If you were going to quit your governorship in mid-stream, and you were a winger, who would you call? If you're Sarah Palin, add Rudy Giuliani (hopefully he didn't propose to her too much... or drool into the phone about how much she reminds him of his cousin...) Dick Cheney (who apparently discussed the ogre-like family's possible vacation trip to Alaska, during which 'm sure Sarah and her kin will keep their whale guns at the ready...) [sidebar: Jesus, Republicans are creepy!] ... and Florida's very own Charlie Crist to the list. Reports ABC News:
Palin's phone calls are shown on her official schedule for May 2009, obtained by Alaskan Andree McLeod through an open-records request with the state and shared with ABC News. McLeod has filed numerous open-records requests for Palin-related documents, as well as four ethics complaints against the governor and her aides.
"GOV: Telephone Call Into Governor Crist," reads a May 4 entry in Palin's schedule. A spokeswoman for Crist said she did not know who had initiated contact, or what the subject of conversation was to have been, but the two did not speak. "It was a courtesy call. They know each other, both being governors," said Crist spokeswoman Erin Isaac.
Crist may have had his own reasons to chat with Palin: to promote his candidacy for U.S. Senate, which Crist launched one week after Palin's phone call. Nine days later, Crist announced an endorsement by Sen. John McCain, Palin's 2008 GOP ticket-topper.
So will the Barricuda endorse the tan guy in Tallahassee over the RedState base's choice, Marco Rubio, or will she "go rogue" again and oppose McCain's choice and add fresh drama to the Florida GOP Senate primary? (Hell, at least their party HAS primary drama ...) The plot thickens...
Okay, so who was the RNC genius who came up with this one:
She’s the 69-year-old speaker of the House of Representatives , second in the line of succession and the most powerful woman in U.S. history. But when you see Nancy Pelosi, the Republican National Committee wants you to think “Pussy Galore.”
At least that’s the takeaway from a video released by the committee this week – a video that puts Pelosi side-by-side with the aforementioned villainess from the 1964 James Bond film “Goldfinger.” The RNC video, which begins with the speaker’s head in the iconic spy-series gun sight, implies that Pelosi has used her feminine wiles to dodge the truth about whether or not she was briefed by the CIA on the use of waterboarding in 2002. While the P-word is never mentioned directly, in one section the speaker appears in a split screen alongside the Bond nemesis – and the video’s tagline is “Democrats Galore.”
The wisdom of equating the first woman speaker of the House with a character whose first name also happens to be among the most vulgar terms for a part of the female anatomy might be debated – if the RNC were willing to do so, which it was not. An RNC spokesperson refused repeated requests by POLITICO to explain the point of the video, or the intended connection between Pelosi and Galore.
Supah ... genius... here's the video:
So far, the hit count is pretty low, but I'm sure the POlitico story will help Mike Steele and his merry band of fools out.
Michael Steele: Last, best hope of the Republican Party...
... or, total and complete boob. Tooootally up to you. Steele today resumed his Herculean effort to revive the GOP, first by threatening to quit if they take his RNC budget authority away, and then, by declaring that the era of Republican apology is OVER ... unless of course you count the mandatory apologias to Rush Limbaugh whenever he feels slighted. Watch, and learn...
Michael Steele's crazy train: who is Trevor Francis
The latest drama from the three-ring circus that is Michael Steele's RNC, per Politico, the announcement of Steele's new communications director, Trevor Francis, drew a collective "who is Trevor Francis???" from D.C. insiders. To whit:
“I don’t know who he is,” one senior comm staffer told us. Four more senior staffers agreed — staffers who, mind you, will be working with Francis daily.
Now, he does have experience — he worked at the RNC during Haley Barbour’s reign, when Jim Dyke was working there, and he comes from the world of Burson-Marsteller, and before that he worked for Commerce Sec Don Evans. As one of the above four staffers told us, “I doubt reporters know him, and if people know him, they knew him from five years ago — he’s been out of the game since then.” Another staffer scoffed that he hoped he wouldn’t have to do a search to find political reporters’ e-mails on Day One.
This is not a good sign, despite his “12 years’ experience,” as one site boasts.
Dyke, now a consultant, is working with Steele, and the consensus is that Francis was chosen because, as one former Francis colleague put it: “Jim can control him.” Dyke laughed that off and told Shenan: “Like bananas control monkeys. Or do monkeys control bananas?”
