Keeping Duke away from publicity is like trying to separate the cast of Keeping up the with Kardashiansfrom the gaze of a television camera, and so when Baton Rouge local radio host Jim Engster invited onto the air last week the guy who makes a living from other people’s donations, he presented himself present and correct almost as fast as Pres. Barack Obama walks back promises about red lines, closing detention centers, keeping doctors you like, etc.
Duke was miffed at Scalise when the latter had the audacity last month to offer a preemptive apology in case he might have spoken to members of a group Duke fronted that evinced white supremacist overtones. Given that the group essentially was unknown to many Louisiana politicians, that it never publicized in advance his appearance, that the talk had to do with tax issues, that the organizer of it said the invitation came from a neighborhood association of his creation (dueling for attention with a rival organization from which it had broken) and any group members there had wandered in early, that any organization related to Duke who by this time any connection to whom was toxic to any politician that would make any of them keep as far away from this as possible, and Scalise’s own history of personal comportment and principled politics, it’s certain that anything Scalise had to do with the group was incidental and accidental.
Nonetheless, so radioactive is Duke that Scalise, without even remembering the event at first, felt compelled to apologize for not knowing he may have spoken to some people who may have white supremacist views, and is accepting sanctions such as having to sit down and listen to the vacuous policy suggestions of the likes of former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial, now heading up the Urban League. All of which provokes Duke, who basically said that Scalise was nowhere near the man “David” (yes, he referred to himself in third person in the interview) is and expressed indignation that Scalise would have said at one point he was Duke without the “baggage.”
Meaning then, of course, that Scalise then (and now) preached economically conservative politics but continues to abhor the white supremacist views that Duke had keep under the sheets during his statewide office runs in the early 1990s but which inevitably came out, principally because Duke couldn’t help disseminating wacko racist literature and statements in private. But to Duke, views about conspiracy theories making Jews the locus of badness in the world, that the Holocaust was trumped up if it ever happened, and that blacks don’t share virtually all the same genetic information with whites and/or are so warped intellectually that the two races cannot share a common culture, seem mainstream enough that it offends him if somebody implies they are deviant and turn off voters. And therefore to Duke it’s an insult to apologize for being around, even accidentally and unknowingly, a group that seeks to enact public policy stemming from these base assumptions.
Thus, Scalise earned from Duke the epithet “sellout” and threat that he might run against him in 2016, which no doubt sent waves of fear coursing through Scalise’s veins, being put up against the wall by a guy who couldn’t win the office of dogcatcher if his life depended upon it. Yet the real impact of this is it reduces what little heat Scalise feels over this trumped-up partisan issue, for having Duke disown you just about exonerates one concerning race issues as much as can be possible.
Nutjobs out there will continue to try to use the ancient incident as a scarlet R on Scalise and by imputation Republicans and conservatives, and some even may believe the whole interview was a put-on with Duke and Scalise even now kicking back with some cocktails, talking about white broads, and snickering at success of their damage control efforts (these true believers also choosing to disbelieve Duke when he said he had no relationship whatsoever with Scalise). There’s no way to help those kind of people, but for the rest of the world, interestingly Duke’s cravenness to regain the spotlight briefly should turn out to deliver thedenouement to this manufactured controversy that at most becomes an obscure footnote in the serious world of public policy-making.