House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) is undergoing what will surely be a lengthy and painful recovery from last week's Congressional Baseball mass shooting, an event that has led to a deepening of some divisions even as it bridged others.
Several such divisions were highlighted by the criticisms of Scalise that emerged in the wake of the shooting, which were noted on Monday's edition of “Morning Joe.” Crooks and Liars flagged an exchange in which host Joe Scarborough decried a despicable PAC ad using the shooting to attack Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff, but also slammed those who criticized Scalise as he recovered in the hospital.
Former White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was on hand to agree with Scarborough that criticism of Scalise should wait until he has completed his recovery:
SCARBOROUGH: It's gross and disgusting, let this man recover with his family. And we'll have a policy debate in six months. If you are offended by what the pope's position is on social issues, and you got a guy from a Catholic state that is actually believing what the Catholic church says, take it up with him six months from now.
EARNEST: Yeah, let's wait until he recovers and is back in Congress. God willing, that is exactly what will happen. Then let's go and have that debate. That is a vigorous debate that we should continue to have. Look, when I was at the White House podium, I famously had a couple of exchanges through the media with Congressman Scalise and his office. We have a profound political difference. He did not at all deserve what happened to him, and we all as Americans have to be rooting for his recovery. We absolutely are.
Now, ignoring for the moment that Scarborough appears to have just confessed to violating federal election law, and stipulating that all decent people hope Scalise makes a complete recovery, it is worth remembering some of the differences to which Earnest is referring. Here's just one exchange from Earnest's time as press secretary:
Mr. Scalise reportedly described himself as 'David Duke without the baggage,' so it'll be up to Republicans to decide what that says about their conference.
Earnest made that point four times from the podium, over the course of two years, while also referencing the white supremacist conference that Scalise spoke at, for which he later apologized. I never finished CCD, but I'm pretty sure the Pope is not down with David Duke or white supremacy, or, for that matter, stripping health care from 23 million people and lying about it.
But it is fair to ask if people should withhold such criticism while Scalise recovers, as MSNBC host Joy Reid demonstrably failed to do over the weekend. In a segment with Moral Mondays founder Rev. Dr. William Barber, Reid laid out some of the common criticisms of Scalise (few of which line up with the Pope), and Barber explained that morality does not demand our silence:
What we're required to say is we hope he recovers, and then when he recovers, there's a renewed mind-set. If a lesbian person saved your life, you should not go forward being homophobic. You shouldn't be, anyway. If you almost died, but your life was saved because you got health care, then you should apply that ethic, and want everybody else to have the same health care you have.
Since the shooting occurred, Scalise's record has been on my mind, and I agree that we should all give Scalise a chance. That is precisely why people like Joy Reid and Rev. Barber should not be silent now, or for six months, or for whatever demarcation line Joe Scarborough and Josh Earnest deem appropriate.
Scalise should be given a chance to recover, and think about his record while he does so. And if, as Rev. Barber says, he has a change of heart, if the health care he receives makes him aware of the inhumanity of stripping it from millions of others, if the two black people who saved his life help him recognize that he was wrong to build his career on properly-coded white supremacy, if Capitol Police Officer Crystal Griner and her wife move him to realize the inhumanity of denying rights to others, if the hail of bullets convinces him that every American deserves to feel the safety that his security detail provides him, then we will welcome him with open arms.
And if he doesn't, we will face him, and he will face us, at the ballot box, each thankful for the chance.
Please note: This is a commentary piece. The views and opinions expressed within it are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of IJR