I have been trying to understand the scandal of Mr. Scalise talking to an organization related to the Ku Klux Klan. He apologized although the facts remain murky whether he actually talked to the group. What struck me as odd is the implication that politicians should not talk with certain groups of people. Is this any different than a politician talking at a Black Panther Party meeting? Should a politician who believes that marriage is between a man and a woman not talk to homosexuals who believe differently? Should Republicans talk to Democrats? We seem to be stuck on demonizing people rather than discussing issues. I call this Alinsky’s revenge on the American people. To help clear up this subject here is a quote from the Washington Examiner, Democrats try, fail to burn Steve Scalise.
Then Slate, the reliably liberal online magazine that no one has ever accused of carrying water to put out Republican fires, found two people who remembered actually attending the 2002 meeting. They confirmed what the organizer of the European-American Unity rally had said, that Mr. Scalise was not there.
The organizer, one Kenny Knight, had managed David Duke’s campaign for governor in 1991 when he lost in a runoff to the incumbent governor, and was a neighbor of Mr. Scalise, newly elected to the state legislature. He booked a meeting room in a suburban inn and scheduled a session of the European-American conference for 1 p.m. He told the Jefferson Heights Civic Association to use the meeting room in the morning and invited Mr. Scalise, a sheriff’s deputy and a Red Cross representative to speak to that group.
Mr. Scalise is remembered as having talked about legislation he would introduce in the upcoming session of the legislature. The sheriff’s deputy talked about a neighborhood crime-watch program and the Red Cross representative demonstrated the latest techniques to revive drowning victims. Riveting stuff, to be sure, but apparently nobody wore a sheet or burned a cross.
If this report is true that he was talking to the Jefferson Heights Civic Association then his actions look like an elected representative honestly trying to do his job. This idea Mr. Scalise was doing his job when he talked to the group is echoed in the article by Stephanie Grace, Scalise’s pitch to Duke supporters seems plausible, who happens to be the source for the “He told me he was like David Duke without the baggage” comment.
In fact, by 2002, Scalise may have been so used to the idea of dealing with Duke voters that he really considered EURO just another part of his constituency, even if it was a distasteful one. Maybe not so different in his mind from the League of Women Voters, which he cited in an interview with The Times-Picayune as another group he’d addressed despite the fact that they didn’t agree on everything — an insulting comparison that suggests he still doesn’t fully grasp how bad this all looks from the outside.
So according to Ms. Grace’s analysis we have a politician who doesn’t grasp how bad something looks from another person’s viewpoint and is willing to talk to people he disagrees with. For most politicians this is not a scandal but a common workplace hazard when your mouth is moving faster than your brain. Vice President Biden is the most humorous example of a politician with this same affliction. The intriguing question is whether Ms. Grace believes Mr. Scalise’s problem is that he does not agree with the League of Women Voters on everything or that he could have handled their disagreement in a more politically correct manner? Obviously in hindsight Mr. Scalise should have handled the situations better but having valid disagreements with constituents as different as the League of Women Voters and EURO is expected. It is also expected than he would find common ground on some issues with both of these groups. We expect politicians to help reconcile our differences and move us forward. Interestingly his predicament is similar to the one currently facing the American people. Does America believe Republicans should agree with Democrats on everything or does America want their politicians to handle their disagreements in a more politically civil manner and move forward? With a choice between demonization or progress, I suspect America wants progress in a civil manner every time.