Someone familiar with Francis declared coolly, “Trevor is in over his head” and added, “In this kind of atmosphere, they need a big shot.”
Yet another staffer reacted, “Can the RNC just stoooooooooop?!” The GOP-er familiar with Francis wondered aloud: “It’s like Michael Steele is a Democrat trying to do everything possible to screw us.”
Or maybe his plan is to make Republicans absolutely "bananans" -- another middle aged hip-hop version of "off the chain..." See? There is method to Steele's madness...
In the Michael Steele flameout, a peek under the curtain
A passage from the Politico top story (until they switch to the Cramer beat-down by Jon Stewart) offers a glimpse into the hall of mirrors that is the right wing of the Republican Party. As we all now know, Steele stepped in it again, this time in a GQ interview in which he seemed to express disturbingly tolerant, mildly pro-life views on abortion (and gays). Well, the abortion comments are sending the religious right into full-on revolt, according to Politico. Among the complaints:
"Michael Steele has just walked away from the Reaganesque position of strong moral clarity on abortion to personify why the Republican Party continues to be in a 'free fall',” said another activist, Jenn Giroux, the executive director of the conservative group Women Influencing the Nation. “It is amazing that he cannot see and learn from the fact that Sarah Palin's position on abortion and her unapologetic defense of every conceived child drew crowds by the thousands on that issue alone.”
Hm. So Sarah P's special needs baby, and the fact that her having him demonstrates her pro-lifeyness, is the real reason wingers are so ga-ga about Sarah? It really is all about abortion in the end? That would certainly explain why the wingerati are even gung ho (no pun intended...) on her preggers teenage daughter (who isn't marrying her "f-in redneck" baby daddy anymore, now that ma ain't gonna be vahce president...) And speaking of Bristol, you've got to love this:
The story first emerged in the tabloid Star magazine, which quoted Mr Johnston’s sister Mercedes saying that Ms Palin and her mother were to blame for the break-up. The couple had been due to marry this summer.
“Levi tries to see Tripp every single day, but Bristol makes it nearly impossible,” Mercedes Johnston is quoted as saying.
“She tells him he can’t take the baby to our house because she doesn’t want him around ‘white trash’. The worst part, Ms Johnston tells the magazine, is that Governor Palin supports her daughter’s treatment of Mr Johnston.
Ms Palin said in a statement issued through her mother’s political action committee that she was devastated by the report in Star. “Unfortunately, my family has seen many people say and do things to ‘cash in’ on the Palin name. Sometimes that greed clouds good judgment and the truth.”
Jesus, his sister's name is Mercedes? Yeah. That IS ghetto...
Okay, so Michael Steele is pro choice now? His GQ interview might be the nail in the RNC leadership coffin for Steele, who might want to reconsider the priesthood. Per ThinkP:
GQ: Are you saying you think women have the right to choose abortion?
STEELE: Yeah. I mean, again, I think that’s an individual choice. […]
GQ: Are you saying you don’t want to overturn Roe v. Wade?
STEELE: I think Roe v. Wade—as a legal matter, Roe v. Wade was a wrongly decided matter.
GQ: Okay, but if you overturn Roe v. Wade, how do women have the choice you just said they should have?
STEELE: The states should make that choice. That’s what the choice is. The individual choice rests in the states. Let them decide.
Huh? Wha??? And wait til Boss Limbaugh and company get a load of this:
On whether homosexuality is a choice: "Oh, no. I don't think I've ever really subscribed to that view, that you can turn it on and off like a water tap. Um, you know, I think that there's a whole lot that goes into the makeup of an individual that, uh, you just can't simply say, oh, like, 'Tomorrow morning I'm gonna stop being gay.' It's like saying, 'Tomorrow morning I'm gonna stop being black.'"
Can this guy possibly survive another week? Signs point to maybe not... and he might want to take out a restraining order against one Katon Dawson...
UPDATE: Surprise! After taking incoming fire since Hardball and other media outed the GQ interview yesterday, Steele has now reversed himself on abortion ... per Politico:
Steele said in a statement through an RNC spokesman:
I am pro-life, always have been, always will be.
I tried to present why I am pro life while recognizing that my mother had a "choice" before deciding to put me up for adoption. I thank her every day for supporting life. The strength of the pro life movement lies in choosing life and sharing the wisdom of that choice with those who face difficult circumstances. They did that for my mother and I am here today because they did. In my view Roe vs. Wade was wrongly decided and should be repealed. I realize that there are good people in our party who disagree with me on this issue.
