So does Congressman Jack Kingston. His record of pro-jobs, anti-waste during his two decades in the U.S. House speaks for itself.
But the Savannah Republican could have done a much better job in explaining his positions on those two topics last week at a meeting of Jackson County Republicans.
Kingston, who’s running for the U.S. Senate, is being attacked by liberals — and even a competitor in his own party — for suggesting at that event that school children pay a nominal amount for lunches or sweep the floor at an early age to teach them that there’s “no such thing as a free lunch.”
For the record, here’s what the lawmaker said, according to an item posted last week in on ajc.com:
“On the Agriculture Committee we have jurisdiction over the school lunch. The school lunch program has a 16 percent error rate. The school lunch program is very expensive. Of course it looks good compared to the school breakfast program that has a 25 percent error rate.” ...
The congressman said later he meant “all children” should do something to teach them the value of work. That’s hardly novel or controversial.
In fact, it’s something responsible parents do on a regular basis when they give their children chores to do around the house. At one time, even the schools were part of this teaching process, as students would clap erasers, clean blackboards or do other menial tasks. No one was hurt or insulted.
This flap is a molehill being made to look like a mountain, a product of a slow, pre-holiday news cycle.
But as is often the case in today’s hyper-critical, intensely monitored political environment, it wasn’t Mr. Kingston’s larger point that got him in hot water.
It was how he expressed it.
The government’s free or subsidized lunch program provides the only decent meals that some children will have that day. Kingston is right to point out the waste, as that means there’s less money to help those who need it. But he should have been clearer in saying that he wasn’t just picking on poor kids. Rich kids who may be spoiled by their parents could benefit from these important life lessons, too.
Kingston, no doubt, learned something as well — there’s no such thing as a free pass in a tough political fight when you let your guard down.