A lot of people are already having fun with this one. On Anderson Cooper last night, New Gingrich admitted that we have ”no proof” of the Romney ad’s claim that Obama’s welfare policy would result in “welfare checks” being sent to people who don’t work:
COOPER: You do think that the actual wording under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work, you wouldn’t have to train for a job, they just send you your welfare check, that is not factually correct?
GINGRICH: We have no proof today, but I would say to you under Obama’s ideology it is absolutely true that he would be comfortable sending a lot of people checks for doing nothing. I believe that totally.
So we have no proof that Obama’s policy does what Romney’s ad says it does. Remember, Romney’s ad states as fact that under Obama’s plan, “they just send you your welfare check.”Gingrich apparently begs to differ: in the interview, he also allows that if the ad makers had asked him for his input on the ad, he “would have said this makes it possible.” Nonetheless, all that is immaterial, because (says Gingrich) Obama would be ideologically comfortable with giving taxpayer money away to undeserving layabouts.
As a substantive matter, this is silly: the waiver would allow states more flexibility in implementing work requirements. What matters is what the governors do under the new policy — which, by the way, requires states seeking waivers to increase work participation. Whatever Obama’s ideological inclinations, they are irrelevant here.
That aside, isn’t it rather telling that the Romney camp has chosen Gingrich, of all people, as a lead surrogate on this particular attack?
I noted here the other day that with the new welfare assault, the Romney campaign is reviving a politics of resentment that is straight out of an old GOP playbook — and strongly suggests the Romney camp has decided they can’t win by making this about the economy alone. The Romney ad actually shows a worker wiping the sweat off his brow while a narrator tells you that Clinton (the “good” Democrat) required work for welfare, while Obama (the “bad” kind of Democrat) wants to send people “welfare checks” for not working.
As Jonathan Chait points out, Romney is essentially painting Obama as “redistributing from the middle class to the poor.” With Obama asking the rich to pay higher taxes (something that has broad public support), and hammering Romney himself for policies that would enrich the wealthy further at the expense of the middle class, this is all about directing middle class resentment downward at a time of economic distress. Obama is not really on the middle class’s side; his sympathies lie elsewhere (hint, hint).In this regard, the selection of Gingrich — who has labeled Obama the “food stamp president” and has trafficked in this kind of stuff for many years now — as the lead surrogate on the issue is very telling.
Along these lines, I’m not sure why this hasn’t gotten more attention, but CNN reported the other day in passing that Gingrich was the one “who suggested to senior Romney advisers they take on the welfare issue.” There you have it.