Who says bipartisanship isn’t alive?
Last week Congresscritter Steve Scalise (R-LA) admitted that in 2002 he spoke at a white supremacist organization founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
Not overly surprising. Heck, not that long ago Louisiana was as racist as they get. David Duke himself had served in the state legislature and was the Republican candidate for governor in 1991, even though he was not only the former grand wizard of the KKK, but was also a convicted felon. Duke had defrauded supporters by falsely claiming to have no money and being in danger of losing his home, in order to solicit emergency donations (he was actually financially secure and had used the donations for recreational gambling).
Scalise doesn’t deny that he spoke to the white nationalist organization but claims that he doesn’t remember doing so, which is pretty hard to believe as David Duke was both a fellow Louisiana politician and in the news frequently. In an interview back in 1999 about Duke, Scalise even claimed that he embraces many of the same “conservative” views as Duke, saying:
The novelty of David Duke has worn off. 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.
But it gets even more ironic. Among Scalise’s defenders is black Democrat Rep. Cedric Richmond, who says that he doesn’t “think Steve has a racist bone in his body” and that the Scalise is being used as a “scapegoat to score political points”. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, whose parents are from India, defended Scalise as being “fair-minded and kindhearted”. Jewish friends said that it is “unthinkable” that Scalise has racist views.
But conservative Erick Erickson attacked Scalise, saying:
How the hell does somebody show up at a David Duke organized event in 2002 and claim ignorance? How do you not investigate?… [Sen.] Trent Lott was driven from the field in 2001 for something less than this.
I personally think people should be forgiven for ugly views that they may have held in the past, when those views were more common (as long as there is good evidence that they no longer hold them). Besides, my guess was that Scalise was really just pandering for votes. If we held that against politicians, there would be nobody left to elect.
UPDATE: David Duke claims he has ties to many legislators, both Republican and Democrat, and threatens to release a list of them if people don’t lay off of Steve Scalise. Duke says “If Scalise is going to be crucified — if Republicans want to throw Steve Scalise to the woods — then a lot of them better be looking over their shoulders.”