GOP REP: BLACKS BETTER OFF UNDER SLAVERY…. Rep. Trent Franks (R) of Arizona has long been one of Congress’s most embarrassing members. But this week, the right-wing lawmaker may have reached a new depth.

Franks was speaking with blogger Mike Stark about civility and the public discourse. Unprompted, the congressman started reflecting on the African-American community, and his belief that African Americans may have been better off under slavery than in a legal system that allows legal abortions.

“[I]n this country, we had slavery for God knows how long. And now we look back on it and we say ‘How brave were they? What was the matter with them? You know, I can’t believe, you know, four million slaves. This is incredible.’ And we’re right, we’re right. We should look back on that with criticism. It is a crushing mark on America’s soul.

“And yet today, half of all black children are aborted. Half of all black children are aborted. Far more of the African American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by the policies of slavery.”

Franks added that he can sometimes say things that are “intemperate,” but added, “I don’t want to hide from the truth.”

Let’s consider this the latest in a long line of setbacks for the Republican Party’s outreach to minority voters.

As far as the substance of the claim is concerned, Franks significantly exaggerated the rate at which black women terminate their pregnancies. But substance aside, hearing a Republican lawmaker argue, out loud, on camera, in the 21st century, that today’s policies are worse for African Americans than the policies of slavery is just mind-numbing.

If Franks’s name seems familiar, he’s the same right-wing lawmaker who recently described President Obama as an “enemy of humanity,” who “acts un-American,” and “doesn’t want people to see” his birth certificate.

In October, relying on a strange book published by a fringe website, Franks also asked the House Sergeant at Arms to start looking for Muslim “spies” on congressional committees.

A spokesperson for the DCCC responded yesterday, “To compare the horrors and inhumane treatment of millions of African Americans during slavery as a better way of life for African Americans today is beyond repulsive. In 2010, during the second year of our first African American President, it is astonishing that a thought such as this would come to mind, let alone be shared.”

I do wonder, though, what kind of leadership post Trent Franks would get if House Republicans reclaim the majority next year.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.