Four years ago, when former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama, Rush Limbaugh led the charge, accusing Powell of only supporting the Democrat because of race.
In 2012, the same argument is being pushed by the national chairman of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.
John Sununu told CNN last night, "When you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to wonder whether that's an endorsement based on issues or whether he's got a slightly different reason for preferring President Obama?"
Asked what that other reason might be, the Republican added, "Well, I think when you have somebody of your own race that you are proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him."
First, I rather doubt Mitt Romney's campaign chairman "applauds" the fact that a respected national figure endorsed President Obama on national television.
But putting that aside, Sununu's comments help capture a narrow, ignorant worldview. From the Romney aide's perspective, if an accomplished American with a celebrated record of public service endorses a successful president, the logical explanation is to assume it's motivated by race. For Sununu, the tired "blacks stick together" caricature is easier than thinking.
A few hours after his CNN interview, Sununu -- or more likely, someone writing a press release for Sununu -- said in a statement he has "no doubt" that Powell's support for the president is based solely on "his support of the president's policies."
This is extremely hard to believe because, well, Sununu had just said the exact opposite. Given a chance to speak his mind, Romney's national campaign chairman, knowing the Powell question was coming and having 12 hours to think about it, immediately focused on race. A perfunctory press release in the middle of the night doesn't change that.
The question for Romney is why he allows such offensive figures to speak on his behalf to national audiences. The question for Sununu is whether every endorsement should be seen through a racial lens. Dick Cheney and Glenn Beck, for example, partnered for a pro-Romney event in Texas last night. Does Sununu assume they support Romney because they're white, or does he only apply this standard to African Americans?