Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Seems like an updated version of the Edgar Mouton commercial that John Anderson copied to me

A Times Picayune reporter seems shocked that a James Perry commercial uses bleeped out profanity to make a point about two of his opponents in the upcoming mayoral election. Unfortunately, I'm anything but shocked that no journalists showed the slightest bit of curiosity when a fourth candidate, Troy Henry, made a similar point in a more genteel manner:
"People judge you for who you are," he said. "Nobody says (campaign opponent and state Sen.) Ed Murray is a crook because Bill Jefferson is going to jail. I think voters can take an honest look at all the candidates and not pre-judge them."

Well, since nobody with a press card asked, I did the anonymous blogger thing and fact-checked his statement using the internet (beginning with Murray's first campaign):

Times-Picayune, The (New Orleans, LA) - Friday, November 8, 1991

Hughes and Murray survived a seven-candidate scramble to fill the vacant 96th District seat in the state House of Representatives. They will meet in a Nov. 16 runoff to represent a district that includes parts of the French Quarter, Faubourg Marigny, Faubourg St. John, Gentilly and Treme.

Murray is running with the strong support of outgoing state Rep. Charles R. Jones, his close friend and law partner, who has been elected to an appeals court judgeship. With Jones' assistance, Murray has picked up the backing of a host of big-name organizations and elected officials from throughout the city, including U.S. Rep. William Jefferson .

Hughes, who has no elected officials in her corner, said the city's political establishment is trying to force-feed voters Jones' hand-picked successor.

She boasts a cadre of grassroots leaders who share her ideas, particularly that the district needs an independent voice in Baton Rouge. "Endorsements don't vote, people do," she said.

The nastiest aspect of the campaign is Hughes' charge that Murray and Jones tried to keep her out of the race.

Before the Oct. 19 primary, a resident of the district challenged Hughes' residency in Civil Court. Hughes and two other candidates were thrown out of the race, but Hughes appealed. The state Supreme Court reinstated her less than three weeks before election day.

Hughes said Murray and Jones were behind the challenge that cost her valuable campaigning time. As evidence, she cites Murray's presence during hearings on the case.

Murray, who admits doubting that Hughes has lived in the district for the required 12 months, said he had nothing to do with the challenge. He said he sat in court to gather material for legislation to strengthen residency laws for political candidates - an assertion Hughes calls a "bald-faced lie."

Morial bases third-term bid on school-reform program - Mayor officially launches City Charter campaign
Times-Picayune, The (New Orleans, LA) - Wednesday, August 15, 2001

Mayor Marc Morial placed his third-term hopes squarely in the education basket Tuesday, using the kickoff for his effort to change the city charter's two-term limit to sell his plan to help New Orleans' troubled public schools.
The crowd of several hundred included a couple of sign-waving protesters. Up front sat a scattering of elected officials, some who'd voiced their support for the charter change before and some who hadn't.

They included Criminal Sheriff Charles Foti; District Attorney Harry Connick; State Reps. Ed Murray and Mitch Landrieu; City Councilman Marlin Gusman, Morial's longtime chief administrative officer; Clerk of 1st City Court Ellen Hazeur, an ex-city councilwoman who often voted with mayoral hopeful Jim Singleton's faction; Assessor Patricia Johnson, formerly a member of Singleton's BOLD political organization; and Assessor Betty Jefferson, whose brother, U.S. Rep. William Jefferson , has not closed the door on running for mayor himself.
(oops, that has nothing to do with the Murray/Jefferson connection that Henry implied)

William Jefferson undeterred by allegations - Incumbent stresses years of effectiveness
Times-Picayune, The (New Orleans, LA) - Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Several high-profile Jefferson supporters, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin among them, cite his record of getting things done that played heavily on their decisions to endorse him. "I think it's important that we don't lose his institutional knowledge and the working relationships he's established," said state Sen. Ed Murray , another supporter. "I don't think anyone can argue that he hasn't done a good job."

Asked how he would respond to constituents who might be disturbed about the investigation, Murray said, "I would say I'm troubled as well, but that I believe in our system of justice that you are innocent until proven guilty."

I could go on, but because I went to Newsbank rather than Google, it would all be block quotes rather than links. The fact that Jefferson has supported Murray in every race that he's ever been involved in and that Murray has returned the support is not incriminating in of itself. I guess it's just that I'd rather trust the city's recovery finances to a housing advocate whose business suits appear to be less expensive than even mine than trust a professional politician (and amateur lobbyist) who refuses to release his tax returns. On the plus side for Murray, he will attract enough crossover vote in a runoff to be considered a uniter, and his white vote won't even come from what Jeffrey calls the "yuppie left." Of that, I'm certain.

Unfortunately for Perry, if you're going to run an aggressive campaign you need to stick to your guns. That especially true if you're going to try to run "edgy" commercials. Otherwise, journalists who think that every complicated issue can be reduced to a simple "yes or no" question* might not be able to resist in something really simple -- snarking about your campaign ad (undeserved snark, especially considering how shallow the other campaign coverage has been) and your waffling response to questions about (invited snark). Glad the city has an alternative weekly to KISS us and make the problems all better.

