It is a sad commentary on the state of our nation that three men who have made some of the most racist remarks in many years are still in the race to become the GOP’s presidential nominee: Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum.

Mr. Gingrich, who has always presented himself as the thoughtful, learned type, drawing on his background as a college history professor and a U.S. House speaker, sees himself as a Ronald Reagan type of politician and never fails to mention the late president’s name several times when the opportunity presents itself.

It was Mr. Reagan who talked about “welfare queens” in a clearly racist insult directed at black women. It should be no wonder, then, that Mr. Gingrich has labeled the first black president the “best food stamp president in American history.”

Mr. Gingrich has added insult to injury by saying that he would welcome an invitation to attend the NAACP convention so he could talk about “why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.”

Not to be outdone, Mr. Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, had this comment when explaining his idea about reform of what some term entitlements: “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.”

Mr. Santorum tried to deny that he used the word “black,” saying he was thinking of something else and it may have sounded like that. So lots of folks have been wondering if he was talking about the “blah” people and  asking who these “blah” people are.

But it is Mr. Paul, the U.S. representative from Texas, whose history has been the most troubling. He is wavering among flat denial, ignorance and part acceptance of responsibility for the contents of some newsletters going back to the 1990s published in his name.

One newsletter, dealing with the Los Angeles riots in 1992, said, “Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began.” Another described Martin Luther King Jr. — whose life and legacy are being celebrated now — as “a world-class adulterer” who “seduced underage girls and boys.”

When the Rev. Al Sharpton pushed in 1990 for renaming New York City after King, Paul’s newsletter offered its own suggestions: “Welfaria,”  “Zooville,” “Rapetown,” “Dirtburg,” and “Lazyopolis.”

And these are men who would be president?