Tuesday Reads: Diary of a Mad MemePosted: December 30, 2014
So I thought I’d start off with a local story that’s gone rather viral. My fellow Louisiana Blogger and buddy Lamar White has broken a story that’s even bigger than soon-to-be Senator Double Dip’s payroll fraud. I’ve watched it go completely viral over the last two days. It’s the stuff political junkie dreams are made from.
Metarie Louisiana is a small town that was one of the first white flight suburbs of New Orleans. My first real exposure to it was watching Sheriff Harry Lee give a speech to a Republican women’s club 20 years ago in a restaurant in Fat City where I happened to be dining with the guy that brought me here. The fact a big ol’ huge southern sheriff was Chinese and talking some really right wing stuff to a bunch of little old gray-haired white ladies was a hoot.
This was slightly after the entire Edwin Edwards/David Duke Governor race so I knew what the area was infamous for, believe me. News of that affair even drifted its way up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers to the backwater of Omaha, Nebraska. Then, there’s the fact that the various congressional and lege seats were and are held by some of the worst people in the state (e.g. Vitter and David Duke). It’s a wingnut haven. I drive through it on the way to the airport and try not to let the air waft into the car.
So, the current seatholder–whom I refer to as Congressman Sleaze–is Steve Scalise. He’s just been elected to the majority whip position under Boehner and his goosesteppers. Jindal and most republicans in that part of the state have always gotten in a lather at the idea of getting David Duke’s contact list for obvious reasons. Scalise, however, appeared at one of his events. What’s really odd is his response. It’s a combination of ‘I didn’t know’ and ‘The one aid I had at the time is responsible’ and the usual ‘Who me racist? Anti-Semitic?’ By Monday afternoon, the findings had gone from Lamar’s blog to TPM to WAPO. All the major news stations were on it by yesterday afternoon. Way to go DUDE!!!
Bad news for incoming majority whip Steve Scalise. He has admitted that in 2002 he addressed a group called the European-American Unity and Rights Organization — founded by David Duke, whom the Anti-Defamation League calls “perhaps America’s most well-known racist and anti-Semite,” formerly of the KKK and known for his theory that Jews were behind 9/11.
Why would Scalise attend an event sponsored by Neo-Nazis and KKK members then admit to being confused about the event? Why would you possibly think speaking at this event was a good idea? Why would you think attending this event was a good idea as a human being let alone if you had the faintest glimmer of public office in your eye? NOTHING ABOUT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA.
In his defense, Scalise’s advisers are saying that “he addressed them, sure, but only because he had no idea where he was or whom he was talking to at any given time until 2007.”
I’m not making this up:
Here is an actual thing that one of Scalise’s former advisers wrote:
“It was a crazy time and I doubt there was a lot of checking up on who was who. . . . It really wasn’t until 2004 that he started sitting down and evaluating speaking engagements and questionnaires. Even then he really didn’t get a handle on schedule until he ran for state senate in 2007 and then congress the year after.”
That is certainly one tactic. “Until 2004, I had LITERALLY NO IDEA whom I was speaking to at any given time. My schedule was a total mystery to me. If a man came off the street, wrapped in a Confederate flag, and said, ‘Come address my group,’ I would have said, ‘Yessir, no question, I want to popularize my proposal to end slush funds.’ I didn’t know my own name until 2005, in case you discover that I’ve signed any unfortunate petitions.”
Okay, I knew about David Duke and I didn’t live in the state until 20 years ago to this month actually. How could this little guy not know who he was speaking to? David Duke was a Louisiana Republican Party fixture until his run-in with the IRS and his later self expatriation to Russia. As previously mentioned, every one of these Republican officeholders went for his voter list. You can’t tell me Scalise wasn’t just trying to get at the member list and grab as many potential votes as he could. He probably figured it wouldn’t matter to his constituents or he’d never get caught. He obviously had no idea about Google at the time so the way back machine must be way over his mental capacity. Roll Call has this little gem up about conversation that Vitter and Scalise had about Duke in 1999.
Back in 1999, Roll Call interviewed white supremacist leader David Duke about the possibility he would seek the House seat vacated by the resignation of Republican Rep. Bob Livingston. As part of that report, reporter John Mercurio also talked to up-and-coming Louisiana politicians, current Sen. David Vitter and current House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.
“I honestly think his 15 minutes of fame have come and gone,” said state Rep. David Vitter (R), a wealthy Metairie attorney who holds Duke’s old seat in the state House and is “seriously considering” a Congressional bid. “When he’s competed in a field with real conservatives, real Republicans, Duke has not done well at all.”
Another potential candidate, state Rep. Steve Scalise (R), said he embraces many of the same “conservative” views as Duke, but is far more viable.
“The novelty of David Duke has worn off,” said Scalise. “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.”
In light of Monday’s news reports about the likelihood that Scalise addressed Duke’s European-American Unity and Rights Organization back in 2002, here is the full report from the Jan. 7, 1999, edition of Roll Call:
Duke was a former state representative holding the same lege seat that both Vitter and Scalise once had. He made a comment about him prior to his damned appearance. How could he not know who he was speaking to? Anyway, the blogosphere lit up like a candle on Sunday and it’s been one big rolling ball ever since then. Are people really going to believe this weak excuse? And here’s a good idea of why I call the dude Congressman Stevie Sleaze.
