On December 28th, liberal blogger Lamar White Jr. posted an article that has shaken the Republican Party to its foundations. By Googling “Steve Scalise” and “David Duke”, he discovered a link to an item that appeared on the Stormfront website in 2002 that referred to Scalise, the House majority whip from Louisiana, speaking at a white nationalist gathering organized by Duke, a long-time fascist politician:
EURO’s recent national convention held in the greater New Orleans area was a convergence of ideas represented by Americans from diverse geographical regions like California, Texas, New Jersey and the Carolina’s. This indicates that concerns held are pervasive in every sovereign state and Republic alike, within an increasingly diminishing view of where America stands on individual liberty for whites.
In addition to plans to implement tactical strategies that were discussed, the meeting was productive locally as State Representative, Steve Scalise, discussed ways to oversee gross mismanagement of tax revenue or “slush funds” that have little or no accountability. Representative Scalise brought into sharp focus the dire circumstances pervasive in many important, under-funded needs of the community at the expense of graft within the Housing and Urban Development Fund, an apparent give-away to a selective group based on race.
EURO stands for European-American Unity and Rights Organization. It was just one of among many initiatives launched by Duke in an effort to widen the base for American fascism. Stormfront was launched in 1990 as a bulletin board to support Duke’s Senatorial campaign from Louisiana that year. Running as a Republican, Duke’s reputation was so bad that a Republican rival in the primary dropped out so as to help the Democrat get elected.
Lamar White Jr.’s scoop would have probably been ignored if it hadn’t been picked up and publicized by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an outfit that raises money largely on the basis of frightening its supporters about the looming threat of fascism. Alexander Cockburn took note of its founder and executive director Morris Dees in a May 15 2009 CounterPunch article titled “King of the Hate Business”:
What is the arch-salesman of hate-mongering, Mr. Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center doing now? He’s saying that the election of a black president proves his point. Hate is on the rise! Send money!
Without skipping a beat, the mailshot moguls, who year after year make money selling the notion there’s been a right resurgence out there in the hinterland with massed legions of haters, have used the election of a black president to say that, yes, hate is on the rise and America ready to burst apart at the seams, with millions of extremists primed to march down Main Street draped in Klan robes, a copy of Mein Kampf tucked under one arm and a Bible under the other, available for sneak photographs from minions of Chip Berlet, another salesman of the Christian menace, ripely endowed with millions to battle the legions of the cross.
Was there anybody better than Alexander Cockburn at the Swiftian turn of phrase? I can’t think of one.
In a bid to clear Scalise’s name, Kenny Knight, a long-time aide to David Duke who organized the event, says the whole thing is a misunderstanding. NOLA.com, the website associated with the New Orleans Times-Picayune that discontinued its print edition, told its readers:
Kenny Knight, a longtime political adviser to Duke, said Scalise spoke at a meeting of the Jefferson Heights Civic Association — not affiliated with the European-American Unity and Rights conference that was held in the same Metairie hotel — two-and-a-half hours before the white nationalist event started.
Instapundit, an offshoot of the rightist Pajama Media, quoted from the NOLA article but neglected to include this key piece of information from the article, namely that Knight was the head of the Jefferson Heights Civic Association. Supposedly the two gatherings were not connected.
Knight maintains that Scalise was only there to speak to his community group and had no idea that the EURO convention was being held there later that day, and furthermore that he only knew him as a neighbor and not as Duke’s top adviser. Of course, there is the problem of Scalise’s confession that he did speak at the convention with the excuse that he was not aware of its agenda.
Did Scalise have any idea that Knight was Duke’s right-hand man? Or did he question the wisdom of speaking to the civic group Knight headed in the same place as the EURO meeting that Knight had organized? We’ll never know, I guess, but some people with a lot less knowledge of Louisiana politics took it upon themselves to stay away from the hotel that day as Gambit, an alternative New Orleans newspaper, reported back in 2002:
The Iowa Cubs will be playing the New Orleans Zephyrs from May 16-19, the same time frame as the EURO workshop. Originally, the Cubs were slated to stay at the same hotel as EURO participants.
