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What were two Republicans thinking, calling Obama 'tar baby' and 'boy'?

Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado and commentator Pat Buchanan, a former candidate for president, both apologized Wednesday for using racially charged terms to refer to Obama.

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Rep. Doug Lamborn (R) of Colorado, recently used a racially charged phrase on a Denver radio talk show.

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The specter of two national Republican figures apologizing for calling President Obama, the first African-American president, alternately a "tar baby" and "boy" gave new fuel to speculation on the left that underneath much of the criticism of the president and his policies lurks the shadow of racism.

Last week, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R) of Colorado, on a Denver talk radio show, said, “Even if some people say, ‘Well, the Republicans should have done this or they should have done that,’ they will hold the president responsible. Now, I don’t even want to have to be associated with him. It’s like touching a tar baby and you get it, you’re stuck, and you’re a part of the problem now and you can’t get away.”

The term tar baby comes from the 19th-century Uncle Remus stories, where B'rer Fox uses a doll made of a lump of tar to trap B'rer Rabbit, who gets more stuck the more he pummels and kicks the tar baby. In more recent parlance, tar baby is widely considered racial slur.

Other Republicans, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, have in recent years apologized for using the phrase "tar baby," although in reference to various government policies and projects, not a black man.

And then Tuesday night, former GOP presidential candidate and MSNBC contributor Pat Buchanan, in a tête-à-tête with the Rev. Al Sharpton, referred to Mr. Obama as "your boy." “My what?” the Rev. Mr. Sharpton shot back. “My president, Barack Obama? What did you say?”

Mr. Buchanan hinted that he was using a boxing analogy, replying that the president was "your boy in the ring."

Representative Lamborn, who apologized to Obama in a letter, said in a separate statement Wednesday that he shouldn't have used a term "that some find insensitive" and that he meant to criticize presidential policies that have "created an economic quagmire for the nation, and [which] are responsible for the dismal economic conditions our country faces."

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