By Robert Mann
I’ll take Rep. Cedric Richmond’s word for it that his Louisiana House colleague, Rep. Steve Scalise, doesn’t have “a racist bone in his body.”
And, for now, I’ll accept Scalise’s explanation that speaking to a white supremacist group in 2002 was “a mistake that I regret.” I’ll also take him at his word that he “wholeheartedly condemn[s]” the racist views of David Duke’s European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO).
But here’s the problem with Scalise’s condemnation of the racist group and its members: he waited 13 years too late to denounce them.
Instead of speaking to them about “cutting wasteful state spending, eliminating government corruption, and stopping tax hikes,“ he should have attacked their despicable views.
As the good Catholic that he claims to be, he should have reminded them that the God he worships “is no respecter of persons.” He should have informed them that their presence in Jefferson Parish defiled his beloved Metairie. To punctuate his point, he might have spit on the floor as he marched from the room or announced that he was going straight home to shower.
But he didn’t. From all accounts, he treated them with the kind of polite respect they didn’t deserve. He wooed them as potential allies in his political crusade. That doesn’t make Scalise a racist, but it does mean that he welcomed the support of a group of racist David Duke disciples.
That Richmond, House Speaker John Boehner, Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Sen. Bennett Johnston, and former Gov. Edwin Edwards are defending Scalise against charges against racism doesn’t change the fundamental fact that Scalise thought nothing of beseeching a group of vile racists to back his causes.
The matter of Steve Scalise’s speech to EURO isn’t about “his bones,” racist or otherwise. It’s about this: he was untroubled by the backing of this execrable group.
It’s about this: he was untroubled by the backing of this execrable group. It didn’t repulse him to be in their midst.
That doesn’t necessarily make Scalise a racist. But it does make him a shabby, sleazy politician who is an embarrassment to Louisiana — but not, it seems, to Speaker John Boehner and the House Republican caucus.