“Regrets” that should not be regretted

I’d like to commend the leading Republican presidential candidates for sending their “regrets” to the organizers of last night’s debate at Morgan State University, which focused on African-American voters and their concerns. Not that any of the candidates want credit for skipping the event. Indeed, I believe they all deny that they skipped it, claiming prior commitments and scheduling conflicts. I have no reason to doubt the good faith of these claims. Still, they sound suspiciously like “I had better things to do.”
They did. The African-American vote is not available to Republicans this year in more than de minimis numbers. That will probably change one day, but showing up at this event would not have hastened that day.
A better reason for showing up would simply be to show respect for the African-American community. Considering the size and importance of that community, not to mention its historical mistreatment in this country, the respect factor would normally represent a sufficient reason to appear. But respect can’t be a street with only one way traffic. And unfortunately, the moderator of this event, Tavis Smiley, has failed to show Republicans and conservatives the minimum respect needed to justify a wasted night in Baltimore (too bad Guy Smiley wasn’t available).
As Matthew Sheffield at Newsbusters shows, Smiley has a long history of making offensive remarks about Republicans. For example, Smiley once said he considered then-Texas-governor George W. Bush to be a “serial killer” for his enforcement of state capital punishment laws. Tim Graham has more on Smiley’s anti-Republican bias, which he contrasts with Smiley’s fondness for lobbing softball at Democrats.
The debate organizers were free, of course, to select the Bush-hating leftist of their choice to moderate the debate. But Republican candidates should have felt similarly free not to show up.
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