Cindy HydeSmith.jpg

Cindy HydeSmith

The latest GOP gaffe exposed by Louisiana's tireless leftist blogger Lamar White Jr., comes from U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi.

In a clip posted online, Hyde-Smith, who hopes to retain her Senate seat in a runoff with Mike Espy, says that if one of her supporters, cattle rancher Colin Hutchinson, invited her to a public hanging she'd “be on the front row.”

This has occasioned a fit of the vapors among Democrats the likes of which hasn't been seen since White revealed in 2014 that U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, as a state legislator 12 years earlier, had been guest speaker at a Metairie meeting of David Duke adherents.

Scalise, a Louisiana state legislator at the time he gave his speech, said that he didn't know what kind of audience he was addressing. Fair enough. Unless the audience goose-steps in and starts singing the Horst Wessel song, how is a politician supposed to figure out that a group promoting “European-American Unity and Rights” in the white-flight 'burbs does not stand for multiculturalism?

Hyde-Smith was asking to be accused of racism too. Espy, a former congressman who became Bill Clinton's Agriculture Secretary, is black, and no state, not even Louisiana, has a more shameful history of lynching than Mississippi. It is true that public hanging was once the lawful execution method for felons of all colors, but Hyde-Smith wasn't drawing any distinctions.

She wasn't offering any apology either. She described her remark as an “exaggerated expression of regard” for Hutchinson and said that “any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous.”

The rally at which Hyde-Smith spoke was held in Tupelo, famous not just as the birthplace of Elvis Presley but as a Klan stronghold. A reference to a public hanging is more than usually chilling in that place.

Still, Hyde-Smith did not flat-out call for a lynching. To find a public official in Mississippi being that crass, you'd have to go way back, because times have changed dramatically, right?

You'd think so, but it's only been 18 months since Republican state Rep. Karl Oliver recommended stringing up those responsible for removing Confederate monuments from the streets of New Orleans.

Hyde-Smith was Mississippi's Agriculture Secretary until Gov. Phil Bryant appointed her to the U.S. Senate on Thad Cochran's resignation a few months ago, so both sides in the runoff are well versed in such issues as soybean tariffs and other rural concerns.

The primary was nip and tuck after President Donald Trump visited Mississippi to campaign for Hyde-Smith, so maybe her public hanging remarks will make a difference. According to NAACP President Derrick Johnson, those remarks “prove once again how Trump has created a social and political climate that normalizes hateful and racist rhetoric.”

Three Kansas militiamen who plotted to blow up a Garden City mosque agree. They are asking U.S. Judge Eric Melgen for reduced sentences because they blame their xenophobia on Trump's rants.

John Galman and Spencer Sutton, the New Orleans cops fired for severely beating Jorge Gomez, might have grounds to make a similar claim when they come to court. They called Gomez, who was born here but raised in Honduras, a “fake American.”

The Trumpian echoes are unmistakable, but grown-up Americans are supposed to have the ability to think for themselves. No president, even as one so inflammatory as this one, can be held responsible for all the ills of the world.

He famously explained what part of the female anatomy he likes to grab. But sex offenders will get nowhere blaming POTUS.

The NAACP's Johnson is certainly right to say Trump has poisoned the atmosphere with his over-the-top tirades against immigrants. But there was virulent racism in Mississippi — and, indeed, every state in the union — long before he was born. Public discourse is much the coarser since Trump entered the arena, but a Republican politician making racially insensitive comments in Tupelo may just be doing what comes naturally.

Email James Gill at Gill1407@bellsouth.net.