Stay Classy, Doug Lamborn

UPDATE #3: Ernest Luning of the Colorado Statesman reports that Rep. Doug Lamborn has apologized in a formal letter to the President this evening.


UDPATE #2: Bet you’re dying to know what former FEMA Secretary Michael “Heckuva Job” Brown thinks of all this, aren’t you? Brownie Tweets his objection:

Now there’s the sensitivity that served Brownie so well in New Orleans. His comment reminds us of those from the old “Watermelon patch in the White House lawn” pictures in which some folks were equally, er, “confused” that someone would find it racist.


UPDATE: FOX 31’s Eli Stokols:

A spokesperson for Rep. Lamborn said the congressman was considering issuing a statement on the matter.

“Looking beyond the fact that Congressman Lamborn’s entire comment is nonsensical. His use of the term ‘tar baby’ is unfortunate because the historical connotation of that term when used in conjunction with African-Americans,” said former Colo. Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll, an African-American.

“I certainly hope the Congressman simply failed to carefully consider his word choice as opposed to making some racially derogatory remark toward the President.”


Courtesy radio host David Sirota, here’s Colorado Rep. Doug Lamborn on the Caplis and Silverman Show Friday discussing his reluctance to go along with any debt-ceiling deal that might be in some manner agreeable to President Barack Obama.

Can’t see the audio player? Click here.

LAMBORN: Even if some people say ‘well, the Republicans should have done this, or should have done that,’ they will hold the President responsible. Now, I don’t even want to be associated with him, it’s like touching a, a tar baby [Pols emphasis] and you get it…you know you’re stuck and you’re part of the problem and you can’t get away.

Note the personal nature of Lamborn’s “tar baby”–not the policy, mind you. Rep. Lamborn doesn’t want to touch the “tar baby” of President Obama personally.

Folks, we know the phrase “tar baby” has its origins in an old African-American children’s story. We also know that smart politicians stopped using this phrase after Mitt Romney apologized for doing so in 2006, or well before. We’ll go one step further and say that most smart politicians in office since the 1950s have probably never used this phrase in their public career–knowing how it can be interpreted, as it has been countless times, as highly racially insensitive.

And we have to say, that was before we elected the first African-American President.

In 1981, author Toni Morrison published a novel titled “Tar Baby,” and she has compared the expression to other racial epithets. She says it’s a term that white people used to refer to black children, especially black girls.

Reached at her home near Princeton University, where she teaches, Morrison called the expression “antiquated” and one that’s “attractive to some people, when they begin to search for hints of racism.” [Pols emphasis]

100 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. ArapaGOP says:

    He is obviously referring to the political difficulty of being associated with the President’s policies. This is ridiculous hypersensitive whining.

    I should have known that the race card was coming over the debt ceiling. Right on cue, Pols!

    • Half Glass Full says:

      “I don’t even want to be associated with (Obama), it’s like touching a tar baby.”

      You really see nothing wrong with that comment by Lamborn? It’s 2011. Get a clue.  

      • ArapaGOP says:

        The Tar-Baby is a doll made of tar and turpentine used to entrap Br’er Rabbit in the second of the Uncle Remus stories. The more that Br’er Rabbit fights the Tar-Baby, the more entangled he becomes. In modern usage, “tar baby” refers to any “sticky situation” that is only aggravated by additional contact. The tar baby is a trap that should be avoided.

        This is race card nonsense.

      • nancycronk says:

        I’ve never heard his definition of a “tar baby”. I would be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he mis-spoke, but there are some words people learn you cannot ever use, just in case they may offend someone who misinterprets them. These two words are like that. Lamborn should know better. The other fact that makes this story more troubling is the backdrop of the tea-party controlled GOP and its consistently racist actions. If this were an isolated incident, Coloradans would be more likely to excuse it. Sadly, it has become par for the course.  

