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24.12.08

Support of EWE commutation explains LA ineptitude

At first I thought I was reading a term paper from one of my sub-par students. No, it turned out to be an Abbeville Meridional newspaper editorial advocating the early release of former Gov. Edwin Edwards, now better know as Prisoner #03128-095, and the intellect and logic showed in demonstrates exactly why Louisiana ranks at the bottom of many quality-of-life indicators.

The rambling thesis of this appears to be that the elderly Edwards has suffered enough. A lifetime of achievement it offers as exculpatory justification. In doing so, not only does it miss the entire point of Edwards’ punishment, it doesn’t even provide convincing arguments that he merits commutation of his 10-year sentence.

The editorial skirts Edwards’ apparent corruption in office. Instead, it advances the peculiar notion that his long service in various capacity somehow exempts him from paying the full price for his misdeeds, even going so far as to maintain proof of his overriding good work was being elected governor four times showed “he must have done something right. Voters in this state are not stupid.” No comment of mine can illuminate better the “merit” of this statement and I’ll leave it to my readers to ponder this wisdom without my input.

While he never was convicted of abuse of office, plenty of circumstantial evidence makes it hard to explain what the author claims is a “myth” that “Edwards made his money in politics.” If he didn’t make it while in office, it seems difficult to understand why Edwards was so unconcerned from what today would be illegal lobbyist cash gifts from Tongsun Park while in Congress, or why his former operative Clyde Vidrine would produce salacious revelations in his books about these things, or why during his 1986 corruption trial it was revealed that Edwards regularly visited Las Vegas casinos with suitcases full of hundreds of thousands of dollars when as governor he made in salary a fraction of the contents of one such case each year. Willing suspension of disbelief does not make for good argumentation.

It also reads a “second myth is that government in Louisiana is corrupt and that all elected officials are crooks.” Insofar as this is a straw man argument – nobody seriously argues this so why waste the space refuting something irrelevant – it claims corruption essentially stops at the Orleans Parish lines. The author needs to do a little research to discover just in the past year high-profile corruption cases being decided in Jefferson Parish concerning judges and a former state senator and in Baton Rouge about the state’s film office. Somehow, asserting without proof that little corruption exists outside of New Orleans is supposed to make readers believe … what? That since Edwards wasn’t from New Orleans he wasn’t corrupt?

The sad fact that the author runs from is that Edwards was convicted of a federal crime of using his influence improperly in politics. No amount of character references or favorable polling can change this fact, and it is important for him to serve his entire (and typical for the collection of crimes for which he was convicted) sentence because, as noted elsewhere, it provides disincentive to deter criminals from doing things, including performing additional corrupt activities to prevent the day of reckoning from coming to hold off their punishments long enough to have a way to escape their full sentences.

It will be interesting to see whether the Meridional is consistent in its view about Edwards concerning the case of Bernard Madoff who also allegedly engaged in corrupt activities (in the financial markets). Investors may have lost billions by him (although some made quite a bit from him as well, so he did help the public), but, hey, the guy is 70 years old and no doubt the trial will be taxing on him so why not let him off light? I await this editorial that argues if Edwards should be let off despite what he did to the Louisiana citizen, regarding Madoff that he merit the same treatment for what he did to duped millionaires.

That such an editorial so oblivious and would seem to take itself seriously just provides another indicator explaining Louisiana’s dismal situation. People who entertain the notion that violation of public trust not be punished to the full extent of the law are the same folks who keep putting into office politicians and supporting public policy that tolerates such behavior to the detriment of the state.

2 comments:

James said...

As you say, it's a really bizarre exercise in absurdity. Ted stevens has served long in the US senate but deserves incarceration as does edwards. Just a couple of old sleazy crooks.

Anonymous said...

I read the same article with incredulous wonder. How could any person, save with youthful inexperience, come up with such absuritity that 98% of corruption could be surrounded at the Orleans Parish line. Look around this state with open eyes and anyone with clear vision can see what is(and has) occured from the time of our former Gov. to the days of our past Com. of Agrigulture...yes, he hasn't been convicted of any crime, but sometimes the appearance of impropriety can be just as bad as the actual crime; especially in a state like Louisiana.