A lesson from Ray Nagin

 by CB Forgotston

Nagin-BlingIt has become common to equate a new face in government with positive change.  That is particularly true when that person has little or no track record in government.

Much of the positive perception is based on rhetoric and promises, but is mostly the result of hopeful thinking. It is easy to understand such thinking because there is no history from which to judge the person.   The lack of a negative seems to equate to a positive.

A classic case of hopeful thinking was the election of New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin. Nagin was quickly branded by the media and others as a “reformer” despite having never served a day in elective office.Louisiana_State_Lottery_Drawing_1887_Children

Admittedly, I was, like many of you, initially, duped by Nagin’s perception as a successful businessman with no political ties. For me, that perception quickly changed, after his performance following Hurricane Katrina.

On Friday, Nagin was indicted by the Federal Government on 21 counts of criminal activity while in office.

Louisiana past and present

Al_The_Kings_MenBecause of bad experiences with public officials, until a few years ago, state law prohibited the naming of public buildings for living individuals.  After the “Louisiana Scandals” of the 1930s, names on some of the buildings at LSU had to be removed or covered over.

Governor Bobby Jindal has called by many as a “reformer.” Jindal may turn out to be a “reformer,” but he has a long career ahead of him.

Suggestion

The media should wait until one’s career in public office is ended to determine whether they were truly “reformers.”

Let history judge whether the full body of work of a politician is that of a “reformer”; not opinion writers, PR flacks, biographers and political “spin doctors.”

Pre-judging is merely an exercise in self-deception that could, if history is any judge, very well end in disappointment.

C.B.