Hurricane Katrina is the landmark event in my life, so I’m obsessed with the weather. (We were lucky. We evacuated and our house didn’t flood but were in exile for six weeks). Tropical Storm Olga whizzed through the New Orleans area last Saturday morning wreaking more havoc than expected. We were again lucky: I was awakened at 4AM and lost power for 12 hours but that was it. Like everyone else, I made the mistake of underestimating a storm with a Russian name. And the wind cries Putin.  

Fortunately, it wasn’t stinking hot when we lost power. We tried to attend the movies, but the theatre had lost power. We hoped to see Judy, but the movie made like the man in the Arlen/Gershwin song from A Star Is Born and went away. Here’s a musical explanation for that joke:

One more brief note about Olga Saturday. We ate at the reborn Barrow’s Catfish in Hollygrove for the first time. The food and service were great, just as good as the original eatery in the same neighborhood, which flooded in 2005. 

I was introduced to the original Barrow’s by a conservative law school classmate. The first time we went, we were the only white people in the dining room. I was about to say something when he interrupted me and said: “Republicans like catfish too.” 

We’re still Facebook friends but he rarely posts. I hope he’s not a Trumper, but you never can tell. Oh well, we’ll always have Barrow’s.

Let’s close out this introduction with a song that came in at #11 on my Louisiana Tunes list:

I promised brevity but I do go on. They call me the 13th Ward Rambler for a reason.

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty of this column and discuss the Congressman from next door, Steve Scalise with a focus on his relationship with president* Trump. One could even call Scalise Putin’s puppet’s puppet.

I’ve borrowed the column title from a Dwight Yoakam lyric but will explain that later. I like to keep my readers in suspense. 

I’ve created a subject header for the occasion by modifying my First Draft colleague Michael F’s original image:

President* Pennywise is among my menagerie of nicknames for Donald Trump. It’s a bow to the evil clown in Stephen King’s It. Pennywise feeds on fear and weakens when ignored. Words to live by in dealing with Trump. A lesson Steve Scalise and his ilk will never learn until their dear leader passes from the scene.

Those of us in the Gret Stet of Louisiana have known Steve Scalise long before he started living inside the pocket of President* Pennywise. He served in the state lege from 1995-2007. He lusted after the St. Tammany/Metry seat in Congress for years but yielded to Bobby Jindal in 2004. His patience was rewarded in 2008 after PBJ left Congress to commence wrecking Louisiana.

Scalise has been a hard-right Tea Party-type Congressman ever since. Earlier in his career, he bragged to the Picayune’s Stephanie Grace that he was like David Duke without the baggage. Nothing to brag about in my estimation. 

Scalise has never addressed making the Duke comment and famously had a run-in with Bayou Brief publisher Lamar White Jr. in 2014 over his appearance before a white supremacist group in 2002. Similarly, he never addressed the thrust of Lamar’s story either. It should have damaged his credibility. It certainly did with me.

The local MSM (mainstream media) has handled Scalise with kid gloves ever since he was shot and seriously wounded in 2017. I recall some folks expressing hope that Scalise would see the light on gun control and become the GOP’s answer to Gabby Giffords. Instead, he doubled down on his gun nuttery. Facts matter less to wingnuts like Scalise than ideology. I will give Scalise credit for consistency: he’s consistently wrong.

The other reason the majority of the local MSM overlook picky details such as his appalling voting record is that they think Steve Scalise is NICE. His geniality in defense of hatred, racism, and Trump is often noted and typically excused with the notable exception of Picvocate columnist Stephanie Grace. She understands who and what Steve Scalise really is. He’s the classic bully who kisses up and kicks down. He’s currently inside the pocket of President* Pennywise, his own personal bully.  

Once an impeachment fan, Scalise has emerged as one of Trump’s staunchest and most mendacious defenders. It’s comfortable inside the pocket of this presidential* clown. Last week, Scalise joined in with Matt Gaetz and other extremists in what I called a Frat Boy Tantrum In The House at First Draft. 

Here’s how I characterized Scalise’s participation: “Keeping terrible company was the Gret Stet of Louisiana’s own Steve Scalise, House GOP Whip and a man who aspires to be Speaker of the House. What House? Animal House?”

Speaking of Animal House,  I’ve transformed the image I posted at First Draft into a triptych by adding the whip who Trump has whipped:

Speaker Pelosi’s announcement of a vote on impeachment procedures has knocked the legs out from under GOP spin but it’s still worth looking at the process arguments advanced by Scalise and his icky ilk. The local press coverage has bent over backwards to give these specious arguments credibility.

A good example of Scalise coddling was a terrible article on the front page of Monday’s Picvocate. It pooh-poohed Scalise’s Trump sycophancy including his part in the frat boy tantrum. It did what Scalise’s local apologists always do, present his side of the story as spin, not lies: “What are they trying to hide from the American people that they won’t allow voting members of Congress to hear what’s going on in that room?” Scalise said. “We’re going to represent the voices of the millions of Americans that our districts represent.”

This is not spin, it is blatantly untrue. While the article does mention the fact that there are Republican committee members who have access, it DOES NOT mention that Trey Gowdy used similar methods as chairman of the Oversight committee looking into the Benghazi affair. 

The local TV news station I watch, WWL, also coddles the mendacious minority whip from Metry and presents his lies without challenge. The media has a hard time using the L word. They recoil from it like Dracula encountering a clove of garlic. More likely than not it’s pandering to their white conservative suburban viewers. A liar from nice Metry? Nice = white to Gret Stet GOPers.

My Congressman Cedric Richmond has claimed Scalise as a friend in the past, but he’s grown reticent as the impeachment process gains momentum. The Congressman next door has become radioactive with Richmond’s base and presidential candidate. Richmond is co-chairman of the Biden campaign and Scalise is implying that Cedric’s candidate is a crook. That’s not very nice.

Does Steve Scalise get a pass because he’s NICE? It’s a pretty warped sense of proportion that makes “niceness” more important than the truth. I’m inclined to invoke what I like to call the Maddow Doctrine at times like these:

What “nice” Steve Scalise does is defend the indefensible. The media should be ashamed of themselves for enabling him. Is it because they think having a Louisianan in the House Republican leadership is “good for Louisiana?” Holy outmoded thinking, Batman. 

Trumpism is following in the footsteps of Teabaggery. Trumpers are not interested in delivering for their constituents. If that were still in vogue in red states, Mary Landrieu wouldn’t have lost to the dim bulb doc in 2014. Senator Landrieu delivered, Double Bill Cassidy spins his wheels and genuflects to the Current Occupant. Like the rest of the Gret Stet Congressional delegation, he’s inside the pocket of the malevolent clown, President* Pennywise. It’s mighty crowded in there, y’all.

I borrowed the column title from Dwight Yoakam’s 1993 hit song, Pocket Of A Clown. Dwight’s clown was a sad, not scary clown. I’m not a coulrophobe but I understand the fear of clowns. If nothing else, Dwight was right when he wrote, “it’s a real sad place to hang around, inside the pocket of a clown.” 

It’s a lesson Steve Scalise should but won’t learn from his association with the scariest clown of all, President* Pennywise.

The last word goes to (who else?) Dwight Yoakam: