Baseball practice becomes target practice 

For those who don’t know yet, United States Representative Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana) was shot and wounded this morning in northern Virigina while he was working out with Congressional colleagues in preparation for Thursday’s annual Congressional baseball game in Washington, D.C., at the Washington Nationals’ park. The game is an annual tradition which raises money for charity, and also allows members of Congress on both sides of the aisle get together and enjoy camraderie. 

Scalise represents Louisiana’s first district, which includes much of Jefferson Parish, the most populous parish in Louisiana, located to the west of New Orleans. Scalise represents a large swath of southeastern Louisiana outside of the city limits of New Orleans, including St. Bernard Parish, where I grew up and was living at the time Hurricane Katrina struck. Scalise did not represent St. Bernard at the time of Katrina, but it was drawn back into the district when Louisiana lost one House seat (going from 7 to 6) after the 2010 census. 

The shooting occurred just before 7 a.m. CT (8 a.m. ET). I first saw it on Twitter, then the news spread like wildfire across the Internet and all the television networks. Such is the 24-hour news cycle. It was reported around noon CT that Scalise was out of surgery and in stable condition, but as I pulled into Buffalo Wild Wings in Salina just after 3, Sean Hannity said Scalise had taken  a turn for the worse. He is listed in critical condition. 

Scalise was shot in the hip, which I’m guessing will mean hip replacement at the very least. I’m worried he won’t make it. For him to take a turn for the worse after surgery is a very distressing sign. I should know, becuase I was near death myself in late 2004 battling pneumonia and a collapsed lung following a buildup of fluid. 

Jefferson Parish has produced some very powerful politicians over my lifetime. To wit: 

  • Dave Treen, who represented most of Jefferson in the House beginning in 1973, was elected Governor in late 1979, becoming the first Republican to be elected as Louisiana’s chief executive, and the first GOP governor, period, since federal Reconstruction following the Civil War.
  • Bob Livingston, who was first elected to the House in 1977. More on him below.
  • David Vitter, who was elected to succeed Livingston in 1999 and later served two terms in the U.S. Senate.
  • Piyush (Bobby) Jindal, who succeeded Vitter in the House and was elected Governor in 2007.
  • John Alario, who is currently president of the Louisiana Senate. He was Speaker of the Louisiana House for two terms in the 1980s and 1990s. 

It could have been a lot worse if it weren’t for two Capitol police officers who were assigned to Scalise as a security detail. Scalise qualified for a security detail since is the House Majority Whip, which is a leadership position. Of the 435 members of the House, only five automatcially qualify for such protection: the Speaker (Paul Ryan of Wisconsin), Majority Leader (Kevin McCarthy of California), Majority Whip (Scalise), Minority Leader (Nancy Pelosi of California) and Minority Whip (Steny Hoyer of Maryland). In the Senate, the Vice President (President of the Senate) has Secret Service protection, while the leaders and whips have security all the time. Any member 

The Capitol police officers gamely took out the deranged shooter, 66-year old James Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois Hodgkinson later died of his wounds. 

Hodgkinson was a known progressive due to his rants on Facebook, where he was a member of several groups devoted to bashing president Trump and all Republicans. He was a volunteer last year for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. The Vermont senator denounced the attack. 

If Scalise does not make it, it would continue a long line of heartbreak for member of Congress from Louisiana who rise into leadership positions. 

In 1972, the Bayou State was hit with a double whammy. 

First, Senator Allen Ellender, who was the Senate’s President Pro Tempore, the second-ranking position in the body behind the Vice President and third in line of succession to the presidency behind the Vice President and Speaker of the House, died of a heart attack in Washington. He had served in the Senate since 1936, when he assumed the seat once held by Huey Long, and was chairman of the Appropriations Committee, probably the most powerful in the Senate since it controls all government spending, although bills have to originate in the House under the Constitution. 

Ellender was running for a sixth term, although he was facing a strong challenge from then-State Senator J. Bennett Johnston, who had barely lost the Democratic primary for governor in late 1971 to then-U.S. Rep. Edwin Edwards, who was elected to the first of his four terms in February 1972. 

Johnston won the seat and served for 24 years, but never rose to Ellender’s lofty status. His bid to earn a leadership post was defeated in 1988 when he lost the race for Majority Whip to George Mitchell of Maine. Mitchell later became Majority Leader, then chaired the infamous Mitchell Commission, which produced the report which named hundreds of Major League Baseball players as steroid users. 

