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“Unapologetic, Unrepentant”: Who Regrets Slavery? Not Steve Scalise

I know that Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) doesn’t have “a racist bone in his body,” but it’s hard to reconcile that with his actions. The third-ranking member of the House Republican leadership didn’t just attend a neo-Nazi conference in 2002, he also led opposition to a 1996 resolution in the state House that expressed mere “regret” for the institution of slavery.

To get some perspective on this, the reason that the resolution was an expression of “regret” rather than a straight-up apology is because David Vitter negotiated watered-down language in exchange for his support.

Another familiar face was in the committee meeting as well: Republican David Vitter. The U.S. senator and 2015 Louisiana gubernatorial candidate was also a state representative serving on the panel.

Vitter echoed Scalise in the meeting, arguing that an apology for slavery implied an “admission of guilt,” according to the minutes. The future U.S. senator said “an expression of regret” was more appropriate.

[Then-state Rep. Yvonne] Dorsey eventually agreed to Vitter’s suggestion, and the resolution was unanimously amended to include the “regret” language.

But this wasn’t enough for Scalise. He made an effort to “defer” the bill in committee [it failed 11-2] and then he vocally yelled ‘no’ as the bill was passed on the House floor in an uncontroversial voice vote.

I know that we’re all supposed to make certain allowances for the way things used to be in the South, and, yes, 1996 was a long time ago. But even by the standards of the mid-1990’s, Steve Scalise was an outlier.

Let’s be clear, too, that this wasn’t an expression of regret for the more recent Jim Crow laws. This was about slavery. And Scalise wasn’t making some pedantic point about how it’s anachronistic to hold our ancestors to the moral standards of the present. He just didn’t think that there was anything to regret.

Dorsey, who now serves in the state Senate and goes by Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, told The Hill this week that she was hurt when Scalise attacked her resolution in the House and Government Affairs Committee.

“I didn’t like what he said and how he said it. It was callous,” said Dorsey-Colomb, who is the descendant of slaves. “I think he wanted nothing to do with it. It was like, ‘How dare you bring this up and ask us to do this?’”

I remind you that Steve Scalise is the House Majority Whip, a position held in the past by folks like Dick Gephardt, Tom DeLay, Roy Blunt, Kevin McCarthy, and Steny Hoyer. Other relatively recent Republican (minority) whips include Eric Cantor, Trent Lott, Newt Gingrich, and Dick Cheney.

Scalise holds a position that is powerful in its own right, but it’s also a position that tends to lead places.

Yet, we’re told that Scalise isn’t actually a racist. We’re not told that he used to be a racist and then had some kind of epiphany like, say, Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who endorsed Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton. Basically, we’re just told that Scalise never was a racist despite the obvious fact that he behaved in an obviously racist way over the period of many years while serving in the Louisiana legislature.

As I’ve said before, pretending to be a racist isn’t somehow better than actually being a racist. In some ways, I think it is worse. I don’t like excuses that take the form of “that’s just what I had to do to get elected.”

But that’s the best excuse available to Scalise, and, in that case, he was too convincing as an actor.

If the GOP wants to carry this anvil, they’re welcome to it, but the nation deserves better than this. We have an example to set for the world, right?

This isn’t getting it done.


By: Martin Longman, Ten Miles Square, The Washington Monthly, January 15, 2015

January 18, 2015 Posted by | Racism, Slavery, Steve Scalise | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Exceptions”: How To Be A Walking ‘Confirmation Bias’ (Role Model: Mia Love)

Representative Mia Love, Republican of Utah, appeared on the January 4 edition of the ABC News program This Week With George Stephanpoulos to defend House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana in the wake of revelations that he once addressed a white supremacist group.

Have you ever been in a debate with your right-wing uncle and when you ask him for proof of his wild claims, he pulls up a Fox News article? Instinctively, you roll your eyes. Of course he sought out Fox News as a source—it’s a haven for people like him. Everything he already thinks about minorities, LGBTQ people, Muslims and single moms is there. Automatically turning to Fox News to search for information that he knows will affirm what he already believes is called a confirmation bias.

On December 29, news broke that Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the new House majority whip, had addressed a white supremacist group in 2002. Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke founded the European-Unity and American Rights Organization, or EURO, in 2000, and Scalise, then a member of the state legislature, rallied the support of EURO members to oppose a proposed new tax. Amid critics’ demands that Scalise be pushed from his leadership role in the House, his fellow Republicans half-heartedly expressed support for him, calling his appearance before the group a “mistake,” while Democrats offered a mixed response. The most vocal support from inside Congress, however, came from Mia Love, who represents a district in Utah.

