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“A Glaring Symbol Of What You Stand For”: Hey GOP, Please Keep Steve Scalise At The Top Of Your Junk Pile

The Republican Party’s strategy for reaching across the cultural and racial divide, in an effort to expand its tent for the next major national election, is to throw its full support behind embattled Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise who, by his own admission, spoke in 2002 to The European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO), a white supremacist group founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Scalise claims he did not at the time know the origin of the group or Duke’s involvement.

Scalise, who as Majority Whip is the GOP’s 3rd highest ranking representative, told a reporter almost 20 years ago while running for office that he was like “David Duke without the baggage.” Was this simple pandering to a key voting block or a much clearer window into the man’s political and moral psyche? Either way, he knew exactly who he was targeting.

As House Republicans vote Tuesday to elect its leaders, many on the right have been all too quick to defend Scalise’s utterly implausible story, even blaming Democrats for the controversy. Speaking on MSNBC’s Hardball Monday evening, Republican strategist and former Dick Cheney advisor Ron Christie said: “I think the Democrats are being disgraceful in the way that they’re playing the race card. The Democrats are dividing this country…” he said, while specifically naming DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and White House press secretary Josh Earnest.

In a statement released Monday, Wasserman Schultz said: “As the new Congress begins, nothing discredits Republican claims of ‘outreach’ and bringing people together more than their decision to keep Steve Scalise at the top tier of the elected leadership of their caucus…Anyone living in this century should have known better than to attend and speak at a white supremacist event, particularly one founded and led by David Duke, and Scalise’s explanation that he wasn’t aware isn’t credible by a long shot.”

And Earnest, during Monday’s White House press briefing, said: “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.”

So let’s get this straight: what riles Republican officials is not that their party has racists, who do and say despicable things, but rather the Democrats who make public their words and actions. Welcome to 2015, where condemning racism is playing the race card.

To the GOP I say, please keep Steve Scalise in his leadership post. Leave him up there as a glaring symbol of what your party stands for. Let Americans know who you support. Who you defend. Who you reward with power. Who you call a “man of character.”

 

By: Andy Ostroy, The Blog, The Huffington Post, January 6, 2015

January 7, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Racism, Steve Scalise | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Strategy Of Confederate Republicans”: I’m Glad That The GOP Has Decided To Come Out Of The Closet As Openly Racist

Steve Scalise, the House Republican Whip-elect, appears to be surviving the flap over his appearance at a David Duke-organized event. It’s good to be able to welcome the New Year with a word of praise for the party I oppose. I’m glad that the GOP has decided to come out of the closet as openly racist.

The event itself has been misdescribed in the press as “white supremacist;” in fact, David Duke’s keynote speech didn’t even mention black-white issues, instead focusing on anti-Jewish themes. “Neo-Nazi” would give a much clearer picture of what EURO was really about.

Still – as even Erick Erickson has pointed out – there was never any doubt of what David Duke, the Klan Wizard, was about. He’s the kind of batsh*t-crazy racist who isn’t sure Jews are actually “white” (and, a generation or two ago, would have had the same doubts about the Irish and the Italians).

So what did Steve Scalise, aspiring Louisiana politician, have to say about David Duke?

The voters in this district are smart enough to realize that they need to get behind someone who not only believes in the issues they care about, but also can get elected. Duke has proven that he can’t get elected, and that’s the first and most important thing.

Well, that couldn’t be clearer, could it? “The first and most important thing” is to get elected. Politicians who frankly campaign on their hatred of blacks and Jews can’t get elected. So voters who “care about” hating blacks and Jews need to find politicians like Steve Scalise, who “believes in” Duke’s message but won’t say so explicitly, because such politicians can get elected.

That sums up the current strategy of the Confederate Republicans about as clearly as I’ve ever heard it summed up: seek the votes of bigots by winking at them, and by pursuing policies that are hostile to African-American interests without being explicitly racist. So it’s entirely appropriate that Scalise should have been chosen for, and remain in, the House Republican leadership.

It’s also entirely appropriate, of course, for those who don’t approve of bigotry not to be taken in. Somebody needs to explain that slowly to the ADL.

