Will Real Race-Baiters Please Stand Up?

As GOP leaders sweep the latest Rev. Jeremiah Wright flap under the rug, racial politics thrive.

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Reince Priebus (Scott Olson/Getty); Barack Obama (John Gress/Getty);


Joe Ricketts (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty)

When it comes to the dark history of racial politics in America, the modern-day Republican Party constitutes a case study in cognitive dissonance. Reince Priebus, current chairman of the Republican National Committee, recently blamed President Barack Obama for GOP operatives' race-baiting methods.

Yes, you read correctly: Priebus blames Obama for the racist tactics used by Republicans. The irony inherent in such a premise is so ridiculous that it amounts to intellectual malfeasance.

During an interview with CNN's Candy Crowley on State of the Union last Sunday, Priebus answered questions about the plans of a conservative super PAC to use race-infused ads featuring President Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, as a means to sway voters in the upcoming 2012 election. Instead of addressing the issue with the dignity of a statesman, Priebus resorted to hyperbole.

"I know how it works. It's the Democrats and Barack Obama that want the story out there. He wants the story to play out in the media," Priebus said. "This president's got a bigger problem, and his problem is, no matter what he puts out there, no matter what distractions he puts out there, he can't change the truth and escape the reality of where we are in this American economy."

As head of the RNC, Priebus sets the message and tone, so his apparent disconnect from reality on the sensitive issue of racism concerned Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

"I don't understand how you can blame the target and still believe you speak with any degree of logic," Cleaver told The Root. "The issue of race has already raised its unprincipled head. I guess this year Republicans are going to blame President Obama for being black -- which generated the proposed ad. There are gasoline-toting individuals out there, waiting to start a fire. These Neanderthals are going to be used by people who know better, and that's the sad part about this. They are Paleolithic politicians who know that race-baiting still works."

Melanie Roussell, press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, described Priebus' statement as "awfully rich." "There is actual evidence in the proposal commissioned by Joe Ricketts that he specifically dedicated $10 million to negative adverts," she told The Root. "And while Mitt Romney gave a very tepid repudiation, I've not heard [Chairman Preibus] repudiate these attacks at all. I'd like to hear if Priebus thinks there is a place in our political discourse for this kind of character assassination."

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The proposal in question, put together by infamous GOP media strategist Fred Davis, is called "The Defeat of Barack Hussein Obama." It came to light through a New York Times investigative report that revealed the strategy of the GOP-aligned Ending Spending Action Fund, a super PAC backed by TD Ameritrade founder and former CEO Joe Ricketts, a billionaire whose family holdings include the Chicago Cubs. Ricketts, a longtime supporter of conservative candidates, has pledged $10 million for an anti-Obama attack-ad campaign and has given money to every single 2012 GOP presidential candidate.

The proposal claims that the president misled the nation by presenting himself as a "metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln" and suggests hiring an "extremely literate, conservative African American" to be used as a pawn and media surrogate for the GOP, attacking the president throughout the 2012 election cycle. It calls for running commercials linking Obama to incendiary comments made by his former pastor -- whose race-infused sermons made Wright a polarizing figure in the 2008 campaign.

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