*I didn't like the LSU/VA question when I heard about it on TV news report. At the time I thought 1) it's not totally clear, 2) Chris Matthews disease -- the remedy for obfuscation is not to insist on simple yes or no answers to every question 3) I'm getting really sick of footprints. I don't mean that as a personal criticism -- I don't have a negative opinion of K.A. and I had no idea who asked the question. But I'll explain points 1 & 2:

“Yes or no only, please: Do you support the plans for the LSU/VA hospital with its current footprint?”

I assume that means the proposed big, new footprint in the current plans, but any candidate who wasn't sure could have asked for clarification, so my first reaction was just a curious reaction, not a negative one.

I think point 2 should be obvious. LSU really wants the great big footprint that calls for demolitions that will serve no purpose for decades. People in B.R. really want the LSU medical center, and people from other parts of the state are willing to help them get it (remember Carla Dartez). Whether you're still willing to push for a renovated Charity or just a reduced footprint, it becomes a question of risk in fighting too hard for the preferred option. It's almost like one of those foreign policy questions that Chris Matthews thinks can be reduced to yes or no answers.

BTW, if N.O. somehow loses the LSU medical school it will all be blamed on the preservationists, and that will be the end of preservationism in N.O. Seems obvious, but nobody seems to consider it.

Correction: My memory was faulty, I can't believe that I forgot an ad by the first presidential candidate that I ever voted for. In the 1979 Louisiana gubernatorial election, Edgar Mouton ran a commercial that showed his opponents making promises before implying "bullshit" by cutting to a cow mooing -- I'm pretty sure that I remember that commercial correctly. Barry Commoner took it a step further the following year.

If the hospital does go to BR I know for a fact that I will blame the preservationists. But I doubt that it will mean the end of preservationism in New Orleans. However I agree that there are better questions to ask the candidates about this issue than "yes or no" I think the intent is avoid getting a non-answer out of people but "yes" or "no" can be non-answers themselves.

You admit that that Jefferson and Murray having lent mutual political support to one another over the years is not "incriminating". (AFL-CIO supported Jefferson in every race he ran. Maybe you consider this an indictment of organized labor) And yet you run us through the paces of pointing out the (non-incriminating, of course) connections to us just in case. How is this any different from Henry's off-the-cuff remark? If the T-P had picked it up and run with it in this way, I would have wondered why they fell for it. (I was expecting somebody to at the time which is why I noted it then)

Finally, I suppose one could point out that this post is a criticism of the "shallow" campaign coverage but that it also includes an analysis of a candidate's wardrobe. But that might sound meaner than it is just snarky since some of us (including me) have trouble telling the difference these days.
Can someone please tell me who these "preservationists' are?
Karen, when it became obvious that the Charity/LSU/VA situation was going to turn into one big clusterfuck, I thought of a "This Modern World" cartoon from way back. Unfortunately, that's kinda the way I see things playing out.

Jeffrey, I don't expect any politician to be as pure as the driven snow, but I do try to look at their records and business dealings and which politicians are merely go along to get along/wise monkey sorts and which are solely in it for financial gain. Murray looks to be pretty deep into the slop from what I can tell. I get the strong impression that much of the press corps' attitude toward this election is driven by the fact that they can't admit they were swindled by a con artist eight years ago. They prefer to think that the collective mistake was putting too much hope in well-meaning novice without foreseeing that a novice would be overwhelmed, taken advantage and either corrupted personally or blind to the corrupt people taking advantage of him. It's a nice story, but I think my version fits the known facts much, much more easily.

I was using the inexpensive wardrobe as a shorthand for apparently not taking bribes -- I have no trouble imagining scenarios under which Perry might profit from his position, and he doesn't seem to be.

About snark, I don't think it has any place, or almost no place, in actual reporting and it should be used sparingly in commentary or analysis. Unless Allman made the whole thing up, Morgan obviously flubbed a question that he should have been expecting. However, that level of snark in a news report (not op-ed piece) leads me to question whether we're getting an accurate impression. Allman's apparent disdain for the Perry campaign leads me to wonder if he asked his questions in a badgering way that put Morgan on the defensive. Like I said, he should have expected it, but a fumbled to response to a hostile line of questioning, on a bad cell phone connection no less, doesn't make somebody a gutless hypocrite.
Here's what I think about the press and the Nagin narrative. I think for most of his time in office, it was accurate to state that the press treated him as a "novice" or victim of people around him. But I think that has changed over the course of the past year. Increasingly Nagin is just as synonymous in the press with establishment corruption as Morial was at a similar point in his administration. Which means they're reserving the right to once again fall in love with whichever candidate they decide to deem the "reformist outsider" this time around too. It never changes.

I can't figure out which of us is the more cynical sometimes. In any event I'm probably the less sophisticated cynic since I always start with an easy default assumption that all of the candidates are solely in it for financial gain. I honestly don't know how to comment from that point of view without it coming up mostly snark.
I don't know Jeffrey, I can't really see any point to that Stephanie Grace column about Greg Meffert and Glenn Haydel -- the one that neglected to mention Cedric Smith, the one that still doesn't appear on, but that I copied from Newsbank and put in the comments here -- unless she thought that Nagin and Meffert began with noble intentions. Well, the column's pretty pointless either way, but it makes no sense if Grace thought that they were corrupt from the start.

In Perry's case, I get the impression that the snark and cynicism is because the press doesn't want to fall in love with another out of his depth idealist who will quickly be overwhelmed again. It's just my impression, but it doesn't seem like they're jaded and suspicious because they realize they were conned by Nagin from the get-go.
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