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Reductionist views of EWE miss understanding his impact

Prisoner #03128-095 was busy giving speeches this weekend, but complimented the chow in his address to the Louisiana Political Science Association annual meeting last Friday. Democrat former Gov. Edwin Edwards is controversial and thus a polarizing figure, tending to make people simplify the man and his attitudes. As he approaches his 85th year, the longest-serving governor in the state’s history expressed some interesting thoughts about politics going forward, apparently recovered from a recent illness, even if he is slightly slow in step and a little hard of hearing, and in the process showed he can’t be dismissed solely as a caricature.

At the state level, remarking about the scope and role of higher education, he noted he had assisted in funding it in two ways; first, by creation of the fund, from a successful state lawsuit, that provides grant money to universities and, second, by changing the taxation structure on the severance tax to make it on a percentage basis, bringing in far more revenue than the old capitation measure. He said he predicted 40 years ago that one day oil would get to $100 a barrel – it actually has gone as high as over $144 on spot pricing – which was not that bold of a prediction (anything can happen in the future) except many doubted that then.

Edwards lamented the state fiscal environment of the day and expressed he thought things would be better with a different set of elites – Democrats – in charge at the state level. But he acknowledged the current electoral climate was part of his own doing, in that he championed the blanket primary, which many theorize opened the political system to respond more easily to a shift in partisan-based voting behavior in the electorate that has come to favor the Republicans, even as he said he caught a lot of criticism from Republicans when that law came into effect.

However, he said he saw the national Democrats as making serious policy errors.
He identified the failure of the Pres. Barack Obama Administration to approve of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline deal as a serious impediment to job creation and energy independence, along with the lack of opening up more domestic drilling possibilities. He thought much too little comity was present both in partisan interactions in Congress and between it and the White House, recalling that when he served in the House the atmosphere was much more conducive to working together, for which the present condition he said both parties deserved blame. He also said, in foreign relations, that the country spent too much money both in aid and militarily for the benefit of other countries, agreeing with Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul that there needed to be extensive retrenchment, with money saved utilized for pressing domestic concerns. He even noted Paul was worth considering getting his vote – if he only could legally.

Finally, observing that, to his knowledge, he was the only living official he knew of who has served in the executive, legislative and judicial (he was a city judge for a brief time) branches, and also at the local, state, and federal level, he argued the modern state chief executive seemed to have no time set aside to reach out to the citizenry. He claimed every communication he got as governor from citizens was responded to one way or the other, and that, when he could, he helped those he could.

Obviously, the occasion did not elicit a full-throated defense and/or protestation of innocence about his conviction – he did make a reference to having done things he wish he hadn’t, which if that can be read as any admission of culpability to that felony, it goes much farther and shows more willingness to take responsibility than the publisher of his biography, Prisoner #03312-095, has taken to admit error and to ask the public for forgiveness. Nor should we ever expect an apology to that degree, and that part of his character thus remains easy to understand.

Yet to pigeonhole the man as an archetype liberal Democrat hero or villain misses his complexity in views and in the actions he took as a result of them. While a useful starting point to understand the role he played in the state’s political history, this approach also threatens oversimplification that would impede this understanding of him and his impact.


Mr. Harris Plutocrat said...

Every once in awhile, to make himself seem magnanimous, Jeff will say something neutral or positive about one of the people he hates. It's mostly designed to make it seem like Jeff has the moral highground, as though he hasn't been shrieking hatred for the past several years. Rest assured, dear readers, that the regular Jeff will return once more tomorrow, spitting vitriol and hatred at liberal caricatures. Still, it's pretty funny to watch Jeff be surprised at the "complexity of views" of a liberal, and warns of "oversimplification that would impede this understanding of him." Jeff is, of course, one of the great Louisiana purveyors of oversimplified, unnuanced caricatures of liberal demons. Lest anyone stumble upon this blog today and conclude that Jeff is some sort of even-keeled commenter, here he also is calling Edwards a liar, coward, corrupt, extortionist, defrauder, money launderer, racketeer, a "sniveling, selfish and immature loser," offender of decent people, debased felon, and a "pitiful testament." And all that's on just one blog post: (

Anonymous said...

Why in the world do people continue to write about this man and to give him attention?