Monday, May 15, 2006

So dark the con of... 

(Note: this is a long local politics post. It's also rough, because I lost a more polished version. Later, I might edit and tighten it up for clarity.)

In New Orleans' first election since Katrina, Republicans are working to reelect Mayor Ray Nagin.

Beg your pardon?

I said, many Republicans believe Ray Nagin should be reelected Mayor of New Orleans. They want him to lead New Orleans for the next four years, and some are doing everything they can to assist this effort. According to the Gambit Weekly "several sources say former Gov. Mike Foster... has been working behind the scenes to drum up Republican support -- and money -- for Nagin as part of an organized GOP move to weaken the state's Democratic infrastructure, which would help Jindal in his expected bid for governor next year. "

So: Republicans want to reelect Ray Nagin because it will hurt Democrats, and help Bobby Jindal statewide in 2007. They would reelect someone that most (conservatives) view as an incompetent embarrassment, because defeating Mitch Landrieu is more important to them than what's best for New Orleans, a city reeling from catastrophe. GOP political objectives must come first, and if that means sabotaging New Orleans-- and exacerbating the national perception that we are hopeless, stupid and not worth helping-- well, then, so much the worse for the Crescent City.

The same Bush pioneers who donated to Ray Nagin's campaign have set up PACs advertising against Nagin in the rest of the state. Adrastos correctly terms it a "devious double game". GOPers are trying to reelect Nagin because he can serve as a weak, useful idiot. What's bad for New Orleans is good for the state GOP. (It should be noted that Nagin was a Republican until switching parties right before running for mayor 4 years ago. He donated money to Bush and endorsed Jindal. Yet, apparently he obediently serves as a Democratic whipping post for Republicans around the state, just as long as they quietly fund his candidacy for mayor of New Orleans.)

I know politics makes strange bedfellows, and that's fine. And I also understand that political parties engage in strategic voting and covert campaigning for candidates in other parties, and that's fine, too. But this is beyond despicable. For Republicans to support Nagin in New Orleans and slam him in the rest of the state is filthy-- especially considering the city's dire circumstances. This is the most important mayoral election in the city's history, and the Republicans top concern is electing a candidate who would most weaken the state Democratic party's "infrastructure"!

Think about how twisted and insidious that is.

As hurricane season approaches, and the city struggles to recover from Katastrophe, Republicans would prefer that New Orleans elect an incompetent, embarrassing man who is widely regarded (by conservatives) as having failed spectacularly during a time of crisis; all because they don't want a bona fide Democrat to be elected mayor of New Orleans. What a vicious, anti-New Orleans scheme! This city is fighting for its life, and simply cannot reelect someone with Nagin's baggage. I'm not terribly fond of Ron Forman or Rob Couhig, but had either one made the runoff with Nagin (instead of Mitch) I'd be saying the exact same thing. Electing any other sane, competent candidate is preferable to reelecting Nagin, if only for this reason: in the first election after Katrina, we cannot afford to reinforce the notion that we endorse incompetent laughingstocks, who fail to protect the public welfare. The stakes are way too high.

After the huge deal conservatives made-- nationally!-- about Ray Nagin's flooded buses, and Ray Nagin letting looters run wild, and Ray Nagin illegally seizing citizen's guns, and Ray Nagin's "chocolate city" screed... after all that, you'd think conservative voters would realize what a HUGE setback it would be for New Orleans to reelect Nagin. But no. When it became clear Mitch Landrieu would make the runoff, suddenly Nagin became much more attractive to conservatives. All those aforementioned sins suddenly were forgotten. Moreover, some GOP bigwigs formulated a "devious double game" strategy. They would work behind the scenes to reelect Nagine, while simultaneously using his tarnished image to assist Republicans and hurt Democrats in the rest of the state. [A sidenote about that: wonderkid Bobby Jindal doesn't need Ray Nagin's help in order to beat Gov. Blanco in 2007. Jindal should win in a walk no matter who is mayor of N.O.. Plus, Nagin's endorsement won't deliver extra votes this time, anyway.] It's all about politics: keeping Mitch down is more important than anything else to bigwig GOPers like Boysie Bollinger and Mike Foster.

