Sunday, December 10, 2006

Only in New Orleans: scandal-tainted congressman re-elected

Earlier today, I saw some news that I had trouble believing: congressman William Jefferson was re-elected to office.

This is the same guy who the FBI arrested a few months ago after finding $90,000 in cash hidden away in his freezer, a day after a company admitted paying him a $100,000 bribe.

Looking a bit into the story, the same white versus black nastiness that has pervaded New Orleans for decades seems to have reared its ugly head again. As the Washington Post explains:

Jefferson, 59, drew widespread support among blacks who are skeptical of the federal government's motives in its investigation of him. He repeatedly suggested the probe is groundless because he has yet to be indicted more than a year after the FBI raided his home in New Orleans.
Carter, 37, raised nearly five times as much money as Jefferson, but she was largely outflanked in the endorsement game. Jefferson picked up the backing of Mayor Ray Nagin and other prominent black politicians.

What is peculiar here is that Karen Carter herself is black, and despite this fact, Jefferson was able to portray Karen Carter as a "pawn of the white establishment" (as her father Ken Carter described), and through this scaremongering was able to get an overwhelming majority of the black votes in New Orleans.

I have written about New Orleans in the past, and only in this screwed-up racist cesspool of a city can I imagine this type of thing happening: a politician, who was caught red-handed with a $90,000 bribe stashed away in his freezer, getting re-elected, simply because of racial politics. No matter what Jefferson's political qualifications, no matter what his platform, no matter what color his skin is, the least thing one can demand from a politician is honesty. And, a man like Jefferson, who has proven himself so dishonest, should never be elected to political office.

As someone tainted by strong accusations of corruption, William Jefferson is a pariah in Washington, and any initiative he may propose will be inherently suspect. With much work to be done still to clean up from Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans needs a strong advocate in congress. With this scandal hanging over his head, William Jefferson will never fit this role again.

New Orleans residents did not cause Hurricane Katrina, and they did not cause the destruction that it wrought. But, they did have a choice in who to elect to office, and by re-electing William Jefferson, the residents of New Orleans failed to look out for their own interests. If New Orleans does not receive adequate government support after making such a stupid error, it will be their own undoing. By re-electing Jefferson, New Orleans dug its own hole.