Gingrich seems to understand the historical weight of the view among some southern whites, many of whom have migrated to the Republican party, that blacks are lazy and addicted to handouts. He is able to give voice to those feelings without using those words. He is able to make people believe that a fundamentally flawed and prejudicial argument that demeans minorities is actually for their uplift. It is Gingrich’s gift: He is able to make ill will sound like good will.
Beinart blames Newt's tone-deafness on epistemic closure:
I’m sure Gingrich also sees nothing offensive in calling Obama the "food stamp" president. After all, under Obama the number of people using food stamps has gone up! So because Alan Greenspan presided over predatory lending policies by banks, perhaps we should have called him the "Shylock" chairman of the Federal Reserve. And if child molestations by priests rise on this administration’s watch, perhaps we should call Joseph Biden the "pedophilia" vice president.
Gingrich would never use those phrases, of course, because he’s familiar enough with Jews and Catholics to understand why they’d find them offensive. But for Gingrich—a veteran politician from the state of Georgia, speaking at a debate in South Carolina on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday—not to understand why calling the first African-American in the Oval Office the "food stamp" president would offend African-Americans is simply amazing. The most plausible explanation is that Gingrich inhabits a cultural and intellectual bubble. A bubble called the Republican Party.
Frum is less charitable:
Food stamp usage is an indicator of an economy in crisis. The non-incumbent party will of course want to use that crisis to arraign the incumbent party and to argue for a change in direction: that's normal politics.
But it's not normal to imply that the people cast into the position where they must use food stamps to feed themselves are somehow the villain of the piece—or to depict blacks as somehow uniquely undeserving of the aid they get. … Shouldn't a man who wants to be president of the whole country show equal understanding of the troubles and dangers facing all those who depend on government assistance: the poor as well as the old, the black as well as the white?