Normally, when playing the Zephyrs, the Iowa Cubs stay at the Best Western Landmark. Due to the controversial nature of EURO, the Cubs will move to a different hotel. “We would just as soon stay away from a group that will create controversy,” says Iowa Cubs general manager Sam Bernabe.
As soon as I heard about Scalise’s rush to distance himself from David Duke, I wondered once again what compelled Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to invite Duke to a holocaust revisionism conference in Tehran back in 2006. Given the massive campaign to tighten the screws on Iran and make its people suffer, why put down the red carpet for a former leader of the KKK? Was this the type of “anti-imperialism” that so many people on the left had begun to identify with? One that was missing a brain?
This was not the only sign that Duke had sympathies for the “axis of resistance”. In an article on his website dated April 30, 2014 he said things that have a leftist tinge:
Putin, by ardently supporting the Assad government, almost single-handedly stopped a Zio mass invasion of Syria, as occurred in Iraq. The Zionists of course see Syria as an ardent enemy of Israel. He has had the Russian envoy on the UN Security Council veto and/or make known that Russia would veto resolutions which the Zionists want the Council to take.
A few months later Duke called attention to his appearance alongside the Syrian Girl on Jeff Rense’s radio show. The two would “expose the truth about the Zionist created Syrian conflict and the role Zionist controlled U.S. Policy in the rise of ISIS.” The Syrian Girl is a 27-year old woman named Maram Susl who blogs on behalf of the Baathist dictatorship from her home in Australia. Her Youtube videos praising Bashar al-Assad have been played more than 2.5 million times. Jeff Rense is another left/right figure. When he isn’t praising Russia standing up to NATO over Ukraine or the Baathist war on its own people, he is reporting on UFO’s, how 9/11 was an inside job and how AIDS got started as an experiment in American biochemical weaponry labs.
Most of you are probably aware that Syria has attracted the support of rightwing figures in Europe who are as committed to white nationalism as David Duke. British National Party leader Nick Griffin has visited Syria twice and other groups have taken up the Baathist cause, including the French National Front and Greece’s Golden Dawn.
What do all these groups and individuals have in common, including Steve Salise, David Duke, Nick Griffin and Vladimir Putin? It is white nationalism.
Across the board, they see Muslims, immigrants, and people of color as inimical to their interests. Duke’s problem is that he is too obvious about it. The idea is not to promote “white pride” but instead call for an America that does not “entitle” some people to have more than others. Under the guise of being “color-blind”, the Republicans push legislation that punishes African-Americans disproportionately. When the cops kill a young Black man, the Republicans spring to their defense. Unlike the Democrats, they know how to fight for their cause uncompromisingly.
Perhaps the perfect denouement for Steve Scalise is the backing he has received from a Black Democrat who assured Americans that his colleague did not have a racist bone in his body. So said Cedric Richmond, a fellow Congressman. Like the recently unseated Mary Landrieu, Richmond is a typical Louisiana Democrat and a member of the centrist New Democrat Coalition that was founded by former Congressman Evan Bayh who sat on the committee that cleared the CIA of any wrongdoing in hacking the Senate Committee investigating torture. Did I tell you that the CIA handpicked the investigators investigating the investigators?
Richmond, like Landrieu, was a defender of offshore drilling and oil royalties to the state, a sine qua non for the continued domination of the petroleum industry over Louisiana politics. The state is infamous for its Cancer Alley, a 150-mile stretch along the Mississippi River that is dominated by unregulated petroleum refineries. In 2002, the same year that Scalise turned up at the hotel hosting David Duke’s conference, Louisiana had the second-highest death rate from cancer in the United States. As E.M. Forster said in the epigraph to “Howard’s End”, only connect.