I do not think Steve Scalise is a racist. I may disagree with him on a lot of policy, but I do not think he is a bad or indecent person. In fact, he is a very nice person and there is bipartisan agreement on that front.

My problem with Steve Scalise is judgment. He, like much of the Republican leadership, is so focused on putting electability over principle that it trips up his judgment. And this situation with Duke is another example of that. It’s roots go deeper to 1999. And, frankly, that it goes back so far is why it is hard to believe he did not know about the 2002 group.

Back in 1999, David Duke ran for Rep. Bob Livingston’s seat in a special election. Then state Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) was asked to comment on Duke and his statement typifies the problem.

Another potential candidate, state Rep. Steve Scalise (R), said he embraces many of the same “conservative” views as Duke, but is far more viable.

“The novelty of David Duke has worn off,” said Scalise. “The voters in this district are smart enough to realize that they need to get behind someone who not only believes in the issues they care about, but also can get elected. Duke has proven that he can’t get elected, and that’s the first and most important thing.”

He embraced “many of the same ‘conservative’ views as Duke,” but “Duke has proven that he can’t get elected.”

Electability over principle is rarely the smart play because more often than not the voters figure it out. That Scalise sought to agree with Duke’s “conservative” positions, but thought him unelectable is typical of how Republican leaders operate to the party’s detriment.

I left Louisiana after the Edwin Edwards vs. David Duke gubernatorial race. That was 1991 and when I graduated in 1993 I left the state.

By 2000, Duke had shown everyone insider and outside Louisiana he really was not the penitent soul he’d claimed to be. So going to his group in 2002 does not sit well with me.

Here, though, is the thing. Again, I do not think Scalise is racist or bigoted or even a bad person. He’s actually a very nice person. The thing is, the GOP holds conservatives to a standard they do not hold themselves to. This very year the GOP Leadership denounced Chris McDaniel because he had spoken to a Sons of Confederate Veterans group — something Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) had also done. But the leadership told us all that we could not abide the “racism” narrative that would spring from it.

So we can all agree that Scalise is a good person and we should all agree he is not racist. But if Scalise was the conservative his spokesmen would have us believe, there is no doubt in my mind he’d be boxing up his office today.

The question, ultimately, is will the GOP leadership hold itself to the standards it sets for conservatives and, if not, conservatives headed to Washington might want to think about that before casting a vote for Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) for Speaker.