The Zipper Is Out

Free at last, free at last.

They sprung him this morning. Fast Eddie is now an ex-con.

And now the collective Lewinsky from the local drive-by wags begins.

Just check out the Times-Picayune’s article on Edwards’ release and you’ll see what we’re talking about.

Anna Edwards said he was ecstatic to have her father out of prison.

“He promised me eight years ago that he would walk out. He kept it. He walked out,” she said.

She said he was in good health and she didn’t know if her father would be required to stay in the halfway house or be granted home confinement.

Edwards spent two hours at the halfway house before leaving with his daughter to go to an undisclosed location.

Edwards, a Democrat, was convicted in a bribery and extortion scheme to rig the riverboat casino licensing process during his fourth and final term, which ended in 1996. He has maintained his innocence and blamed his conviction on former friends who he said turned against him and lied in their testimony and on misinterpreted, secretly taped conversations.

Known for his quick wit and easy charm, Edwards dominated Louisiana politics for decades and has continued to attract public interest though he’s been out of elected office for 15 years. Even as he was serving prison time, speculation persisted about whether the former governor would weigh in on the state political scene when he emerged from jail.

No mention of the fact that the charges he was finally convicted of were only the last in a long string of allegations of corruption against The Silver Zipper. No mention of the fact that despite cracking joke after joke about how he and his cronies robbed the people of this state blind during his political career Edwards never once showed the slightest sign of contrition.

No. Instead, we get the human interest story about how happy the family is. And now the clowns at the Daily Suckerfish are actually counting the days until Edwards can run for governor again.

We’re not interested in beating up on a pathetic old man. But we’re also not interested in this rehabilitation-by-propaganda effort being mounted on behalf of an unrepentant crook who did incredible damage to the reputation and economy of our state.

Ask yourself why it is that Mississippi has Las Vegas-quality casinos which bring folks in from all over the country and we’ve got a bunch of glorified truck stops which drain poor people’s Social Security and welfare checks. How much damage do you think came from Edwards’ casino-license scheme? How many good jobs were lost? How much capital investment did that drive away?

The idea that this man did good for the state because he was flamboyant and entertaining and made lots of deals, and oh-by-the-way-it’s-unimportant-that-he-might-have-skimmed-a-few-bucks-off is not a harmless one.  Edwards practiced a crony-capitalist economic regime in Louisiana for decades which poisoned the business climate here and ran off both capital and talent in alarming quantities; we are still trying to recover.

Those are policy reasons to hate and reject what this man represents. But the fact he was corrupt to the core and stole from the people on top of his poisonous governing philosophy, and still refuses to acknowledge or repudiate his guilt, means there is a strong moral case for rejection of the man as well.

What we want is for Edwards to go away. Shut up. We don’t want to hear about his autobiography, we’re not interested in his views on the issues of the day and we’re appalled at the idea of his assuming some kind of role as Louisiana’s Scumbag Elder Statesman. If that’s what’s in store for this state, you can be sure we’ll respond here on the Hayride with less-than-charitable descriptions of his life and times.



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