I love James Fallows, but this kind of irritated me:
Here is a third alternative, the one I believe: that Newt Gingrich knows exactly what he is doing when he calls Obama the “food stamp” president, just as Ronald Reagan knew exactly what he was doing when talking about “welfare Cadillacs.” There are lots of other ways to make the point about economic hard times — entirely apart from which person and which policies are to blame for today’s mammoth joblessness, and apart from the fact that Congress sets food stamp policies. You could call him the “pink slip president,” the “foreclosure president,” the “Walmart president,” the “Wall Street president,” the “Citibank president,” the “bailout president,” or any of a dozen other images that convey distress. You decide to go with “the food stamp president,” and you’re doing it on purpose.
If Joe Lieberman had been elected, I would be wary of attacks on his economic policy that called him “the cunning, tight-fisted president.” If Henry Cisneros had or Ken Salazar does, I would notice arguments about ineffectiveness phrased as “the mañana administration.” If Gary Locke were in office, then “the Manchurian candidate” jokes that had been used on Jon Huntsman would have a different edge. And so on. This reader may not recognize it as a dog whistle, but I have no doubt that Newt Gingrich knows what it is. I don’t think that Gingrich has had a racist-style political career; on the contrary. But he knows what this language does. [More on Newt and the racial dog whistle of “food stamp president” from the NYT here.]
A “racist-style career?” Wtf does that even mean? He hasn’t overtly called for segregation or separate water fountains? Maybe this kind of nuanced distinction flies for Fallows and others, but that kind of nonsense falls flat with me. If someone is using dog-whistles and racist-style language to incite voters, create discord in the public, and put differing people at each other’s throats because of some arbitrary amount of melanin, I don’t care what kind of political career they have had. I just don’t.
As far as I am concerned, anyone who does that is a racist asshole, full stop. And I bet you there are any number of people who have followed Newt who could let people know that he actually HAS had a “racist-style” career and that the behavior of the past few weeks is nothing new.