What Did He Say?
I’ll bet you a dollar that you had never heard of Steve Scalise until the other day.
But now you have. If you pay careful attention, you know why you have recently heard of him, but most people don’t pay careful attention so they are not quite sure why they are supposed to know this new name.
What you do know is that Democrats universally revile him while Republicans avoid eye contact, defend him gently and change the subject.
If you are a Democrat, Steve Scalise is the Antichrist but, if you are a Republican, Steve Scalise is merely embarrassing.
So, what did Steve Scalise do to light up Twitter feeds and gain his own hash tag?
He made a speech.
Is speech making not the favored indoor sport of Congressmen and Senators alike?
Why yes it is.
Congressmen and Senators alike love making speeches because speeches are the way they raise money, receive the adoration of voters and place themselves in the spotlight.
Be still my political heart.
Mercifully, the vast majority of speeches made by Congressmen and Senators are ignored. They do not light up Twitter feeds and they do not create new hash tags.
Perhaps this was a technology story? The audience was, after all, in Louisiana while Steve Scalise was in Russia. Twelve years ago — the speech was given in 2002 — it would have been newsworthy to be standing in Russia giving a speech to an audience in Louisiana. Today, not so much.
Nope, not that.
What made the speech noteworthy — at least as “noteworthy” as defined in political circles — is that the audience was the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO). No, EURO is not a multi-country, plummeting-currency appreciation society. It is a group of white supremacists affiliated with a loathsome politician called David Duke.
Here is the Democratic version of critical thinking: Scalise spoke to bad people so Scalise is a bad person. Since he is the House Majority Whip and the Republicans are in the majority in the House, Republicans are bad people. Hate them.
Here is the Republican version of critical thinking: Scalise made an error in judgment so he should apologize to the satisfaction of the United States Apology Review and Evaluation Board, staffed by only the most sensitive among us (Sensitive-Americans?), which will then pass judgment on the sufficiency of the offender’s groveling. Move along nothing to see here.
Before taking the required poll tested positions, did anyone think to ask what Steve Scalise actually said? If so, the person asking the question has done a good job of hiding his light under a bushel.
What if Steve Scalise was admonishing the audience for its racist views? Would that change anything?
What if Steve Scalise was encouraging the EURO audience to get on with their excellent work? Would that change anything?
What if Steve Scalise was shaking the trees on the perpetual fundraising circuit and actually said neither of the things described above? (If experience is our guide that should be high on the list of possibilities.)
What if Steve Scalise was just talking “at” an audience from which he was separated by a camera and several thousand miles? (If experience is our guide that should be even higher on the list of possibilities.)
I have no idea what he said or did but, unlike the lathered up legions of the left and right, at least I am asking the questions.
What do you suppose a speech is like if it is delivered in Russia and seen in Louisiana? Do you think there is a lot of pre-speech and post-speech schmoozing and glad-handing? Probably not, there is a small geography problem.
So, before displaying my own knee-jerk stupidity on either side of this silliness, I will ask anyone who expresses an opinion to answer a simple question.
“What did he say?”
If I am feeling especially snarky, I will also ask the person of opinion-ness if he knows what a “Whip” is.
It is a guy who hustles around a legislature arm-twisting for votes. I am not sure you have to be Pope Francis to do that.