Friday, September 14, 2007

I won't insult Jason Berry

Over one passage in this week's Gambit:
Perhaps the core problem is the mayor's idiosyncratic idea of himself as a reform politician above the city's legendary corruption -- therefore, a man who stands alone against the sun. Given the extravagant performance of justice by U.S. Attorney Jim Letten and the local division of the FBI, it seems safe at this juncture to say that Mayor Ray Nagin has clean hands.

But, that is just incredibly specious reasoning. The mayor thinks, or pretends to think, that he's the only honest politician in town. He also claims to have brought transparency to city government, in both cases, a famous Shakespeare quote comes to mind.

At any rate, the lack of indictments against Nagin administration officials indicates nothing, nothing whatsoever. Marc Morial was first elected mayor in 1994, we know that members of his administration were subject to FBI wiretaps by 2001, but indictments of Morial administration officials didn't begin until 2006 (there may have been a couple of minor indictments earlier), over four years after Morial's second term expired -- one certainly can't accuse Letten and his boys of extravagant haste. So what if no Nagin officials have been indicted? How many Morial administration officials had been indicted at this point in his second term? The same question could be asked of the Barthelemy administration, or the Dutch Morial administration.

Even if there is no reason to think that the current Justice Department would be reluctant to investigate the Nagin Administration, such an investigation might be years away from bearing fruit. However, I can think of many reasons to think this Justice Department might be reluctant to go after Nagin. There's the rumored immunity and there's the rumored political deal, but there's also the fact that any investigation into the Nagin administration would ultimately become an investigation into Katrina reconstruction spending. Does anybody, of any political stripe, believe that the Bush White House would want that? A year ago, a Democratic mayor (that Republicans helped elect) would have been the perfect fall guy for Katrina fraud and corruption and the failed recovery. With the Democrats in charge of both houses of congress, there's no way that Congress would allow any investigation of misspent recovery funds to begin and end with a Democratic mayor. You don't need to be a partisan Bush or Nagin hater to suspect that Nagin has nothing to fear from this justice department.

I've often wondered if Nagin's reputation for personal integrity has declined as much among the general public as it it has in the blogosphere. If most people share Berry's opinion, the answer is no. I can understand not being persuaded by unproven allegations, but I would expect the large number of the allegations to take some toll. It would certainly affect the reputation of a politician who didn't get special treatment from the media. There's not just the allegations of wrongdoing, there's the excessive secrecy from an administration with the largest budget in city history. Finally, there's an indisputable public record that's every bit as suspicious as that of any of his predecessors. Before Berry puts his reputation behind Nagin's reputation, he really should think about it; he could start by thinking about the sanitation department.

I'll say it one more time, the reason why I get so impatient with "preaching to the choir" (or poor play calling) is that there's so so much obvious missionary work to be done. No matter who we elect to the city council, I don't expect Nagin's authority to be effectively challenged while his reputation for integrity is intact.

I wondered when this post was going to get written. When I read that long piece, I reread that particular sentence a few times in disbelief, and waited with great expectation for it to receive the "moldy city" treatment.

Great points and great arguments. Indeed there is plenty of missionary work to be done.
Thanks, the next post should make the reason for the delay obvious. In general, I've decided that the "Moldy City" treatment shouldn't include so many personal insults directed toward journalists. Unless the journalist in question has an obvious double standard, or he writes a column that says, "either this guy knows nothing about the subject and is too lazy to look up the facts, or he's deliberately dishonest," or I just can't help myself. Believe it or not, I wasn't consciously thinking about James Gill and Jarvis DeBerry as I typed out those first two conditions.
"Believe it or not, I wasn't consciously thinking about James Gill and Jarvis DeBerry as I typed out those first two conditions."

HA!! Good one.
Has the FBI actually done an investigation on Nagin and Meffert and given that whole thing a clean bill of health? What about the garbage contract? S&WB? Is that official? If it's true, I guess more things must be legal than I thought. Are we just going to have to accept that this was all the result of incompetence? They are in the clear because they were doing what was expected of government officials doing "business?" I certainly hope there will be more investigation, I can't believe there isn't more to find.
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