Now that Republican Newt Gingrich has become the frontrunner in the race for his party’s presidential nomination, the former Speaker of the House wasted no time grabbing the media spotlight. Gingrich’s rise to power emanates from his uncanny ability to be a political provocateur capable of hurling verbal hand grenades chocked with coded, borderline-racist language designed to appeal to the base instincts of his largely white conservative base.
Take, for example, the time when he called President Barack Obama “the finest food stamp president in American history.” By using the term "food stamp" to describe Obama, Gingrich implies that our nation’s first African-American president somehow doesn’t deserve to be the nation’s top leader — that he was given the position as some sort of political handout. Not only is Gingrich insulting the president personally, but African-Americans and people of color in general. And by extension he also insults other struggling Americans who rely on food stamps to survive.
Apparently, insulting Blacks and poor people is a forte of Gingrich's. A few weeks ago, he stated that children from really poor neighborhoods (i.e., Blacks and Latinos living in urban areas) have no concept of work unless it is “illegal." His solution to the problem: jettison “truly stupid child labor laws," take away jobs from hard-working school janitors and librarians and pay kids as young as 9 years old sub-standard wages to work in their stead.
Then there is Gingrich's most recent faux pas, when he told the Jewish Channel that the Palestinians were “an invented people," thus implying that they didn’t deserve a separate Palestinian state, despite the fact that this is the official policy of both the Obama and Bush Administration; Palestinian statehood is also supported by more than 70 percent of Israelis. Needless to say, Gingrich’s statement drew a strong reaction from the Arab League, which roundly condemned Gingrich’s statement as racist.
While I am appalled by Gingrich’s string of insensitive remarks, I would be less than honest if I said I’m surprised by them. Gingrich has made his career by mastering the unseemly art of confrontational “shock jock” politics. To put it bluntly, Gingrich is the type to say something outrageous knowing full well that it’s hurtful to a group of people, then feign ignorance when he’s called on the carpet for it or, worst yet, appears to not care about the harm done. This is one of the reasons why I feel he shouldn’t — under any circumstances — be elected president.
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