Love recently made history by being the first black woman elected to Congress as a Republican. Despite her personal history as a child of Haitian immigrants, she holds extremely right-wing views on immigration and now, apparently, white supremacy. Congresswoman Love essentially gave Scalise a pass, saying that he should stay in his new leadership position. “He has been absolutely wonderful to work with. He’s been very helpful for me and he has had the support of his colleagues,” Love said on the January 4 edition of ABC’s This Week.

What Love and other black conservatives like Ben Carson and Allen West may not realize is that their very presence serves as every racist’s confirmation bias. When blacks and other people of sound mind decry Scalise over associating with a racial hate group, right-wingers can point to Love and say, “See? Good black people are totally cool with a top elected official palling around with white supremacists!”

Members of minority groups who seem to be blind to racism—or purposefully ignore it—are either looking for political gain or have internalized society’s bigotry. It is likely that Love and others like her desire the approval of their white peers and have bought into the idea that they’re “not like the others” of their own racial or ethnic group. They’ve bought into the dominant culture’s bias against their own people, and deemed themselves to be righteous exceptions to the trumped-up rule.

Writing off Mia Love and Allen West as out-of-touch right-wingers is easy, but the truth is that these very visible blacks hurt the cause—the ongoing quest for equality. As long as they continue to disregard racism, and side with those who would pander to white supremacists, racists with an agenda will always have a valuable token to confirm their biases.


By: Nathalie Baptiste, The American Prospect, January 7, 2015

January 13, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Racism, Steve Scalise | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Price Of Steve Scalise’s Silence”: Duke’d Out, The More He Keeps Silent, The More Credibility He Loses As Majority Whip

John Boehner was reelected House Speaker yesterday by his Republican colleagues despite some dissenting members. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, however, has been in a survival struggle since late December, when a brave, young blogger, Lamar White Jr., reported on a 2002 event in which the Congressman met with a white supremacist group formed by David Duke, Louisiana’s most famous closet Nazi.

Scalise quickly called the speech “a mistake I regret,” condemned hate groups and then hid in a cocoon of silence. As Boehner and other House leaders circled the wagons for Scalise, the silence stretched a week over the New Year’s holiday when media lights were low.

But Scalise’s silence made it worse for a Republican Party perennially accused of catering to bigots on the fringe by creating a news vacuum filled by Duke, a media hound wallowing in the newfound attention. Duke’s media appearances raise the stakes for Scalise’s long-term survival. GOP House members–like the proverbial Three Wise Monkeys who resort to see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak no-evil platitudes—waited for it all to go away. Politico has reported that some Republican donors see Scalise as damaged goods.

If so, he has his silence — on top of poor judgment — to blame.

Rep. Cedric Richmond of New Orleans, a black and the lone Democrat in the state’s congregation, did him a huge favor. “I don’t think Steve Scalise has a racist bone in his body,” he said.

If that’s the case, Scalise’s decision as a 37 year old state representative to accept the spring 2002 invitation from two well-known Duke operatives, Kenny Knight and Howie Farrell, to speak at Duke’s European-American Unity and Rights Organization, makes even less sense.

Why did Farrell and Knight want him there? And why did Scalise agree to such a risky venue?

Scalise could have easily said, “Sorry, boys, this one’s too hot.” Or he could’ve given a more deceptive excuse. He knew that a public appearance with Duke could be disastrous.

Duke was a state representative whose neo-Nazi alliances were disgorged in media reports during his run for governor in 1991. (He lost in a landslide to Edwin Edwards.) Duke’s Nazi stigma made him toxic to most politicians. Scalise, 26, saw that.

But after winning 55 percent of the white vote, Duke had a database of supporters some politicians coveted. In 1999, Scalise was in the legislature when the media savaged Gov. Mike Foster over the news that he had paid Duke $150,000 for his supporters list in the 1995 election. Speculation raged that Duke agreed not to run as part of the deal, though it was never proven.

Foster wasn’t prosecuted, either, but the FBI began probing Duke’s fundraising. In the late ‘90s, he spent extensive periods in Europe, giving anti-Semitic and Holocaust denial speeches at neo-fascist venues. The FBI raided his home in 2000 with an affidavit questioning his use of $200,000 from his white supremacist fundraising.

