Kansas pol seeks one 'great white hope.' Experience necessary.

Orlin Wagner/AP
In this Saturday, Sept. 20, 2008 file photo, Lynn Jenkins talks with voters in Valley Falls, Kan. US Rep. Jenkins told a Aug. 19, 2009 forum in northeast Kansas that the Republican Party is looking for a "great white hope" to help stop the political agenda of the Democratic party and President Barack Obama.

Update: Jenkins says she didn't understand the origin of the phrase 'great white hope.'

Again with the collapse of the internal filtering mechanism.

This summer, it was Glenn Beck, telling the world that the President of the United States is a committed racist. (Although Beck has stood by the statement, so maybe we shouldn't cast aspersions on the quality of his internal filtering mechanisms.) Then there was the time that Virginia Senator George Allen called a man on Indian descent in the crowd a macaca – which, as the Washington Post points out, "could mean either a monkey that inhabits the Eastern Hemisphere or a town in South Africa."

And because we're in a bipartisan spirit, there was Vice President Joe Biden, describing his then-opponent Barack Obama in 2007. "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy," Biden said. "I mean, that's a storybook, man." Storybook, indeed.

The latest blunder comes courtesy of US Rep. Lynn Jenkins, who represents Kansas's 2nd District. According to a bio posted on her site, Jenkins, a Republican, grew up on a farm, where she "learned the values of hard work, keeping your word, and the importance of serving your community." But Jenkins, like many of her fellow GOP members, is incensed about the new healthcare reform bill supported by the White House.

She's also incensed that Democrats have taken control of the House and Senate. She's praying for a challenger. Someone who can assume the mantle of the right. Someone who holds dear traditional conservative values. And someone, apparently, who is Caucasian. Today, the Associated Press reported that Jenkins told attendees of a Kansas rally that the Republican Party was in need of a "great white hope."

Once the media got a hold of the story Jenkins quickly began to backpedal. Through a spokeswoman, Mary Geiger, Jenkins apologized for her word choice and said she did not intend to offend anyone. The White House has not yet weighed in. It's possible, of course, that Jenkins didn't understand that "great white hope" is an extremely loaded term.

It was first employed near the beginning of the 20th century, when boxing promoters cast about frantically for a white fighter who could challenge Jack Johnson. Johnson, a black man, was the target of a vicious racist campaign, and in 1912, he was twice arrested for transporting white women "across state lines for immoral purposes."

The charges were trumped-up nonsense, but Johnson was convicted. This year, John McCain sponsored a bill in the Senate urging the President to posthumously pardon Johnson. The bill passed. "The Great White Hope" was also a popular stage play and a movie -- trailer below -- which starred James Earl Jones.

No word on whether Jenkins caught the flick.

Update, via the AP: At an event at University of Kansas in Lawrence, Jenkins denied she was speaking in racial terms and said she meant only that the GOP needs "a bright light."

Update, part two: Jenkins says she didn't understand the origin of the phrase 'great white hope.'

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