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Fear of a Black Debate

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (left), former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (center) and Sen. John McCain, along with former Sen. Fred Thompson, have indicated they will not attend a presidential forum organized by Tavis Smiley at Morgan State University in Baltimore. Darren McCollester/Getty Images hide caption

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Darren McCollester/Getty Images

When I write a post, my hope is to be pithy, or insightful or at the very least to take a sideways view of an otherwise warmed-over topic.

This time the Republican presidential candidates have got me beat.

I can think of no good, new or clever way to dissect what is, honestly, a dumb move on the part of the top-tier candidates — former Sen. Fred Thompson, Sen. John McCain, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. All are giving the go-by to the Sept. 27 All American Presidential Forum organized by Tavis Smiley at Morgan State University in Baltimore and airing on PBS.

This on top of all the Republican presidential candidates — save for McCain — putting the dodge on the Univision debate. Univision being the most-watched Hispanic television network in the United States.

It's not as if the Republicans have so much political capital they can afford to throw anyone a cold shoulder. They certainly can't run on the war. And polls show the electorate trusts the Democrats with national security more than Republicans. The scandals involving Sens. Larry Craig and David Vitter have taken family values off the table, along with the Republican candidates themselves and their multiple wives.

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So why ignore voters of color? The Washington Post quotes one anonymous source as saying the candidates are afraid if they show up at Morgan State "they're probably going to be booed."

Two things here. Thing one. Fear of a hostile reception: Isn't that logic the same slam the conservatives — and, uh, me from time to time — throw at the Dems for avoiding Fox News? If they can't stand a hot discussion, how are they going to stand up to other world leaders/dictators/terrorists?

Thing number two: A debate at Morgan State ain't Showtime at the Apollo! Do the candidates really think black folks are going to sit there and boo their asses all night? Sandman's ghost isn't going to sweep them off stage.

I remember going to the first Republican presidential debate this year, held just days after the 15th anniversary of the Rodney King riots, in Simi Valley, Calif. (where the jury acquitted the cops who beat King). It was held at the Reagan library — Ronald Reagan having infamously launched his 1980 presidential bid in Philadelphia, Miss., where civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman were murdered in 1964. About the only two minorities in the joint were me and — as a stretch — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. I remember at the time, looking at all those old white guys lined up like a string of pearls. They might be well meaning, but those guys on that day in that location... I sure got the feeling the party couldn't communicate with me less if they tried.

With this latest snub, they've proven me wrong.