I'm looking forward to the annual celebration of Martin Luther King Day, which gives all Americans a chance to honor his courageous battle for civil rights. And I find myself wondering how the Republican candidates will handle being called racist during the general election just because they are opposing a black president.
Ron Paul is easy. Like most libertarians, he sees only individuals, not racial groups, not sexual orientation groups, and probably not gender-in-general groups. And he seems puzzled that other people think these categories are somehow important.
Newt Gingrich has been endorsed by black columnist Thomas Sowell, who is more pithy than most economists.
"Even some of those who believe that Gingrich would devastate Obama in head-to-head debates on substantive issues nevertheless claim that all Obama has to do is come back with questions about Newt's work for failed mortgage finance giant Freddie Mac." Sowell observed. "But, even at the personal, point-scoring level, Barack Obama can open up a can of worms by going that route, since Freddie Mac at least never planted bombs in public places, like some of Obama's political allies."
The charismatic J.C. Watts was part of Gingrich's "Contract for America" team, a black Republican serving with him in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. In a recent interview about his endorsement, the former Oklahoma congressman said that when Gingrich was speaker, "We got tax relief. We got balanced budgets. We got ... job creation. We paid down our national debt. ... We haven't done that since he left. ... I think he is lot more seasoned person today than he was 15 years ago. I know him well. He is a personal friend."
So that takes care of that. Plus, I think we can be fairly sure that if any Obama-worshipping media type tries to play the race card, Gingrich will take him on, questioning the premise while making fun of any residual pro-Obama tingle down the leg.
Jon Huntsman can't be a racist; he proudly speaks Chinese, which is a language used primarily by another race. Why he spoke it during a presidential debate in New Hampshire, after being attacked by an independent ad as "The Manchurian Candidate," I can't imagine, but that's a separate issue. With two adopted Chinese daughters, he's clearly not a racist.
Rick Santorum got himself in trouble during the Iowa caucuses for stating, "I don't want to make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn money."
Predictably, NAACP President Benjamin Jealous called the comment "outrageous," and irrelevantly, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly noted that most of the people on welfare are white people.
This is where Santorum should have counter-noted that a larger percentage of black people than white people are on welfare, and so what? The point he was making applies to any race.
But instead he insisted he hadn't even said "black," but rather "blah." His defensiveness was not a good sign that he can handle future silly attacks from the NAACP during the presidential campaign.
Rick Perry: Can he live down a racist name that was painted on a rock 20 to 30 years ago on a property his parents owned?
Mitt Romney: Based on his response to a question about banning contraception, I'd trust he can handle the racist queries.
He has a very genuine way of dealing with a question that doesn't seem to make sense: He looks as incredulous as most of us would, were we asked our opinion of unicorns. He then refuses to validate the question by trying to answer it. I think this works.
In case you missed it during last Saturday's debate, George Stephanopoulos, knowing that Santorum is opposed to birth control, made it into a 10th Amendment issue by asking Romney if the states should be allowed to ban it.
Romney gave the questioner his "What-what?" look, and pointed out that no state anywhere has any interest in banning contraception.
This didn't stop Stephanopoulos from repeating the question and demanding an answer.
Mitt refused to discuss birth-control as a serious issue. Santorum clarified that while he thinks unnatural contraception is wrong, he wouldn't himself vote to ban it. (I'm sure many welfare mothers, both black and white, are relieved to hear this.) Huntsman noted humorously that, with seven children, birth control wasn't on his radar screen either. The other three candidates looked relieved that they hadn't been included in the discussion.
When I first moved to Massachusetts, the state didn't allow contraception for unmarried women. But that was longer ago than Rick Perry's racist rock, and the infuriating memory isn't the only reason I'm not supporting Rick Santorum.
Racism isn't on my radar screen either; I'm confident that none of the Republican candidates are racist. However, in 2008 there was an irritating assumption that anyone who didn't support Obama had no better reason than his race; this led to extraordinary media bias.
One way to show respect for what Martin Luther King accomplished is to move on during this important election, away from the name-calling of race-obsessed Democrats.
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Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation and a regular contributor to the opinion pages.