Poor people are like stray dogs and cats, says South Carolina’s Republican Lt. Governor, Andre Bauer. If you feed, them, they’ll just come back for more–and worse still, they’ll multiply. That’s why it’s a bad idea to give them free food or other forms of public assistance.
At a forum in Greeneville on Saturday, Bauer, who is running for governor, told the crowd:
My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed.
You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better.
In a later interview with the Columbia, S.C. newspaper The State, Bauer "said he could have chosen his words more carefully," but that doesn’t change the fact that "South Carolina needs to have an honest conversation about the cycle of government dependency among its poorest residents."
According to the Children’s Defense Fund, those "poorest residents" include 190,000 children. South Carolina is the 37th worst state when it come to child poverty, 45th worst for infant mortality, and 48th worst for low birth weight babies. Perhaps Andre Bauer can have an "honest conversation" with them–if they aren’t too hungry to talk.
Bauer, who has risen in state politics as a Christian conservative, was immediately attacked by his Democratic opponents for the governor’s seat:
"It amazes me how some Republican politicians claim a monopoly on Christianity and then go out and say and do some of the most un-Christian things imaginable," said Charleston attorney Mullins McLeod, who participated in a candidates forum in Columbia along with Bauer Saturday. "… Bauer’s comments are despicable and the total opposite of the Christian values Bauer espouses."
Those "Christian values" were much on display back in June of 2009, when Bauer was rumored to be pressuring Mark Sanford to resign after the governor declared his love for his Argentinian girlfriend. (According to state law, Bauer would have replaced him.) Bauer denied the accusations–and at the same time, attacked rumors of another kind. In the week after the Sanford scandal broke, The State reported:
In each interview, Bauer has not called for Sanford’s resignation, saying it’s not his call. But at times, he has subtly turned up the rhetoric.
During an interview Monday, Bauer, who is a bachelor, voluntarily brought up the subject of his sexual orientation, which he said has been the subject of rumors.
Asked, then, if he’s homosexual, Bauer said: "One word, two letters. 'No.' Let’s go ahead and dispel that now.
"Is Andre Bauer gay? That is now the story," he said. "We’re a long way from where we were a week ago.
"We have diverted what the real topic should be here: Is the governor capable for carrying on the duties for which he was elected?"
This post also appears on Unsilent Generation, James Ridgeway's blog on the politics of aging.