 

By: Mark Kleiman, Professor of Public Policy at The University of California Los Angeles; Ten Miles Square, The Washington Monthly, January 2, 2014

January 4, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Racism, Steve Scalise | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Following The Well-Thumbed Republican Playbook”: The GOP Has A Bad Habit Of Appealing To Avowed Racists

Here’s some advice for House Majority Whip Steve Scalise that also applies to the Republican Party in general: If you don’t want to be associated in any way with white supremacists and neo-Nazis, then stay away from them.

Do not give a speech to a racist organization founded by former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, as Scalise did when he was a Louisiana state legislator before running for Congress. Do not pretend to be the only Louisiana politician who could possibly have failed to grasp the true nature of the event, as Scalise did this week when the 2002 speech became public.

Come on, a group called the European-­American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO), established by one of the nation’s proudest and most vocal bigots? Who happens to be, Rep. Scalise, from your state?

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) defended Scalise with the usual tut-tut about how speaking to the white supremacists was “an error in judgment” and how Scalise was “right to acknowledge it was wrong and inappropriate.” Despite this lapse, Boehner said, Scalise is “a man of high integrity and good character.”

As if on cue, friends and supporters chimed in to offer evidence of how demonstrably non-racist Scalise truly is. He was an early supporter of Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), an Indian American, over his white primary opponent! He coached in a predominantly black New Orleans basketball league! In the Louisiana legislature, he voted against a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday — oh, wait.

See, it’s a ridiculous and ultimately meaningless exercise, putting check marks in one column or the other to decide whether a politician “is” or “is not” a racist. We hold officials accountable for what they say and do. Whatever feelings he might have in the deepest recesses of his heart, Scalise was simply following the well-thumbed Republican playbook by signaling to avowed racists that he welcomed their support.

This is nothing new. In fact, it’s like a bad habit that the party can’t seem to quit.

The addiction goes back to 1968, when Richard Nixon’s “Southern strategy” leveraged white racial resentment over federally mandated integration into an electoral majority. The GOP became the party of the South, even as the region — and its racial realities — underwent sweeping change. Mississippi now has more black elected officials than any other state. But do pockets of old-style, unapologetic racism persist, both in the South and elsewhere? You bet they do.

In 2002, Scalise was seeking support for his tax-cutting agenda in the legislature — and, of course, contacts that could further his political career. He was invited to speak to the EURO group by Duke’s longtime political strategist, Kenny Knight, who happened to be Scalise’s neighbor.

As prominent conservative blogger Erick Erickson wrote and tweeted this week: “How Do You Show Up at a David Duke Event and Not Know What It Is?” Erickson was not alone in finding it hard to believe that anyone involved in Louisiana politics could fail to grasp what the meeting was and who was behind it.

Poor Boehner has more of a knack for getting caught in vises than anyone else in politics. Usually he gets squeezed between the GOP’s establishment and tea party wings. This time, he’s mashed between his party’s present and its future.

Today, the Republican Party depends on a broad coalition of voters, weighted toward the South, that ranges in views from traditional Main Street conservatives to anti-government radicals who believe that menacing helicopters are about to descend any minute. One thing these GOP voters have in common is that the vast majority of them are white.

The nation, however, becomes more racially diverse every day, and the Republican Party will have to become more diverse if it is to survive. In picking and electing state-level candidates, the GOP has been doing better with governors such as Jindal, Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Susana Martinez of New Mexico. In attracting voters, not so much.

One way not to attract African American and Latino voters — in fact, one way to drive them away, along with the votes of some whites as well — is to show that the party is still happy to welcome the support of unrepentant racists and anti-Semites.

Maybe someday the Republican Party will say clearly that anyone associated with Duke, his little group or any racist association should find somebody else to vote for. But this message must be sent with actions that have consequences — and it wasn’t sent this week.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 1, 2015

January 4, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Racism, Steve Scalise | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Same Weary Tune”: Steve Scalise And The Right’s Ridiculous Racial Blame Game

In much the way one used to savor the sight of some lying schmuck be game-set-match cornered by Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes, I love watching conservatives try to explain away race scandals. Like the be-Wallaced lying schmuck, they know deep down they’ve had it. But quite unlike the schmuck, and this is the fun part, they never run up the white flag; indeed quite the opposite. They go on the attack, and it’s just a comical and pathetic thing to see.

