Catching the South Carolina Fever

RightWatch: The closer politicians get to the Palmetto State, the dicier their rhetoric gets.

Perry, for example, has never provided a full explanation of how he dealt with the racial epithet painted on a rock outside his hunting camp. Gingrich has complained that Obama is “so far outside our comprehension” that he can only be understood through the prism of Kenyan anti-colonialism. Paul has twisted himself into a Romney-like pretzel to explain — quite unpersuasively — why the racist comments in the newsletters he published shouldn’t be held against him.

And now we have the curious case of Santorum, who is under fire for supposedly saying, in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses, “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money and provide for themselves and their families.”

I’ve looked at the video of his little speech, and I think he used the word “black,” even though he was answering a question about entitlements with no obvious racial context. Santorum claims that he doesn’t remember what he may or may not have said. He sounds as if he may not have been entirely conscious.

Which suggests to me that the spell that overcame Clinton has reached all the way over to Iowa and struck poor Santorum, too, taking control of his rhetoric long enough to send a message to the hard-core Southern conservatives who abound in the Palmetto State. It’s the fever that infects white politicians when they approach South Carolina, and you just have to outvote them. There doesn’t seem to be any cure.

Jack White keeps an eye on right-wing politics for The Root.

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