Monday, December 29, 2008


Chocolate Chip & Vanilla Fudge

It's good to see that some things never change. Consider the Republican National Committee contest for chairman: One Chip Saltsman -- endorsed by Mike Huckabee for whom Saltsman was his campaign manager -- apparently is committed to the GOP living up to its role as the "Stupid Party" (as opposed to the Dems'"Evil Party"). Saltsman decided -- as part of the political schwag that inevitably comes with campaigning for party chair -- to distribute a CD that included the "Barack The Magic Negro" parody popularized by Rush Limbaugh (and based on an LA Times column) several months ago.

I thought Limbaugh was pretty stupid pushing the parody crap during the campaign. Why play to one's own stereotype (fairly tossed or not)? But, still, Limbaugh, for all his pretensions to being a "serious" political analyst, is ultimately an entertainer and commentator -- and a good and successful one. If he wants to play the parody -- as he's done with other song parodies in the past -- sure, why not?

But Saltsman isn't an "entertainer" or "commentator." He wants to be the mouthpiece and face of the Republican Party. All jokes have context. In the real world of free speech, we may not like the fact that black comics get away with racial humor, whereas white ones rarely do. Unfortunately, that's the way the world works. Furthermore, a joke pushed by a professional satirist or talk show host has a different impact when shared by a professional politician.

Saltsman's move is stupid in another way. He happens to have two black opponents in the race for GOP chair -- Michael Steele and Ken Blackwell. Leaving that song on the CD opens Saltsman up to the charge that he is not-too-subtley suggesting to RNC members that they might want to avoid supporting their own "Magic Negro" candidate (AKA "celebrity") in the RNC race. Blackwell, playing a canny politics of his own, came to Saltsman's defense, while current chairman Mike Duncan and Newt Gingrich -- also discussed as a possible candidate denounced the song. Of course, all candidates have their own reasons for making their statements. Duncan and Gingrich want to look inclusive, while Blackwell can afford to be solicitous -- while picking up support from RNC members who appreciate his towing the conservative view on race ("It's the media's fault for making this a racial controversy.")

Saltsman's action, however, went across the line in a far more basic way: Obama isn't just Top Democrat; he's the soon-to-be President of the United States! Even as a joke, the wouldbe head of the opposition shouldn't be making "Negro" comments about the POTUS. It would be the equivalent of the Democratic Party chair candidate releasing a CD in 2001 calling George W. Bush "The Magic Silver-Spooned Hillbilly." There's a certain level of respect that the president should receive from the head of the opposition party (no, it's not always practiced, but it should be).

If Saltsman doesn't "get" that, well, he's just too stupid to be chairman.

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