Chip Saltsman stumbled through a series of blunders this week that leaves me wondering if he can be considered a serious contender for Chairman of the Republican National Committee.
The first was selecting the CD, We Hate the USA, to distribute to RNC members as a Christmas gift. The song that's drawing all the negative attention is "Barack, the Magic Negro." The CD is the work of satirist Paul Shanklin, who is often heard on the Rush Limbaugh show.
This selection displays a serious lack of judgment on Saltsman's part. While the song was undoubtedly not intended to be racist and Saltsman's selection of the CD was certainly made without the intent to smear the President-elect with a racial slur, Saltsman should have been able to anticipate how the CD might be received by RNC members - some of whom may not have his best interests at heart - and how its selection would be characterized by the press. While the party's identification with minorities as racist is unfair and not grounded in reality, the last thing it needs is an RNC Chair with a "tin ear" to potentially inflammatory situations.
The second was Saltsman's slow response the the developing controversy. By way of explanation, Saltsman supposedly participates in a loosely organized group of conservatives, #TCOT. The original concept was simply to list conservatives participating on Twitter and the number of people "following" them as a means to gauge their sphere of influence; #tcot was simply a search tag that could be used to follow the #TCOT timeline. It has now expanded to include the #TCOT Report, a Drudge-like news source and web gathering place for conservatives.
News of the CD hit the #TCOT timeline within minutes of the first news reports; had Saltsman been following the #TCOT stream, he would have known of the controversy and had access to immediate feedback on an appropriate response. In addition, he could have taken advantage of the #TCOT Report to distribute his response across the web. Instead, his response was delayed until 6:05 p.m. on December 27th, a full 24 hours after the news first broke and was limited to the blog on his RNC campaign website.
The third and final blunder was choosing to try to divert attention from his own lack of judgment in choosing the CD and focus on blame the media for a double standard. Saltsman's statement from his blog:
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.
I firmly believe that we must welcome all Americans into our party and that the road to Republican resurgence begins with unity, not division. But I know that our party leaders should stand up against the media's double standards and refuse to pander to their desire for scandal.
While it's true that the media does impose a double standard, Saltsman's response does nothing to show that he understands what the controversy is about, nor that he accepts any responsibility for the situation in which he now finds himself. He doesn't even mention the CD; if you didn't know the back story, you'd think he was commenting on a segment from Rush Limbaugh's show! Saltsman would have done better to admit to an error in judgment and issue a sincere apology.
So the questions I would like the RNC to consider before they cast their votes for chairman are (1) Does Chip Saltsman possess the political judgment necessary in the person who will be the public face of the Republican party during the Obama administration; and (2) As RNC Chair, will he effectively utilize every means of communication at his disposal to advance the agenda of the Republican Party.
Cross posted at It's Only Words