But the Republican Party is and will continue to be the party of life. I support our platform and its call for a Human Life Amendment. It is important that we stand up for the defenseless and that we continue to work to change the hearts and minds of our fellow countrymen so that we can welcome all children and protect them under the law.
Steele has also been reaching out to anti-abortion leaders to damp down the controversy, a source said.
Could this guy be more embarrassing? The New York Times spins a tale of near failure, turned into very close to success:
For decades, top Republican officials have looked at Mr. Steele and seen the promise of minority votes. He was recruited in the 1980s by Lee Atwater, a strategist who was the first of many excited by the charismatic, black Roman Catholic.
Outside politics, Mr. Steele struggled. He tried the priesthood but left as a novice. Later he practiced law for seven years in Washington (after passing the Pennsylvania state bar, he said), then started a consulting firm that made so little money that he almost lost his home.
But in the weak Maryland Republican Party, in a state that is 30 percent black, Mr. Steele was an instant hero. (The moment she saw him, said Joyce Terhes, the former state party chairwoman, she knew he was a keeper.) He zoomed from volunteer to state chairman to running mate in a race for governor.
Before the 2002 election, The Baltimore Sun published an editorial saying that because of his lack of experience, Mr. Steele brought “little to the team but the color of his skin,” outraging him and his supporters.
When Mr. Steele became lieutenant governor, he found himself among the highest-ranking black Republicans in the country, instantly embraced by President George W. Bush and his allies. Speaking to black groups, he was often the only Republican in the room, and in some Republican gatherings, the only African-American.
More than other black Republicans, “he has this unique capacity to connect with black audiences in a pretty soulful way,” said the talk show host Tavis Smiley. When Mr. Steele ran for the Senate in 2006, Russell Simmons, the hip-hop music executive and a Democrat, went to Maryland to endorse him.
Running in an unpopular year and state for Republicans, Mr. Steele tried to shed ties to his party. He called the “R” in Republican a “scarlet letter” and omitted his affiliation from advertisements: instead he talked about his love for puppies, his mother and the music of Frank Sinatra. On Election Day, campaign workers passed out sample ballots that listed him as a Democrat.
And that's the guy they chose as chairman...
Meanwhile, the Steele hip-hop fiasco continues to provide comedy gold (hat tip to Matt Ortega)
And don't forget the original "U Down wit GOP?" (Sorry, SNL, I thought of it first...)
For more wincing at Michael Steele's antics, check out:
It's not easy watching a black guy stumble around in the dark, but really, I'm trying.
And they wonder why most black people (well, those with an ounce of dignity, anyway...) wouldn't be caught anywhere near the GOP. Hat tip to SmirkingChimp, whose post of an article by Max Blumenthal also points out that Russell Simmons is, or was, a Steele supporter (he supported him during the 2006 Senate campaign, too.) Blumenthal takes us down memory lane:
The first African American elected to the position, Steele triumphed over a candidate who once belonged to a whites-only country club, and another who had distributed a CD that included the song, "Barack, the Magic Negro." Days after taking over the party's moribund infrastructure, Steele promised an "off the hook" PR campaign to apply conservative principles to "urban-suburban hip-hop settings"--offering the GOP a much-needed image makeover for the dawning of the age of Obama.
Meanwhile, Steele's mea culpa probably pretty much dooms him as a credible spokesman for the GOP, and:
... given Limbaugh's well-documented history of racial controversy, and Steele's position as the Republican Party's first African American chairman, his apology is more significant than Gingrey's. Limbaugh has, for example, mocked Obama as a "Halfrican-American" who should "become white;" he has called for a "posthumous Medal of Honor" for the assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr., James Earl Ray, and told an African American caller, "Take that bone out of your nose and call me back." Steele's "off the hook" PR campaign is now off the rails. Within days, he has gone from being "da man" to just another "Dittohead."
Update: as reported on Rachel Maddow's show tonight, Steele's got other problems to worry about.
Michael Steele's first 30 days as RNC chair have been an unmitigated disaster. But I suspect that there would be grumbling about him as "head of the party" whether he's referenced one armed midgets or not. Steele is not the fire breathing right winger that the "base" wants him to be, and he comes to the job with little proof that he has the organizational skills to fix the party's other problem: a lack of infrastructure outside a handful of southern and western states.
