by Elliott Stonecipher
As I closed my speech yesterday to the Rotary Club of New Orleans, all had gone particularly well, with applause from the not unexpectedly impressive group warmly expressing approval and appreciation. I relaxed as we shifted into the most fun part, Q & A with an audience I knew was sharp, gives a damn, and would likely put me through my paces. I made it to the next-to-last questioner before Louisiana’s loudest political gag rang through the ballroom in the swank French Quarter hotel:
“Mr. Stonecipher, what about Edwin Edwards’ campaign for Congress? How well do you expect him to do …,” etc.
Prepared and keeping it light, I responded,
Then I repeated the properly intoned gag-line,
The crowd’s laughter was as loud and knowing. The entirety of the subject, after all, is only a joke, right? A big and loud joke, huh?
Very sadly, apparently not, if Edwards can be believed. And, since lying – other than to grand juries and federal investigators – was never one of his defects of character, he probably can be. The news long-dreaded by many hit the internet about the time I was wrapping-up with the Rotary Club. Bloomberg’s Al Hunt reported that in a telephone interview with Edwards yesterday morning, the 86-year-old pol confirmed his intention to run for Congress in Louisiana’s Baton Rouge-centric 6th Congressional District:
“I’m just figuring out all the legalities and how to set up a super PAC, and then I’m going,” Hunt says Edwards says. We can safely assume that any one of Edwards’ few hundred available “friends” who are attorneys can figure out that dinky piece.
I long ago decided to keep my opinion on this subject to myself, unless and until Edwards actually stepped back in the ring. Since I believe he was telling Al Hunt the truth, he is back in the ring. Now, no one who really cares what becomes of Louisiana should keep quiet, no matter how little we want to further embarrass the man.
Edwin Edwards can either be described as a man who served four terms as Louisiana governor, or a four-time Louisiana governor who served ten years in federal prisons for corruption. To me, he is certainly the latter, his corrupt ways so defining as to erase any context. Al Hunt’s piece includes but a few of the stinking tag- and gag-lines which are rim-shots in the raw and rank burlesque of Edwards’ self-service as governor. Any Louisianan will be hard-pressed to defend a vote later this year to send him to Congress.
In truth, of course, Edwards supporters have never felt the need to defend either the man or their votes for him. He is simply someone who profited them, or someone they have always liked, no matter the epic damage he has done to our state. Those watching us from elsewhere long ago stopped wondering how Louisiana could continue electing and electing and electing and electing a brilliantly corrupt doer of such spectacularly bad and illegal things. It is impossible to argue the existence of a new and better Louisiana with the old and broken one concretely stuck in Huey and Earl and Edwin’s past.
It is a very sad irony that the same day Edwards confirmed his re-entry into Louisiana politics, crack television journalist Lee Zurik went live with his work in investigating Senate President John Alario’s gross abuse of campaign fundraising laws. As a solid and very important few who care will work to convince investigators to finally take Alario on, it is perhaps most important to remember from whence Alario comes – the Edwin Edwards machine. More so than any other pol still on the scene, Alario learned his craft at our extant political master’s butt. Governor Jindal, doing his bit to keep Louisiana’s history of corruption updated, hand-picked Alario to be “his” state Senate President. Thus, the circle completes itself, past to present to past to present, spinning unbroken as America’s most politically corrupt state confirms to others its commitment to setting our bar of ethics and legality so low that cockroaches can jump it.
As my time with the New Orleans group ended, appreciators, well-wishers and questioners gathered to visit with me, always a pleasant ending for such engagements. One person in particular spoke of Edwards, a past fan of his who quietly expressed, perhaps unintentionally, her sadness for and about him. I see and hear those feelings a lot, and certainly share them. Very few of us wish the man ill, and most of us, I am certain, wish he would quietly enjoy his freedom, polite code for leaving our state – us – alone.
Edwin Washington Edwards, it seems, just cannot do that. His need for the spotlight is simply insatiable, and his consideration of and for the rest of us insignificant. He just isn’t through hurting Louisiana.
Elliott Stonecipher’s reports and commentaries are written strictly in the public interest, with no compensation of any kind solicited or accepted. Appropriate credit to Mr. Stonecipher in the sharing – unedited only, please – of his work is requested and appreciated.