Rep. Steve Scalise, R-LA, has had a reputation throughout his political career for being open to talking with just about anybody, regardless of their ideological persuasion. Horrors!
In today’s hyper-partisan world, that’s apparently a bad thing.
“I live in a rather special world,” influential film critic Pauline Kael commented after the 1972 presidential election. “I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken.”
The provincialism and narrow-mindedness of that observation came to mind in thinking about the Steve Scalise controversy. Progressives in the media and government were all too ready to accept the controversial allegation from a left-leaning blogger and attack Scalise in a frenzy because they wouldn’t, or couldn’t, think outside their echo-chamber of like thinkers.
But consider the source, and wonder whether the media have failed the public.
The melee started when a left-leaning blogger, Lamar White Jr., posted that twelve years ago a Louisiana state legislator, Steve Scalise, addressed the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO) about a tax and spending ballot measure.
White later said he learned about the incident after getting a tip from Robert Reed, the son and campaign manager of a Democrat who lost to Scalise in a 2008 special election to fill an open House seat in Louisiana.
White said he verified the tip by checking Reed’s source, a post on Stormfront, a race-baiting website run by white nationalists and other racial extremists.
When the media discovered White’s allegation, they leapt at the story, apparently without bothering to do much fact-checking. The progressive posse, eager to believe the worst about a conservative, went ballistic.
Because EURO was founded by David Duke, a prominent former Ku Klux Klan leader, critics excoriated Scalise for even talking to a racist group, no matter the topic, even though Scalise said he had no recollection of speaking at the EURO conference.
The national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) enthusiastically bashed Scalise, now House Majority Whip, with a guilt- by-association pronouncement.
“Steve Scalise chose to cheerlead for a group of KKK members and neo-Nazis at a white supremacist rally and now his fellow House Republican Leaders can’t even speak up and say he was wrong,” said DCCC National Press Secretary Josh Schwerin. “Republicans in Congress might talk about improving their terrible standing with non-white voters, but it’s clear their leadership has a history of embracing anti-Semitic, racist hate groups.”
Rep. Sean Maloney (D-N.Y.), piled on, calling for Scalise to resign from the Republican House Leadership team.
Alexandra Petri, author of the Washington Post’s ComPost blog, said, “Why would you possibly think speaking at this event was a good idea? Why would you think attending this event was a good idea?”
Similarly, Eugene Robinson wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post titled, “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,” Robinson said.
Robinson went on, “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.”
This has just gone too far.
Now it’s apparently not only wrong to say something that’s offensive to progressives or something provocative that might challenge preconceptions and “trigger” discomfort, but it’s impermissible for politicians to address people progressives don’t agree with.
No wonder we have political gridlock if electeds are rebuked for even talking with people who have a different point of view.
What makes this whole thing even more bizarre is that Louisiana’s Times-Picayune newspaper now reports that Scalise may not, in fact, have spoken at the Euro event.
On Dec. 31, the paper said the man who arranged Scalise’s appearance at the event he addressed now says Scalise didn’t attend the EURO conference, but rather a small meeting of the Jefferson Heights Civic Association that was held in the same hotel conference room earlier the same day.
Wouldn’t it be something if all this sturm and drang has been over nothing.