Believe It or Not, Folks Up in Arms Over Republican’s ‘Barack the Magic Negro’ Song

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He'll be here all week: Chip Saltsman.
He'll be here all week: Chip Saltsman. Photo: AP

If you're fortunate enough to be a friend of Chip Saltsman, a candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee, you may have received a CD of liberal-lampooning tracks called We Hate the USA, created by conservative satirist Paul Shanklin, this Christmas. Among songs mocking John Edwards, Reverend Wright, and Mexican immigrants is "Barack the Magic Negro" (to the tune on "Puff the Magic Dragon"), which is based on a similarly titled Los Angeles Times article. After word got out, many of Saltsman's Republican colleagues, including some rivals for the RNC chair, publicly chastised him for his politically tone-deaf move. Apparently, Saltsman hasn't heard that minorities already distrust Republicans for some reason and also that we haven't thrown around the word "negro" for about 40 years. Undeterred, Saltsman has defended the songs as "lighthearted political parodies." Unfortunately for him, most people aren't laughing.

• Peter Yarrow, who co-wrote "Puff the Magic Dragon" (which he has claimed has nothing to do with smoking marijuana), calls the distribution of the CD "not only offensive" but "shocking and saddening in the extreme." It "insults the office of the Presidency, the people who voted for [Obama], as well as those who did not." [HuffPo]

• John Nichols claims many of those criticizing Saltsman are hypocrites, only speaking out because they're challenging him for the RNC chairmanship. Otherwise, they would have said something as Rush Limbaugh played the song on his show "for the better part of a year." It seems "they are not willing to object to the far more offensive actions of their party's most muscular media ally." [State of Change/Nation]

• Jonathan Stein wonders if it took so long for Republicans to speak out because "conservatives by and large hate political correctness and hate being told by liberals that they stepped over the lines of polite discourse." [MojoBlog/Mother Jones]

• Mark Schone thinks that in "light of the GOP's problems with nonwhite voters … its approach to choosing the next Republican National Committee chairperson seems a little odd." [War Room/Salon]

• J.G. Thayer believes "Saltsman’s managed to shoot himself in the foot — and good riddance. There are plenty of reasons to criticize Obama without dragging race into the equation." [Contentions/Commentary]

• Steve Benen suspects that the "more Saltsman is criticized, the more many on the right will rally around him, protecting him from those who 'can't take a joke.' Whether the 'joke' relies on ugly racist stereotypes is of no consequence." [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]

• Jenifer Rubin hopes that if "RNC leaders can’t determine what is appealing to minority voters, they should at least determine what is hurtful and hateful. Frequenting whites-only clubs and indulging in adolescent racial jokes fall into the latter category." [Contentions/Commentary]

• Jim Geraghty says Saltsman's defense "seems insufficient to the moment," as "[i]t's easy to see a song that appears to be mocking someone for his skin color as inconsistent with judging people by the content of their character." Saltsman shouldn't be judged entirely on a CD he sent out, but "this is an entirely unforced error, giving those who wish to portray the GOP as racially insensitive a cheap and easy example to add to their arsenal." [Campaign Spot/National Review]