That was news Scalise could not have missed. Scalise never would have spoken to EURO had Duke been there in person.

“Duke was in Russia—for his fourth visit since 1995,” wrote Leonard Zeskind, author of “Blood and Nationalism,” in an article for the Swedish Monitor, on Duke’s travels in the late 1990s. “He spent the next two years traveling across Europe (East and West) and the Arab countries of the Middle East. He established a home base in Italy. In France, Duke had his picture taken with Jean-Marie Le Pen.”

By speaking to EURO, Scalise did a favor to Kenny Knight, a former neighbor who has been falling over himself in the last few days by giving utterly contradictory statements to various media in a buffoon’s carnival of damage control.

Duke meanwhile crowed to the Washington Post that Knight “would keep Scalise up to date on my issues” – all while Steve Scalise kept mum.

The $150,000 Duke got from Foster could not have supported the European lifestyle; the sources of Duke’s money remain a mystery.

Scalise’s speech in 2002 lent some legitimacy to Duke, who spoke that day by video link from Russia. The juxtaposition planted a story of association on websites that touted both men for their talks. It all went unnoticed until the report by White.

Ten months after the speech, in March 2003, Duke came back to Louisiana, pled guilty to federal charges of tax and mail fraud, and agreed to a $10,000 fine for abuses of the nonprofit fundraising that facilitated his travel, including gambling trips to Gulfport and Las Vegas. He also admitted to filing a false income tax statement.

After a year in prison, Duke resumed his travels. In 2006, he spoke at a conference in Iran, maintaining his drumbeat: “The Holocaust is the device used as the pillar of Zionist imperialism, Zionist aggression, Zionist terror and Zionist murder.”

Meanwhile, Scalise moved up the ladder.

At a press conference today with Scalise, Speaker Boehner again defended him. Scalise spoke briefly, adding little of substance, saying that the people back home know him best.

“I reject any form of bigotry, bigotry of all kinds. I’ll refer you back to our statement. I think that’s where the story ends,” said Scalise.

But someone who knows Scalise from back home, Urban League President and former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial, co-authored a letter to Scalise sent today from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in Washington, and made available to The Daily Beast.

The letter seeks a meeting to discuss a pattern of Scalise’s votes on certain issues, noting that he was one of six state legislators to vote against a Martin Luther King holiday, and did so two years after his EURO appearance. “You apparently took a similar position involving the naming of a U.S. Post Office for Louisiana civil rights icon, the Honorable Lionel Collins,” the letter states, “a pioneering civil rights lawyer and the first African-American judge in Jefferson Parish.”

Who among Scalise’s constituents could possibly care if he supported naming a post office for a black judge who died in 1988?

Kenny Knight for one. And David Duke for another.

As New Orleans Advocate columnist Stephanie Grace recalls from a conversation years ago, Scalise touted himself as David Duke without the baggage.

Now, Duke is Scalise’s baggage.

Duke has jumped into field-day mode, rising to Scalise’s defense on CNN with Michael Smerconish. “I did not contribute to him, he did not contribute to me,” Duke said. He also bragged about earning a PhD, a point Smerconish did not question.

The “doctorate” Duke claims is from an anti-Semitic Ukranian “diploma mill” as described by the State Department.

“What Duke actually got at Ukraine’s Interregional Academy of Personnel Management is a ‘Kandidat Nauk’ degree, which ranks below a full doctorate,” wrote Heidi Beirch in a Southern Poverty Law Center 2009 Intelligence Report. “It was awarded to Duke for a thesis entitled ‘Zionism as a Form of Ethnic Supremacism’ and was the second degree given Duke by the university, which had earlier handed the former Klan boss an honorary degree.”

Duke is cynically making sport of Scalise by expressing his support for him, dropping hints of blackmail by naming other House members he claims to know, should Scalise lose his post.

“Scalise was ambitious to the point of reckless opportunism when it came to catering to Duke and his base,” says Tulane professor emeritus Lawrence Powell, author of “Troubled Memory,” a history of the 1991 election and its impact on a Holocaust survivor in New Orleans.

“If Scalise denounces Duke he may alienate some of his local base. But the more he keeps silent, the more credibility he loses as Majority Whip.”

In his brief appearance today, Scalise never mentioned Duke. Does he fear repercussions for doing so? Or has the see and hear and speak-no-evil stance of the Republican House persuaded him that he is in the clear?


