You think I'm paraphrasing. I'm not:
U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins offered encouragement to conservatives at a town hall forum that the Republican Party would embrace a "great white hope" capable of thwarting the political agenda endorsed by Democrats who control Congress and President Barack Obama.
Jenkins, a Topeka Republican in her first term in Congress, shared thoughts about the GOP's political future during an Aug. 19 forum at Fisher Community Center in the northeast Kansas community of Hiawatha.
In response to inquiries by The Topeka Capital-Journal, a Jenkins spokeswoman said Wednesday the congresswoman wanted to apologize for her word choice and to emphasize she had no intention of expressing herself in an offensive manner.
Jenkins told people at the Hiawatha forum the nation could benefit from inspired leadership of a group of "really sharp" young Republicans in the House, particularly Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va. Cantor was mentioned as a possible GOP vice presidential candidate in 2008 and is thought to be interested in seeking the Republican nomination for president in 2012.
"Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope," Jenkins said to the crowd. "I suggest to any of you who are concerned about that, who are Republican, there are some great young Republican minds in Washington."
Matt, who's owed a hat-tip, offers some sympathy:
Now to be fair, there are virtually no non-white Republican members of congress, so in suggesting that the party's future hopes rest essentially on white talent Jenkins was arguably just stating the obvious. Joseph Cao has basically no chance of being re-elected, and that leaves the GOP with white people and the South Florida troika of Ros-Lehtinen and the Diaz-Balart brothers, none of whom are really going places.
Sarcasm aside, again, the problem is that Jenkins hails from a party that has, historically, scorned talk of "diversity," believes political correctness has run amok, and thinks that the worst discrimination happens to white people. When you don't practice talking to people who aren't like you, you tend to not be very good at it. This didn't mean much twenty or thirty years ago--Who cares about a few Negroes in Harlem or Atlanta?--but the country is changing. The GOP, as we all know, isn't changing with it.
I can imagine some defense of the phrase "great white hope," as a kind of generic tag. But any politicians whose spent a portion of their career talking to black people, who knows the racist history of the phrase, or has some inkling of what it means to have a first black president, would know that invoking the phrase is a bad idea.
All of that said, it's worth noting that Rep. Jenkins apologized for her words--as opposed to apologizing "if anyone was offended by her words." It's a shame that we have to give people points for that.