The latest liberal tendency -- to try and cast Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum as racists, or cynical race-baiters to a party stuffed full of racists -- is an absolute natural for "Reverend" Al Sharpton on MSNBC. On the Sharpton show "Politics Nation" on Friday night, former CNN reporter Bob Franken shoved both candidates into the mud for their talk of blacks and government dependency: "I think this is very intentional. I think it is part of a hateful campaign that is being very methodically run in the hope it`s going to appeal to voters who would love to see us return to the good old days of Jim Crow."
Jim Crow? Any liberal journalist who claims that the Republican Party is chock full of people who dream of segregated lunch counters and bathrooms is either (a) delusional or (b) engaged in cynical race-baiting to keep minorities voting Democrat. But Sharpton thought it was the Republicans who had all the ugly rhetoric (and wouldn't he be the expert on that):
AL SHARPTON: Bob, this ugly rhetoric because again, all of us want Americans to stand up but acting like blacks are the ones on food stamps when numerically, that is clearly not true. I mean, why does rhetoric - is it helping politicians?
BOB FRANKEN: Well, let me use the term intentionally that you used last night and whether you meant it or not. I do mean it when I say that this seems to be appeals to the extreme right wing of the Republican party. That is to say that there continues to be among many conservatives a real resentment against blacks. And this is a way of pandering to that. In addition to which you then have Rick Santorum representing the theocrats and the Republican party, which is also part of the base, theocracy, of course, like perhaps the one in Iran, they would like to see that created here. This is really an appeal to the base instincts in the Republican party, and the base instincts of the Republican base. It sounds like from what both, he and speaker Gingrich, and their comments that, one, if you listen to the records and their careers, they are interested in issues of poverty, issues of race, issues like that.
The other guest was Perry Bacon of the NBC-owned black-news-and-commentary site TheGrio.com. Bacon is a former reporter for Newsweek and The Washington Post. Bacon tried to acknowledge the reality that both Gingrich and Santorum have been involved in reforming poverty programs (including the successful welfare reform of 1996). "I think that the problem is they don`t really know how to speak about them. And that`s why he`s talking about food stamps as if blacks only get food stamps. I think they don`t necessarily know how to talk about them or really having like credibility on them. I think that`s the challenge right now for both those men."
That wasn't insulting enough for the other two charlatans.
FRANKEN: By the way, I also wanted to disagree with my friend Perry Bacon, when he says they don`t know how to talk about race. Yes, they do. I think this is very intentional, it is pandering, there`s sort of a wink/wink that this base should be reminded that Barack Obama, president of the United States is one of them, an African-American. Yes, I think this is very intentional. I think it is part of a hateful campaign that is being very methodically run in the hope it`s going to appeal to voters who would love to see us return to the good old days of Jim Crow.
SHARPTON: Well, let me show you had something, Perry. You`re a little younger than Bob and I.
FRANKEN: How can you say that, Al? (Laughter)
SHARPTON: Ronald Reagan, he used to talk about the Chicago welfare queen who said had 80 names, 36 addresses, 12 social security cards, collective veteran benefits, getting food stamps, collecting welfare. George Curry told me today, and I looked it up, the Washington Star proved the welfare queen was a myth 36 years ago, the person didn`t exist.
So this whole demonizing poor people, trying to make innocent voters feel that they`re getting ripped off by the poor, not the corporate guys that our getting, corporate bailouts, corporate welfare. Not the guys that give in mock money senator Santorum took care of and people he looked out for. But some fictitious welfare queen that did all of this, so now, we are having a 21st century version of that.
This is where MSNBC forfeits the idea that it's a "news" or "information" channel. "Welfare queens," a controversy in Ronald Reagan's 1976 campaign (not in 1980) were certainly real (see names like Linda Taylor or Dorothy Woods). Liberals make the case that these swindlers aren't all black. Conservatives don't generally argue they are. That's the Sharpton imagination at work.
Bacon tried to join the group mood by suggesting it's outrageous and false that anyone would think Obama and the Democrats want to keep their voters dependent on government so they're reliable votes for the Democrats.
BACON: My sense is, and I agree with Bob about what he said as well, this is an attack on President Obama. That notion that you remember Romney was saying the same thing too in some way is that Obama favors an entitlement society. I favor an opportunity society. The notion they`re trying to create to their audience is President Obama wants to lead a different kind of America where everyone gets food stamps instead of working for their ways. These are an attack on President Obama in a view of him that I think doesn`t really reflect reality. That`s what they`re trying to appeal to tea partiers who really hate Obama.
Of course, conservatives don't say the Democrats want everyone on food stamps. They're saying that the Democrats are completely happy with the highest level of food-stamp dependency this country has ever had -- right now. They're saying that you can't possibly put the whole country on food stamps without bankrupting the country.