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.