How can I infer such a scheme? Just glance at the "talking points" being used by Louisiana conservatives. They frame this election as a referendum on Mitch Landrieu (and his father and sister)! It's not about Nagin's record, or his "leadership", or his image as an incompetent and an embarrassment. No, it's about...

1) Mitch Landrieu spending $950,000 to upgrade his office last August!!

Yeah, that's what this election for mayor is about: how Mitch renovated his office space last summer, (which he now wants to leave). You can read the benign details here, but, my gracious, this is some laughably weak brew. I mean, is this the best they got? Wow.

Conversely, after Katrina this story came out in the T-P two months ago:

In seeking a contract to remove thousands of flooded and wrecked cars from New Orleans, Mayor Ray Nagin's administration recommended that the city go with the highest quoted price for the job, a review of the 14 proposals submitted last year shows.

It appears the chosen proposal, a $1,000-per-car bid from Colorado-based CH2M Hill, was nearly triple the cost of at least three other bids, records show. The gap between CH2M Hill and the other companies cannot be precisely ascertained, because not every proposal included a price, and some of those that did listed tasks that others did not.
Controversy has begun to swirl around the issue almost seven months after Katrina made thousands of water-stained, abandoned cars as much a symbol of the city's streets as potholes were before the storm. Queries first arose after revelations that a Texas car-crushing company had offered, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, to pay the city $100 per junked car. The bid, made informally by K&L Auto Crushers at one of Nagin's town hall meetings, still stands, although the terms would have to be renegotiated, K&L's Dan Simpson said last week.
A rarely invoked city ordinance could also pave the way for the rapid and potentially lucrative removal of the vehicular blight, according to some legal experts.

At the original price and with the original estimate of 30,000 flooded cars, K&L's offer would have netted the cash-starved city $3 million. In contrast, the city is proceeding with the CH2M Hill deal, which includes towing, cataloging and storing the cars at an estimated cost of about $23 million, administrators said.

That's only one of several recent examples of bad business decisions made by Nagin, yet, conservatives think that a $950,000 renovation (pre-Katrina) is somehow decisively worse than a $26 million net blunder by Nagin (post-Katrina). (Media attention ultimately forced Ch2M Hill to rescind its "offer" to help New Orleans... and the moldy cars are still rotting en masse.)

2) Mitch is part of the "politics of the past". I've addressed this in recent posts, and believe columnist Stephanie Grace rebutted this most effectively here.

3) Another "argument" made against Mitch is that he didn't amass a huge legislative record when he was in Congress. Ok, well, I suppose you can read about his accomplishments here and here, and judge for yourself. But, shouldn't the real issue be: what exactly has Ray Nagin done? Adrastos provides a useful list of reminders here, and it ain't pretty. Four years ago, voters didn't know a damn thing that Nagin had actually accomplished. Not one concrete thing. Yet they selected him over a Police Chief who had cut crime in half because Nagin talked a good game, and seemed like a refreshing change of pace. [At the time I believed Nagin was a good choice, because he symbolized a break from Mayor Marc Morial's powerfully corrupt machine. The crucial moment of that campaign season was when Marc Morial failed to change the term limit rules and run for a third term. Btw, this effort was headed by Ron Forman.]

Again: however many bills Mitch sponsored in state congress is not the pressing issue. The pressing issue in this election is perceived competence. With the spotlight on N.O., will we reelect a mayor who is viewed by most of the nation as an incompetent and an embarrassment? Worse, will GOP conservatives-- persuaded by idiotic talking points handed down from "devious" bigwigs-- be the decisive factor in Nagin's reelection?

I mean, think about it: if Mitch Landrieu had illegally taken citizen's guns while looters rampaged throughout the city, conservatives not only would never consider voting for him, they'd want his head on a pike! But-- very curiously-- these same conservatives will forgive Nagin for doing so because... Mitch is an office renovator! And he's from a "political family"! (Like Bush.) And his desegregationist father started the decline of New Orleans! And he wore makeup when he pulled people out of floodwaters! (A lie.) And he won't be prudent with contracts... And he won't be good for business... And.... and...

