I’m betting you have heard about one of these, and haven’t heard about the other.
Louisiana Representative Steve Scalise, the current and prospective Majority Whip in the U.S. House of Representatives, is reported to have had a years-long political connection with Kenneth Knight, a top advisor to former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke. That’s in addition to Scalise’s earlier-reported agreement – at Knight’s behest – to speak in 2002 to a white-supremacist gathering. According to Scalise, he didn’t realize the nature of the group he was speaking to.
David Duke himself, moreover, has weighed in on the matter of his and his staff’s connection with Scalise, affirming that the connection existed and there was frequent contact over the years.
Now, I don’t know of any reason to think Scalise has KKK-like attitudes or beliefs. He has repudiated such beliefs without reservation, and if he had a record of endorsing or acting on them, I feel sure we would know about it by now.
It’s easy in Louisiana, after all, to have had some incidental connection with the Duke organization, even if you aren’t “one of them.” Apparently, Scalise and Knight were near neighbors back in 2002. We could compare that fact to the Obama-Ayers household relationship in Chicago, and subject it to either the progressive-left interpretation, or the conservative interpretation. Pick your slant.
But at this point, with more detail having emerged, it is legitimate to be concerned about this connection of Scalise’s, independent of what Democratic politicians may think or say. It seems that John Boehner wants to apply the progressive-left, hey-this-doesn’t-matter interpretation of neighbor relations to Scalise’s and Knight’s case. My eyes are seeing at least the potential for more to it than that. And I wonder who Boehner thinks his base is, as he expresses unqualified support for Scalise and a determination to retain him as Majority Whip.
I suspect I’m not the only Republican voter bothered by the distant stink of KKK racism hovering over this. It isn’t about what the Democrats or the media will think. It’s about being clear, in Republican ranks, about whom and what we want to be associated with.
This bothers me, viscerally, and it troubles me that it doesn’t bother Boehner.
But I’m not going to draw big conclusions about the matter here. We’ll see more unfold in the coming days. (This just in: it now appears that Scalise didn’t actually speak at the white-supremacist conference, although he confessed to doing so. Eyewitnesses say he spoke, apparently to conference participants, at a gathering held before the conference which wasn’t part of the conference schedule. Make of that what you will.)
I want to point out instead the contrast, in both media coverage and intra-party concern, between the Scalise link with David Duke and the link of Indiana Representative Andre Carson with Islamist groups, and with Mazen Mokhtar, an Al Qaeda facilitator and fund-raiser for the Taliban.
This is the one you probably haven’t heard about. Unlike Scalise’s unfortunate outing with the white-supremacist group, Carson’s escapade didn’t happen 12 years ago. It was this past weekend, in Chicago.
Carson participated in a panel – naturally, on the topic “Ferguson is our Issue: We Can’t Breathe” – at the convention of the Muslim American Society (MAS) and Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA). On the panel with him was Mazen Mokhtar, an Egyptian-born imam who was living in New Jersey in 2004 when he was named in a federal affidavit as the operator of a website connected with Al Qaeda and fundraising for the Taliban.
According to the Washington Post:
Mazen Mokhtar, an Egyptian-born imam and political activist, operated a Web site identified in an affidavit unsealed Friday by the U.S. attorney’s office in Connecticut. The Web site solicited funds for the Taliban and Chechen mujaheddin, according to the affidavit. It is an exact replica of Web sites operated by Babar Ahmad, who was arrested in England on a U.S. extradition warrant this week. …
A CNN report (now removed from their website) added:
Federal officials are investigating a man accused of running Web sites that are exact replicas of those used to solicit funds for the Taliban and Chechen mujahedeen, according to a criminal complaint filed Friday by the U.S. attorney’s office in New Haven, Connecticut.
Law enforcement sources identified the man as Mazen Mokhtar, 36, of New Brunswick, New Jersey. …
Not only have you probably not heard about Carson’s appearance with Mokhtar at the Islamic convention – you probably never heard about Mokhtar’s fundraising and facilitation activities for terrorist organizations. The media silence on these matters is deafening. The media plump instead for a false narrative about him:
Predictably, when Mokhtar’s name surfaced in the investigation, the Muslim community rallied around him and the media began pushing the “moderate Islamic cleric” narrative.
Patrick Poole notes, in any case, that in 2007, the FBI stated that the MAS was “founded as the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States.” One of its top leaders had stated as much in 2004 (see MAS link above). Hamas operatives have been among the speakers at ICNA events (see ICNA link). Andre Carson himself, speaking to an ICNA convention in 2012, opined that “American schools will never be innovative until they become modeled after the Islamic education system.”
There is no evidence that Democrats feel conflicted over this. Millions of Americans would find it very disturbing, of course, but they will never hear about it.
Meanwhile, I’ve seen the story about Scalise read three times already on the local news – on two different affiliates – during the afternoon slots devoted to weather and fluffy human-interest headlines. The point is clearly to get that impressionistic link of Republicans with the KKK out there, to as wide an audience as possible. The cable news channels have, of course, been giving it extensive coverage.
The GOP needs to keep its house tidy on principle and not out of fear of the media. But it can’t be pointed out too many times that what the mainstream media choose to cover is one-sided and selective from the get-go.
That makes leadership on the Republican side supremely important, because the American people are never going to hear explanations and qualifications from the GOP framed in a fair-minded, positive way. Actions and clear, positive assertions are the only things that will get through. They have to be chosen carefully, with integrity and strategic foresight.