...I've had considerable experience getting the "business end" of the messenger slayers' guns. [Some people] seriously believe that exposing the hard truths of Louisiana is a fun-filled task. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
Those of us who fight "the good fight" for Louisiana often do so because it's the right thing to do, not because we have confidence that change will happen. That's not a particularly fun task....
For Louisiana to improve, we need people who love truth. Instead, we often get people who seek to make true that which they love.
Our best wishes go out to Chad Rogers-- the tireless exposer of hard truths, the fighter of "the good fight", the recruiter of other truth-lovers, the man who aggregates news not because it's fun or profitable, but out of a sense of duty to the 'gret stet'. It's a shame that poor Mr. Rogers slays the dragons of mendacity on a daily basis, and gets only scorn in return for his service.
Let's do a case study of Rogers' love of truth, shall we? It might be instructive for those of us who are less... philosophically inclined, to see what an unbiased exemplar of TRUTH-seeking really looks like. Let's use the case of Mitch Landrieu as a way to audit Rogers' approach to the truth. (Btw, this is gonna be an ultra-long post, so, fair warning.)
We'll begin by citing Rogers' August 27th "Rant" which links to a YRHT post where I asked "Can we get a reaction from [Rob Couhig] and other Nagin 'swing-vote conservatives' to da mayor's latest idiotic comment?" Rogers responds
There is a strange irony here. It's possible that "swing vote conservatives" are just as unhappy as Mark right now. Ray Nagin isn't conservative, and he isn't liberal: he's a strange mutation, the product of Louisiana's crazy electoral system.
Despite New Orleans and Nagin being the worst examples he could possibly use, Rogers goes on to make his argument against Louisiana's open primary system. To do so, Rogers must rely on the purported "smarts" and "pride" of political party leaders (who would presumably discourage embarrassments like George Ryan and Katherine Harris from winning nomination). Indeed, Mr. Rogers goes on to say:
But a different primary system may have yielded a better Democrat. And maybe Boulet, Foreman (sic), or Landrieu would be mayor of New Orleans now, instead of Mr. Chocolate City. It's something to consider.
Wow. Didja see that? Rogers grouped Landrieu in with his examples of "Better Democrats"! That's an amazing admission, and I'll soon show you why. But first I'll note that Rogers does not offer us a plausible scenario as to how Forman, Boulet or Landrieu would've beaten Nagin in a closed Democratic primary. Exactly how would a closed primary system have "yielded" a different result? If anything, Nagin's win would've been more decisive because the anti-Nagin votes among Dems would've been split up among several major (and many minor) candidates. Obviously, then, after Nagin wins the primary by 8 or 10 points, he easily wins the runoff against the Republican Couhig. If anything, the open primary system hurt Nagin, because he had to face a viable Democrat in the runoff rather than a doomed GOP candidate.
Here's "something to consider", Mr. Rogers. Maybe, just maybe, strategic voting by Couhig's conservative "swing voters" played much more of a role in Nagin's victory than did the open primary electoral system. For months, I searched in vain for a persuasive conservative argument for Nagin, and found the most laughably inert set of rationales that I'd ever seen. Yet these conservatives were the crucial swing vote in the mayoral election and they decided to ally themselves with (many) black New Orleanians who voted mainly along racial lines. So, I'm curious: Why would Couhig conservatives punish their city by re-electing someone they previously viewed as an incompetent laughingstock? Again, these folks were the crucial swing vote block, and enough of them decided that Nagin was the best choice for New Orleans. Can anyone, ANYONE give me one solid reason why re-electing Nagin was the right choice for conservative New Orleanians? Please? Was it Nagin's pro-gambling stance? His leadership during the Katrina aftermath? His commitment to a police chief who cannot control crime? His order to seize guns from lawful citizens trying to protect their homes from looters? His Chocolate City comments?... What was Nagin's decisive selling point this time around? That he could convince black Dems to vote for Bobby Jindal for Governor in '07?
And now Mr Rogers inquires whether I considered the possibility that these Couhig conservatives might be as unhappy as I am...
