Just days after a Republican presidential debate with an unsettling element of race baiting, the candidates returned to the podium Thursday night in South Carolina in a discussion that was notable for its sheer hypocrisy.
There on the stage in a Charleston auditorium was the presumed front runner, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, proclaiming himself “someone who’s lived in the real streets of America.” This from a man with a quarter billion dollar net worth, who reverts to virtual incoherence every time he is asked about his personal finances and the release of his tax documents.
The multi-millionaire Romney’s insistence that he is the personification of the common is as laughable as it is desperate. The man who finally disclosed that the amount he pays in federal taxes is “probably closer to the 15 percent rate than anything,” has remarkably little in common with the financial burdens of working-class America.
Then, there was the spectacle of Newt Gingrich, the onetime House Speaker, who feigned indignation when the moderator, CNN’s John King, had the audacity to discuss the marital infidelity that created headlines that very day concerning the thrice-married Georgian.
Gingrich said the very discussion of the charges of infidelity raised in a nationally televised interview by his second wife was “despicable.” He went on to condemn the “destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media.”
Of course, a candidate’s private life should remain largely out of the political discourse of a campaign. But there is something unseemly about a candidate who essentially asks his wife for permission to conduct an extramarital affair — shortly before speaking at an event as a champion of traditional family values.
Meanwhile, let’s not forget the role Gingrich played in condemning the infidelities of President Bill Clinton, let alone the ex-speaker’s role as a champion of Clinton’s impeachment.
What’s more, Gingrich is a man who has no reluctance whatsoever to tell others the kind of morality they should adopt for their own lives, whether it involves abortion or same-sex marriage. He is quick to lecture Black families about the supposed lack of working role models in urban America and about what he portrays as their tendencies toward food-stamp consumption.
Just as reprehensible is the quest by these candidates to portray themselves as the most effective forces to unite what they call a divided country. Within the next breath, each will hurl the most divisive, punishing utterances toward President Obama. Calling Obama the “food-stamp president” and characterizing him as a European-style socialist is not the way to unite a nation.
Of course, uniting the nation is not the current aim of any of the Republican candidates at the moment. Their intention is to ignite the passions of the conservative, right-wing element that is the most vocal and most energized base of their party. They are shamelessly playing to the fears of that base, code words and all. And, in the process, the country is being poorly served.
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