Racist-Rockgate and the Politics of Absurdity

RightWatch: The GOP's silly season continues in the flap over Rick Perry's offensively named camp.

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Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images; Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

You can't make this stuff up.

As if the coyote-shootin', secession-talkin', global-climate-change denyin', George Wallace-channelin' twit from Texas -- otherwise known as Gov. Rick Perry -- didn't already have enough trouble proving he was ready for prime time, here comes a Washington Post story alleging that he hunted at and entertained guests at a hunting camp with the unfortunate name "Niggerhead."

So now, in addition to explaining away his far-out positions on Social Security, the Federal Reserve, dispatching American troops into Mexico and a host of other issues, Perry is scrambling to clarify exactly when he had a rock bearing the offensive name of the place painted over.

He's facing accusations from his rival, black businessman Herman Cain, of being "just plain insensitive to a lot of black people in this country." He's issuing statements affirming his distaste for the word and assuring us that he has appointed too many blacks to too many positions for anybody to think he's a racist.

It's a waste of time. He ought to just pack his bags now and head back to the Lone Star State before he becomes any more of a laughing stock. Any politician dumb enough to take guests to a camp with a name like that surely has even more embarrassments lurking in his background. Enough, already.

As this imbroglio amply demonstrates, the Republican Party is practicing what can only be called the politics of absurdity. It is painting itself so far into the Tea Party's extremist corner that it is blowing a good opportunity to take back the White House next year.

The GOP keeps shifting from one unelectable would-be political messiah to another in hopes of "taking our country" back from the alien forces that turned it over to Barack Obama: Donald Trump. Michele Bachmann. Perry. And soon, if a clamoring chorus of GOP activists have their way, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose entry into the race stands little chance of elevating our political discourse.

Christie has, pardon the pun, already become a fat target for critics like my friend Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post, who believes that Christie's struggle with obesity raises questions about his fitness for the nation's highest office. In a campaign season that has already focused attention on distractions such as Obama's birth certificate, the return of the gold standard, whether vaccinations cause mental retardation or global warming science is a fraud, and the insensitive name of a hunting camp, we really don't need a national debate on the size of the candidates' waistlines.

As I've pointed out in the past, this clown show is a disservice not only to the Republican Party but also to the nation at large. Whatever you think of Obama's brand of leadership, there is no denying that during his presidency, America has been stuck in the muck. In order to win a second term, the president ought to have to defend his record and explain his plans for the future against a tough opponent who stands a real chance of unseating him.

While it might be possible to put together a constituency of ultraconservatives, closet racists, lunatic libertarians, anti-government fanatics and other crazies that's sufficiently large to give Obama a run for his money, a more realistic approach for the GOP would be to win over independents and disappointed Democrats. But that is not going to happen if the GOP caves in to the Tea Party and selects one of its demented darlings as a champion.

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