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Published: Monday, 1/5/2009

'Magic' falls flat

CHIP Saltsman, a candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee, sent to committee members for the holidays a 41-track CD containing assorted song parodies, one of which was "Barack the Magic Negro."

It was set to the tune of the 1963 folk song "Puff the Magic Dragon." Mr. Saltsman's action could be considered satire - it was aimed at the Rev. Al Sharpton - or evidence of a Republican leader who is politically tone deaf or just plain racist.

But it wasn't funny. If he thought it was funny or, worse, if he thought RNC members would find it amusing, his assessment reflects a level of incredible insensitivity.

Americans had some thought that, with the election of Mr. Obama as president, they had moved beyond the country's difficult and troubling past with respect to race.

Fortunately, outgoing RNC Chairman Robert M. "Mike" Duncan condemned the distasteful attempt at political humor. "The 2008 election was a wake-up call for Republicans to reach out and bring more people into our party," he said. "I am shocked and appalled that anyone would think this is appropriate as it clearly does not move us in the right direction."

He's right.

The "Magic Negro" incident underlines how far the GOP needs to go to avoid relegation to the status of bygone political parties such as the Federalists, the Know-Nothings, and the Whigs.

For the moment, they are acting like the Detroit Lions of American politics: losers.

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