After a phenomenal election last November in which Republicans increased their margins in the House and took control of the Senate, the expectation was that congressional Republicans would prove to the country that they could lead like mature adults. But as the adage goes, “they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”
Specifically, House speaker John Boehner and the rest of his leadership team had a great opportunity to show that they understood the optics of 21st century politics. Two weeks ago, it was reported that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, the No. 3 person in the GOP House leadership, had addressed a group of White supremacists in 2002.
I think Scalise could have survived the fact that he attended this racist gathering simply by being honest about the fact that he attended and it was a huge mistake. He could have asserted that his body of work in public office has proven that his views are not consistent with what the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO) represent.
He still would have taken some heat in the media for a few weeks, but it would have gone away. But no, Scalise’s initial response by his spokeswoman, Moira Bagley was, “he [Scalise] was unaware at the time of the group’s ideology and its association with racists and neo-Nazi activists…throughout his career in public service Mr. Scalise has spoken to hundreds of different groups with a broad range of viewpoints…In every case, he was building support for his policies, not the other way around…In 2002, he made himself available to anyone who wanted to hear his proposal to eliminate slush funds that wasted millions of taxpayer dollars as well as his opposition to a proposed tax increase on middle-class families…He has never been affiliated with the abhorrent group in question…The hate-fueled ignorance and intolerance that group projects is in stark contradiction to what Mr. Scalise believes and practices as a father, a husband, and a devoted Catholic.”
In politics it is said that the cover-up is worse than the original sin. The Scalise affair is Exhibit A.
As one who has spent his entire adult life working on political campaigns, I know that no politician speaks at an event without knowing all the particulars surrounding the event: who is the convener, the purpose, the audience, etc. Because Scalise and his staff tried to feign ignorance, he should be forced to step down from his leadership position. His response is an insult to anyone with a brain – and any sense of morality.
The organizer of the event was none other than David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. The national Republican Party has been playing footsie with Duke and the likes in the early 1990s and thus were intimately familiar with who Duke was.
Without the likes of Duke, Newt Gingrich would have never become speaker of the House in 1995. So, for Gingrich, House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, etc. to try to explain Scalise’s attendance before this group as a mistake is an outright lie – it was done with full knowledge of who the group was and what it stood for.
This scandal has nothing to do with “racism” or whether Scalise is a racist. This is about telling the truth, which he has not done.
I am deeply offended as a Black Republican who has worked very hard to get more Blacks involved in my party to see people such as Gingrich, Boehner, McCarthy and others attempt to defend the indefensible.
On matters of race, I have come to expect absolutely no leadership from Republicans in Congress – and they never disappoint me in this regards.
So, let me publically pose a few questions to Scalise and the House leadership – and I use the term “leadership” very loosely. Does Scalise have any Blacks on his official or political staff? Did he reach out to any credible Black Republicans, not the usual Blacks they go to who will say anything they are told to say, before accepting the invitation? Speaking of staff, does Boehner or McCarthy have any Blacks on their staffs? If so, who are they and what do they do?
It has long been said that the most segregated hour in America is at 11 a.m. on Sundays, when Blacks and Whites go to separate churches. A corollary to this could be that the most segregated place in Congress is the staff of Republican leadership.
Where are the voices of the so-called Black Republicans/conservatives who will miss their own mother’s funeral to denounce Al Sharpton when he does something stupid, but will never publically criticize Scalise and Boehner when they are wrong for fear of not being invited to go on FOX News to praise all things Republican.
As Eric Erickson asks, “How do you show up at a David Duke event and not know what it’s about?” GOP operative, John Weaver said, “Scalise cannot serve in leadership.”
I have not read about any Black Republicans calling for Scalise’s resignation from leadership. So let me do so publicly: Steve Scalise must go!
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @raynard1223.