It may be hard to generate sympathy for anyone whose political message is of division and intolerance. But sadness may be appropriate for presidential candidate David Duke, as he emerges from a thoughtful two-part radio profile on the Baltimore-produced program "Soundprint" this weekend.
In "David Duke's New Profile," at 6 tonight on WJHU-FM 88.1 (and distributed to American Public Radio stations around the nation), we get a glimpse of a lonely child whose friends were books and who joined the Ku Klux Klan to find a family.
He recites poetry -- "Where is the American that I love?" -- and plays the piano (eerily like Richard Nixon, although the former president had a much better sense of the political mainstream).
"Memories" is the tune, as biographer Michael Zatrain contends Duke will never be happy, for he dreams of an America that will never happen, nor has ever truly been.
In "David Duke's Latest Crusade" (at 6 p.m. tomorrow), listeners can also feel some sadness that Duke has followers, as producer Gary Covino nails the reason for their candidate's transformation "from freakish curiosity to legitimate political figure."
In short, "he offers confused and angry people an analysis, an explanation of what has gone wrong," in his home state of Louisiana and America.
Covino draws parallels with the legendary Louisiana political figure Huey Long. But he tellingly notes that while Duke's recent gubernatorial campaign targeted welfare abuse, Long's populist movement resonated because it was aimed upward, urging the rich to share their wealth.
In Louisiana, notes one interview figure (Lance Hill of the Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Nazism), Duke preached against the lowest among us. Yet the white-collar savings and loan scandal that will cost his state 60 times its welfare bill was not an issue for him.
Another Louisiana Republican, party official Beth Rickey, is in both segments of the "Soundprint" profile, and offers a perceptive perspective.
In Part 1, she relates the story of a lunch she ate with Duke, at which he began contending that the systematic Nazi Holocaust did not occur.
"David, are you out of your mind?" she recalls herself saying.
And in Part 2, Rickey emerges as the person responsible for interesting the media in the fact that Duke was running a book-selling business, offering such titles as "Mein Kampf" and "Hitler Was My Friend," out of his office when he was a state legislator.
In each case, her amazement comes powerfully through.
Unfortunately, so does the angry conviction of Duke's abused followers, especially as we hear them try to prevent producer Covino from recording their cheers during a campaign rally.