to Racist Group has GOP Playing with Fire
Arianna Huffington, Syndicated Columnist
Chicago Sun-Times, Wednesday, January
prevalent caricature that Republicans neither care for minorities
nor have a place for them on their agenda gained credence when
it was revealed that prominent Republican leaders -- Rep. Bob
Barr (Ga.), Sen. Trent Lott (Miss.), Sen. Jesse Helms (N.C.) and
Mississippi Gov. Kirk Fordice -- had been linked to the Council
of Conservative Citizens. They all promptly distanced themselves
from the group, but a visit to its Web site -- with articles describing
Martin Luther King as a "depraved miscreant" and America
as turning into a "slimy brown mass of glop" -- made
it clear that what was in order was not distancing but outright
called each of them and asked if they would categorically denounce
the council and demand that it stop using their names as an implicit
endorsement. The responses varied widely. Barr told
me he would write a letter to the council and did indeed fax me
a copy. "I find your views on racial issues repugnant,"
he wrote. "If I had been aware white supremacist views
occupied any place in the Council's philosophy, I would never
have agreed to speak."
statement, given over the phone, was tortured and woefully inadequate,
considering his long-term relations with the council, ranging
from speaking at its events to meeting privately with its leaders
in his office. "I have made my condemnation of white
supremacist and racist views espoused by this or any group clear,"
he said. "Any use of my name to publicize their beliefs
is not only unauthorized, it's wrong."
are the questions that remain unanswered by the majority leader:
Why did he endorse the group in a 1995 promotional mailer as a
needed "national organization to mobilize conservative, patriotic
citizens to help protect our flag, Constitution and other symbols
of freedom"? If, as he claimed, he had "no firsthand
knowledge" of the group's agenda, what business did he have
endorsing it? And was his uncle, Arnie Watson, lying when
he said that the senator was "an honorary member of the group"?
response was to have his chief of staff, Jimmy Broughton, write
a letter to the council, which he faxed to me. "In
no way has Sen. Helms subscribed to your stance on racial issues,"
the letter went. "In fact, the viewpoint espoused by
your organization is precisely the kind of so-called 'identity
politics' Sen. Helms wholeheartedly rejects."
came my telephone conversation with Fordice. "I would
probably go again," he told me. "They are very
delightful people and just because of a few views they hold, that
wouldn't keep me from attending their events again."
I asked him specifically about their views on Martin Luther King.
"He's not a hero of mine. He spent too much time in
Soviet Russia for my liking," he replied.
next stop on my journey was a call to the CEO of the council himself.
I asked Gordon Baum for his response to the letters disavowing
his group. He claimed that he had not received them.
After I faxed them to him, he was contemptuously dismissive:
"That's politicians for you. Politicians do what's
necessary to stay in power." As for the rest
of his views, they didn't seem very different from David Duke's.
Carville is reported to be preparing an ad targeting the GOP's
connection to the council, and Duke is planning to run for Rep.
Bob Livingston's (R-La.) district, which he carried in both his
1990 Senate challenge and his 1991 gubernatorial race. During
the 1991 governor's race, an independent expenditure committee
funded by Republicans determined to keep Duke out of their party
ran an effective ad campaign against him. The GOP will
have to use every means available to ensure that neither Duke
nor the Council of Conservative Citizens becomes identified with
the Southern conservative wing of the Grand Old Party.
has been said about returning morality to politics. Republicans
would be wise to remember that on the moral Richter scale, playing
footsie with racists is more damaging to one's political health
than "ministering" to -- or being ministered by -- a
21-year old intern.