Most of those claims are complete rubbish, but even if they were all entirely true, those considerations would still pale in comparison to the one overriding, decisive issue about this election: New Orleans' very survival is at stake, and it cannot afford to endorse a mayor who is perceived as an incompetent and embarrassment by taxpayers throughout the country. Electing any other competent and sane candidate would be perceived, nationally, as an improvement. Therefore, Mitch Landrieu is the only choice.

As a reminder to our conservative voters, I've compiled an incredibly miniscule sampling of opinion about Nagin's leadership during and after the biggest crisis in the history of New Orleans. I used mostly conservative media sources, to highlight the hypocrisy of conservatives who would support Nagin. While reading these quotes and links, recall that GOP bigwigs are reportedly funding and supporting Nagin's candidacy in order to weaken the state Democratic party infrastructure. That's their motive. While this stricken city is trying to unite in order to survive, some are putting naked partisanship above all else.

US News:

Which politician emerged from the mess of Katrina as the biggest bonehead involved? No, it's not Michael Brown, George W. Bush, or even the bumbling Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco.

The clear winner is New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who made every conceivable mistake during the crisis. With plenty of warning, he delayed the evacuation order, had no drivers ready to operate the school buses that stood idle, failed to stock the Superdome with food and water, and let the looters rampage without any interference from police.
A near-perfect record for incompetence.

Tech Central Station:

As Lake Ponchatrain's waters began to drown his city, New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin had the colossal nerve to shout indignantly "Get off your asses, and let's do something" -- and then continued doing nothing himself, but add to the deluge by bursting into tears.

Having been prodded on Saturday into ordering an evacuation by President Bush and the head of the Hurricane Center and then delaying it for seventeen crucial hours until well into Sunday, Mayor Nagin is directly responsible for the AP picture of over 200 unused New Orleans buses marooned in four feet of water that might have evacuated more than 15,000 in one trip alone....

Nagin is also responsible for failing to pre-position generators, food and water, a medical presence and portable toilets for the two sites at the Superdome and Convention Center that he had proclaimed "emergency centers" for tens of thousands of the more than 30% of New Orleanians that lived below the poverty line. And then the Mayor failed to police them.
New Orleans's would-be reformers thought they had elected a responsible leader in former cable executive Nagin and instead they got a classic "cable guy" with a million excuses and the same lousy service.

Wall Street Journal Op-ed:

The plain fact is, lives were needlessly lost in New Orleans due to the failure of Louisiana's governor, Kathleen Blanco, and the city's mayor, Ray Nagin.
The actions and inactions of Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin are a national disgrace due to their failure to implement the previously established evacuation plans of the state and city.

Dysfunctional Indeed [Jonah Goldberg]I just finished writing a column — be up tomorrow — about the media foul-ups on Katrina. The more I think about it, the more I think in a less-polarized environment people would recognize that Ray Nagin really should resign. Aside from the already discussed organizational screw-ups, he repeatedly trafficked in the most explosive rumors about what was going on in New Orleans without knowing the truth. He glibly spoke of rape gangs and murderers inside the Superdome. He freelanced a guess of 10,000 dead. In other words, at every turn he uttered one sensational untruth after another to the press. Why isn't the press punishing him for it? I thought that during disasters politicians were supposed to err on the side keeping panic in check and maintaining order, not making the situation worse by telling people their worst fears are coming true and that safe areas are lawless and dangerous. Nagin's heart may have been in the right place, but his performance was surely worse than Brown's.
Posted at 1:25 PM

More digs at Nagin from the Corner:

Indeed, the more I think about it, the more I think it is a scandal the press isn't demanding a resignation from Nagin

Mayor Nagin is such a joke.

