In her May 18 Washington Post column, Kathleen Parker disputed the notion that the Republicans behind the proposal that sought to make a campaign issue out of President Obama's association with Rev. Jeremiah Wright are "racist," by suggesting that Fred Davis, who oversaw the proposal for the ads, recognized the ads' "racial sensitivity" and planned to hire a conservative African-American as spokesman.
She wrote that although the proposed ads "were not a good idea" and that "to question Obama's character based on his association with Wright at this point seems too much too late," it is "unfair" to cast the Republicans who would do so as racist. She then suggested that the fact that the PAC would have enlisted "prominent African Americans" to "question Obama's character" would have somehow mitigated the racial aspect of the proposed ads:
Obama has a record as president and can be challenged on that record. Raising Wright now would have been a serious miscalculation and would have been interpreted as attempting to inspire racial animus. But it is unfair to smear [ad creator Fred] Davis as a racist, as some have suggested. He obviously created a proposal based on his sense that this would appeal to Ricketts, who said upon viewing the rejected McCain ad: "If the nation had seen that ad, they'd never have elected Barack Obama."
Davis, whose creativity is widely acknowledged, was obviously aware of the possible racial sensitivity, which is why he also hoped to include prominent African Americans, such as radio host Larry Elder, questioning Obama's character. Whites cannot do this without suffering the consequences now in play.
Indeed, as the New York Times reported in its article about the proposed plan for the ads, the GOP group was aware that the ads would be blasted as "race-baiting" and suggested hiring an "extremely literate conservative African-American" as a spokesman to counter criticism:
The $10 million plan, one of several being studied by Mr. Ricketts, includes preparations for how to respond to the charges of race-baiting it envisions if it highlights Mr. Obama's former ties to Mr. Wright, who espouses what is known as "black liberation theology."
The group suggested hiring as a spokesman an "extremely literate conservative African-American" who can argue that Mr. Obama misled the nation by presenting himself as what the proposal calls a "metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln."
At the American Prospect, Jamelle Bouie likened that decision to those who say, I have black friends, to counter charges of racism:
This plan, more or less, is an exercise in race-baiting. Rather than tackle issues or even [demagogue] his policies, Davis plans to take the road rejected by the McCain campaign, and attempt to build Obama into a scary avatar for everything America fears about African Americans. Yes, it's despicable, but I also can't help but find it a little amusing. To wit, as Zeleny and Rutenberg report, the group also plans to hire an "extremely literate conservative African-American" in order to rebuff charges that this is an exercise in racism. Of course! Much in the same way that having a black friend means you can never be a racist, hiring a black person means that all charges of racism are null and void.
In his New York Times column on Friday, Charles Blow wrote that black Republicans should be insulted by the GOP group's line of thinking: "The proposal was racially charged, and its authors knew it. So they called for the enlistment of 'an extremely literate, conservative African-American' as a spokesman to defend it. This should raise the hackles of black Republicans. There is a base that sees them as able to do racial damage while protecting the party from racial blame."