Monday, November 28, 2011

The Gingrich apostasy I can't forgive

Philip Klein describes one action that Newt Gingrich has taken that should give all conservatives pause in assessing the man's judgment. Two years ago he went on a nationwide tour with Al Sharpton to talk about education reform. He still praises him today.

For those with short memories, Klein reminds us of what a morally repugnant character Sharpton has been throughout his race-baiting and anti-Semitic career.
You may be wondering, what’s so wrong with two people who disagree ideologically about most things coming together for the benefit of children? The problem with such a question is that it implies the only thing objectionable about Sharpton is his ideology. Associating with Sharpton isn’t like forming a temporary alliance with a run of the mill liberal – say Russ Feingold or Rachel Maddow. It’s an insult to the memory of Sharpton’s victims. Unfortunately, due to the efforts of people like Gingrich to legitimize Sharpton over the years, a lot of his troubled past has gone down the memory hole. So it’s worth taking a moment to remember some of Sharpton’s vile actions.
Democrats and cable TV might be able to pretend that Sharpton has expiated his race-mongering sins from the 1980s and 1990s, but the man who is asking to be the head of the Republican Party shouldn't be so swift to give his dispensation. We shouldn't forget his claims during the Tawana Brawley case and how he wouldn't pay the damages for destroying district attorney's personal and professional life that Sharpton was assessed in a civil case until his supporters paid it off for him.

It's just 20 years since Sharpton incited rioters in the Crown Heights riots.
In July 1991, a controversy erupted when Leonard Jeffries, a professor at New York’s City College gave a speech blasting “rich Jews” for financing the slave trade and for controlling Hollywood so they could “put together a system of destruction for Black people.”

Sharpton rushed to defend Jeffries, and in the middle of the swirling controversy, declared, “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house.”

A day after Sharpton made that comment, in August 1991, a Jewish driver accidently ran over a 7-year old black boy named Gavin Cato in Crown Heights, Brooklyn and an anti-Semitic riot broke out in which Jewish rabbinical scholar Yankel Rosenbaum was stabbed to death. Instead of calling for calm, Sharpton incited the rioters, leading marches in the streets that included chants of “No Justice, No Peace!” and “Kill the Jews!” At a funeral for the boy who had been run over, Sharpton said, “The world will tell us he was killed by accident. Yes, it was a social accident. … It’s an accident to allow an apartheid ambulance service in the middle of Crown Heights. … Talk about how Oppenheimer in South Africa sends diamonds straight to Tel Aviv and deals with the diamond merchants right here in Crown Heights.” For those unfamiliar, “diamond merchants” was a thinly-veiled reference to Jewish jewelers.

After an investigation, no indictment was made of the driver who had accidently run over Cato, and he left for Israel. Sharpton flew there in an attempt to “hunt down” the driver and hand him a civil law suit. According to the Daily News, at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, a woman spotted Sharpton and shouted, “Go to hell!” Sharpton yelled back: "I am in hell already. I am in Israel."
He wasn't done with his incitement of anti-Semitic violence.
About four years after the Crown Heights affair, in 1995, Al Sharpton through his National Action Network, injected himself in a landlord-tenant dispute in Harlem, which soon turned deadly. As recounted in Fred Siegel’s book Prince of the City, a black Pentecostal church raised the rent of its Jewish tenant, who owned the store Freddy’s Fashion Mart, so the Jewish owner in turn raised the rent on his black sub-tenant, who ran a record store. Sharpton immediately saw an opening for racial demagoguery, and went on radio, declaring, “We will not stand by and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand his business on 125th Street.” His underling, Morris Powell, vowed, “This street will burn. We are going to see to it that this cracker suffers.”

Protesters led by Sharpton’s National Action Network picketed outside the store day after day, referring to Jews as “bloodsuckers” and threatening, “We’re going to burn and loot the Jews.” The demonstrators also struck matches and threw them into the store’s doorway. Two months into the protest, one of the demonstrators stormed into the store armed with a gun, and burned the place to the ground, killing seven people, and shooting himself.
So what does Gingrich's embrace of Al Sharpton say about him? He seems to be ignoring Sharpton's despicable past in order to score brownie points for seeming to work with a black Democrat on an important policy issue. Why did he choose to cozy up to Sharpton when there are other black leaders who believe in school reform? He could have allied with Geoffrey Canada of Harlem Children's Zone or Mayor Cory Booker of Newark. Or he could have traveled to New Orleans to highlight the work being done there with charter schools. Instead he chose as his new pal a man with a vicious history for which Sharpton has not apologized.

I suspect that Gingrich's partnership with Al Sharpton was part of his campaign to obtain inside-the-beltway praise for his bipartisanship. Remember this quote from Gingrich?
At one point during his dalliance with the Democratic establishment, Gingrich joked that “one can gradually rebuild almost any reputation if you pander enough to the authorities that write columns and show up on TV.”
For conservatives searching for a principled anti-Mitt candidate do they really want someone who chose to cozy up to a race-monger whose rants have led to riots and death just so he could rebuild his reputation among the Washington bien pensants? Republican voters should consider what this sorry episode says about Newt's judgment and character before they embrace him as the promised one to take down both Romney and Obama.