    • TobiasFunke says:

      save your whining for Lamborn for giving the ammo in the first place. ColoradoPols isn’t the one calling people — not policies, people — “tar babies.”  

    • Diogenesdemar says:

      Lamborn (which is a term synonymous with idiot), I’m giving him a pass (which means I’m uuuuughhh, agreeing with ArapaGOP).

      I’ve used this term myself to describe something I wanted to avoid being stuck with, without any racial context whatsoever.  (Maybe we should be thankful that Lamborn didn’t also say that he “didn’t want that monkey on his back.”)

      I think it’s important to always try to avoid even commonly used terms that have some long lost racial derivational component, especially whenever the situation could become conflated as being racial on insensitive..

      So, Lamborn’s reasoning is lame, and his sensitivity is lacking, . . . what’s new?

      • nancycronk says:

        I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, and have been roundly thrashed for it here at times(Rick Strandlof, and more than one CO legislator after a controversial vote). Anyone over 25 knows the words “tar baby” are racist, even if they don’t know why. Even if someone has  never heard the term, the literal meaning sounds racist. If you or others have used the term in a completely appropriate manner (as a literary reference), I’m sure you had the common sense not to use it when referring to someone of color. Yes?

        • sxp151 says:

          Lamborn wasn’t referring to Obama as a person, he was referring to Obama’s policies. Especially the black ones.

        • Diogenesdemar says:

          Having passed twenty-five a couple of times now, I agree that the term has a disputed etemology and connotations that can easily be misconstrued (assuming, or giving the benefit of the doubt, that that wasn’t the actual intent of the speaker, i.e., to be racially offensive).

          That’s why I wrote:  “I think it’s important to always try to avoid even commonly used terms that have some long lost racial derivational component, especially whenever the situation could become conflated as being racial [or] insensitive.”

          On this issue, surprisingly, I think you and I are in the high-90 percentile of agreement for once.  (I don’t know how it is possible that I think I’m sort of agreeing with ArapaGOP . . . and you, both at the same time.  It’s been a very confusing couple of weeks . . . )

          It was a stupid, insensitive comment, however, I’m not capable of weighing the speaker’s intent.  “Pass,” on the condemnation for (overt) racism.  “Fail,” on the idiot’s logic and sensitivity.

          But, I also know that it hasn’t been more than a month that I used that term, in discussing with my wife my refusal to want to get in the middle of a dispute she was having with our daughter.  And, the three parties — I, my wife, and my daughter — are all as pale, dull, lifeless, and uninteresting as bleached rice.*  I’m never totally certain, but I think I’m pretty sure I wasn’t trying to make some subliminal suggestion disparaging any of our lineages.  And, I’m also about as considerate and sensitive a guy as anyone’s likely ever to meet. ;~)

          (*My apologies in advance to the rice lobby, — it’s just an expression.)

      • Barron X says:


        I thought it referred to drug addiction.


        • sxp151 says:

          Every time my new Republican friends and I sit around griping about the President, we call him a tar-baby monkey, and we’re referring to the difficulty he has quitting smoking.

    • Old Time Dem says:

      to know that a tar baby is a trope found in African folktales filtered through the popularizations of Joel Chandler Harris, then one ought to be cultured and educated enough to recognize that using the term is fraught with racial overtones, and that perhaps one should avoid using the term in reference to an actual black person.

      Or maybe Lamborn is just a racist fuckwad.

  2. BlueCat says:

    in reference to the first President of color could possibly be considered a racial slur or offensive in any way.  Just ask elbee. Anybody who even suggests that this term could possibly offend people of color is just completely out of line! The nerve! Shame on Coloradopols.  Shame, I say.  

    There. Now I’ve saved elbee the trouble  

  3. WitnessProtectionForGeeks says:

    1.  Q. Is the term racist? A. Yes.  

    2.  Q. Has it always been? A. No, but it has been connected to race for long enough.  Unlike terms like Negro or Colored it was always intended as a pejorative.  