Before we get to all that, permit me a brief reflection on this matter of Steve Scalise. Let’s allow him the error in judgment, or whatever tripe it is he’s peddling, of speaking to a David Duke-related white supremacist group in 2002. It’s hard to believe, but let’s go ahead and be generous about it.

I think we should find it a little harder, though, to be generous about his vote as a state legislator in 2004 against a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in the state of Louisiana. His was one of six votes against the day, which received 90 votes in the affirmative. And in case you think he may have rushed to the floor from the bathroom and accidentally hit the wrong button, he had cast the same ‘no’ vote in 1999. No error in judgment explains that. He was part of an extreme, racialized white faction in the Louisiana state house that was clearly dead-set against honoring King. (In which goal he is hardly outside the Southern mainstream; some states in Dixie still sometimes celebrate King on the same day they honor Robert E. Lee.)

So it’s hardly shocking that Scalise spoke to the group. Indeed it would have been more shocking if he hadn’t. This is a state, after all, where Duke, in his statewide race for governor in 1991, received a majority of the white vote. In fact, a large majority, of 55 percent, meaning that even though Edwin Edwards walloped Duke by 23 points, a near-landslide percentage of white Louisianans voted to make an avowed white supremacist their governor. Yeah, it was a long time ago. But how different would things have been 11 years later, when Scalise attended the Duke event? By attending, he wasn’t doing anything that would have been seen as controversial by most of his white constituents; indeed most of them would have endorsed it.

Some of the defenses of Scalise have been amusing and have followed the expected pattern, like redstate.org finding a black Democratic Bayou pol to avow that Scalise didn’t have—you guessed it—“a racist bone in his body.” But the fun starts when conservatives stop playing defense and go on offense. Here are the three main tropes, which apply not only in this situation but every time we’re met with one of these revelations.

1. But Al Sharpton is the real racist!

Nobody has to lecture me about how Sharpton has played racial politics in New York. I wrote some harsh columns about him back in the day, having to do with the way he played ball in New York City mayoral politics, especially in the 2001 election. But to call him or any black man “the real racist” is to evince complete, and I’d say willed, stupidity about what racism is. Racism isn’t just a person’s feelings and attitudes (and I don’t think Sharpton is “a racist” even by that definition); it is, more importantly, a set of power relationships, legal and economic, that kept and to some extent still keeps one group of people (and they aren’t white) from enjoying the full promise of American life. That’s what racism is, and Al Sharpton just ain’t its practitioner.

2. But hey, we elected Tim Scott.

Right. You did (he’s the African-American conservative Senator from South Carolina). And J.C. Watts back in the 1990s. And there was Allen West. And now’s there’s Mia Love of Utah and Will Hurd of Texas. Bravo. That’s five. Congratulations! Meanwhile, white liberals have helped elect dozens of blacks to high office—mayors, members of Congress, a few senators and governors, and now a president.

This is supposed to “prove” that conservatives aren’t racist, and I would readily agree that on an individual level, most probably are not, and they’re willing to vote for a black candidate provided he or she has the proper right-wing views. Fine. Elect 20 more and then you’ll start to have a case. But they won’t elect 20 more, for many years anyway, because 1) the conservative agenda appeals only to about five percent of African Americans, and rightly so, since it stands in opposition to virtually every policy change that has improved black life in this country over the past 50 years, and 2) the Republican Party puts very little effort into recruiting black candidates and adherents, something the Democratic Party has been doing—at no small electoral cost to itself, by the way, but because it was the right thing to do—for 40 or 50 years.

