Jeffrey D. Sadow is an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University Shreveport. If you're an elected official, political operative or anyone else upset at his views, don't go bothering LSUS or LSU System officials about that because these are his own views solely.
This publishes Sunday through Thursday with the exception of 7 holidays. Also check out his Louisiana Legislature Log especially during legislative sessions (in "Louisiana Politics Blog Roll" below).
In reference to what has become known as the “Louisiana Purchase” by Sen. Mary Landrieu, a recent effort by an opinion columnist reminds us of the folly of losing sight of the forest for the trees.
Last month, Landrieu faced derision when revealed that she had dropped objections to a health care bill in the Senate that promises higher premiums and taxes with reduced quality of care when she had secured attachment to the bill of a provision that could bring the state as much as $300 million to next fiscal year’s Medicaid program. Despite the widespread criticism she expressed pride in her ability to extract this concession.
Apparently, one Stephanie Grace seems convinced by Landrieu. She writes that Landrieu followed the norms of expected legislative behavior and did it well enough to “solve” a particular problem. But as soon as the reader is informed of this, Grace senses something is wrong with her argument because she immediately goes on to write that, in the scheme of getting goodies tucked into the bill, what Landrieu did was “more defensible” than some deals made by her colleagues.
This semi-conscious realization illuminates the entire flaw with this argument. If deal-making for a particular bill emanated from a background of acceptable rectitude of the bill, the kind or amount of deal being made would not matter in defining that rectitude. That is, if policy-makers knew they had something that was good for the people to support yet were playing a bluffing game with party leaders for votes in order to mine extra benefits for their constituents, then the bigger the deal the more skilled the policy-maker – something not to defend, but brag about. The deal itself would not determine the acceptability of the bill, but rather would enhance it.
The problem in this instance is that the bill in question is so catastrophically bad. Here, the nature of the deal is not an add-on to make something good even better, but as camouflage to make a bad deal look less bad. Even if Grace believes Landrieu always thought the bill to be acceptable, the fact of Landrieu’s induced lagniappe denotes not skill, but cravenness. By her schizophrenic defense of Landrieu – it’s good because it’s what senators do, but also not bad because others’ deals are worse – at some level even Grace seems to get this. The issue is not quantity, but quality.
Landrieu, however, seems not to get this at all. So her actions simply cannot be defended in any way because you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear no matter how much gussying-up of it you do. That Grace even tried to do so illustrates for us the perils of focusing on the trees – senatorial dealing – rather than seeing the entire forest – the inherent rottenness itself of the subject of the dealing. No amount of apologizing for Landrieu can change that.