Jeffrey Lord acts as Donald Trump's spokesman or cheerleader on CNN. He often provides entertainment by getting into arguments with Van Jones, a liberal activist. The entertainment seems to come from Lord saying incredibly stupid things. I thought I'd heard the stupidest thing he could possibly say back in December, when he told Jones that people who oppose Trump's immigration policy should also have opposed the civil rights movement, presumably because both phenomena have made bad people angry. But Lord may have topped himself last night during CNN's Super Tuesday coverage. He and Jones were arguing over what Jones felt was Trump's too-tepid disavowal of David Duke and, by extension, the Ku Klux Klan. Jones was observing that Trump did not seem as passionate about denouncing people associated with the Klan, a historically terrorist organization, as he did denouncing other terrorists, when Lord interjected that the Klan was a "leftist terrorist organization." Jones was outraged over Lord's attempt to play "word games" with history, but Lord wouldn't back down from his characterization. He was, in fact, taking the familiar line of Republican sophistry that holds the Democratic party of today responsible for the sins of long-ago Democrats who supported racial segregation and other offenses against equality. He described the Klan as "the terrorist wing of the Democratic party," which was arguably true back in the days of Reconstruction, but how does that put the Klan on the historical Left?
For Lord, the key seems to be Woodrow Wilson, who was both a "progressive," and thus a pariah to the modern right wing, and a segregationist whose reported endorsement of The Birth of a Nation helped inspire the Klan's resurgence. But even if you want to hold modern "progressives" responsible for Wilson's failings, how does that put the Klan of the 1870s, forty years before Wilson, on the Left? The answer depends ultimately on how you define "Left." Lord's comments seem absurd to most people because they know that the Klan opposed racial equality and federal sovereignty, which puts them on the "Right" by the standards that have prevailed for the last 50 years. Lord himself may think that the Democratic party has always been the American Left, its consistent sin, as he described it last night and this morning, being that it "divides the country by race." Originally, as the party of slaveholders and segregationists, it divided the country by denying blacks equality. More recently, through some alchemy Lord did not explain -- he denies that segregationist Democrats became Republicans, despite the example set by "Dixiecrat" standard-bearer Strom Thurmond -- Democrats have divided the country by overcompensating on blacks' behalf, by making them a dependent or favored class, presumably, and by playing the race card against Republicans, and so on. Leftists have often been called divisive, of course, though it's more common to accuse them of dividing a nation or people by class, but to use the Democrats' historic flip-flop on race as a reason to call the Klan leftist is simply mind-boggling. Maybe he thinks the Klan was just like the Nazi party, an entity Republicans like to assign to the Left because it called itself "national socialist." But if anything, in its consistent opposition to non-WASPs, a hatred that extended to Catholics, Jews and most immigrants and contradicted the historic efforts of Democrats outside the South to integrate these groups into American citizenship, the Klan more closely resembles the stereotype of the Trump movement, as David Duke presumably assumed when he endorsed the billionaire. Lord's attempted sophistry is unlikely to alter anyone's perceptions, and it only makes Trump look bad if he's actually authorized this idiot to speak for him. I'd bet that Trump himself, if put on the spot, would say the Klan was right-wing rather than left, but while he's not a conventional Republican, Jeffrey Lord -- a veteran of the Reagan administration -- is. Trump may want the Republican nomination, but he'd be better off without Republican cheerleaders like Lord.