In an e-mail to fellow RNC members obtained by The Hill, Dr. Ada Fisher, North Carolina's national committeewoman, said Steele is "eroding confidence" in the GOP and that members of his transition team should encourage him to step aside. Fisher added Steele's personal e-mail address to the e-mail.
Oh and before you even go there, Ms. Fisher is black...
UPDATE: Dr. Fisher appeared on Rachel Maddow's show tonight. Here's the video courtesy of "the Youtubes":
Conservative direct mail guru Richard Viguerie spells out the bottom line for the GOP and its many, many problems:
"The 'Rushification' of the GOP is the natural and inevitable result of the fact that those who are supposed to provide leadership -- Republican elected officials and party officers -- are doing little to bring the party back," said Viguerie, Chairman of ConservativeHQ.com. "Nature abhors a vacuum, and there is no vacuum in nature as empty as the leadership of the Republican Party today."
Ouch. And the air head currently standing at the mouth of the vacuum is none other than our good friend Michael Steele, who is quickly turning out to be almost as golden for Democrats as El Rushbo himself. Steele has quickly gone from the Great Brown Hope of the GOP (oh, sorry, that was Bobby Jindal...) the Great Black Hope of the GOP, to a national punch line (even Morning Joe got at him on Wednesday.) And Politico reports that besides providing endless hilarious sound bites for the ankle biters online, such as myself, and on late night TV, Steele isn't even getting his organization together. So much for the logic in making him RNC chair just because he's not white ...
I actually caught the Rush Limbaugh dressing down of Michael Steele on the radio today. And given the GOP's sorry track record on trying (ever so briefly) to stand up to the right's $400 million radio bully, it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that within about a New York minute of Rush's smackdown, the Notorious RNC would punk out. To refresh: here's Michael Steele Saturday night, trying to man up:
And here's Rush Limbaugh slapping him down like a skinny puppy:
Mr. Steele called Mr. Limbaugh after the radio host belittled Mr. Steele on his show, questioning his authority and saying the new Republican leader was off “to a shaky start.”
... Mr. Steele told Politico on Monday that he had called Mr. Limbaugh to apologize.
“My intent was not to go after Rush – I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh,” Mr. Steele told The Politico. “I was maybe a little bit inarticulate. There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership.”
Democrats reacted with glee to the exchange. “Michael Steele has denounced himself for renouncing Rush,” said Paul Begala, an ally of Mr. Emanuel and one of the Democrats presenting Mr. Limbaugh as the face of the G.O.P. “Can anyone seriously argue now that Rush is not the unchallenged leader of the Republican Party?”
Um ... no. But that's not the best part. For that, let's go to Politico:
“I went back at that tape and I realized words that I said weren’t what I was thinking,” Steele said. "It was one of those things where I thinking I was saying one thing, and it came out differently. What I was trying to say was a lot of people … want to make Rush the scapegoat, the bogeyman, and he’s not."
“I’m not going to engage these guys and sit back and provide them the popcorn for a fight between me and Rush Limbaugh,” Steele added. “No such thing is going to happen. … I wasn’t trying to slam him or anything.”
Michael ... do you understand the words that are coming out of your mouth?
Want to feel even more uncomfortable for Michael Steele? Check out the ReidBlog Michael Steele page!
UPDATE: Best response to the Great Steele Capitulation, from Andrew Sullivan:
Comrade Steele dutifully apologizes to the Great Leader and offer his regrets to his fellow comrades in the movement. Re-education camp will follow shortly.This climb-down marks the end of establishment Republican resistance to the Poujadist pontificator. It's Rush's party now. So why shouldn't he run for president in 2012? Make Palin his veep - and be done with it.
Michael Steele: taking a bad thing and making it worse
It was bad enough that Bobby Jindal absolutely sucked giving the Republican response to President Barack Obama's address to Congress. Now, Michael "the hip-hop chairman" Steele has taken the critique to a new low, with the help of a true idiot, Curtis Sliwa. From Ben Smith at Politico:
In an interview with Curtis Sliwa on ABC Radio last night, the host and RNC Chairman Michael Steele jokingly linked Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to the film "Slumdog Millionaire." Steele offered Jindal "slum love.
