Republican Watts Calls GOP Front Runners’ No Show Decision On Minority Debate “Stupid”
The n.s. has hit the fan in the Republican Party.
“N.S.” stands for no shows, the GOP’s top, leading candidates who insisted they just could not squeeze in the time to participate in a debate focusing on minority issues. Of course, it’s merely a coincidence that it just happened that none of the four big front-runners showed up.
And former Rep. J.C. Watts, a charismatic African-American whom Republican Party bigwigs pointed to for years as proof that the Republican tent was a big tent and not really a pup tent, minced no words — in words that seem both blunt and a bad omen for the Republican Party in the long run:
A former member of the House Republican congressional leadership — and the last African-American to serve as a member of the GOP in Congress — harshly criticized Tuesday the decision of the Republican presidential front-runners to not attend a debate focused on minority issues.
“I think the best that comes out of stupid decisions like this,” said former Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts, is “that African-Americans might say, ‘Was it because of my skin color?’ Now, maybe it wasn’t, but African-Americans do say, ‘It crossed my mind.’”
Watts is basically saying what many Americans and pundits — and Republicans — have said: the the decision to snub en masse a forum where key Republicans could have shown that they are not virtually writing-off minority voters is seemingly beyond belief for a party that seems to be on the political ropes. And coming from Watts, who is highly respected by the media and one of the most visible “talking heads” on television and cable shows, there is likely to be long term damage to the perception of the Republican Party among minority voters.
But it is NOT just Watts who has blasted the front-runners’ move that seems indicative of candidates who may not be front runners in a general election:
The invitations were extended in March, but the front-runners have claimed scheduling conflicts. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who’s weighing getting into the race, called that excuse “baloney” and called the no-shows “fundamentally wrong.” On “Good Morning America” today, Gingrich said GOP candidates are making a mistake because “African-Americans have been hurt more by the failures of government” than any other group.
Watts pointed out that some of the candidates with more liberal histories on issues such as guns and abortion have reached out to conservative groups that don’t share their views.
Indeed: those love-fests have been dutifully covered by news organizations and weblogs.
Watts was the former chairman of the House GOP caucus, and served in Congress from 1995 until 2003.
“You kind of scratch your head thinking why are they making decisions like that?” Watts said. He speculated the candidates don’t have any African-American staffers who “could say to them, ‘You’re making a huge mistake strategically by not at least reaching out and talking to this demographic.’”
The problem: by the time these candidates decide to do something about it, it will likely be too late.
The larger issue is this: The GOP seems have have written off Latino voters (the candidates avoided the debate on a Spanish television network as well) and gay voters and is losing independent voter support. And GOP party registration is down at a time when young people show signs of turning more to the Democrats.
So, as they seemingly make a point to alienate not just black Democrats but a key black Republican who has been a party role model as well as a news media “star,” what groups do these candidates have that will REPLACE the many groups they are alienating?
Will the support of William Kristol, Rush Limbaugh,Sean Hannity and their readers/listeners be enough?
READ conservative blogger Ed Morrissey in full. Here’s part of what he writes:
Let’s set aside the historical reviews and look at the present political situation. It should disturb Republicans that Watts is the last African-American member of the GOP in Congress, or rather was. He retired years ago, and Republicans have offered few candidates in his footsteps. Michael Steele ran a good campaign for the Senate but came up short in a tough year for Republicans, and Alan Keyes ran a ridiculous carpetbagging campaign against Barack Obama.
We have scolded the African-American community for its lock-step support for Democrats. However, as the avoidance of this debate demonstrates, Republicans haven’t exactly beaten down doors in an attempt to engage these voters, either. Given that these invitations went out in March, the campaigns had plenty of time to schedule one debate to address one of the largest voting blocs in the country, and one whose loyalties could help the GOP turn national elections.
There’s more, then he writes this:
I don’t think that the refusal to attend the PBS debate has to do with inherent racism, but rather a sense that no short-term benefit will arise from engaging blacks during the Republican primaries. It’s an unfortunate calculation. We have messages of empowerment through free enterprise and market-based solutions for education that could resonate, if only our leadership would engage African-American voters early and often. It may not help elect a Republican president in 2008, but it could generate enough interest to replace J.C. Watts as our only black Congressman within ten years of his retirement.
Read it all.