Yeah, I suppose I considered that "possibility" for a millisecond, before dismissing it as the nonsense that it is. No, Couhig Conservatives aren't ANYWHERE NEAR as unhappy as I am about Nagin's recent disasterous comments about Ground Zero. Not even close. Here's why: Couhig Conservatives are supposedly some of the most highly educated voters in the city-- brilliant folks, really-- and so they knew Nagin's history of making incendiary, idiotic claims (such as: the CIA is out to kill me, God sent Katrina because he's angered by the Iraq war, God wants N.O. to be a Chocolate City...). Yet, these highly intelligent Couhig Conservatives who were well-aware of Nagin's foot-in-mouth syndrome still decided that Landrieu was significantly worse for New Orleans. Why was that? Many, like Rob Couhig, submit that Landrieu doesn't "understand business" like Nagin does. So, if they believe that malarkey, how could they be as unhappy as I am about Nagin's "hole in the ground" comment? Surely they believe that Landrieu would've been much worse, right? They can comfort themselves with the thought that no matter what Nagin said/says/will say... they still made the right choice on election day. They had their reasons for choosing Nagin (which we will soon review), and their man Couhig endorsed Nagin... so how could they possibly be as "unhappy" as oyster? Mr. Oyster didn't vote for Nagin. Mr. Oyster doesn't have any "reasons" to comfort him when Nagin goofs; he doesn't admire the politicians who endorsed Nagin.... In fact, he thinks Nagin was the worst possible choice among the major candidates (given the stakes and the circumstances). Unlike the Couhig Conservatives, apparently, Mr. Oyster sees a vivid connection between a man who is a chronic national embarrassment and his poor salesmanship of the city. In fact, Mr. Oyster is tortured by the radical notion that Mitch Landrieu would have been a better mayor, salesman, leader, communicator and unifier for New Orleans than C. Ray Nagin. He would've even been better for business.
But, the Couhig Conservatives are not burdened by these unhappy thoughts.
So, in a word, "No". No, I seriously doubt my Couhig Conservative friends who voted for Nagin are as unhappy as I am right now. Unless... unless perhaps... during a moment of insight, they realized they made a horrible mistake. Perhaps when Mayor Ray was touring the mega-city he recently insulted, pathetically trying to woo investors with Al Sharpton at his side... perhaps, just maybe, it finally dawned on Couhig Conservatives that they made the wrong decision. Perhaps Nagin doesn't "understand business" after all. Perhaps their man Couhig endorsed Nagin for strategic and political reasons rather than out of a pure concern for city governance. But that would mean that many of the "highly educated" Couhig Conservative swing voters got played like yo-yo's in perhaps the most important election in the history of New Orleans. They voted for the inferior candidate, for no good reason. This leads to a much more interesting question: whether or not they're unhappy now, why weren't the Couhig Conservatives as unhappy (at Nagin) as I was back in May? What redirected and defused their anger? Precisely what made them more fearful of Mitch Landrieu than angry at the incompetent and embarrassing Nagin?
Here's a possibility: perhaps outside interests made a concerted effort to "sink Mitch" because they wished to strengthen the state GOP party at the expense of New Orleans. Now that is an unhappy thought, but one well worth "considering" by intrepid "truth-seekers" like Rogers. We'll explore that shortly. For now, let's just keep that provocative "possibility" in the back of our mind while we revisit Rogers' unbiased, truth-soaked commentary on Mitch Landrieu over the past year. (My comments will follow and intersperse Rogers' quotes when necessary.):
The last thing we need is Mitch Landrieu as our governor. This is a guy who spent over $400,000 renovating his own state-sponsored living space. If his efforts at the Pentagon Barracks are any indication, I'm sure he'd make the governor's mansion look real pretty. But his contribution to the state would end right there.
This $400k renovation is apparently Mitch's mortal sin. But what evidence is there that he would not contribute to the state as a governor? He has been an effective promoter of tourism as Lt. Governor (not to mention a "Dieter"). I sure as hell know that I'd want Mitch selling the city (or state) rather than Nagin. But, sadly, conservatives understand that actual reasons aren't necessary when it comes to the Landrieus. Just mention the Landrieu name in the same sentence as something negative, and let peoples' emotions do the rest of the work.
3/9/06 DP News "Flash Sheet"
The 60-second ad, slickly produced by Media consultants Marmillion Gray and Sabistion, is a slick, well-polished job.
The commercial features Mitch Heroically coming to the rescue of Katrina victims, no sweat on his brow, and in full makeup.
Rogers' makeup charge was an outright lie-- a nasty one, that the Dead Pelican has never seen fit to retract. And when the Times Picayune had the temerity to call him on his unsubstantiated claim, Truthteller Rogers responded with another Flash Sheet saying, in effect, "Mitch lies too".
4/6/06 DP Flash Sheet
Landrieu said that his plan "says what we're going to do on day one, day two, day 30, day 90..."
However, a document called "The Landrieu Plan for New Orleans," contained on his web site, contains no such dates.