Here's the transcript:
SLIWA: Now, using a little bit of that street terminology, are you giving him any Slum love, Michael?
SLIWA: Because he is — when guys look at him and young women look at him — they say oh, that's the slumdog millionaire, governor. So, give me some slum love.
STEELE: I love it. (inaudible) ... some slum love out to my buddy. Gov. Bobby Jindal is doing a friggin' awesome job in his state. ...
Then Steele was asked by Fox’s Neil Cavuto: “Will you, as RNC head, recommend no RNC funds being provided to help them?”
Steele confirmed that he would “talk to the state parties about.” When pressed on whether he was open to it, Steele said: “Oh, yes, I`m always open to everything, baby, absolutely.”
This is obviously about throwing red meat to the base, but it’s pretty interesting, because it sets the RNC up to take a hit from the right if he doesn’t follow through with this.
Whatever you say, baby.
Meanwhile, over in the real world, the governor of Utah declares Washington Republicans irrelevant:
The Republican governor of Utah on Monday said his party is blighted by leaders in Congress whose lack of new ideas renders them so "inconsequential" that he doesn't even bother to talk to them.
"I don't even know the congressional leadership," Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. told editors and reporters at The Washington Times, shrugging off questions about top congressional Republicans, including House Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. "I have not met them. I don't listen or read whatever it is they say because it is inconsequential - completely."
And how's this for crazy: hero pilot Chesley "Sully " Sullenberger testified on the Hill today, and had this to say:
The pilot who safely ditched a jetliner in New York's Hudson River said Tuesday that pay and benefit cuts are driving experienced pilots from careers in the cockpit.
US Airways pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger told the House aviation subcommittee that his pay has been cut 40 percent in recent years and his pension has been terminated and replaced with a promise "worth pennies on the dollar" from the federally created Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. These cuts followed a wave of airline bankruptcies after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks compounded by the current recession, he said.
The reduced compensation has placed "pilots and their families in an untenable financial situation," Sullenberger said. "I do not know a single, professional airline pilot who wants his or her children to follow in their footsteps."
And if they'd kneecap Sully...
Meanwhile, the doctors and nurses treating the Travis the chimp victim are so traumatized by what they witnessed, they now need therapy:
Much of Charla Nash's face was chewed off in the horrific attack, requiring a team of surgeons to operate for seven hours to save her life.
Now, those same surgeons along with other doctors and nurses at Stamford Hospital have a group of outside experts available to them for counseling.
"While Stamford Hospital is a level two trauma center, we typically don't see cases of this magnitude," said hospital spokesman Scott Orstad.
"The hospital felt it was possible that this could have an impact on them, and it may not be something they initially realized in the first 24 hours."
Orstad said counseling sessions were first made available to hospital staff in the day's following the tragedy.
The savagery of the attack on Nash, 55, even left seasoned EMTs stunned.
Stamford EMT Bill Ackley said Nash's head injuries "involved her entire face and scalp" and both of her hands were torn apart.
Nash's eyes were injured, but Ackley would not say how extensively. Her hair had been ripped out.
Separated at birth: RNC Buffoon in Chief Michael Steele (left)
Fresh off his victories in defining the stimulus bill as "bling bling" and his declaration that "a job is not work," RNC chair Michael Steele has taken yet another step to cement his place as the most embarrassing figure in public life. His latest gambit? The GOP will get an "off the hook" muthaf--in hip-hop makeover. Okay, I added the "muthaf--n" part.
[H]e told The Washington Times:
"There was underlying concerns we had become too regionalized and the party needed to reach beyond our comfort" zones, he said, citing defeats in such states as Virginia and North Carolina. "We need messengers to really capture that region - young, Hispanic, black, a cross section ... We want to convey that the modern-day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles. But we want to apply them to urban-surburban hip-hop settings."
You know, to get the kids involved... Read the original Steele interview with the Washington Times here. Be warned: there are midgets involved...
Sunday best: Michael Steele says work is not a job
On "This Week" today, the RNC's new, black face, confused the hell out of the rest of us, telling George Stephanopoulos that a job created by the government isn't really a job at all. It's "work," and work is most definitely NOT ... a job ... Confused? Read on:
STEELE: You've got to look at what's going to create sustainable jobs. What this administration is talking about is making work. It is creating work.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But that's a job.
STEELE: No, it's not a job. A job is something that -- that a business owner creates. It's going to be long term. What he's creating...
