comes at the end of your self-hating diatribe.

    "We" don't know "how to speak to our lessors". Now I understand why you don't see "how wrong it would be." They are not equals, they are lessors!

  10. I missed a typo in my earlier comment. I meant to say "You see no harm in not helping needy people..."

  11. CousinFromAnotherPlanetJanuary 6, 2012 at 7:54 PM

    Bob I agree with your basic analysis- ie that most of our MSM liberal representatives are phony careerists - but why harp on as if the republicans are not playing on racial fears and prejudices. They are. In the video I saw from CBS there's no doubt Santorum said 'black' and as someone who has spent a fair amount of time on right wing sites - Breitbarts cacophony, Red State, Newsbusters - in order to know my enemy I can assure you that the majority of posters are, though self conscious about it and in denial, racists.
    This is what I've seen of America as someone from another country whose partner is mixed Native and African-American. Most Americans, of all races, are instinctively racist, it's in your DNA, the result of your history. There are differences. White liberals tend to be instinctively racist but are unaware of this and their desire to be color blind can lead the more adventurous ones to actually break through this instinct, while the others at least try not to act on them when confronted by issues that highlight this. White conservatives are instinctively racist and though aware that it's not to be admitted to in public act out this racism continuously, it colors everything in their worldview. Minorities, though rightly suspicious of whites and prone to make great fun of them, are very aware of white culture in a way that whites just aren't of others cultures and again due to history often instinctively deferential to white people and aspiring to white norms. Let's call a spade a spade instead of constantly holding our side to impossible standards. The greatest flaw in the conservative viewpoint from what I've learned reading a lot of right wing literature is a naive idealism, a complete lack of pragmatism and sometimes Bob you sail close to these waters yourself which is a shame as you have a lot to offer.

  12. Listen to the tape! He said "black people!"

  13. Bob Somerby has argued that liberals' main concern about racism is using that charge against conservatives. This incident is a good example. Republican Rick Santorum may have said "black people", so he's damned racist. OTOH, nobody raised a fuss when Democrat Robert Byrd used the N-word on national TV.

  14. David in Cal, I agree with you: "Bob Somerby has argued that liberals' main concern about racism is using that charge against conservatives. This incident is a good example." I agree not just that Bob Somerby has so argued, but also that there is some real truth to his claim.
    But only a very little real truth, unless that claim is read as the utterance of a prophetic voice speaking primarily to the liberal-left. Otherwise, if it is wildly inaccurate and deeply unfair to brand all conservatives as racists (as I believe it is), it is even more wildly inaccurate and deeply unfair to brand all liberals as indifferent to the plight of black children and interested only in scoring points against conservatives when said liberals discuss racism, or public policies that affect blacks and other racial minorities. (Or devote their lives to working on behalf of blacks and other racial minorities. Many, many more "liberals" than "conservatives" actually do that, btw.)

    I read Bob Somerby as a prophet, calling a "liberal" "Israel" to task. But Israel's prophets speak to the kings and people of Israel, not to those outside of that kingdom.

  15. Oh lord, here comes David in Cal citing Robert Byrd using the "N word" as a defense against the GOP's racist discourse. Are you joking? Yes, Byrd used the "N word," and so did Lyndon Johnson, regularly. But so did Richard Nixon, for that matter. And I'm sure you could find quite a few other major white people from either party who used it in the past.

    Robert Byrd is dead.

    We're talking about TODAY, and about the fact that millions of people of ALL RACES, but a majority of them WHITE in Iowa, are on food stamps, Medicaid, and other government programs because of the terrible economic crisis the GOP and the banking industry ginned up, which caused a near-global economic collapse in 2008-2009, and which we're still recovering from. Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and every other Republican who engages in racist discourse knows better. They know what's really going on. They know that their party played a key role in getting us to this horrendous place. They know that without government programs helping not just black people but the WHITE MAJORITY who are on these programs, far more people would be abjectly impoverished and on the street.

    But instead, they engage in these Southern strategy dog whistles, knowing full well what they're doing. I also don't doubt they rue the fact that they cannot cite black criminality in New York City or Los Angeles the way they used to, since the crime rates in those cities, and across the US, with a conservative Democrat (Obama) in office, are at record lows, just as was the case when a conservative Democrat (Clinton), was in the office 12 years ago.

  16. mch, I didn't mean to indict all liberals. Yes many liberals are quite concerned about black children and have done much to help them. Bob Somerby is one example. He chose to teach in an inner city school in Baltimore, although with his Harvard degree he must of had other available choices.

    Pharaon -- Byrd used the N-word on national TV in 2001. By then Nixon and LBJ were long dead. No Republican was using the N-word in 2001, at least not in public. Any Republican politician who dared use that word in 2001 would have been bombarded with criticism and probably politically destroyed.

    I wasn't trying to defend Santorum. I was offering evidence that the attacks on Santorum are more focused on making a conservative look bad, rather than on protecting black children.

  17. What a stupid and tortured analysis.

    Here is what I did. I listened to the tape. And, I clearly heard Santorum say "black people."

  18. 1. Santorum did say 'black people.' (Who are you going to believe, me or your lying ears).

    2. So what?:

    3. It was in fact coded racism, but also coded mindless anti-govenment right wingism, racism not-withstanding.

    4. Liberals delight in accusing conservatives of racism, while doing nothing for minorities themselves. True.

    5. End of story.

    6. Both parties, with hardly any exceptions, are engaged in wholesale looting of the middle class and minorities, by supporting the oligarchy.

    7. The press is a stenographer to power, with zero exception.

    8. No one is looking out for you, especially not Obama.

    9. Ron Paul for President! Shake 'em up! Register Republican, vote Ron Paul!

  19. On Planet Bob, I don't think even a Klan rally would be racist. ("For ourselves, we don't know if crosses were burned or what it means. But our tribe assumes white sheets and burning crosses mean hatred of black people. Can we talk? How are progressive interests served by this? For ourselves, we think the plutocrats love it when we liberals call people in white sheets racist. Maureen Dowd said so! So did Gail Collins, sipping Chardonnay in Versailles!

    "Calling people in white sheets racist is The Dumb. And progressive interests arent served by this. Is this any way to run a country?

    "TOMORROW: What Digby said about the Tuskegee experiment.")

  20. I'm still waiting to see Bob defend Newt Gingrich for expressly offering to discuss the desirability of jobs over food stamps with "the NAACP."

    The logic here is hard to pin down. If you are a successful liberal writer, it means you have sold out and you no longer have any right to make liberal arguments? If you have not devoted your writing career specifically to advancing inner city education, you have no right to criticize racist statements? If you're a successful liberal writer and you criticize something as racist, it is by definition not racist?

  21. What a waste of time...You can clearly hear Santorum say "Black..".