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.

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 16: Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) answers questions as he arrives for a meeting of Senate Republicans on a solution for the pending budget and debt limit impasse at the U.S. Capitol October 16, 2013 in Washington, DC. The U.S. government shutdown is in its sixteenth day as the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives remain gridlocked on funding the federal government and the extending the nation's debt limit. 
National Journal
Beth Reinhard
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Beth Reinhard
Jan. 24, 2014, 12:34 p.m.

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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