Belated answer to Kersten's smear of Keith Ellison

As I was doing a media clip search in the course of reporting the story on Keith Ellison that will be published tomorrow, the June 8 column from Strib writer Katherine Kersten stood out. I won't go into the entire thing, but do want to address her last point, which was quoted in at least one other national story.

"Imagine that a Republican seeks his party's endorsement for the U.S. House of Representatives, despite having been allied with a white supremacist organization just a decade earlier," Kersten smugly wrote. "You're right. That man wouldn't get his party's endorsement."

We'll leave aside Kersten's equation of the Nation of Islam and a white supremacist organization for others to quibble over and go straight to her assumption of moral superiority on the part of Republicans. Because while Kersten is encouraging us to imagine hypothetical scenarios, we need only remember relatively recent history--not on something as small potatoes as Congress, but regarding the current occupant of the White House--to rebut her smug analogy.

It is well documented that with his presidential campaign on the rocks after losing to John McCain in the 2000 New Hampshire Republican primary, George Bush was determined to shore up his right-wing base (and smear McCain, but that's another story) in the next battleground state of South Carolina. To that end, his first campaign stop in the state after New Hampshire was at Bob Jones University, the institution notorious for defending its policy of racial segregation all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The university was still banning interracial dating at the time candidate Bush appeared before them and said, "I look forward to publicly defending our conservative philosophy."

Candidate Bush also refused to take a position on the Confederate flag flying over the South Carolina State Capitol. The Confederacy was a treasonous government that specifically took up arms against the United States to fight for the right to own slaves--would that fit Kersten's definition of a white supremacist organization? We all know what happened next: Coddling the folks at Bob Jones and others nostalgic for the Confederacy helped Bush defeat McCain in South Carolina, giving him enough momentum to eventually capture his party's endorsement.

Keith Ellison has repeatedly repudiated--using words like "reject" and "condemn"--any affiliation he had with the Nation of Islam. George Bush has never apologized for his more recent affiliations: Kissing the rear ends of Bob Jones University administrators and those who chose to fly the symbol of the Confederacy over a public building.

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