Less than three months after Ellender died, Rep. Hale Boggs, then the Majority Leader, flew with Alaska Rep. Nick Begich on a private plane from Anchorage to Juneau to attend a fundraiser.

The plane never made it. It was lost in the Alaska wilderness forever and ever. Boggs, Begich, pilot Don Jonz and a Begich aide basically vanished from the face of the earth. Boggs was declared dead in absentia when the new Congress convened in January. Hale’s widow, Lindy, was elected to the seat and served through 1990. Lindy Boggs, the mother of journalist Cokie Roberts, later served as U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican and lived a fulfilling life before passing away at 97. 

Ellender and Boggs aren’t the only members of Congress from Louisiana in positions of power to see their careers end prematurely.

In 1998, Rep. Bob Livingston, who represents the same district Scalise does now, was poised to become Speaker after the resignation of Newt Gingrich. That all came unraveled the week before Christmas when Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, that upstanding citizen, revealed Livingston had an extramarital affair. Livingston, who was Appropriations Committee chairman during the 104th and 105th Congresses, resigned his seat. 

If Scalise does not pull through, it would be a devastating blow to Louisiana on Capitol Hill. 

Two representatives, Clay Higgins of Port Barre (3rd) and Mike Johnson of Benton (4th), are in their first term. Two more, Ralph Abraham of Alto (5th) and Garret Graves of Baton Rouge (6th), are in their second terms. Cedric Richmond of New Orleans (2nd) is in his fourth term, but he is a Democrat, and the minority party has very little pull in the House, much lesss so than the Senate. 

On the other side of Capitol Hill, both Louisiana Senators are in their first terms. Bill Cassidy was elected in 2014, unseating three-term Democrat Mary Landrieu, sister of New Olreans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and daughter of former Crescent City Mayor and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Maurice “Moon” Landrieu. John Neely Kennedy was elected last year, replacing David Vitter, who served two terms and was struck down by the a sex scandal where it was revealed he was a client of a notorious madam. Vitter ran for Governor in 2015 but was crushed by Democratic State Rep. John Bel Edwards of Amite City. 

Louisiana’s delegation would be very, very weak without Scalise. Possibly the weakest it has been since the start of the 20th century. 

Even after Ellender and Boggs died, Louisiana still had plenty of clout, due to Rep. F. Edward Hebert, who was chairman of the Armed Service Committee, and Sen. Russell Long, Huey’s son, who was chairman of the Finance Committee. 

James Hodgkinson’s political leanings are irrelevant here. He CHOSE to drive from western Illinois (Belleville is on the opposite bank of the Misssissippi River from St. Louis) to northern Virginia and open fire at a Congressional baseball practice. What kind of person does that? Someone with an evil heart. Hodgkinson is just as much of a piece of shit as Jared Loughner, the asshole who shot Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the head (how did she survive?) in Tucson in 2011. Loughner did kill people, though, including a federal judge and Christina Taylor Green, the 9-year old granddaughter of former MLB manager Dallas Green, who led the Phillies to the 1980 World Series championship. 

I’m not sad Hodgkinson died, but I would have loved to see him have to face a jury of his peers and be sentenced to the federal supermax prison in Colorado, which houses the Unabomber, shoe bomber Richard Reid, and other high profile criminals. 

Yes, it is your right as an American citizen to vent, to write whatever you feel like on an Internet site, no matter how poor in taste it might be. However, nobody has the right to take a gun and shoot someone in cold blood. 

If Scalise doesn’t make it, he would be the first member of Cognress to be shot to death since Rep. Leo Ryan (D-California), who was shot by Jim Jones’ minions in Guyana in Novmeber 1978, only hours before the members of the People’s Temple drank the poisoned Flavor-Aid, killing 907. The last member of Congress to be murdered was Rep. Larry McDonald (D-Georgia), who was aboard Korean Air Lines Flight 007 when it was shot down by Soviet fighter jets in September 1983. 

Prayers are needed for Steve Scalise, his family, and each and every person living in Louisiana’s First Congressional District. 

Let’s also hope we don’t have to put up with this nonsense any longer. Sadly, I fear it will continue. 

About David

I am a sportswriter for a group of weekly newspapers in small towns across northern Kansas. I grew up in New Orleans, went to college at LSU and wandered in the wilderness until Hurricane Katrina finally put me on the path to my current job.

Posted on June 14, 2017, in History, Politics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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