James Clyburn: Gingrich Practices Southern Strategy's Use of Racist Code Words Perfectly
As we've discussed and posted on here repeatedly, Newt Gingrich's use of racist "code words" or what some would call "dog whistles" have really been more of a siren because there's nothing veiled about them. There's nothing subtle about putting "Juan Williams in his place" or calling President Obama "the food stamp president" and equating being on food stamps to the black community, when in reality most of those using the program are white.
But regardless of the fact that the game Gingrich is playing is as obvious as the nose on his face, CNN's Candy Crowley plays coy here in this interview with Rep. James Clyburn and pretends she doesn't see it and isn't aware of what Lee Atwater's Southern Strategy was. I find it pretty pathetic that she forced Clyburn to have to explain it to her as though she's oblivious to the race baiting.
I also wonder what it's going to take for any of these so-called "journalists" and I use that term lightly, to recognize the fact that our economy was hemorrhaging jobs when George W. Bush left office and the job losses we've seen are not primarily the fault of the Obama administration when he's had to deal with a record amount of obstruction from the Republicans and Republican governors all across the country doing their best to sabotage the economy for the benefit of the wealthiest among us. Clyburn shouldn't have to be explaining to her why the Obama administration has had trouble turning the economy around either, but that's how he spent the latter part of the interview.
Full transcript below the fold.
CROWLEY: Joining me here in his home state, Congressman James Clyburn who is the number three Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Thank you so much for being here.
CLYBURN: Well, thanks for having me.
CROWLEY: Dissect last night's results for us.
CLYBURN: Well, I think we had two things converging at the same time. You had Mr. Romney, who seemed not to be able to connect at all with his base, really separating himself from voters. He did so in those debates. It was very clear to me that he was cutting himself off from middle income...
CROWLEY: How so?
CLYBURN: Well, he did not deal with this so-called 15 percent interest -- I mean, income tax rate.
CROWLEY: Income tax.
CLYBURN: He was not doing well with identifying with just ordinary voters. He just can't seem to be able to do that. While at the same time, Newt Gingrich has really thrown red meat to the base saying little words and phrases that we are very familiar with here in the south. And identifying himself as the congressman from Georgia. So all of that helped him...
CROWLEY: Region helped.
CLYBURN: Absolutely. Absolutely.
CROWLEY: So -- so when you say using words, explain that to me, because there has been a lot of talk, especially from African- Americans, saying that there are some code words that Newt Gingrich uses, and the implication is that they're racist in nature.
CLYBURN: Well, I would say it's appealing to the Tea Party element when you say that Barack Obama is the best Food Stamp president we've ever had, that limits his presidency to an element of dependency.
CROWLEY: It was a campaign, and he's making the point that Food Stamps have gone up and jobs have gone down. Is that necessarily sort of a racist comment?
CLYBURN: Well, it's not necessarily so. But welfare being -- by Ronald Reagan is not necessarily a comment of dependency. But people know what that means. Richard Nixon, a southern strategy. Now, all of that carries certain connotations that people know here very well. And I think he practiced that perfectly.
CROWLEY: So you think that -- do you think -- you know Newt Gingrich. You served in the House with him.
CROWLEY: So are you saying you think he's a racist?
CLYBURN: No. I never used that word. And I don't ever call anybody anything that resembles that.
CROWLEY: So you're saying?
CLYBURN: What I'm saying that he's appealing to an element in his party that will see President Obama as different from all other presidents that we have had.
CROWLEY: Being African-American.
CLYBURN: There is only one thing that makes him different from all the other presidents that we've had.
CROWLEY: Who's the tougher opponent, do you think, for President Obama?
CLYBURN: Oh, I have no idea. I think anybody's going to be tough. We live in a tough environment. We're -- the country is at a place it's really never been before. Even if we go back to 1929, things were different then.
What happened in this country didn't affect the rest of the world. And what happened in Europe and Asia did not affect us.
Today, everything is so global, this country has never been where it is before.
CROWLEY: You represent a state, a portion of the state, that has a 9.9 percent unemployment rate. Nationwide, unemployment among African-Americans, 15.8 percent, among Whites, 7.5 percent. When you go back to your district, as you will, I'm sure, sometime this year, to appeal for President Obama's re-election, how do you sell those kind of numbers in your district which is majority African-American?
CLYBURN: Well, I'll remind them of where we were in the 90 days of the run-up to President Obama being sworn in. We jettisoned 2.1 million jobs in three months.
This was done before Barack Obama was ever sworn into office.
Remember, I will remind them, that in September of 2008 when this economy was crashing down, George Bush was president, not Obama. McCain and Obama jettisoned their campaigns, came back to Washington to help us try to pass some emergency measures to stop the hemorrhaging.
And this president stopped the hemorrhaging, and for the last 22 months we've been having private sector job growth. And if we should continue, I think he will get us to where we ought to be.
CROWLEY: I want to show you another figure that we had in the poll, and the question was, has the government paid enough, too much, or about right, attention to the needs of blacks, and other minorities?
Among blacks, 77 percent say the government has not paid enough attention to the needs of African-Americans and other minorities. You still have, under the first African-American president, three years into his presidency, an unemployment rate twice that of whites. Is that a hard sell for you?
CROWLEY: Can you explain that?
CLYBURN: No. We don't still have that. We are there in some instances for the first time. The fact of the matter is unemployment for African-Americans started to go up dramatically during the Bush administration.
It went down dramatically during the Clinton administration. And so all we will say to people is, let's get real here. You cannot expect three years of President Obama to correct three decades -- and we know it has been three decades because CBO has given us a study. For the last three decades, we have seen growth in household income for the lower 20 percent of only 16 percent, and the upper 20 percent of 65 percent, and 275 percent growth for the upper 1 percent.
So I'll remind people that this president is trying to reverse something that took place over 30 years ago and bring it into check.
CROWLEY: I need a one-number answer from you. On a scale of one to 10, how tough is this re-election bid for President Obama? CLYBURN: Oh, it's tough -- 10 the toughest?
CROWLEY: Ten is the toughest.
CLYBURN: Oh, it's 10.
CROWLEY: Ten. Congressman James Clyburn, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.
CLYBURN: Thanks for having me.
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