If he thought polite listening to his views constituted “intimidation,” it’s a wonder Democrat state Rep. John Bel Edwards didn’t fall into catatonia when he heard public records requests had been filed concerning his correspondence with teachers’ unions and for addresses of teachers in his parish. Apparently, despite his words he must not feel so, for if his rants are to be characterized they seem more indicative of his protesting too much in a way that moots any gain Democrats try to get out of framing this particular debate.
This we can tell from the paranoia infused in his remarks about the incident, which attempts to feed a narrative about this presumed “intimidation.” On the floor of the House, Edwards complained that the removal of another legislator from a committee post by the House Speaker, that having administration opponents listen to a news conference of his and having fellow legislators deliver a rejoinder to it, that communications into his district made by an interest group in favor of the reform legislation, and that having this public records request filed by a lawyer who is partner to the executive director of the state Republican Party, were all part of a master plan by that wily, dastardly Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal to stamp out opposition whipped up his poor own little self.
While Edwards may have been channeling his inner Huey and/or Earl Long, fulminating against forces said to inveigh against him, besides giving way too much credit to Jindal as some kind of Svengali, and as well greatly overestimating his own importance, such a spleen venting ignores that the only of these actions taken by Jindal was to have his aides listen to his unpersuasive arguments. With this at least Edwards only hinted at anti-Semitic attitudes (apparently casting the dark-skinned but Catholic Jindal in the role of the “wandering Jew” who manipulates others to his own ends); his Democrat colleague state Rep. Sam Jones went all the way when he compared these supposedly intimidating tactics to those practiced against their own dissident people but especially against Jews by the Nazi Germany regime.
Naturally, this shows Jones knows nothing of history but, more disturbingly, also his willingness to trivialize the murder of the greatest number of people in history because of an immutable, human characteristic of theirs that disturbingly puts him in the same camp as Holocaust all-but-deniers who also have served in the Louisiana Legislature. After the Governor’s Office rightfully condemned such remarks given disgracefully on the floor of the House and asked for an apology by Jones and denouncement of them by Edwards, neither complied, with Edwards unconvincingly weaseling claim that calling people who act like (in Jones’ words) “Brownshirts in the 30’s” in an apparent reference to the Sturmabteilung paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party was not the same as calling them “Nazis.”
It’s not the first episode of hypocrisy on Edwards’ part concerning this issue, whose moaning on several occasions about the phantom intimidation contrasts with his silence regarding the obvious intimidation tactics by teachers’ unions, with the tacit approval of some school districts, of refusing to show up for work during a crucial phase of the education year in order to protest the reforms, signaling that if they didn’t get their selfish way, they would further impede education in the state. This time, Edwards is all too willing to accuse Jindal of a conspiracy yet disavowed any responsibility of his engineering an environment that encouraged bigoted statements to be made by his allies.
Edwards also made an interesting slip in his jeremiad, perhaps explaining why he can claim a public records request seems so threatening to him. He said on the floor, “I hope these pecuniary moves will not silence you from speaking out” – that is, moves “consisting of or measured in money” or “of or relating to money.” How the actions he condemned measure up to being “pecuniary” is unknown. Perhaps Edwards does not know what “pecuniary” means, or confuses it with something like “picayune,” or in all of his agitation used one word instead of another, or even that the reporter who transcribed the statement misheard the word. But there is another, much more unfortunate possibility – that a public records request might find something that is “pecuniary” going on between him and organized interests opposing the reform package that night run afoul of ethics laws. Let’s hope not.
In any event, the law regarding records release is so broad that Edwards might be able to exclude anything related to his interactions with special interests on this issue – and it certainly will be interesting to see if he does claim exemption of all of that and, in the future, if he then has the audacity to criticize records requests laws relative to other officials including the governor’s office. Given his record of piling on the hypocrisies, don’t bet against that happening.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 11:55