New Orleans Democratic Mayor Ray Nagin made an equally silly claim—"50 percent of all residents in the United States live along the Gulf Coast." another whopper

Defending las vegas trips for city workers

Now we just need Nagin to go, per Jonah's suggestion nro

Re: Nagin [Kathryn Jean Lopez]
I got prematurely excited at that prospect when [Nagin] walked up to the cameras for the press conference about the police guy. Cleaning house really seems to be huge leap #1 for N.O. before more money is spent....

N.O. Details [Kathryn Jean Lopez]Apparently Nagin fired Compass. He should get into a fight with himself and fire himself soon, for the sake of New Orleans.
Posted at 1:21 PM

Fearless Predictions 2 [JPod]
People seemed to like my last batch of fearless predictions, so here are a few more. Ray Nagin will begin blogging on the Huffington Post.

nro emailer quote:
Jesse Jackson and Mayor Nagin need to get the h*ll off my TV.

Washington Times
The vultures of the venomous left are attacking on two fronts, first that the president didn't do what the incompetent mayor of New Orleans and the pouty governor of Louisiana should have done, and didn't, in the early hours after Katrina loosed the deluge on the city that care and good judgment forgot. Ray Nagin, the mayor, ordered a "mandatory" evacuation a day late, but kept the city's 2,000 school buses parked and locked in neat rows when there was still time to take the refugees to higher ground. The bright-yellow buses sit ruined now in four feet of dirty water.
Cap'n Feathersword
And the Exempt Media, by and large, have covered for Nagin's incompetence. Does anyone seriously wonder why?

Be angry. Most of the death and mayhem was entirely preventable. That's worth a whole lot of righteous fury. But be angry at the people who failed your city. Their names are Nagin and Ebbert and Blanco, not Bush and Chertoff.

Red State It's time to speak the plain truth: Nagin and Blanco are out of their league.

And all of that was before the infamous "chocolate city" speech.

John Cole's reaction at Balloon Juice summed it up for many:

Ray Nagin just lost me, and likely everybody else as well.

[Chocolate City speech excerpt]

It's sad to say that for the next five or six minutes somebody has stolen away Pat Robertson's self-serving religious asshat crown. Good work, Ray.

Also, I'd forgotten about the paranoia Nagin displayed after the crisis:

From LGF:

The Associated Press says New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin has stopped shouting and swearing and crying, and is now calm and optimistic after meeting with President Bush.

Nagin also said he's worried the CIA may try to take him out.

lgf commenter

If (when) Nagin is reelected, the next time a hurricane hits N.O. and the levees break, etc., don't come asking me for another charitable donation, I don't want to hear made your bed...

Nor can I forget what the conservatives on my blogroll have said:


Mayor Nagin, who owes his term in office to support from most of the white community in New Orleans, has officially told them to go to hell.

Ray Nagin- Driving New Orleans to Oblivion

Wizbang commenter:
Any population idiotic enough to elect... Nagin is too stupid for self-government.

And from Pawpaw:

Ray Nagin can probably count on his family to vote for him. That might count for a hundred votes in a large, extended family. All the rest of those folks who voted for him are absolute, unrepentant idiots.

Conservative cajun:

Sometimes you almost have to feel sorry for [Nagin]. He’s like a train wreck waiting to happen when he gives a speech. However, feeling a little sorry for him in no way erases the fact that the guy couldn’t move buses to save “his people.”

Maybe I was a bit too harsh on him after the storm. Maybe he does really care about his fellow poor black citizens. I suppose that he really did want to get them out, and incompetence rather than lack of apathy is why he couldn’t send the buses to rescue at least some of the people before the hurricane arrived. But, that incompetence should still be enough to unseat the man when he runs for re-election, at least one would hope.

key monk
Ray Nagin is Louisiana's crazy uncle, political id, and exhibit 1 in any trial of the inefffectiveness of Louisiana's corrupt politicians. His estimate of 10,000 deaths from the Hurricane is likely to be 93-94% off, thankfully.

Lastly, here is a scathing excerpt from the liberal New Yorker :

[L]ast week, as both the President and Michael Brown, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, offered bland, undignified, and ill-timed restatements of the obvious about the direness of the situation, you could practically see them thinking, I'm not getting blamed for this! But they were positively helpful next to Louisiana's governor, who cried and said that we should all pray, and New Orleans' mayor, who told citizens they should evacuate but didn't say how, predicted a second major flood, which didn't materialize, sniped at the federal authorities, and kept reminding everyone that the situation was desperate.