STEPHANOPOULOS: So a job doesn't count if it's a government job?
STEELE: Hold on. No, let me -- let me -- let me finish. That is a contract. It ends at a certain point, George. You know that. These road projects that we're talking about have an end point.
As a small-business owner, I'm looking to grow my business, expand my business. I want to reach further. I want to be international. I want to be national. It's a whole different perspective on how you create a job versus how you create work. And I'm -- either way, the bottom line is...
STEPHANOPOULOS: I guess I don't really understand that distinction.
STEELE: Well, the difference -- the distinction is this. If a government -- if you've got a government contract that is a fixed period of time, it goes away. The work may go away. That's -- there's no guarantee that that -- that there's going to be more work when you're done in that job.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, but we've seen millions and millions of jobs going away in the private sector just in the last year.
STEELE: But they come -- yes, they -- and they come back, though, George. That's the point. When they go -- they've gone away before, and they come back.
Huh? Watch it and see if it makes more sense that way...
Now it appears what Steele was trying to say is that government-created infrastructure jobs, i.e., construction, road and bridge engineering and planning, etc., aren't "real jobs" because they're temporary, unlike the permanent, sustainable jobs created by the private sec...tor ... which just laid off 600,000 people last month... ohhhh.... hmmm.... problemo...
And just in case you think Steele just made that up on the fly, think again. He has said it before, and added that government has never ... EVER ... in the history of mankind... created a job. Seriously.
My most recent memory of Mr. "Drill baby, drill!" was a rather testy conference call he held on behalf of John McCain with two or three other Black Republicans, in which he rebuked me for asking about GOP attempts to keep foreclosure victims from voting in Detroit. Natch. Now, disenfranchising black voters will be HIS job. By the way did you catch the number of black and brown folk at the RNC confab, where it took what, half a dozen ballots to give Steele the win? The answer is two: Steele and Blackwell, although the guy from the Virgin Islands may or may not make it three, and he also nabs the best quote from the confab:
“The party has got to turn from vanilla to butterscotch,” said Holland Redfield, a committeeman from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Steele is also a break with tradition because he isn’t a member of the committee, which usually elevates chairmen from within its ranks.
Consider this my official endorsement of Chip Saltsman to be the new RNC Chairman. Why? Because in my opinion, despite all the furor he's creating over his song choices, Saltsman best exemplifies the values of today's GOP. Why?
For starters, he's doesn't seem to be a serious person. And for decades now, the Republican Party has become more and more anti-intellectual, retrograde and unserious. Example: during the recent presidential campaign, rather than taking on Barack Obama on issues of substance (economic policy, foreign policy, etc.) Steve Schmidt and company accused Obama of being ... golly! ... a celebrity ... (well duh...) and of "palling around with terrorists," something no serious person believed. And the lack of seriousness from the opposition party could be further summed up in two words: Sarah Palin.
So Saltsman, with his silly CD full of screwball comedy bits like "Barack the Magic Negro," fits the bill. In fact, the Barack song is a great example of conservatism today. The Los Angeles Times column that it's based on, titled "Obama the 'Magic Negro,'" was written in March 2007 by a black guy (actually, a mixed race guy like Obama,) and media critic named David Ehrenstein, who was making serious and interesting points about Obama's candidacy and race in America. A clip:
The Magic Negro is a figure of postmodern folk culture, coined by snarky 20th century sociologists, to explain a cultural figure who emerged in the wake of Brown vs. Board of Education. "He has no past, he simply appears one day to help the white protagonist," reads the description on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magical_Negro .
He's there to assuage white "guilt" (i.e., the minimal discomfort they feel) over the role of slavery and racial segregation in American history, while replacing stereotypes of a dangerous, highly sexualized black man with a benign figure for whom interracial sexual congress holds no interest.
As might be expected, this figure is chiefly cinematic — embodied by such noted performers as Sidney Poitier, Morgan Freeman, Scatman Crothers, Michael Clarke Duncan, Will Smith and, most recently, Don Cheadle. And that's not to mention a certain basketball player whose very nickname is "Magic."
Poitier really poured on the "magic" in "Lilies of the Field" (for which he won a best actor Oscar) and "To Sir, With Love" (which, along with "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," made him a No. 1 box-office attraction). In these films, Poitier triumphs through yeoman service to his white benefactors. "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" is particularly striking in this regard, as it posits miscegenation without evoking sex. (Talk about magic!)
