Cassidy doesn't link to the Ryan statement, which — I found on my own — is part of the video that made the rounds the other day, the one that supposedly showed Ryan being "testy." (We talked about it here.) Anyway, let me put the "good discipline" and "character" remark in context. Ryan was asked the question "Does the country have a gun problem?" Ryan took the position that the problem is crime, not guns, and that we already have enough "good, strong gun laws," which we ought to enforce better.
But the best thing to help prevent violent crime in the inner cities is to bring opportunity to the inner cities, is to help people get out of poverty in the inner cities, is to help teach people good discipline, good character. That is civil society, that's what charities and civic groups and churches do to help one another, make sure they realize the value in one another.Let's try to understand why people like Cassidy think that's outrageous (as opposed to platitudinous). Here's Tommy Christopher at Mediaite:
What you don’t often hear spoken (out loud, anyway) is that the real problem with gun violence in America is the “character” and “discipline” of people in the “inner cities,” a very specific delineation from other city folk...In this frame of mind, Ryan was talking down to black people — to use a phrase once aimed at Barack Obama himself. And let's take another look at Obama's 2007 speech to a predominately black audience:
Apparently, crime in our cities has nothing to do with poverty, and systemic failures, fueled by generations of institutionalized racism, but with the character of those people. So says Paul Ryan, and so says Mitt Romney. If you’re poor, it’s because your culture is inferior.
Ryan’s assessment of “inner city” people is of a piece with the not-at-all subtle (and even out-and-proud overt) attitudes of the leading lights in the Republican Party, best exemplified by racism decoder-ring Newt Gingrich, who helpfully singled out black people as the Food Stamp-satisfied people we already knew they were talking about, and who echoed Ryan’s chatter about the low character of the inner city denizens who “have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works. So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash,’ unless it’s illegal.”
We already knew who the “those people” Romney and Ryan were talking about were, but thanks for the hint, all the same.
We can’t expect them to have all the skills they need to work. They may need help with basic skills, how to shop, how to show up for work on time, how to wear the right clothes, how to act appropriately in an office. We have to help them get there.Unlike Ryan, who looked to "civil society... what charities and civic groups and churches do to help one another," Obama thought there should be federal government programs to teach poor (black?) people to "act appropriately." The difference between conservatives and liberals is about how to solve what they are perceiving as a problem. Pointing out that there's a problem is a sensitive matter, so sensitive it might be better not to point it out at all, as Jesse Jackson's famous open-mike pushback showed.
Will Biden "surely take it to Ryan" on this issue? He might, but it's treacherous. Ryan should be prepared with something elegant to say, but I predict it won't come up because Biden's the one who's gaffe prone, and you don't want to make a gaffe about race.