3. B-b-but Robert Byrd!

Ah, my favorite of them all. Amazing how people can still haul this one out with a straight face. Yes, Byrd—dead four-and-a-half years now—was a Kleagle in the Ku Klux Klan. And his last known affiliation with the Klan was almost 70 years ago, in 1946. And yes, he voted against the Civil Rights Act in 1964. But as everyone knows, he went on to say—not once but many times—that that was the greatest error of his career by far. As long ago as the early 1970s, he had gone on to support most civil rights-related legislation. He endorsed Barack Obama in 2008 in May, when Hillary Clinton was still technically in the race and just after Clinton had walloped Obama in the West Virginia primary. Byrd could very easily have gotten away with endorsing Clinton, justifying it as the overwhelmingly clear will of the people he represented. But what he did was reasonably brave and freighted with all the symbolism of which he was well aware.

And saliently for present purposes, and in contrast to Scalise, here’s what Byrd had to say about a national King holiday back in 1983, when Ronald Reagan was still opposing it: “I’m the only one who must vote for this bill.” The only one. There’s no missing what he meant by that. And the italics were his, not mine.

I suspect that somewhere down there in the Freudian precincts of their minds, the Byrd-invokers from Limbaugh on down know this, and it’s what they hate about Byrd most of all: The very sincerity of his repentance makes him a capitulator to the liberal elite and a traitor to his race. But they can’t say that in polite company, so they keep whipping a horse that’s been dead for at least 40 years.

And they’ll probably whip it for another 40, unless demographics overwhelm them sometime between now and then, but they’ll resist that as long as they can too. There’ll be more Steve Scalises, and every time, the right-wing orchestra will strike up the same weary tune.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, January 2, 2014

January 3, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Racism, Steve Scalise | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Typical, Old-Fashioned, Indulgent Louisiana Republican”: Why Nobody Who Knows Louisiana Believes Steve Scalise

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) has admitted that he delivered a speech to a so-called “white rights” conference in 2002 that was held by an organization known as EURO, headed by the neo-Nazi leader David Duke. Scalise has also insisted that he shares American society’s abhorrence of such “hate groups” — and that he did not know what kind of group he was talking to. He is asking the public to believe that he did not notice any of the virulent racist and anti-Semitic talk by the Klansmen, neo-Nazis, and assorted white nationalists in attendance at this gathering.

But Louisiana Republicans have had a David Duke problem since 1989, when Duke won a state assembly seat. He had been a neo-Nazi ideologue since his youth; he had paraded one night in full Nazi uniform with a swastika armband at the state university; and he had made the “international Jewish conspiracy” central to his Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. Even after he was elected, Duke was still selling Holocaust denial books from his state legislative office.

Yet the Louisiana State Republican Party Central Committee refused to either investigate Duke’s views or pass a censure motion, despite the repeated efforts of Beth Rickey, a Central Committee member. When Duke said he had changed his beliefs, his fellow Republicans and many white Louisianans decided to believe him.

Then in 1990 and 1991 Duke ran in two consecutive statewide elections in Louisiana — for U.S. senator and governor — and won a majority of the white vote both times. The state was saved by black voters, whose ballots defeated him. Again, the state Republican Party refused to investigate Duke’s actual positions. Nevertheless, his worldview became the central issue in those campaigns. And after Duke equated affirmative action with the extermination of European Jews, President George H.W. Bush stepped in to denounce him. Once more, local Republicans remained silent. Scalise, who was 25 years old in 1990, could not have missed this debate, which made national news.

A few years later, Duke finally gave up his Republican “my views have changed” smokescreen.   He published an Aryan primer as an autobiography in 1998, was convicted of tax fraud and went to federal prison in 2002, and began a prolonged public rant and rave about Jews that continues to this date. At the time of the EURO meeting with Scalise, Duke was overseas, attempting to avoid indictment, and addressed the gathering in Metairie, LA, via long-distance video hookup.

It is hard to believe that Steve Scalise, a sentient adult, missed all this, particularly as he was running for re-election to the state legislature in 2002. It is much easier to believe that he had the typical, old-fashioned, indulgent Louisiana Republican attitude toward David Duke. The question remains: Are there any national Republican leaders who will stand up, as President George H. W. Bush did in the 1990s, and speak the truth?

 

By: Leonard Zeskind, The National Memo, December 30, 2014

January 1, 2015 Posted by | Republicans, Steve Scalise, White Supremacists | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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