STILL WAITING FOR THE RNC’S APOLOGY…. Democrats have begun to call it “Fear-Gate,” and the Republican National Committee has found itself on the defensive.

National Republican leaders scrambled Thursday to control damage caused by an internal party document that caricatures President Obama as the Joker and stokes fear of socialism to raise money in a critical election year.

The 72-page PowerPoint presentation reveals the blunt appeal to emotion that both parties use to motivate donors and prefer to keep private. But its release online and consequent cable chatter became an unwelcome distraction for Republicans, because the strategy it outlined fit squarely with Democrats’ portrait of the GOP as the party of “no.”

“You don’t defend it,” Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele said Thursday in an interview on Fox News. “It was unfortunate. Those were images that were uploaded off the Internet. They’ve been out in the public domain for a while. A staffer was putting together a presentation for a small group of nine or 10 folks and thought they would intersperse their presentation with humorous shots. They’re inappropriate.”

This is, of course, a two-pronged problem for the Republicans. First, there are the party’s donors, characterized by the Republican strategy as easily-manipulated dupes. The RNC’s fundraising has already struggled of late, and this won’t help.

Second, there’s the party’s message in the presentation — fear, name-calling, extremist rhetoric, and fringe caricatures. Jonathan Capehart noted, “[N]owhere in those 72 pages is there a blueprint for how the GOP will go after the Democrats on policy or ideas. The American people are looking for answers to some very serious problems they and the nation are facing. If this is the best the RNC can do it might as well hand out DC Comics at its next ‘leadership’ gathering.”

Republican leaders, not surprisingly, are going out of their way to distance themselves from the controversial slideshow. Sen. John Thune (S.D.), a member of the Republican leadership, said: “There is no place for this.” Tom Rath, a former RNC member from Concord, N.H., said, “We’re not going to win the election by drawing those kinds of comparisons.”

And in an email to donors and party operatives, RNC Communications Director Doug Heye said the presentation “features some unfortunate language and images.”

That’s all very nice, but I can’t help but notice that the party hasn’t apologized, hasn’t held anyone accountable for the presentation, and hasn’t actually fired anyone.

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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.