My mother taught me to respect my elders. But after hearing what John Sununu said about Gen. Colin Powell’s endorsement of President Obama, I have to let ’er rip. Sununu is a race-baiting buffoon.

CNN’s Piers Morgan asked the cantankerous surrogate for Republican nominee Mitt Romney what he thought about the former secretary of state’s endorsement and whether he should leave the Republican Party because of it. Here’s what he said.

Sununu: Frankly, when you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to wonder whether that’s an endorsement based on issues or whether he’s got a slightly different reason for preferring President Obama.
Morgan: What reason would that be?
Sununu: Well, I think when you have somebody of your own race that you’re proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him.

Sununu smacked Powell with the same criticism I sometimes get from cranky GOPers. The only possible reason we could support Obama is because he’s black. It has nothing to do with agreeing with his stance on the issues. It has nothing to do with comparing him with Gov. Romney and deciding that the Republican nominee comes up short. To folks like Sununu it has everything to do with blind race loyalty.

Of course there is a pride among African Americans that a black man is president. More important, though, is that that man is competent and shares their values. That’s why political preener Herman Cain was a non-starter for African Americans. But that mix of competence and shared values is what would have made Republican Powell a formidable challenger in 1996 to the man who was wildly popular with black voters then, Bill Clinton.

By Sununu’s logic, Obama’s eroding support among white voters is due to white people being proud that “somebody of your own race” is running for president. It’s an ugly notion that Eugene Robinson forces us to confront in his terrific column today.

This isn’t the first time Sununu has engaged in race-baiting banter. Earlier this month, he called the president “lazy.” In July, he charged, “I wish this president would learn how to be an American.” To be perfectly blunt, I wish Sununu would learn to shut up.