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Congress

Tim Scott's Not Taking the Bait

Insulted by the NAACP, overshadowed by Republican headliners, the senator from South Carolina still has little to say.

(Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

photo of Beth Reinhard
January 24, 2014

Tim Scott, the black Republican appointed to the Senate by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, was singled out by the NAACP's North Carolina chapter president for, well, being black and a Republican. "A ventriloquist can always find a good dummy," the Rev. William C. Barber II, told churchgoers last week.

Asked about the insult on Friday, Scott took the high road. "The best way to respond to attacks from someone you've never met, who's never been there during the most difficult times of your life, is not to respond at all."

His decision not to fight fire with fire is typical of a low-key style that sets him apart from fiery tea-party brethren like Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz. While his fellow Republicans garnered national media attention for stinging appraisals of the government's "War on Poverty" earlier this month, Scott's speech on the Senate floor went largely unnoticed.

 

"I don't know that I've been quiet. I've spoken when I wanted to say something," he said after addressing a Republican National Committee meeting in Washington. "My thought is that just because you have a lot of microphones doesn't mean you need to fill them all with words."

That's not a sentiment heard often in a town of loudmouths and grandstanders. And Scott, who grew up poor with a single mother, has a unique perspective on what he calls "the opportunity agenda." He's filed legislation to expand school choice and job training.

"I wouldn't call him quiet. I would call him constructive," said Matt Moore, chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party.

Scott visits or Skypes with schoolchildren about twice a month, and Moore accompanied him last year to his old high school in Charleston. "When he was finished the kids stood up and cheered for him even though they all come from Democratic households," Moore said.

In his speech to the RNC, Scott urged Republicans to offer solutions to help the needy. "We are going to have to embrace people in a way they deserve to be embraced," he said. "If we win people, elections will take care of themselves."

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