Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Louisiana One takes Two:
a good deed in a naughty world.

The British right-wing have had it hard in recent years. Their distraction therapy has been to live the Great Bush Experiment (until it became the Greater Bush Disaster).

That meant there were howls and yippings whenever it looked as if, first, Hillary and, then, Obama were on the slide. Yelps of delight hailed each time Governor Sarah Mooseblaster's intellectual and ideological incisiveness could be applauded. In this world-view, she walked free, with her True Conservative "get out of jail free" card, when Senator McCain was shown to have failed because of lamentable liberal tendencies. At least, that's Malcolm's take on the whole thing.

A strange frisson hunts through the Tory tribe, in constant search of some backbone to run up.

So Tim Montgomerie's cheerleader site is featuring Dan Hamilton having conniptions over the strange events concerning the -- err -- peculiar Governor Rod Blagojevich.

And, also chez Montgomerie, there are the glad tidings, borrowed from America in the World, that Joseph Cao is now elected as Congressman for the Louisiana 2nd District (the election was delayed because of Hurricane Gustav).

A note of warning must intrude here: America in the World looks remarkably akin to one of those CIA-fronts that popped up all over the 1950s and 1960s. So, when Malcolm looked at its credentials, he found it had been launched as recently as October, with a featured photo-op of David Cameron, and its director is ... one Tim Montgomerie. Small world.

Let's stick to Cao. He was an underdog, barely registering on the clapometer a couple of weeks ago. He had certain advantages: for one, his odious and odorous opponent was the sitting Rep. Bill Jefferson.

Jefferson had scrambled to the Democrat nomination, despite growing clamour over his "business" practices. He had been arrested for corruption even before his 2006 re-election: the FBI had set up a sting with known bills, which turned up stuffed in lunch-boxes in the freezer in Jefferson's congressional office. Fans of the recent Damian Green affair might note that this was "the first-ever FBI raid on a Congressional office". Republican Senators and Congressmen went ape. In June 2007 Jefferson was indicted of sixteen counts of corruption.

Nancy Pelosi, as Speaker of the House and Democrat leader, had Jefferson offed from the Ways and Means Committee. The Louisiana Democrats tried to squash Jefferson. He was supported by the Congressional Black Caucus, however, and ploughed blithely on.

Jefferson's family have (or had) a very effective local machine, the Progressive Democrats. Hurricane Katrina was one disrupting force. Jefferson did himself no little harm during Katrina, having the National Guard and a helicopter to rescue himself and his belongings, while others were considerably less well-catered for.

The Louisiana 2nd is most of the city of New Orleans and is 64% Black. Jefferson ran his Primary campaign on an explicit appeal to those Black voters and narrowly saw off a strong challenge from a moderate Democrat, with links to the Black Organisation for Leadership Development, the main intra-party opposition to Jefferson's Progressive Democrats. Throughout the whole messy business, Obama personally kept well away, though (like the Democratic Party's central and State organisation) indicating distaste for Jefferson and his baggage.

Even so, Cao's victory was a close-run thing: 1,826 votes out of a valid poll of 66,846. But that's enough: vox polui, vox Dei. Suddenly, he is a Republican star. The Times-Picayune swallowed hard and opined:
In electing Anh "Joseph" Cao to replace indicted U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, Louisiana voters have delivered an undeniable message: that our state's tolerance for the cynical and corrupt politics of the past is waning.
To make the point, that can accessed via a pungently-phrased link to the AP story on Blagojevich:
Are our politicians no longer the most corrupt?
Cao is a very untypical Republican. He was a Jesuit seminarian, remains a devout Catholic, and has an honourable record in civic leadership and as part of the lay mission. He is a lawyer, specialising in immigration. He taught and has a doctorate in ethics. He entered politics in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; and gained further kudos by campaigning against land-fill. All-in-all, he is precisely the Republican of whom Malcolm can substantially approve.

And yet, the whole press emphasis is that Cao is the first Congressman of Vietnamese origin.

Not so fast, says Malcolm. That was Congressman Peter Lien, in the double-episode which began the fourth series of The West Wing. The newly-elected Congressman for the Texas 22nd comes to the White House as the first part of 20 Hours in America concludes:
CHARLIE: Congressman Lien.

President BARTLET: Could somebody get Leo for me, please? Peter, you hear that? He called you "congressman."

Congressman Peter LIEN: Yes, sir.

BARTLET: You think when your folks got you out in '74, they imagined they were taking you to a place that'd be willing to make you a Congressman?

LIEN: As a matter of fact, sir, I think that's exactly what they imagined.


LEO: Good afternoon, Mr. President.

BARTLET: Leo, meet Congressman Peter Lien, Texas 22nd. Peter, this is Leo McGarry, U.S. Air Force, 144th Fighter Wing.

LEO: Pleased to meet you, Congressman.

Peter's family fishes in Galveston Bay ... Peter's 34 years old.

LEO: I'm sorry it's been two months and we haven't been able to get you up here until now.

LIEN: No, please. It's a bust time. If there's any help I can give you in Texas...

BARTLET: Ordinarily I would tell you that ... you've got big shoes to fill, ... and you do, but obviously you have a bigger symbolic responsibilty then that.

LIEN: Yes, sir.

BARTLET: But you biggest responsibiltity isn't symbolic, right?

LIEN: Yes, sir.

BARTLET: What is it?

LIEN: It's my district, my country, and the Congress of the United States.

BARTLET: Welcome, my friend, to the show that never ends.

LIEN: Thank you, Mr. President.
Malcolm makes two postulations from what has gleaned about Joseph Cao:
  • Cao has the makings of a great Representative, who will do "The Big Easy" very nicely;
  • His commitments and sincerity will constantly disappoint the Right on both sides of the Atlantic. He has already done so by keeping his counsel on stem-cell research (that other sinister shibboleth, alongside being "pro-life").
He's got the odds stacked against him: his District is overwhelmingly and naturally Democrat. The Black interest groups are going to regroup and come after him in two years' time: they are already tagging him a one-term lame-duck. Next time, the sleaze issue may not be there to work in his favour; but, unless someone special comes along, his political demise would be a pity.

Here's to literate, sensitive, Joseph Cao:
"I read a lot of Dostoevsky who wrote works of literature but really was addressing philosophical questions." His favorite is Brothers Karamazov with its story of the "good man [Alexei] who lives a conflicted existence but holds on to his goodness."
Sphere: Related Content

No comments:

Subscribe with Bloglines International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory
Add to Technorati Favorites