By: Jason Berry, The Daily Beast, January 7, 2015

January 11, 2015 Posted by | House Republicans, Steve Scalise, White Supremacists | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Completely Deplorable, Yet, Totally Unsurprising”: Today’s GOP: Still Cool With Racist Pandering?

What Steve Scalise did in appearing before David Duke’s group—and in twice voting against a Martin Luther King holiday, and in reportedly referring to himself in a chat with a journalist as “David Duke without the baggage”—tells us a lot about Steve Scalise. But what the Republican Party is now doing—or not doing—with regard to Scalise tells us a lot about the Republican Party, and that’s a little more important.

I haven’t seen that one Republican of any note, from Reince Priebus on down, has uttered a word of criticism of the man. Plenty of conservative commentators have said he should step down from his leadership position. Even Sarah Palin sees the sense in this. But among elected Republicans and Priebus, it’s been defense, or silence.

It’s pretty clear what this tells us. Most of the time, institutions of all kinds—political, corporate, nonprofit, what have you—try to duck from scandals and hope they’ll blow over. But occasionally they don’t. Every once in a while, they act swiftly and acknowledge the problem. They do that when they know their bottom line is threatened—when the higher-ups are getting freaked out phone calls from key constituents or stakeholders who are making it clear that this one is serious, that it flies in the face of some basic principle they all thought they were working for, and won’t just blow over.

So the fact that Scalise still has his leadership gig tells us that the key stakeholders and constituencies within the GOP aren’t particularly bothered by the fact that he spoke to white supremacists and indeed might be one himself. They’re certainly embarrassed, I should think. Surely they see the problem here. But they see it as a public-relations problem, a matter to be damage-controlled, which is quite different from seeing it as being plainly and substantively wrong.

This is especially striking, though hardly surprising, in the case of Priebus, Mr. Outreach. As Joan Walsh noted, Priebus has been fond of saying that his GOP would “work like dogs” to improve its standing among the black citizenry, and the brown and the young and the gay and so on. He didn’t specify what breed of dog, but obviously it’s less Retriever and more Bassett Hound.

Here is the RNC’s idea of inclusion. Go to right now (I mean after you finish reading me!). If the homepage is unchanged from yesterday, when I was writing these words, here’s what you’ll see. Most of it is taken up by a graphic inviting the visitor to participate in the 2016 online presidential straw poll. There are four photos there of representative presidential candidates. Chris Christie and Scott Walker are two. Okay, fine, they’re probably running and are legit candidates.

Let’s see, who else? Jeb Bush? No. Rand Paul? Nyet. Mike Huckabee? Nope. Try Tim Scott and Nikki Haley. Now, Scott and Haley (the black senator and Sikh governor, respectively, from South Carolina) are likely presidential contenders in about the same sense that I’m on the short list for the Nobel Prize in Literature. But, as the Wizard said to the Scarecrow, they’ve got one thing I—and Bush and Paul and Huckabee—haven’t got: melanin. So, says Reince, throw their names in the poll so we can slap ’em up there on the homepage!

That’s just so very RNC, isn’t it? The people who bring you all the gospel choirs and so on at their conventions, which looking solely at the entertainment you’d think were Stax-Volt reunions. You’d never guess that only 2 percent of the delegates (36 out of 2,000, in 2012) were black.

As for elected Republicans, if any prominent one has called on Scalise to step down, it has escaped my notice and the notice of a lot of people I read; the farthest any have gone is to offer up some quotes on background about how Scalise is damaged goods, like this quote, which “a GOP lawmaker” gave to Politico: “As far as him going up to the Northeast, or going out to Los Angeles or San Francisco or Chicago, he’s damaged. This thing is still smoking. Nobody is really fanning the flames yet. … The thing that concerns me is that there are people who are still out there digging on this right now.”

Note: The thing that concerns this “lawmaker” is not that his or her party is being partially led by a sympathizer to white supremacists. It’s that the rest of us are still making a fuss about it, which in turn will damage Scalise’s ability to go prostitute himself before the party’s millionaires. If that’s not a near-perfect summation of contemporary conservative politics in America, then such doesn’t exist.

The media tend to frame situations like this as aberrations, but in this case, quite the opposite is the truth. This person who once said that David Duke’s biggest problem was not his racial views but the fact that he couldn’t get elected is who Scalise is. And this is what the Republican Party is—an organization that isn’t bothered in any meaningful way by the fact one of its top national leaders should hold these kinds of ideas in his head. And finally, this is who most of our political press is—gullible enough to be surprised by either of the first two.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, January 7, 2015

January 9, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Steve Scalise, White Supremacists | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Long Read; The GOP’s Offensive Defense”: The Scalise Scandal Is Like A Grain Of Sand On A Very Big Beach

The firestorm over House Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s 2002 decision to speak at a white supremacists’ conference might have skipped a news cycle or two over the New Year’s holiday, but it’s not going away anytime soon.

