In 2002, current House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana) was a 36-year-old rookie state legislator trying to make a name for himself as an opponent of middle-class tax increases and corrupt legislative slush funds used by Louisiana’s worst political actors to buy votes. Scalise railed against such public sector abuses of taxpayers to anyone who would listen, and his advocacy ultimately gained him notoriety and the approval of the voters in suburban New Orleans; in 2008 he was elected to his current position with an overwhelming 75 percent of the vote.
But one of the speeches Scalise gave during his barnstorming days in the legislature has now returned to haunt him, likely thanks to some Democrat party smear merchants and a lightly-read left-wing Louisiana blogger looking for street cred.
On Sunday, Lamar White — who styles himself as the intellectual heavyweight of the all-but-defunct Louisiana Democratic Party — posted an “exposé’” of sorts about Scalise having given his anti-tax, anti-waste stump speech at a conference put on by EURO — the European-American Unity and Rights Organization — at a hotel a few minutes from his house. It turns out that EURO was a front organization for David Duke, the notorious and shameful ex-Klan leader who had a momentary period of semi-relevance in Louisiana in the early 1990s. (Duke managed to make runoff elections for the U.S. Senate in 1990 and for governor in 1991 thanks to Louisiana’s awful jungle primary system, but suffered humiliating defeats in both races.) White’s “scoop” — which almost certainly came courtesy of opposition researchers from some national organization or other having fed the information to him — was, he said, only recently uncovered from researching posts on the neo-Nazi Stormfront website.
Scalise’s speech isn’t alleged to have been racist and it’s not alleged that he made an appearance at the event upon Duke’s asking. In fact, Duke wasn’t in attendance at the conference in question; he gave a piped-in speech from a similar conference in Europe. The controversy which blew up on Monday once the Washington Post immediately ran with White’s article revolves solely around Scalise’s choice of audience.
In an interview with the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Scalise explained the appearance as the product of not having staff as a state legislator to properly vet all the groups he was speaking to. “I was opposed to a lot of spending at the state level,” Scalise said. “When people asked me to go speak, I went and spoke to any group that called.”
But while White is styling himself as the online voice of the Louisiana Democratic Party and the operatives spoon-feeding him research from perusal of neo-Nazi websites are celebrating the reduction of the House Majority Leader to the latest incarnation of Trent Lott, the then Senate Minority Leader brought low for saying nice things about Strom Thurmond at the old senatorial racist’s birthday party in 2002, it doesn’t appear the Democrats have their message in proper harmony. No sooner did the outrage engine crank up at MSNBC over Scalise’s impeachable bigotry than Rep. Cedric Richmond, the only remaining Democrat in Louisiana’s congressional delegation and an American of African ancestry, defended his personal friend.
“I don’t think Steve has a racist bone in his body,” said Richmond, who earlier this fall had quite prominently accused his former colleague Bill Cassidy of racism for making the latter’s electoral challenge to Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu a referendum on President Barack Obama. “I’m not going to let them use Steve as a scapegoat to score political points when I know him and know his family.”
This column has previously discussed the devolution of Democrat rhetoric into interminable accusations of racism and bigotry and the ceaseless attempts to smear all conservatives with name-calling of various stripes. In fact, earlier this month we focused on the spate of anti-Southern attacks in the wake of Cassidy’s victory consigning Democrats to irrelevance throughout the Deep South. White’s smear of Scalise as a racist for having given the same speech on state fiscal policy to a group of racist people that he gave to the League of Women Voters is of a piece with that effort, as is the tired War on Women narrative and the constant anti-Christian rhetoric the Left unleashes.
This is, of course, what you do when you can’t win elections, or even substantive arguments on policy. If you can make the other side look like unsympathetic cretins, their positions can then be characterized as unsympathetic and cretinous.
And while this smear won’t likely kill Scalise off, it does tend to be a successful political tactic. After all, Warren Wilhelm, the descendant of pro-Nazi sympathizers who won election as New York’s mayor under the pseudonym Bill de Blasio, did so largely by demonizing the police and continued to decry police racism after the Eric Garner case right up until a black Muslim revolutionary, apparently inspired by anti-cop rhetoric, assassinated a pair of NYPD officers in cold blood.
And considering the fact that Al Sharpton is the Democrats’ go-to guy on race relations — one simply cannot find a more pronounced racist on the national stage than Sharpton — here’s hoping this faux controversy is given the perfunctory dismissal it deserves.
As for White, a few questions: What Democrat operatives shopped the Scalise research to him? Was he paid to air it at his blog? By whom and how much?
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