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Saltsman’s Campaign Shaken

Chip Saltsman sent a CD by Paul Shanklin that was a compilation of parodies, many of which appeared on the Rush Limbaugh program including the Limbaugh favorite, “Barack: The Magic Negro.”

Numerous myths are floating around about this. This is not a CD that Saltsman “compiled” as one news report said as if Saltsman burned the CD of his favorite songs. “Barack: The Magic Negro” was not even the title track of Paul Shanklin’s CD. It was smack in the middle of the CD at Track 16.

Paul Shanklin didn’t coin the term “Magic Negro.” It was African American writer David Ehrenstein, writing for the LA Times who first referred to Obama as a “Magic Negro” in March 2007 and suggested he was a less authentic Black person than Al Sharpton or Snoop Dogg. Saltsman has correctly pointed out that Ehrenstein’s original piece was not criticized. The song is not so much a riff on Obama as it is Ehrenstein’s column and Al Sharpton. Paul Shanklin pushed the envelope of satire a tad too far, but it’s not “Birth of the Nation” or anything near the racial severity it’s being made out to be.

That said, Saltsman is most likely done as a serious contender for RNC Chairman. He may remain in to save face or to be a power broker in the final outcome, but he will not win. While Saltsman has some crackerjack ideas for improving the Republican Party, the hits he’s taken over the past couple of days from within the party have been too hard for him to hope of gathering enough support to lead the Republican Party. Most members are the RNC are not going to want to spend the next two years explaining this issue.

There are many knaves and losers in this affair, and only one winner. So let’s break down:

Knaves:

Whoever leaked this story: Saltsman didn’t post Shanklin’s song on his website. He sent the CD out to 168 members of the RNC. That means someone who was a recipient of the CD went to the press about it. We would not be talking about this had someone not leaked the CD.

The results of the story: putting Republican Party members at each other’s throats. Many members of the huge Rush Limbaugh audience were not feeling happy with the GOP and this doesn’t help. In addition, RNC members need to be able to be free to express their opinions. With knowledge that a blabbermouth is in the room, expect people to be guarded and meetings of the RNC to more closely resemble episodes of Babylon 5 than a real working political party.

In order to score points against Saltsman (or one of Saltsman’s former clients), whoever leaked this story: created several news cycles of bad PR for the party, put different factions of the party at odds, and have hindered the effectiveness of the RNC. Heck of a job, Mister or Miss Slash and Burn. Hope you’re proud of yourself, wherever you are.

Mike Duncan and Saul Anuzis: The incumbent RNC Chairman screamed outrage” at the top of his lungs, as did Saul Anuzis. Declared Duncan, “I am shocked and appalled that anyone would think this is appropriate as it clearly does not move us in the right direction.

Shocked and appalled? Which is worse? That Saltsman sent out a CD with the song on it privately to 168 members of the RNC, or that the biggest conservative talk show in America has played the song, about 1,000 times? Either Duncan is so incredibly out of touch with the grassroots of the party that neither he nor anyone on his staff with good sense knows what’s happening on the Rush Limbaugh program, or he’s saved his outrage for now like a good hypocrite. Take your pick, or maybe it’s a combination of both.

As for Saul Anuzis, he said, “Just as important, anything that paints the GOP as being motivated in our criticism of President-elect Obama by anything other than a difference in philosophy does a disservice to our party.” Only the title of the CD paints this picture. While others haven’t listened to the song, Anuzis, as someone who actually has a copy of the CD, really has no excuse for not knowing what the song’s about. And again, where was this outrage when this was playing non-stop on Rush.

Losers:

Chip Saltsman:

Some would put Saltsman in the knave category. Everyone who does this seems to think that they would have known Track 16 of 41 would ignite into a national controversy. While there were clearly safer gifts than the Shanklin CD, like bath towels, Saltsman thought he’d go for something the political types would enjoy.

However, whether deserved or not, Saltsman is done as a viable candidate for RNC Chairman. The Shanklin CD will follow him wherever he goes and will be a story whenever he joins a campaign for anywhere between a few hours and a day.

Conservative Satire

My brother has often told me that conservatives need an answer to the Daily Show, a satirical counterpunch to Jon Stewart. This story is an illustration of why that is unlikely to happen. While I’ll admit that Shanklin’s parody was beyond the pale, the decision of some on the right to act as if he burned a cross on an African American’s lawn illustrates why there’s a satire deficit. Those who attempt satire on the right are either idiots who think being offensive for its own sake is hilarious, or they’re so banal in their satire they offend no one and entertain no one.

Satirists on the left can get away with far more on the right even with their own side. On Obama’s visit to Germany, Jon Stewart remarked that seeing hundreds of thousands of screaming Germans cheering for a Charismatic leader “gives me goosesteps-I mean goosebumps.” Try making that type of joke on the right and you’ll be drowned in press releases from conservatives calling for you to be imprisoned.

Conservatives need to develop some sense of proportionality. Until then, expect people on the right to be afflicted by lame things such as the “Half Hour Newshour”

Winner:

Ken Blackwell. Ken Blackwell issued the following statement on this matter:

“Unfortunately, there is hypersensitivity in the press regarding matters of race. This is in large measure due to President-Elect Obama being the first African-American elected president. I don’t think any of the concerns that have been expressed in the media about any of the other candidates for RNC chairman should disqualify them. When looked at in the proper context, these concerns are minimal. All of my competitors for this leadership post are fine people.”

Matt Lewis over at AOL suggests that Blackwell’s move is a stroke of political genius:

First, it is important to note that only 168 RNC Members get to cast votes, and presumably, many of them are conservatives who will view Duncan’s statement as pandering to the politically correct crowd. Some of them may have been supporting Saltsman or Dawson, after all, as well. They will object to Duncan’s criticism, and possibly view it as appeasement…

Lastly, and ironically, it may prove the point that the GOP desperately needs an African-American to serve as the face of the GOP as we go head-to-head against the first African-American President in U.S. History. After all, Blackwell was able to get away with defending Saltsman, whereas a white candidate may not have been able to do the same.… Having known Blackwell a bit, I can tell you that this move was consistent with his core beliefs. He has never played the race card — or the “reverse” race card — even when it would have helped him — and I do believe he views this as having been an instance of, “hypersensitivity.”

Having said that, coming to Saltsman’s defense will likely also prove to be a brilliant political stroke which may propel him to the head of the RNC.

 

Lewis is right. And I think there’s another reason Blackwell may be helped. Whoever gets elected RNC Chairman will need to lead the whole party. The type of response Duncan and Anuzis has issued will make it very hard for them to unite the party and will lead to them being sniped at in talk-radio-land and looked on with a great amount of distrust among the base. Blackwell’s statement is graceful and avoids picking a fight. The vote for Chairman will require a majority support, which means that if Saltsman and Katon Dawson are trailing after the first ballot, their support will end up going elsewhere, and Blackwell’s set himself up to be the recipient of that support.

Bottom line: Saltsman’s loss is Blackwell’s gain. I was skeptical of Blackwell’s candidacy, but his savvy response coupled with numerous recent endorsements from members of the RNC indicates that Blackwell has become a top tier candidate.

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