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Landrieu audition echoes life under dictatorship

Maybe that explains it. Maybe that’s why Democrat New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu delivered a diatribe full of obfuscation and empty of logic to justify government secrecy: he’s running for president.

A national newspaper threw Landrieu’s hat into the ring for 2020, theorizing his raised profile as a result agitating for and beginning the removal of the city’s statuary makes him someone appealing to a national party veering every further to the political left. His comments regarding stealing away the Battle of Liberty Place monument in the middle of the night certainly suggest compatibility with this goal.

Both opponents and supporters of carving the monuments out of the city’s landscape have expressed that the dissections happen with public notice, even with pomp and pageantry attached. Instead, it happened in the dead of night with no warning. Attired more like Islamic State insurgents than public servants and contract employees, balaclava-adorned participants did the deed while keeping from view any identification of the contractor.

The secrecy matched the funding efforts. Unidentified sources allegedly contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the effort, using an organization known as the Foundation for Louisiana, which originated after the hurricane disasters of 2005 but since has mutated into a “social justice” outfit. This way, Landrieu could skirt public record laws.

Yet any large such donations would have to appear on the group’s Form 990 for the Internal Revenue Service, which the group must make available publicly the 15th day after the fifth month after the close of the accounting year, May 15 for the Foundation. The first of these donations could have come in 2015 and should have been available for viewing already, and in two weeks any such 2016 donations of large enough size also should become publicly available – except the group has violated IRS regulations by not posting the 2015 form. It will be interesting to see if it commits a second violation – a $20 a day penalty unless an extension is requested, up to $10,000 – with its 2016 data.

However, one thing is known – earlier this year, Landrieu distributed from the city-controlled Wisner Fund $250,000 to the Foundation; Fund donations do not show up in three previous years. To add further mystery, the operative cooperative endeavor agreement to receive money on behalf of the city is dated fewer than two weeks ago.

Landrieu attempted to explain the shroud over the whole operation as necessary for protection. He alleged that threats to the safety of those involved justified the cloaking – even though public safety authorities then over the months had open only one identified, genuine threat. Landrieu himself subsequently received one after the removal – long distance from a guy in Mississippi local officials described as “basically harmless.”

Ironically, if anything, supporters of the monuments have received the most intimidation. For example, last year near Lee Circle, another endangered monument, vandals scrawled “Die whites die.” Perhaps cognizant of the skepticism surrounding his claim, Landrieu further justified the lack of transparency as necessary because contractors heard from opponents to removal “if you do that, we won’t give you any more business.”

But when is it ever legitimate for government to sacrifice openness to support certain business interests threatened with boycotts? And Landrieu seemed utterly unconcerned when certain supporters of removal threatened to boycott Vieux Carre businesses if he did not remove more monuments than the four currently under fire, or when certain opponents threatened to boycott all of New Orleans if he had any removed?

Landrieu also denied that city workers, specifically firefighters, contributed to the actual dismantling. This contradicted eyewitness testimony, who identified one high-level official masked. All during the night, sharpshooters eyed the area, prompting one newspaper columnist to question what could justify the high levels of secrecy and security that eroded the public’s trust and right to transparent government.

But most laughably, if not Orwellian in fashion, Landrieu reiterated what he said about the operation when it occurred that it “celebrates our diversity, inclusion, and tolerance.” Since when does tearing at the fabric of the city and disregarding the views of those concerned about aesthetics and history enhance diversity, inclusion, or tolerance?

Liberalism delights in pitting people against each other, creating bogeyman enemies of the people that it says government must combat for the greater good, with little thought given to individual liberty. Landrieu accomplished this and then some with carrying out an action more at home in dictatorships than in America. Which does burnish his credentials if he really plans to seek nomination by today’s Democrats in three years.

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