    3. Q. Did Lamborn intend to be racist? A. probably not.  But…

    4. Q. Even if it isn’t racist is it appropriate to apply to a person?  A. No especially when combined with the imagery of not wanting to “touch” the president, it still smacks pretty ugly.

    5. Q. Does this shit matter? A. Absolutely not.  

  4. Bondo says:

    I remember the brief outcry when John Kerry made a similar statement a few years back. I think most people could recognize that Kerry was using it in the fable sense and not in any racist context and I see no reason to interpret Lamborn’s usage any differently. This is political opportunism pure and simple. How about we make a fuss about Lamborn’s terrible policy ideas instead.

  5. cdsmith says:

    Lamborn only meant to come up with a nasty sounding personal slur toward the president.  He almost surely didn’t choose a racist slur on purpose, and probably wishes — after the fact — he hadn’t pick one with racist undertones.

    But as everyone eventually learns (most people learn it somewhere around puberty, but some much later in life) when you toss out ugly slurs on a regular basis, you’re bound to associate yourself with other ugly parts of human nature, too.

    • Middle of the Road says:

      I guess you’re voting for Option A.

      Option A: Lamborn is a moronic fuckwad that hasn’t read a book in his entire lifetime, thereby exempting him from knowing this is a term that has been used extensively as a racist slur towards African Americans.

    • sxp151 says:

      So I don’t know why your liberal panties are all twisted.

      • BlueCat says:

        I once heard him going on about how the names in WWII were names like Miller, Murphy, O’Toole etc., etc., not Jewish names. True, Jewish names were in the minority but that’s because American Jews during WWII were a tiny minority.  Still are.  Even so, my dad, his two brothers (all three of my paternal grandparent’s children) and every family friend in that age group except those in vital civilian capacities, did serve in the military. We were very well represented in proportion to out numbers, as Pat would know if not for the fact that he’s a racist, a bigot and an anti-Semite.  Of course he thinks it’s fine. And even he had to laugh at the idea that those butterfly ballot confused Jewish Florida seniors voted for the likes of him on purpose in 2000.  He found it hilarious. The distraught seniors, not so much.

  6. Gray in the mountains says:

    He’s not as cagey as Cory.

  7. PERA hopeful says:

    I read the Uncle Remus stories many decades ago when I was a child, and I enjoyed them. They were, IIRC, fables pitting various animals against each other; some animals were surrogates for the slaves, others for the masters, and the slave characters always put one over on the master characters.  So, in the tar baby story, B’rer Fox was trying to trap B’rer Rabbit, but B’rer Rabbit ultimately wound up tricking B’rer Fox into releasing him from the trap.

    So, as far as that goes, it’s pretty benign.  However, I remember the illustration in the Uncle Remus book we had a half-century ago, and the tar baby looked just like illustrations of “pickaninnies.”  So yeah, that’s pretty darn racist.

    My conclusion: Lamborn is an idiotic, most likely racist fuckwad.

    And while we’re on the subject of something that may have started out benign, but needs to be avoided: Do you remember the big flap some years ago when a black official took offense when someone used the word “niggardly”?  There’s a word that is completely benign, but you’d have to be an idiotic fuckwad to use it, esp. when there are so many synonyms that are not likely to be misunderstood.

  8. Sir Robin says:

    I accredit it to some forgotten native american, but ain’t too sure.

  9. gaf says:

    it is was a deliberate personal insult to the President. Lamborn did not want to be associated with “him”–the person. It is junior high (well, more like elementary school) disrespect, unworthy of a Congressman even if he had chosen a different term than “tar baby,” and he would have still owed the President an apology. Lamborn’s interest is obviously not policy but politics and personalities.

    But, just for the record, “tar baby”–that’s racist.

  10. bjwilson83 says:

    The Vice President of the United States called me a terrorist, and you’re more concerned about Lamborn calling a situtation a tar baby?

