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Friday, 27 May 2011 16:10

Political Hubris Creates Clouds Over Louisiana, New Orleans

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Hubrisnoun – excessive pride or self-confidence; In Greek tragedy, excessive pride or defiance of karma or the gods, leading to nemesis or downfall.

Our society and media are often criticized for building people up into icons, only to relish and revel in tearing them down.  But this is often a gloss-over or simplification of the individual’s contributions to his own downfall.  History and pop culture are replete with examples of people who have risen to prominence or power on a message or course of action that has come back to bite them.




Locally, we can look to such “family values” personalities as David Vitter and the “Reverend” Grant Storms, both vocal supporters of so-called “traditional family values” and opponents of gays, gay rights, pornography, gambling and prostitution.  Yet, both were caught with their pants down. (One literally!) From their actions and speech, it is clear that neither thought that they would ever get caught doing the things that they themselves were publicly railing against.  This is hubris.

Then there is Greg Meffert and Mark St. Pierre.  Meffert came into City Hall 9 years ago, declaring that he was god’s gift to the City, and that we should all be very thankful that he deigned to grace us with his presence and enormous talents.  As far as his improper actions, only the Morial administration was corrupt, NOT the Nagin administration.  It is a strange, but all-too-common way of thinking:

“I can do this because I am not corrupt.”

“Never mind that I would consider it corruption if someone else did it, since I am not corrupt, it is not corruption.”

The problem with this logic is that it is the act that is corrupt, not just the person, and this miscalculation directly led to their discovery and ultimate downfall.  They thought that they were the good guys and that therefore everything they did was O.K.  This too, is hubris.

In recent weeks, we have the Chief of Police, the head of law enforcement for the City, thinking it was O.K. for his driver and son-in-law to work a detail doing City work for a Captain on the same Police force.  Despite his persistent denials, we now know that he knew about these contracts since at least November.  What could he be thinking? That, since he is not corrupt, since he has been declared to be “one of the good guys”, that is HE says its O.K., then it IS O.K.? a la Nixon or Cheney: “If the President does it, that means it is not illegal.”  None of these people is correct.  There is no executive privilege for corruption.  Louis XIV is dead.  L’etat c’est moi does not appear in our constitution. L’etat n’est pas tu, Mr. Serpas.  This too, is hubris.

Now, it has come to light, via WDSU’s Travers Mackel (and, to a much lesser extent, Twitter’s @NOLAGossipGuy), that Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office has been scripting the meetings of the new NORD commission.  This body was supposed to take politics out of recreation and be a true public-private partnership.   Instead, it has been shown to be the City’s biggest puppet show, with the Mayor in the role of Geppetto and Chairman Roy Glapion as the truth-challenged puppet who longs one day to be a real boy.  Glapion’s response, that the scripts were to aid in time management and parliamentary procedure, is absurd.  These scripts are an affront to every citizen in New Orleans who voted to establish this commission, which has been made into a public farce by Landrieu, Glapion and others.  How could he think that people would believe this?  Hubris.

The twitterverse and gossip mills are afire today with news that the Mayor’s office is desperately trying to figure out who leaked the scripts to the press.  Considering the dozens of people that received copies of the scripts, the better question is, How could they think that no one would ever leak this?”  The answer is simple: Hubris.

Now, Mayor Landrieu is rumored to be in hiding, avoiding the press and any event that might allow members of the public to criticize him either for the poor choices that he has made in his first year in office, or for working so very hard to look like a great leader rather than actually being a great leader.  No one likes to be criticized publicly, but with Landrieu it is almost a phobia.  How could he think that the public will stand for his totalitarian, dictatorial, hyper-controlling style and still not expect to be criticized?


Our word of the month.

Thomas Ainsworth Robichaux is an Attorney and Vice-President of the Orleans Parish School Board.  You can follow him on Twitter @TRobichaux

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