... And what does the white man get out of the bargain? That's a question asked by John Guare in "Six Degrees of Separation," his brilliant retelling of the true saga of David Hampton — a young, personable gay con man who in the 1980s passed himself off as the son of none other than the real Sidney Poitier. Though he started small, using the ruse to get into Studio 54, Hampton discovered that countless gullible, well-heeled New Yorkers, vulnerable to the Magic Negro myth, were only too eager to believe in his baroque fantasy. (One of the few who wasn't fooled was Andy Warhol, who was astonished his underlings believed Hampton's whoppers. Clearly Warhol had no need for the accouterment of interracial "goodwill.")
But the same can't be said of most white Americans, whose desire for a noble, healing Negro hasn't faded. That's where Obama comes in: as Poitier's "real" fake son.
The parody, on the other hand, was written and performed by a white guy and conservative comedian named Paul Shanklin. It tackles the deep, existential question of whether Al Sharpton thought Obama is really black. let's compare Shanklin's lyrics:
Yeah, the guy from the L.A. paper Said he makes guilty whites feel good They’ll vote for him, and not for me ‘Cause he’s not from the hood.
See, real black men, like Snoop Dog, Or me, or Farrakhan Have talked the talk, and walked the walk. Not come in late and won!
The only mud that momentarily stuck was criticism (white and black alike) concerning Obama's alleged "inauthenticty," as compared to such sterling examples of "genuine" blackness as Al Sharpton and Snoop Dogg. Speaking as an African American whose last name has led to his racial "credentials" being challenged — often several times a day — I know how pesky this sort of thing can be.
Sorry, but aren't good parodies supposed to be at least half as interesting as the things they mock? There are other reasons think our friend Chip should become RNC chair. Here are a few:
1. He's not black. The GOP can only have one black spokesmodel at a time. Michael Steele and Ken Blackwell cancel each other out. Besides, the Republican Party has become so racially polarizing, and so tinged with scary, racist rallies, generic race-baiters, Alaskan secessionists and creepy bald guys, I doubt that either Steele or Blackwell would have much credibility with the rank and file. Even if they were accepted as party leader, either man would appear to all the world like a token, and the GOP needs genuine outreach to people of color, and much better ideas, not tokens.
2. He's from the South. At this point, the Republican Party is essentially a southern party, down to their decided preference for foreign automakers who locate south of the Maxon Dixon with an eye toward tanking American wages. A regional party should have a regional chairman, from a representative state (sorry, Jim Greer. Florida is a bit too cosmopolitan at the lower geographic end. And a state with so many prominent Latinos just won't fit in with the Dixiefide party you belong to.)
3. He ran Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign. Ergo, he's both evangelical-friendly and prone to losing national elections. At this point, everyone in the GOP is one or the other (or both.)
4. He's clueless. This was his response to the hubbub over his holiday CD:
"Liberal Democrats and their allies in the media didn't utter a word about David Ehrenstein's irresponsible column in the Los Angeles Times last March. But now, of course, they're shocked and appalled by its parody on the 'Rush Limbaugh Show.'
Um ... if you thought that the column was "irresponsible," what makes you think the parody isn't?
and last but not least:
5. He's an equal opportunity offender (just like his pal Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the GOP.) After all, the Grand Old Party has not just turned off black folk. They've also spurned Hispanics, young voters, the middle class, smart people, scientists, non-xenophobes and anyone who opposes the Iraq War or doesn't worship George W. Bush. In short: everybody except the Palinites. So is it any wonder that while "Barack the Magic Negro" is getting all the attention, the rest of the CD is no great shakes either:
The CD, called "We Hate the U.S.A," blasts liberals with such musical greats as “Barack the Magic Negro,” first played on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show, "John Edwards' Poverty Tour," "Wright Place, Wrong Pastor," "The Star Spanglish Banner" and "Love Client #9."
Great work, Chip. You've done your party a great service. You'll make a mighty fine chair.
The 1992 redistricting piled up non-white voters into congressional districts dubbed "minority-majority," to increase non-white representation in Congress. Republicans eagerly embraced the new take on voting rights, as they felt it would make dozens of white-majority districts less competitive for Democrats. There was also much hand-wringing among Democrats for the same reason, and some even argued that there was no point in increasing non-white representation in Congress if it meant that the party would never again regain power. Obviously, things have turned out quite differently for the Democrats, whose Congressional majority is now as strong as it has been in decades, thanks in part to its robust diversity, and to a growing indifference to race and ethnicity.
