“For months, Mr. Gingrich has made racial resentment an integral part of his platform as a conservative challenger to Mitt Romney. He has traversed the country calling President Obama “the greatest food-stamp president in American history” and presenting African-Americans with the great revelation that they should prefer paychecks to federal handouts. When he was called on it at the debate by Juan Williams of Fox News, he took the measure of the crowd and doubled down…

“In South Carolina, where a Confederate flag still waves on the front lawn of the State Capitol largely because of the efforts of the state Republican Party, it remains good primary politics to stir up racial animosity and then link it to President Obama. Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Santorum and the crowd that cheered them are following in a long and tawdry tradition, singling out a minority group for lectures while refusing to support policies that help all Americans.”

***

“In the memo, Mr. Gingrich urges Governor Reagan’s campaign to reconsider its decision not to speak to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Convention.

“‘This is a great opportunity to prove that a conservative Republican can speak to the hearts and pocketbooks of Black Americans,’ Gingrich urged in the memo…

“Mr. Gingrich’s 1980 plea that the Reagan campaign should reach out to the NAACP and make inroads with black voters was just the first of many he has made to GOP candidates over many years.

“As ABC News has reported, in his book Real Change, Mr. Gingrich criticized President George W. Bush’s ‘failure to address the NAACP,’ which according to Gingrich, sent a ‘clear signal to the African American community that Republicans did not see them as worthy of engagement in dialogue.'”

***

“Romney and his fellow Republicans are making a case (at least relative to President Obama) for economic freedom and against the expansion of government. To be sure, one may prefer Obama’s policies on reasoned grounds that have nothing to do with race. It is also true that for most of America’s history, and as recently as the 1960s, blacks were denied the freedoms, economic and otherwise, that whites took for granted.

“But no Republican running for president is proposing a return to Jim Crow or a repeal of civil rights laws. Siegel’s implicit notion that only whites are capable of benefiting from economic freedom under a regime of legal equality amounts to an insidious theory of racial supremacy.

That is the idea that Newt Gingrich repudiated in answer to Juan Williams’s (not particularly objectionable) question. That is what brought the crowd to their feet.”

***

***

“That use of the name ‘Juan,’ the way he did it. You can’t argue these things. You either see them or you don’t. It’s just the way he did that. I sensed a little applause when he said ‘Let me help you’ when he answered the Juan question. It’s in the eye of the beholder. And, by the way, calling someone a racist is the worst way to get them to stop being racist because everyone gets defensive. … So it’s stupid to say it but, honestly, if you notice it, you sort of ought to blow the whistle. Because there is a dog whistle going on here.”

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

***

“O’Reilly then turned to another aspect of the exchange: the way Gingrich pronounced ‘Juan.’ ‘Chris Matthews,’ O’Reilly explained, ‘said he way he called you Juan was kind of racist. Did you take it that way?’

“‘Remember, I’m facing Newt, so I heard behind me the moment he went ‘Juan… the minute I heard the hoot and hollering I realized how he played to the audience,’ Williams responded, joking that the audience immediately began to ask “Who is this strange character, ‘Juan‘?” and adding the caveat that the setting is what made it different. He did not say what he thought Gingrich thought of him or what he intended to say about Williams, only that ‘he wanted to stir the audience at that moment.'”