RNC chairman Reince Priebus, invoking the legacy of abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass, asked a question at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans that many prominent Republicans have asked in recent years: Why does the party of Abraham Lincoln not get more credit as the party of tolerance? "We're the party of freedom and we're the party of opportunity and we're the party of equality, we're the ones with that history," Priebus said in his speech Thursday. "It's the other side that has a shameful history, but you wouldn't know it because we don't talk about it."
The Republican Leadership Conference wrapped up its three-day gathering over the weekend, offering attendees all kinds of speeches and presentations from notable party leaders and personalities.
But as Benjy Sarlin noted, the head of the Republican National Committee seems to have approached the event with some questions on his mind.
Let's go ahead and skip the history lesson in which we remind the right that white segregationists transitioned from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party in the middle of the 20th century.
Instead, let's consider the speakers who followed Priebus at this year's Republican Leadership Conference:
* Reality-television personality Phil Robertson spoke at the event, despite his recent defense of life for African Americans in the South during segregation. "I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person," Robertson said in an article published earlier this year. "Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I'm with the blacks, because we're white trash. We're going across the field ... They're singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, 'I tell you what: These doggone white people' -- not a word! ... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues."
* Reality-television personality Donald Trump also spoke at the event, defending his birther crusade. "I think a lot of people love me for it," he told the Republican Leadership Conference over the weekend. "I got [President Obama] to produce his so-called birth certificate, or whatever it is."
* Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) was a featured guest, despite his history of anti-immigrant rhetoric.
* Dinesh D'Souza was there, despite his racially charged "anti-colonialist" thesis involving the president.
* Sarah Palin was also there, despite her "shuck and jive" condemnations of the president.
Priebus wants his party to get more credit as the party of tolerance? Even if he didn't stick around for the whole Republican Leadership Conference, couldn't he at least look at the guest list?