As petty as this response was, it was grossly misleading in two ways. First, the Flash Sheet misquoted what Landrieu actually said. Second, it did not note the FACT that Mitch Landrieu's plan did say what he would do by Day 30, by Day 60 and by (approx) Day 90-- though it did not offer a "timetable". My rebuttal to Rogers' petty Flash Sheet is here. More importantly, please compare Rogers' attention to this timetable controversy with his utter silence about Nagin's broken promise to present a plan within his first 100 days, and Couhig's hilariously lame, evolving explanations for his committee's delay in reporting.
... I must say that had I been able to vote in the election, [Ray Nagin] would have had my vote.
And I have no real praise for Ray Nagin. However, I believe that the Landrieu dynasty is something that all Louisianians should work together to put a stop to. They have been a powerful force in bringing New Orleans to its knees, along with the the state of Louisiana.
How so? Perhaps an example, just one?
[T]hey embody the kind of political incest that is reminiscent of the days when the Long family ran this state. Mitch Landrieu served for 16 years in the Louisiana legislature. Moon Landrieu once served as New Orleans' mayor, a city that is now one of nation's most dangerous. Senator Mary Landrieu has "served" us for many years as a U.S. senator; our state is currently ranked last in quality for life.
These are sly associations, not arguments. One might ask: What did Moon Landrieu do 30 years ago that made New Orleans a dangerous city today? What policies has Mary Landrieu championed that account for our current "quality for life" rankings? Are Mary and Mitch not philosophically different?
Hell, I could just as easily say: "Since Rogers has served truth as publisher of the Dead Pelican, Louisiana has dropped from 49th to 50th in quality of life. Whatever he's doing apparently isn't working". Or: "Jeb Bush has been governor of Florida for 'many years'. George H.W. Bush was Head of the CIA in the 1970's, now the agency is in shambles; President George W Bush has 'served' us during sharp median income declines and stock market stagnation. This incestuous political dynasty reminds one of the Longs in Louisiana. Whatever the Bushes have done hasn't worked, we must all put a stop to them.... etc". I mean, is that a convincing argument? Would any conservative buy that line of reasoning if one substituted "Bush" for "Landrieu"?
The Landrieus probably aren't bad people. But they've all had chances to prove themselves, and history shows what whatever they've been doing hasn't worked.
"Whatever they've been doing" hasn't worked? So, you can't give one example as to why this politically incestuous family has brought New Orleans and Louisiana to its knees?
As for Mayor Nagin, I can say this much. On the night of the primary, he made fun of himself, showing off one of the novelty items inspired by his "chocolate city" comments. The gadget was a small device which played sound bytes from some of Nagin's more awkward moments. It was called "Mayor in Your Pocket." "They're making money off me," he said with a laugh. "But that's OK."
It was then that I had second thoughts about the man. I began to think that maybe, just maybe, there was more to Ray Nagin than his "chocolate city" comments. The majority of New Orleans voters felt the same way.
Yeah, New Orleanians were similarly "charmed" by Ray's antics... four years ago! Glad his prop-comic schtick was the thing that gave you hopeful second thoughts, Mr. Rogers. Can we expect the Dead Pelican to cover the emerging Recall Nagin efforts like it did the failed Recall Blanco efforts?
Similarly, may we ask what Rogers thinks of Nagin's highly publicized Chicago Campaign fundraiser that reportedly brought in between $250-$500k in campaign funds just prior to the election? Isn't it remotely newsworthy when the Nagin campaign absurdly claims to have raised only $5k instead of $500k? Why go to Chicago in the heat of a campaign to raise $5k? Where did the rest of the money go? Was anything promised in return?
Worse, why in the hell is a newly re-elected, term-limited mayor still fundraising after the election is over? (Nagin finished the race in the black.) The Dead Pelican has been silent about this story, but I would bet my last dollar that there would be huge font, siren-blaring, "Exclusive DP Flash Sheets" if a Mayor Landrieu had done the same thing. I'd wager everyone in the state would know about it if Landrieu were fundraising immediately after being elected, with endless speculation about his Gubernatorial ambitions and how insincere his mayoral campaign was... etc. Just read the quote from this T-P article excerpted below, and imagine that the name "Landrieu" is substituted for "Nagin".
Nagin is holding a fund-raiser Wednesday at the W Hotel in the Central Business District, where couples will be expected to pony up $2,500 apiece, [Nagin Campaign Treasurer David] White said.
Asked why the mayor, who by law cannot seek a third term, is continuing to raise campaign money, White said: "I don't want to be in a position where I don't have funds."
Having money in the warchest will also keep Nagin's political options open, White said. "You never know what this guy might do. He wants to try to get some money back in his coffers, and people offered to help."
