The revelation that Rick Perry had a hunting camp on some Texas property once called "Niggerhead"--and that he might not have painted over the a rock bearing the name for years, maybe decades--will cost him more with the Republican party's elites than it will with its voters. Among Perry's rivals for the presidential nomination, so far only Herman Cain has commented on the name: "For him to leave it there as long as he did, until before, I hear, they finally painted over it, is just plain insensitive to a lot of black people in this country," Cain said on Fox News Sunday, according to The Washington Post. The other candidates haven't commented, even though it's a juicy revelation less than 100 days before the Iowa caucuses. The closest the other campaigns seem to have come is when Saul Anuzis, who's on the Republican National Committee and has endorsed Mitt Romney, told Politico's Reid J. Epstein that the story was "embarrassing" but that "any 'cover up' is potentially more dangerous politically than the fact the camp had an offensive name at some time in the past." And as the Los Angeles Times' Robin Abcarian reports that over the weekend, voters in New Hampshire--northerners less likely to give Perry a pass because "things are different in the South"--were far more fixated on Perry's position on illegal immigration.
Yet no matter which side of this dispute you choose to believe, it looks bad. Even if one takes Perry at his word about his actions, his family’s association with a relic of his state's history of racism ought to leave everyone with a bad taste even in their mouths. Considering that he is running for the chance to unseat the country’s first African-American president, the story is an appalling distraction from the issues that can only serve to aid an otherwise faltering Obama re-election campaign.