Nagin needs a handler and NOLA needs a mayor
C. Ray Nagin, the mayor of New Orleans, needs a handler – somebody to stand right behind him with a hand ready to clap over the man’s mouth when he goes off into the weeds of rhetoric. Since there was no alert person ready to hit the “off” switch on Nagin's microphone yesterday, his primary message got completely overrun by divisive, racist remarks.
It isn’t as if there was no warning that something really stupid was about to be said, either. He warned everybody, right out of the gate, that he might be suffering from "Katrina post-stress disorder”... and then he proceeded to prove it. (Here’s the video, located courtesy of Schroeder’s PGR blog.)
Yesterday after his speech, I was too horrified and shocked to write. I couldn’t believe he had made statements like:
"It's time for us to come together. It's time for us to rebuild New Orleans — the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans," the mayor said. "This city will be a majority African American city. It's the way God wants it to be. You can't have New Orleans no other way. It wouldn't be New Orleans."
God wants this? The God I grew up with doesn’t handle urban planning. And who is “us”, Ray? Did you mean to alienate the folks Uptown, and “them”?
This, right here, is the kind of crap that keeps American racism alive. Racists of ALL colors got fed by this speech.
It wasn’t just that he was uncontrolled enough to say these things; it was the occasion he chose for the remarks: Martin Luther King Day. The day America has set aside to honor a visionary who hoped for a unified society.
What Nagin did yesterday, intentionally or not, was water the seeds of paranoia and suspicion. At any moment, I expected to hear about the levees being blown.
Sadly, if one could pull the front and back ends off of his speech, there was a worthwhile message hidden in there - one that most people could agree on and support. For the briefest of moments, he sounded like somebody who was concerned about the social issues besetting poor urban communities – problems that pre-Katrina New Orleans had in abundance, and that nobody wants to see come back.
But he got lost – again – in the weeds. Some people should never, ever, be allowed to speak in public… and when that person is the mayor of a troubled and challenged city already suffering from racial suspicion and hostility, it’s time for a change.
And while waiting for those elections, could somebody please get that Mayor some treatment for his KPSD? Maybe some valium...?