Turns out that when Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum clearly said to an Iowa crowd, "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 money," he didn't actually say it. See, as he later explained to CNN's John King, "[I] didn't recall using that particular word … It was probably a tongue-tied moment … In fact, I'm pretty confident I didn't say, 'black.' I sort of started to say a word and sort of mumbled it and changed my thought. I don't recall saying black. No one in the audience heard me say that."
Unless the largely elderly audience he was speaking to all had their hearing aids set to "just nod and ignore my spouse" mode, they heard what the former Pennsylvania senator was spouting loud and clear. Listen for yourself here.
In fact, when he was first asked by CBS about his race-baiting comment, he admitted that he said "black" but blamed it on having recently seen Waiting for Superman, the excellent documentary about education (even though the movie actually portrays several races). It wasn't until he realized how deeply he'd stepped in it that he became "pretty confident" that he kinda-sorta mumbled something maybe beginning with "b" but certainly not ending in "lack."
Who are we supposed to believe, him or our lying ears?
Race-baiting with fudged facts has been de rigueur for GOP candidates even before Reagan sang his favorite tune by "Willie Horton and the Welfare Queens." What is much more troubling is Santorum's complete lack of understanding for the millions of Americans suffering through this Great Recession.
At least Bush said he was a "compassionate conservative."
And the rise in the use of food stamps? Does he really think that this is Obama's master plan? Does Santorum really believe that the record 45.8 million Americans receiving food stamps — up 12 percent from last year, up 34 percent from two years ago and increasing, and included among them the underemployed middle class — are Obama's dastardly plan to win votes? As Sarah Palin might say, "You betcha."
"[Democrats are] just pushing harder and harder to get more and more of you dependent upon them so they can get your vote. That's what the bottom line is," Santorum told the Iowans.
How dare the president. How dare he try to buy votes by making sure our social safety net keeps us taxpaying Americans from starving to death.
Sanctimonious Santorum, the man who wears his Catholicism like a thorny crown, is evidently too busy waving around the good book to ever bother opening it up.
Trey Ellis is a novelist, screenwriter, blogger and associate professor at Columbia University.