By Cheri Jacobus - 01/18/12 04:37 PM EST
When Newt Gingrich suggested inner-city kids be provided the opportunity to earn money as janitors in their schools, the left responded with faux shock and indignation, immediately launching into its tired, predictable tirade, calling the Republican “racist” and accusing him of being condescending and insensitive. The audience at the South Carolina Fox News debate gave Newt a standing ovation. Obama campaign mastermind David Alxelrod is probably irritated he didn’t think of it first.
My youngest brother did, in fact, spend a summer as a school janitor, doing routine maintenance, getting the buildings and school grounds ready for the students and faculty returning in the fall. My brother went on to receive his master’s degree in counseling psychology, becoming a vocational counselor helping those who have fallen through the cracks get back on their feet and know the dignity of work. My sister and her friends spent a summer as a mere adolescent in the fields detasseling corn, a job that, along with that of the school janitor, has been derided as somehow harmful and just downright wrong for young people to earn money doing. She, her friends and the parents apparently didn’t get that memo, and were thrilled at the opportunity.
From picking blueberries, working at Dunkin’ Donuts, babysitting and my favorite — the summer I spent working the 4-to-midnight shift on a Mack Truck engine assembly line hanging heavy water pumps (got pretty buff that summer and had no need to join a gym, but had grease under my fingernails until Homecoming), my siblings and I, as well as most of my friends, did it all.
The left and the mainstream media are delighted and downright giddy, believing they’ve captured and bottled their “gotcha” moment to smack Republicans around with between now and Election Day. They believe Newt and the folks in the audience standing up and applauding him have exposed Republicans as racists.
But in their obtuse elitism that is so grossly out of touch with how America thinks, feels and lives — whether one checks the box of “white” or “black” or “other” — what the left seems to forget or chooses to ignore is that we were all young once and learned the value of these jobs. African-American parents across the country may be wondering why the left is now sending the message that their kids should feel anything other than fortunate that someone is suggesting a way for them to work and earn a little bit of money, and why Democrats and the media are screaming “racism” at the notion.
The stench of hypocrisy hangs heavy in the political air.
Not that I am in the business of giving Democrats political advice, but here’s a freebie for President Obama: Steal the issue from Newt. It may even make things uncomfortable for Mitt Romney as the GOP front-runner, which would likely be your chief reason for doing so. But do, by all means, go ahead and include the proposal in your State of the Union address. You will be supported, you will get that standing O that you will need at least two or three of in the speech, as is tradition. But most importantly, poor kids, while still obviously being used as political pawns, as the left is so apt to do, will at least be the beneficiaries of something positive in their lives, rather than being held back and damaged by liberal dogma and the limitations of the agenda of the left.
Jacobus, president of Capitol Strategies PR, has managed congressional campaigns, worked on Capitol Hill and is an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. She appears on CNN, MSNBC and FOX News as a GOP strategist.