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December 30, 2008

Steele: "Magic Negro" CD one of GOP's "self-inflicted wounds"

The flap over the distribution of a compact disc by a candidate for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee could boost the prospects of Maryland's Michael Steele, another candidate for the job.

Chip Saltsman of North Carolina, who managed Mike Huckabee's presidential bid, has endured several days of negative publicity over the distribution of a Christmas gift intended to promote his chairmanship bid. The gift contained a copy of a parody song entitled "Barack, the Magic Negro," first aired on Rush Limbaugh's radio show and based on a column in the Los Angeles Times that discussed how white voters were supporting Obama to assuage their guilt.

Naturally, the media has sought out the views of the two African-American candidates seeking to replace Mike Duncan at the helm of the Republican Party: Steele, the former lieutenant governor and head of GOPAC; and Kenneth Blackwell, the former Ohio secretary of state.

Blackwell defended Saltsman, pointing to "hypersensitivity in the press in the matters of race."

But Steele has been more critical, saying that "the leadership necessary to face these turbulent times requires that we appreciate how our actions and our words are often times used to define who we are as Republicans." Stopping short of a direct rebuke of Saltsman, Steele said in a statement "we must be mindful that self-inflected wounds not only distract us from regaining our strength as a party, but further diminish our credibility with an increasingly diverse community of voters."

He pledged that if he were leading the party, he would be "a lot smarter about such things."

Fresh attention to the GOP's racial views comes at an important juncture for Steele.

Next week, Steele, Blackwell and other candidates for RNC chairman will appear at a recently scheduled forum called by RNC members themselves to meet and hear from candidates.

The CD flap will not have fully faded by then, giving Steele a chance to present himself as a unifier who can build the party across racial lines. It's too soon to say whether Steele or Blackwell will get a real boost, but they have gained more of an opportunity than just a few days ago.

Posted by David Nitkin at 1:55 PM | | Comments (3)


Steele has come a long way in such a short time . It seemed like only yesterday that bobby "bad haircut" had to pay him a salary to be on his ticket, and steele was only his third choice that go-round. . that was sometime after steal or steele had 1 or two homes forclosed on. Wow now look where he is in the Repug party. God are the Repug really that bad off?

First off...Blackwell needs to be in a Party of his own...The Stupidity Party! I dont see this idiot sell-out of a man winninig anything elective, EVER! Clarence Thomas aint got Shyt on him!
Second...with every waning moment of this RNC campaign, Mike Steele impresses me more and more! the Man of Steele shall make his way to the top as he has for over a decade! State party Chair, Lt. Governor, GOPAC Chair and next RNC Chair!

Interestingly, the song and CD did not come up as a topic during the RNC Chairman Debate.

When the topic of non-whites was before the candidates, five of them said the things that everyone has heard for several years, and all five confirmed that they agreed with each other. The last candidate to answer said that the time for talk was over and the time for action was now.

Perhaps it was just fortuitous, perhaps it was by design of the moderator, but Michael Steele spoke last and the message to act. His history of action made his statements on this topic credible.

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Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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