"You never know what this guy might do." Yeah, that pretty much sums up Nagin. (Update: More on David White here.)
5/23/06 DP Flash New Sheet:
Shortly before the New Orleans election, Blanco had met with Howard Dean and the DNC. Whether Blanco was involved in the DNC's active push to unseat Nagin is not known.
The Drudge claim that the DNC actively pushed to unseat Nagin is a false, retracted lie, though the Dead Pelican dutifully asserted it as fact and never, to my knowledge, informed its readers that the report was retracted. On the other hand, the Arkansas-Incorporated Greater New Orleans Republicans did actively push to re-elect Nagin and defeat Landrieu.... that's actually A FACT, yet it received no attention from the truth-besotted Dead Pelican. An interesting investigation might begin with the question: where did the GNOR get its funding for their campaign push against Mitch Landrieu?
8/26/06 "Rant" to Nagin
Fire your present staff. Get some good advisors and have them develop a fixed set of talking points for every occasion. NEVER STRAY FROM THIS SCRIPT! Your improvisations are destroying you and your city.
This would have been excellent advice for Nagin... two years ago! But New Orleanians understand that Nagin is simply unable and unwilling to stick to any script, much less surround himself with good advisors. Why in the hell would someone (say, a highly educated Couhig Conservative) who has observed Nagin for 4 years, vote for him and re-elect him on the far-flung HOPE that he MIGHT change in ways he is demonstrably incapable of doing? Why would people delude themselves into ignoring this core "truth" about Nagin's character in the most important election in New Orleans history?
Because of Louisiana's open primary structure? I think not.
Mitch Landrieu, on the other hand, can stay on message and is willing to communicate with his advisors. But conservatives feared him more than Ray "businessman" Nagin because of the bullsh-t reasons I enumerate and document here and here.
Rogers and others are quick to note that the perceptions of the rest of the country are important, and that Louisiana must work to change them. But even GOP Business leaders like Joe Canizaro, who donated $250k towards Mary Landrieu's defeat, publicly supported Mitch Landrieu, because they understood that the New Orleans business community couldn't afford the re-election of Nagin, whom most of the country views as an incompetent laughingstock. CityBusiness, the T-P, Gambit Weekly, and Louisiana Weekly also endorsed Landrieu for similar reasons. They were not charmed by Ray playing with a toy, nor did they hope against hope that he would suddenly change his character.
Besides national perception, the other main reasons to vote for Mitch included his promise to conduct a national search for a new Chief of Police, and his dissatisfaction with Cat 2/3 levees, and his steadfast commitment for Category 5 flood protection for New Orleans and South Louisiana. (Both Nagin and Sen. Vitter have been informed by the White House that Category Five is an "unhelpful" term. Unhelpful to whom, precisely, I cannot say. The post-election resurgence in crime, is a whole 'nother story.)
Category 5 flood protection (which includes wetlands restoration) is TRULY the most significant issue facing South Louisiana. However, one would not know this by reading the Dead Pelican (or Metzgar or Forgotston, for that matter). Perhaps that's because Cat 5 flood protection and coastal restoration will require a LIBERAL solution; that is, it's a Common Problem that requires a Government Solution. But this is too "hard" a truth for some of our libertarian-minded friends to accept, apparently.
If I were a truth-discovering, news-aggregating, online-publisher, I'd have a permanent Flashing Light Alert linking to historian John Barry's magnificent and important USA TODAY editorial on saving Louisiana. That's how good it is. Barry perfectly captures the overriding Louisiana "truth", in my view.
Now, though, after falsely claiming that Mitch wore makeup during a flood-rescue photo op, and after promoting the falsehood that the DNC was involved in the New Orleans mayoral campaign, and after declaring that he would've voted for Nagin... now Chad Rogers suggests that the conservative swing voters who helped put Nagin into office might be as "unhappy" as I am at Ray's predictable blunders. Further, almost unbelievably, Rogers now groups Landrieu in with his examples of "better Democrats", and suggests that the open primary system is to blame for his election loss.
Sorry. No. That's not gonna work.
Nagin supporters don't deserve to get off that easy three months after a crucial election-- especially the "highly intelligent" Couhig swing voters who broke for Nagin. No, they don't get to blame their vote for Nagin on LA's open primary system, and they don't get to act like they are "just as unhappy" as Landrieu supporters when crime spikes and Nagin blunders on a national stage. These conservatives thought, presumably, that Nagin was better for New Orleans than Landrieu. They had their "reasons" for their informed vote.
It would be lovely if they were inclined to share them, or discuss why they were wrong.