New Orleanians should reject Nagin this Saturday.

10 comments DiggIt!


Actually, New Orleans should have rejected Nagin in the primary. I can't believe the voters let him into the general election. Basic competence doesn't seem to be an issue with New Orleans voters.

We were talking about this over lunch yesterday at Momma's and the general consensus was that New Orleans is screwed if Landrieu gets elected and doubly screwed if Nagin is returned to office. Either way it goes, you're screwed.

Just a bunch of rednecks sitting around the kitchen table (avg education =15.7 yrs)

By Blogger Pawpaw, at 8:24 AM  

Again, Amen, Oyster. Amen. Nagin must go. Republicans should put the city of New Orleans above their statewide political ambitions. If they really hate Landrieu, concentrate on defeating him with a different candidate in 2010.

By Blogger Big__Shot, at 9:08 AM  

It occurs to me that if Landrieu is really as useless as the GOP claims, then he won't be able to rebuild NOLA and the demographics will favor the GOP in 2007 and 2008.

By Blogger Bacon, at 9:21 AM  

Visit Mitch's website later today for the Nagin Timeline.

- blake

By Anonymous humidhaney, at 9:50 AM  

There is more at work here than simply weakening the state Democratic infrastructure. In fact, I would Nagin's GOP support has very little to do with the Governor's race at all. The fact is, Nagin is the candidate of conservatives in New Orleans who want to see a smaller, quieter, whiter city and conservatives statewide who would like to greatly reduce the city's (and the black electorate's) clout in state politics. They want to see the life choked out of the city and the land divided up amongst the condo barrons. Nagin is the guy to do that.

By Blogger jeffrey, at 11:06 AM  

Well, I'm conservative and a registered Republican. I want New Orleans to come back better and stronger than before. It needs to be a city that works. Because New Orleans hasn't been a working city in a long time.

I'm not concerned about the governors election coming up in '07. What happens then will happen.

I'm not crazy about either Nagin or Landrieu but I don't get to pick anyway. If I were there and had to pick I'd have chosen Foreman but he's not in the runnoff.

Your choices are Ray and Mitch. Like I've said before Mitch talks a good game but I don't see that he's done much. With Ray you have his record which during Katrina is pretty bad.

If y'all think Mitch has had an epiphany then vote for him.

By Blogger Roux, at 12:47 PM  

Everything in the big picture of Louisiana politics comes down to who's Governor or who wants to be. The Mayor's race is a piece in a bigger puzzle. It may be crucial to us locals but the folks who are maniupulating the election are more interested in the big picture. And their scenario will be totally messed up if Mitch wins. Even the world of the devious double pits the provicial versus people with a broader view of things.

By Anonymous Adrastos, at 2:16 PM  

How in hell could Mitch "totally mess up their scenario"?

The scenario is Jindal becoming governor, yes? He'll crush Meemaw in 2007. It won't even be close. The Dems can only hope John Kennedy or someone beats Blanco in the primaries, but still... Mitch could deliver a 100k phantom votes for Meemaw and it wouldn't make a difference.

By Blogger oyster, at 2:33 PM  

Perhaps "totally" was too strong a term. I think that Mitch's victory could put a monkey wrench in their plans to take over the legislature, which is a key part of their scenario. The Governor's mansion is just part of the plan.

I agree that Piyush would crush Meemaw but I'm not sure that she'll be running for re-election OR if she'd make the runoff if a decent Dem entered the race. And Jindal would be the favorite against anyone else but NOT an absolute lock. He's still annoying and too, there's no PC way to put this, ethnic for some folks in Northern Louisiana.

I think John Kennedy would be a pretty good candidate who could run ahead of Meemaw. I'm mostly spitballing and wargaming two or three steps down the road here. The thing I know for sure is that Nagin is a much better statewide whipping boy than Mitch.

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