By all accounts, Representative Steve Scalise is a very good and decent man. His colleague from across the aisle, Rep. Cedric L. Richmond, the only black Louisiana Democrat in Congress, confirms this. From the Washington Post story by By Ed O’Keefe and Robert Costa:
“I don’t think Steve Scalise has a racist bone in his body,” Richmond told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “Steve and I have worked on issues that benefit poor people, black people, white people, Jewish people. I know his character.”
Retiring Congressman John Campbell said the same thing on my show Tuesday night, along with the fact that he hadn’t supported Scalise for RSC Chair and got bumped from the steering committee when Scalise won. Campbell has nothing to lose and in ordinary political terms might be tempted to get a dig in on his soon-to-be former colleague but did exactly the opposite, praising Scalise for his character while noting he did not always agree with him on policy. (Campbell will join me on tomorrow’s show from the studio, provided the flu, which made its appearance among the studio team today, doesn’t sweep us out on New Year’s Eve.) Point is, Campbell is one of the best people I know and a superb judge of character.
This story has all the marks of a media drive-by, and one perhaps too quickly accepted as grounds for a late-in-the-year knock on the Speaker who has too often knocked conservatives, and also awfully conveniently timed for people embarrassed right now for associations with Al Sharpton. Folks as varied as U.S. News’ David Catanese, The Atlantic’s Molly Ball, The Daily Beast’s Jonathan Alter, The New York Times’ Michael Shear and Politico’s James Hohmann were all very hesitant on my program Tuesday to predict any dire consequence for Scalise or the GOP because, well, there is just nothing there there yet except a single error of scheduling judgment from 2002. That’s it. A “one meeting with a bad group” rule of disqualification from leadership positions would cripple most of the country and all of the Beltway, and thus the rush to decapitate Scalise will run out of gas by Monday if no other bad facts –not opinions, but facts– develop. As it should.
I have had years of disagreements with the Speaker on a host of issues, but cannot for the life of me believe the facts as known would merit tossing Scalise from the leadership bus or even speaking ill of anything except his oversight of staff work and scheduling a dozen years ago. John Boehner and Kevin McCarthy have done the right thing standing by their colleague while pushing Michael Grimm out the door. My friends on the right would be better served by saving their political furies for bone-headed policy moves by leadership down the road than by dancing around a lefty-lit bonfire.