It is no coincidence that at the same time, the GOP has shriveled into a more uniform party than at most times since the 1960s. Like a restricted country club that would rather die than change, the Republican Party is marginalizing itself for the sake of the white men who run it. "Barack The Magic Negro" and Palm Beach aryanists are just the more bizarre manifestations of a party that has wallowed for so long in the privileges of its white male supremacy that it does not even realize that everyone has left the plantation, and they are not coming back.
But the whole thing is worth your time. Check it out.
Chip should have been more careful in his selection of Christmas gifts, but no one who knows him would ever suggest that he in any way would purposely disparage other people. Chip knows how sensitive such issues are. It shouldn’t be the main factor in the RNC race.
I mean some of his best friends are Magic Negroes...
He got a roar of approval both inside the convention hall and across Red America for his "drill baby, drill" chant, but former Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele would make an awkward -- at best -- choice to head the Republican National Committee, something the Washington Times reports he is vying with Newt Gingrich for (there's also a Draft Steele for RNC site up. Hat tip to Jonathan Martin at Politico.) Writes the Times' Ralph Hallow:
Neither man will acknowledge his interest in the post, but Republicans close to each are burning up the phone lines and firing off e-mails to fellow party members in an effort to oust RNC Chairman Mike Duncan in the wake of the second consecutive drubbing of Republican candidates at the polls.
A bevy of backers for each man, neither of whom is an RNC member, say the committee needs a leader who can formulate a counter-agenda to President-elect Barack Obama's administration and articulate it on the national stage.
"The Republican National Committee has to ask itself if it wants someone who has successfully led a revolution," Randy Evans, Gingrich confidant and personal attorney based in Atlanta, told The Washington Times on Monday. "If it does, Newt's the one."
As a Democrat, and thus a thoroughly disinterested party, I question whether either man is right for the job. As I lay out in this post, the present iteration of the Republican Party is a narrow, regional one, which is almost completely white (90 percent of John McCain's voters were white, and the Republican National Convention in September featured just 3 percent black delegates...) southern/Appalachian, and so culturally conservative that it's hard to imagine Steele having anyone to lead. At best, he'd be seen as the ultimate visual token -- a black guy to counter the Democrats' black president, and as such they'd be committing the Sarah Palin mistake twice: choosing someone for their biological charicteristics without regard to their actual potential impact on the party. At worst, he'd be looked upon as yet another George Bush -- a phony conservative in a media-friendly package, designed to lure the salt of the earth hayseeds down a dangerous path. Actually at really worst, he'd be dismissed by the base as just another city n***er they don't need to listen to.
At the end of the day, if Steele (and Bobby Jindal, or even a moderate northerner like the ousted Senator John Sununu,) represent the future, it is, at least for now, a distant one. I can no more see the hard-bitten, obsessive Palinites cottoning to Michael Steele than I can see them cheering for Barack Obama. Steele would have to fight uphill just to get respect from the base. Selecting him to lead the RNC would scream: "Hey look! We've got an articulate black guy, too!" And how sad would that be?
Gingrich, on the other hand, is both a southerner and a, dare I say, radical conservative, more aligned to who the core of the party is. But his history of failure and scandal should give the party pause. After all, if Newt is the future, then the past is prologue -- and the p0st-Gingrich past is littered with failed impeachment, felons, elected felons, commuted felons, Enron felons and massive, repeated, escalating, electoral defeat.
And yet, he'd be a better choice than Steele, if only because at least the base would listen to him.
Before I jumped into the campaign, I sat in as a reporter on a conference call held by the RNC and the McCain campaign, on which Steele was the headliner (my story from that call is here.) Steele was peevish and defensive, responding sharply to questions about why African-Americans would have any interest whatsoever in his party or candidate, given the atmospherics coming out of the conventions, and the now infamous Sarah Palin rallies. If he is the future leader of the GOP, I didn't hear any whiff of it on that phonecall.
Of course, Steele, who failed to win a Maryland Senate seat in 2006, and attracted little African-American support outside of fading Republican media honcho Cathy Hughes, might have greatness in him. It's just that it's been wasted, so far, on a party that is indifferent-to-hostile to his "type."