If the way Sen. John McCain is running his presidential campaign in Greater Cincinnati is any indication, maybe it's a good thing that he's trailing Barack Obama in nearly every recent national poll.
McCain's judgment is under scrutiny again after he appointed Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters as his campaign's southwest Ohio regional chairman despite a record of questionable actions.
Deters is the former Ohio treasurer who left that position when his office was investigated for a campaign contribution scandal that resulted in misdemeanor convictions for two staffers. With the heat on in Columbus, Joltin' Joe quickly returned to the Queen City in 2005 and resumed his old job as prosecutor.
That might be enough to give prudent candidates pause about Deters, but his sordid accomplishments don't stop there.
Deters was the person who arranged for local radio talk show host Bill Cunningham to introduce McCain at a GOP rally here in February that caused the Senator a great deal of national embarrassment.
During his intro, Cunningham referred to Obama twice by his full name, Barack Hussein Obama, in an obvious and lame attempt to play into fears that the candidate is a secret Muslim. Never one for subtlety, Cunningham also called Obama a "hack Chicago-style Daley politician" and implied he was involved in shady, possibly criminal deals back in the Windy City.
As the national media pounced, a red-faced McCain quickly repudiated Cunningham's comments and offered an apology, stating Willie's remarks didn't reflect his own views.
But McCain still gave Deters the campaign post.
Most would think a grateful Deters would show some discretion. Not so.
Jim Schifrin — who calls himself "Charles Foster Kane" and is author of The Whistleblower, a gossipy Web-based newsletter — bragged in his July 16 edition about having lunch with his old pal, Deters, in Newport, where they allegedly joked about Obama's speech before the NAACP national convention.
"Best of all, Deters and Kane were eating like the natives at an Ebonics-free restaurant where, unlike at eateries in downtown Cincinnati this week, the giving of gratuities for restaurant service was still being practiced," Schifrin wrote. "The best joke at lunch was: Obama lost a lot of points with colored people at his speech Monday night when he promised them all jobs."
For good measure, Schifrin included a joke about Obama being assassinated.
That's when a group of local activists, led by blogger Jason Haap on his Cincinnati Beacon Web site, decided to hold Deters and McCain accountable. Haap approached Deters on Fountain Square July 17, while Deters was watching McCain's speech to the NAACP.
In a confrontation caught on videotape, Deters said his friendship with Schifrin was "his personal life." When asked if he repudiated Schifrin's racist diatribes, Deters replied, "Get that camera out of my face."
Schifrin's latest comments aren't an isolated incident. In the past, he's called Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory a "gay darkie" and called Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Rosa Blackwell "mammy" and "Mrs. Buckwheat." Presumably, "Buckwheat" refers to Mrs. Blackwell's husband, Ken Blackwell, the former Ohio Secretary of State.
Only Deters can answer whether he supports such divisive, racist rhetoric. Regardless, McCain's constant reliance on a loose cannon like Deters shows poor judgment on the Senator's part.
Republicans have touted how they want to reach out to black voters and expand their base. If this is an example of those efforts, however, many African Americans might feel better off staying away.
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