A night that was supposed to be all about Mitt Romney and Bain Capital ended up being defined by an exchange between our own Juan Williams and Newt Gingrich.
Williams challenged Gingrich for his statements calling President Obama a "food stamp president" and advocating that kids learn the work ethic by doing, for instance, janitorial work at schools. Gingrich has thrived throughout the debate season on combat with moderators and Williams was straying into his wheelhouse.
A righteously ticked Gingrich referred to Williams as "Juan," and proceeded to light up the auditorium in the most memorable moment of the night.
On the hiring kids to work odd jobs at school, Gingrich explained that it's practical and good for the kids, thundering: "Only the elites despise earning money."
He noted that the use of food stamps has spiked under President Obama. "I know among the politically correct," Gingrich jabbed, "you aren't supposed to use facts that are uncomfortable."
He ended with a ringing endorsement of the promise of the Declaration of Independence for all people and vowed to continue to come up with ideas to help people "learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job and learn someday to own the job." Bret Baier could barely be heard going to the break over the sustained standing ovation.At Salon, Joan Walsh gives the liberal perspective:
The Fox News debate began auspiciously, with moderator Bret Baier noting that it was our national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Then his actual question had nothing to do with Dr. King. But those of us who feared the debate would duck racial issues worried for naught. The night climaxed with the South Carolina crowd giving Newt Gingrich a standing ovation for smacking down Fox’s leading black contributor, Juan Williams, for his impertinent questions about race.
Williams asked for it, of course. What was he thinking making tough racial queries at a GOP debate in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.? First, he asked Romney how he squared his harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric with his own family’s story of moving to and then from Mexico seeking religious freedom. He asked Rick Santorum, who purports to care about poverty, what he would do about high African American poverty rates. He asked Ron Paul whether he thought the nation’s harsh drug laws were bad for black people. Then he made the mistake of asking Newt Gingrich about his comments that poor urban children came from communities that lacked a “work ethic,” and his calling Barack Obama “the food stamp president.”