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NBC's Gregory Rants: Gingrich Comments on Poor a 'Grotesque Distortion'

As NBC's Meet the Press panel ripped into Newt Gingrich on Sunday for his comments on poor children in inner cities lacking working role models, Manchester Union Leader publisher Joe McQuaid was the lone voice of dissent: "I think he gets a bum rap on the child labor thing."

That prompted host David Gregory to declare: "Are you really saying that the working poor in this country don't have good role models of how to work hard?...How do you get to that practical solution and not see it as a kind of grotesque distortion of what's really happening out there?"

Mcquaid explained: "...there are kids in inner city schools who've never had a job, and they only have one parent and they have no idea what the work ethic is like....Not the working poor. But these are people who are not working and the kids are not working, and this gives a chance for the kids to take a broom, work in the cafeteria."

Moments later, BBC Washington correspondent Katty Kay argued:

...it seems that in the country, this sort of general zeitgeist has shifted from a real loathing of big government to, to some extent, fears about the middle class being squeezed and problems of inequality. And I think, in that context, Newt Gingrich's comments about the working poor and poor kids who can only find work if it's illegal come across as the wrong tone in the country at the moment. That's not where America is at the moment.


The discussion began by Gregory condescendingly proclaiming: "Speaking of Newt Gingrich, that lack of discipline that he's talked about, the major moment this week is this theme of the good Newt vs. the bad Newt. The bad Newt is on display, some suggest, when there is arrogance, when there is sort of, you know, a lack of discipline in putting out ideas about kids and child labor laws."

Gregory also remarked on how much of a Washington insider Gingrich was: "I mean, this guy, as speaker, was second in line to the president. You don't get much more inside than that. You don't have to, you know, look at the lobbying piece or the, you know, the, the strategic advising to Freddie Mac."

Gregory's own wife, Beth Wilkinson, made a salary of $3 million a year while working as an executive at twin government-backed mortgage giant Fannie Mae.

Here is a transcript of the December 4 Meet the Press exchange:

11:07AM ET

(...)

DAVID GREGORY: Well, speaking of Newt Gingrich, that lack of discipline that he's talked about, the major moment this week is this theme of the good Newt vs. the bad Newt. The bad Newt is on display, some suggest, when there is arrogance, when there is sort of, you know, a lack of discipline in putting out ideas about kids and child labor laws. This is what he told ABC about his prospects.

NEWT GINGRICH: I want to be the nominee. I mean, it's very hard not to look at the recent polls and think that the odds are very high I'm going to be the nominee.

GREGORY: Good Newt or bad Newt?

MARK HALPERIN: That would be bad Newt. He's, he is, he is unusual. He's a unique in American politics in the last 40 years. There's no one in either party who has been as around as long, both a very prominent figure, but also a grassroots organizer. And he – if this were going to be a six month campaign, if Newt had risen six months ago, I think the Romney people could be confident that, over time, those grandiose statements would catch up to him. I think a lot of people in the party now, they want a figure like Churchill. They want a big person who talks in bold ways to take on Barack Obama. I think the grandiose stuff gets laughed at in this city, but may actually help him in the next 30 days.

HAROLD FORD JR.: But he compares himself to people. I mean, one of the advantages that he has that I think sometimes there are people in the country that don't really understand the magnitude and the monumental nature and stature of Churchill and Kennan and some of the others he compares himself to, so he gets away with it. The question though is whether he implodes on other fronts.

I think the points he made about children and the points he's made in the past about the, the, the African-Americans and their role in our country and whether or not Obama fits some anti-colonial Kenyan model, those are the kinds of points I think, at the end of the day, serious people, and particularly independents, as you know, are going to begin to ask, is he the kind of person we want negotiating with – our exit from Iraq? Is he the kind of leader we want representing us in rooms with Chinese business leaders? Is he the kind of leader we want in a room dealing with Russia? I think those are questions that ultimately Obama will raise.

GREGORY: Well, and Katty, what about the outsider thing? I mean, this guy, as speaker, was second in line to the president. You don't get much more inside than that. You don't have to, you know, look at the lobbying piece or the, you know, the, the strategic advising to Freddie Mac.

KATTY KAY: Right. And you can see Mitt Romney's campaign already playing on that, that he is the guy, that Mitt Romney is the guy who's been outside of politics, that he's the one that's been the businessman with practical experience; and look at Newt Gingrich, he's the person that's been inside Washington for so long at a time when the country is very suspicious of Washington.

The question at the moment, I think, for the Romney campaign is how hard to they go after Newt Gingrich? Are they going to go up in ads, for example? Are they going to put money behind this? Are they going to attack him directly? And that's a decision that the campaign hasn't made yet. But they're going to have to find a way, I think, to tackle Newt Gingrich. Republicans in the establishment of the Republican Party that you speak to are terrified of a Newt Gingrich campaign. They believe that he could not only lose the Republicans the White House at a time when this is theirs to take, but that he could also lose some seats in the House and the Senate as well.

GREGORY: Joe.

KAY: This is, this is a real concern amongst the establishment.

JOE MCQUAID: Well, Romney, the only reason he's the outsider is because he keeps running and losing, not that he hasn't tried to get in.

FORD: Tell us how you really feel about him?

MCQUAID: And as far as Gingrich goes and bold ideas, I think Mark is right on that. And I think he gets a bum rap on the child labor thing. That kind of idea is really going to be embraced by the conservative wing, which is what he said in Boston was, there are kids in inner city schools who've never had a job, and they only have one parent and they have no idea what the work ethic is like. Toss out some of the high-priced union janitors, which gets the conservative base riled up-

GREGORY: But are you really saying that the working poor in this country don't have good role models of how to work hard? I mean, how do you-

MCQUAID: Not the working poor. But these are people who are not working and the kids are not working, and this gives a chance for the kids to take a broom, work in the cafeteria. It would require a modification-

GREGORY: But how do you get to that practical solution and not see it as a kind of...

KAY: Right.

GREGORY: ...grotesque distortion of what's really happening out there?

FORD: This may – this may excite the conservative base, but at the end of the day this race will be decided by independent voters who went 2-to-1 in 2008 for President Obama.

HALPERIN: The race for a general election or for the nomination?

FORD: I'm sorry, the general election. If you're, if you're sitting in Obama's shoes today and his campaign team's shoes, this will be decided by independents. That kind of language will excite independents – will excite conservatives. But the question is, whether or not that translates into a general election victory. And that – I was only speaking of it from that standpoint.

MCQUAID: I think, I think it excites independents. I think it excites independents. And I asked Mr. Axelrod before if they – they don't want Romney to go, they were exciting the base for Romney this morning with Axelrod's comments and what you were showing about no moral core, etc. Jeez.

KAY: I think it's the kind of – it, it seems that in the country, this sort of general zeitgeist has shifted from a real loathing of big government to, to some extent, fears about the middle class being squeezed and problems of inequality. And I think, in that context, Newt Gingrich's comments about the working poor and poor kids who can only find work if it's illegal come across as the wrong tone in the country at the moment. That's not where America is at the moment.

GREGORY: Right.

FORD: What's foremost on people's minds? It'd be different if that – if people were running around saying, "Gosh, what are we going to do about this issue?" I applaud him for talking about poverty and talking about issues affecting poor people. But you can't applaud someone if that's his answer. And if that's the answer, if he's the nominee, Democrats are strengthened and emboldened. And to your point, we will – Democrats will win back seats in the Senate and may even take the House.

GREGORY: Alright. Let – let me get a break in here.


- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.