Democrats on Wednesday sharply criticized a Republican National Committee fundraising document that caricatured President Obama as the Joker, while Chairman Michael S. Steele sought to distance himself from it.
Also depicted were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), presented as Cruella de Vil and Scooby-Doo, respectively. The three Democratic leaders were gathered under the heading "The Evil Empire."
The cartoonish images were part of a 72-page PowerPoint presentation assembled for potential campaign donors and fundraisers. The document was obtained by Politico after being left at a Florida hotel where the Republicans had gathered Feb. 18.
The presentation also outlined how donors will be encouraged to give to Republicans at a time when the party holds neither the White House nor Congress: "Save the country from trending toward Socialism!"
It cites "fear" and "extreme negative feelings toward existing administration" as reasons why donors might contribute to the GOP.
Said Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse: "If you had any doubt, any doubt whatsoever, that the Republican Party has been taken over by the fear-mongering lunatic fringe, those doubts were erased today." He added, "Republicans across the country have cheered on crowds where these very images appeared."
Steele did not attend the presentation in Boca Grande, Fla., and had not been aware of the document, spokesman Doug Heye said. "Fundraising documents are often controversial. Obviously, the chairman disagrees with the language and finds the use of such imagery to be unacceptable," Heye said in a statement. "It will not be used by the Republican National Committee -- in any capacity -- in the future."
Raynard Jackson, a GOP activist who has worked to attract blacks and other minority members to the party, was outraged by word of the presentation.
"This is just beyond the pale," he said. "And the best we can get is Michael Steele issuing a statement through a spokesman? And they wonder why they can't get minorities, especially black people, involved in the party?"
Jonathan Chait reacts:
The Republican National Committee drew up a memo advising its top-fundraisers how to appeal to potential donors. Unfortunately for them, one member left a copy laying around a bar where a Democratic found it and leaked it to Politico.
Apparently, the party is under no illusions about what motivates its base:
The small donors who are the targets of direct marketing are described under the heading “Visceral Giving.” Their motivations are listed as “fear;” “Extreme negative feelings toward existing Administration;” and “Reactionary.”
Major donors, by contrast, are treated in a column headed “Calculated Giving.”
Their motivations include: “Peer to Peer Pressure”; “access”; and “Ego-Driven.”
So, let's see, you've got your paranoids, your reactionaries, your corrupt greedheads, your spineless cowards, and your all-around arrogant jerks. What, no category for "racists," "repressed self-hating gays," "the terminally heartless" and "philandering televangelists"? I thought they were going to hit every single Republican stereotype.