    • RedGreen says:

      Biden was talking about the influential Tea Partiers. Still, since you seem to think you are one, do you prefer “hostage-takers” or “extortionists”? Would those offend you less?

      • bjwilson83 says:

        Lunatic-restrainer would be more accurate, but it just doesn’t have the same ring to it. But speaking of taking hostages – just who is seeking to extort money out of taxpayers? I think the more appropriate analogy is that Obama and the Dems took the American people hostage when he passed the “stimulus”. Heck, what have they been doing the last week but demanding higher taxes?

    • gaf says:

      is a lie. Lamborn said,

      I don’t even want to be associated with him…

      “him”–that is, the President. Not “a situation,” not a policy. Him. The President. Trying to make it something other than a personal attack is a lie.

      • sxp151 says:

        which he associated to “The Situation” from the Jersey Shore, whose abdomen reminded him of Obama’s, and which he therefore (purely by accident) referred to as “him.”

        But to say Lamborn was talking about any particular individual is totally racist on the part of you.

        • RedGreen says:

          If Lamborn is prejudiced against Jerseyites, that’s a whole other barrel of monkeys. But he’s not. When Lamborn says that touching the president is like touching a sticky black character out of folklore, you’ve got to remember how hot it’s been in Washington this summer. Everyone’s sticky.

          • sxp151 says:

            The fact that you had to bring it up is evidence of your double reverse racism. Times nine!

            Besides, “Jerseyites” is a vicious slur, especially after years of trying to get Midwesterners to say “Jerseyans.” Pols, please ban RedGreen.

      • Aristotle says:

        so he runs away rather than admit he was wrong.

        Damn, I was hoping he had found some other sandbox to play in.

        • bjwilson83 says:

          when you respond as to why the Vice President of the United States is allowed to call the people he is supposed to be leading terrorists. Especially when his good buddy Barack Obama launched his campaign in the home of a real terrorist, Bill Ayers.

          • Aristotle says:

            so it isn’t logical to demand such an answer.

            Why are righties so unable to focus on the topic at hand? Or is that just cover for their inability to answer pertinent questions or admit when they’ve made an error? An error everyone knows they made? Hey emperor, those are some nice new clothes, aren’t they?*

            * Don’t forget to give me a tip of the hat when you swipe this one, beej.

    • Diogenesdemar says:

      being found in agreement with ArapaGOP . . . on one thing, . . . once a month or so, . . . maybe . . . but, I’m sure as hell not going to be pinned with agreeing with you on anything, ever.

      Lamborn’s a total asshole, racist to his racist core.  How could I have been so blind?  I completely overlooked his KKK membership . . .

      (But, you’re right to make note of our VP finally making a comment that is 100% gaff free certified fact . . . that’s newsworthy . . . about your lineage.  Yep, once again, drop everything else — the Beej has been victimized.)

    • nancycronk says:

      Biden himself did not call the Tea Partiers terrorists (but, oh, how I wish he did). He merely agreed when someone else said that.

  11. bjwilson83 says:

    I think they would have an easier time getting elected within the Republican Party. They can marshal considerable forces in primaries.

  12. bjwilson83 says:

    “On July 3, 2006, the Denver Post’s center-left columnist Bob Ewegen wrote, “Mighty clever fox, that Brer Owens seems to be. First, he appears to sucker Brer Romanoff into tangling with that political tar baby, ‘immigration.'” ”


    Stay classy, Bob.

    • gaf says:

      You claimed (lied that) Lamborn was referring to “a situation” when he was clearly referring to a person–the President. But now you try to make an equivalency with Ewegen when Ewegen clearly was referring to “a situation” rather than a person. That is a hypocritical double standard.

      • bjwilson83 says:

        It is perfectly consistent. Both cases referred to a situation, not a person. I have no problem with what Bob said. What is hypocritical is Pols jumping all over Lamborn for the exact same thing that the leftist media has said.

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