“David Duke is an embarrassment to our district and his message of hate only serves to divide us,” Scalise told the newspaper.
Scalise’s own message has not always been one of inclusion. Months after criticizing Duke, he was one of six state representatives who voted against making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a state holiday. He had also voted against a similar bill in 1999.
In a 2008 ad during his first successful bid for Congress, Scalise accused Democratic rival Jim Harlan of “endorsing Obama’s liberal and dangerous agenda shaped by radicals like Rev. [Jeremiah] Wright.” His campaign also put out a flier with Harlan’s photo near the star and crescent symbol, commonly associated with Islam.
Please walk me through how you came to appear at the white nationalist event.
“I don’t have any records from back in 2002, but when people called and asked me to speak to groups, I went and spoke to groups. It was myself and [former state Sen.] James David Cain who were opposed to the Stelly tax plan.
I was the only legislator from the New Orleans area who was opposed to the plan publicly, so I was asked to speak all around the New Orleans region. I would go and speak about how this tax plan was bad.
I didn’t know who all of these groups were and I detest any kind of hate group. For anyone to suggest that I was involved with a group like that is insulting and ludicrous.
I was opposed to a lot of spending of spending at the state level. When people asked me to go speak, I went and spoke to any group that called.”
You don’t remember speaking at the event?
“I don’t. I mean I’ve seen the blog about it. When you look at the kind of things they stand for, I detest these kinds of views. As a Catholic, I think some of the things they profess target people like me. At lot of their views run contradictory to the way I run my life.
I don’t support some of the things I have read about this group. I don’t support any of the things I have read about this group, but I spoke to a lot of groups during that period. I went all throughout South Louisiana.
I spoke to the League of Women Voters, a pretty liberal group. … I still went and spoke to them. I spoke to any group that called, and there were a lot of groups calling.
I had one person that was working for me. When someone called and asked me to speak, I would go. I was, in no way, affiliated with that group or the other groups I was talking to. ”
You don’t remember speaking to a group affiliated with David Duke?
“David Duke was never at any group I spoke to.”
Were you avoiding him?
“He was a state representative before me. Everyone knew who he was. I would not go to any group he was a part of.”
Why do you think this [controversy] is coming out right now?
“Clearly, some people are trying to infer some things that just aren’t true. As a conservative…there are a lot of groups that don’t like conservative beliefs.
From what I’ve read about this group, they don’t like Catholics like myself.”
So, all us blogging Louisiana Buddies are in awe once more of Lamar’s terrific detective skills. Here’s a great example from blogging Buddy Adrastos.
This kerfuffle reminds me of the days when all sorts of “respectable” Louisiana Republicans played footsie with Dukkke. Many, like Scalise, have put some of Dukkke’s “populist” positions in a suit and tie and tried to make them respectable *after* the Gret Stet Fuhrer wannabe stopped doing so. It’s a minor league version of how Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter (yes, Jimmy Carter) cherry picked George Wallace’s political tree as it were. To be fair to my least favorite recent Democratic President, he borrowed Wallace’s anti-Washington/I’m an outside shtick, and not the whole standing in the schoolhouse door thing.
On a personal level, I’m pleased as punch that vast swaths of the MSM are giving Lamar credit for breaking the story. I expect that the Republican helots will be coming after him directly. He might even get slimed by Rush. If that happens, I will be a jealous motherfugu. (I’m trying swear less as well as to coin a swell new euphemism in addition to my continuing campaign to revive the word swell.) For now, I will merely bask in the reflected glory and hope that Lamar won’t forget the little people or Darby O’Gill for that matter…
I suspect that Scalise will keep his seat in Congress. He is, after all, from the same burg that elected Dukkke to the state lege. Moreover, as recently as 1999, Dukkke received 19% of the vote in a primary for the same seat Scalise holds today. Dukke finished third behind former Governor Dave Treen and the eventual winner, our old pal, Diaper Dave. Scalise has already used the “I’m not a racist” dodge to the Vestigial Picayune. We’ll see how it plays.
I think it’s pretty obvious that the folks in the Scalise District couldn’t care less about it. After all, they once elected Duke to represent them in the lege. The real damn shame about all of this is that the east coast media is giving interview time and column space to Duke. He’s not rotting up there on the North Shore with the rest of the klan. Scalise will undoubtedly retain his seat and it might even give him some cred upstate should he decide to run for a statewide office. However, I’m not sure what exactly the Republicans in the District are going to do with him. He’s either going to have to do some serious mea culpas or offer to step down. How long this stays as a top trending social media item will undoubtedly help write the end of the story inside the Beltway. It’s also New Year’s and college football bowl game time. There’s quite a few distractions including a downed airliner taking up air time. This is definitely an insider story at this point so the ending is still going to be written within the beltway. Look for Boehner’s response or his absolute vanishing act from media appearances until he gauges if this story has very very long legs. Whatever happens, watch for Lamar’s blog. And then watch the hashtag fun too.
Anyway, that’s my little two cents for the day.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?