On Monday, the White House got into the act during press secretary Josh Earnest’s daily briefing. Though he said his boss, President Barack Obama, is mum on whether Republicans should kick the Louisiana congressman to the curb, Earnest played up Scalise’s own words and the GOP leadership’s decision to give him rank:

“[Obama] believes it is their decision to make. But there’s no arguing that who Republicans decide to elevate into a leadership position says a lot about what the conference’s priorities and values are. Mr. Scalise reportedly described himself as David Duke without the baggage, so it will be up to Republicans to decide what that says about their conference.”

Over the weekend, however, one new lawmaker simultaneously defended Scalise and helped the GOP subtly push back against its image as a party dominated by white men, despite evidence to the contrary. But incoming Rep. Mia Love of Utah – the Republicans’ first African-American woman elected to the House, and a woman The Washington Post declared is the party’s “racial conscience” – may have done more to remind people of the GOP’s problems than help them forget Scalise.

Post reporter Nia-Malika Henderson argues that Love’s appearance on ABC’s “This Week” made her Scalise’s most powerful defender; she swatted down calls for his dismissal from leadership and vouched for his character. Her rejection of accusations that Scalise is a racist, Henderson writes, “is an argument that tends to carry more weight when it’s made by a minority, which gets at why Love will continue to be so important to the GOP, beyond whatever day-to-day work she does for her Utah constituents.” She goes on:

[Love] is Exhibit No. 1 for Republicans’ claim to be a diverse party at the federal level, a role that makes her the new racial conscience of her party – along with Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) and perhaps Rep.-elect Will Hurd (Tex.), another newly elected black Republican. (Neither of them have commented on Scalise so far).

But there are also limits to how helpful she might be. So far, she has been unwilling to directly address the perception problem that many of her fellow Republicans are raising in discussions about Scalise.

Their worry is not so much about proving whether or not Scalise is a racist, but that the GOP’s brand might take a further hit because of Scalise’s actions more than a decade ago. Colin Powell, for instance, in the past has talked about the “dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party” – a strain not checked enough by party leaders, according to Powell. (He has also not commented on the Scalise incident).

Henderson’s right: Republicans aren’t engaging in a debate on whether Scalise is a good legislator and fit to serve. House Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in the chamber, is standing solidly behind Scalise, which for most purposes means his majority whip isn’t going anywhere – unless, of course, some more race stuff surfaces in the next few weeks.

What’s interesting about Henderson’s article, however, is how it indicates the GOP is really concerned about the matter, and how that means we’re likely to see more of Love, a heretofore unknown freshman:

Republicans, or at least the ones who put together the Republican National Committee’s Growth and Opportunity Project memo, are very aware of their brand problems among minorities.

“Public perception of the Party is at record lows. Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the Party represents, and many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country.”

Love’s best answer for this brand problem – described in very stark terms – seems to be simply moving on and trusting that Scalise had no ill intentions. And when it comes to earning that trust, Love clearly has a role to play.

The project memo not surprisingly gives the GOP the benefit of the doubt by declaring that minorities wrongly think that Republicans hate them. There’s plenty of evidence that African-American and Latino hostility toward Republicans stems from the party’s policies, stated and otherwise – its positions on immigration, affirmative action and voting rights come immediately to mind – and not just its demographics.

Henderson concludes:

But how do you convince minorities that they are wrong about Republicans, with Scalise and his associates as the most recent evidence? That’s a much harder problem to solve, with Love’s presence and voice serving as a very small part.

That – given that the GOP leadership is almost exclusively white and male, and its constituency is older and white – is perhaps the greater issue. Putting Love in front of the cameras smacks of tokenism, and that tends to remind minorities of the GOP’s much deeper problems, like the mythical Southern strategy, or maybe the Shelby County vs. Holder case.

When it comes to its problems with minority voters, the Scalise scandal (“Klangate,” maybe? “White Wash”?), seems like a grain of sand on a very big beach.


By: Joseph P. Williams, Washington Whispers, U. S, News and World Report, January 6, 2015

January 7, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Republicans, Steve Scalise | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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