George H.W. Bush

In this April 2, 2016, file photo, former President George H.W. Bush waves as he arrives at NRG Stadium before the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball semifinal game between Villanova and Oklahoma in Houston.(AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

David J. Phillip

In the chaotic days of David Duke's meteoric political rise in Louisiana, President George H.W. Bush got conflicting advice. Sure, the said-to-be former Klansman was in a runoff for governor of Louisiana as a Republican, damaging the party, but the White House ought to stay out of a local race, in part because Duke's opponent was the reprehensible Edwin W. Edwards. The Texan president knew Edwards well, and understood just what a bad choice Louisiana faced.

But others, including William Bennett, one of the GOP's intellectual lights, urged the president in 1991 that there was nothing to be done except speak for the nation — as well as for the future of the Republican Party, in a rapidly changing America.

The president made the right call, urging his friends in Louisiana to back Edwards.

Today, maybe, that would be more difficult: Party lines are more calcified. But the moral lines are as clear as ever to the elderly ex-president.

With his son, former President George W. Bush, he issued a statement in response to the Charlottesville, Virginia tragedy that "America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism and hatred in all forms."

From Louisiana, thanks again, Mr. President.

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