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Attacks on Scalise misfire
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Democrats have tried to rev up the outrage machine over news Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 3 ranking House Republican, may or may not have given a speech to a white supremacist group in Louisiana 12 years ago.
Not only has the Democratic Party attacked Scalise himself, it has also gone after the House GOP leadership and, now, the 2016 Republican presidential field.
The sin of Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, et al, according to the Democratic National Committee, is they have not been quick enough to denounce behavior that may or may not have happened more than a decade ago.
"Do you really think it's appropriate to have Rep. Scalise remain a part of Republican leadership, or will you let your silence speak volumes?" the DNC said to the Republican 2016 field on New Year's Eve.
First, it's important to say if Scalise did in fact appear before the European-American Unity and Rights Organization in 2002, he shouldn't have. And if information emerges that Scalise did anything more than that, or that he espoused the group's ideology, he'll lose his GOP whip position in a heartbeat.
But if the 2002 speech (or maybe non-speech) is the extent of this story, a lot of Republicans just aren't in the mood to dump the newly chosen member of House leadership. For three reasons, all related to the Obama White House:
1) The Sharpton factor. There's no need to dwell on Al Sharpton's offenses, from Crown Heights to Freddie's Fashion Mart to the Tawana Brawley hoax. Suffice it to say Sharpton has been behind some of the ugliest racial episodes in recent decades. Yet Sharpton has visited the White House more than 70 times since the first Obama inauguration. So Republicans ask why they should excommunicate Scalise, who may have done absolutely nothing wrong, while Obama embraces Sharpton.
2) The Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Yes, there was a big controversy when videos of the angry, anti-American rants of Obama's pastor became public during the heat of the 2008 Democratic primary campaign. But Obama claimed he never heard the worst of what Wright said, and managed to dispel much of the controversy with a speech in which he declared, "I can no more disown (Wright) than I can disown the black community." So Republicans ask why they should disown Scalise when Obama steadfastly refused to disown Wright.
3) The diminishing effectiveness of the race card. A lot has been written about whether race relations have worsened since Obama became president. Whatever the case, it is true that Obama's time in office has resulted in an exponential growth of racial accusations stemming from non-racial political disputes.
The facts always matter. If new, previously unknown facts appear that cast Scalise's actions in a different light, then the GOP calculation will change. But unless that happens, don't expect Republicans to surrender this time.
Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.