Editor’s Note: here’s a new feature for 2016 – every Monday morning we’ll have a piece tying together some of the items in Louisiana politics we haven’t gotten to over the weekend or the previous week. Hither And Yon will be part of the mix on the Hayride along with Low Popahirum, our daily roundup of headlines around the web, and The Battlefield, our weekly wrapup focusing on national issues appearing Fridays.
I have to confess that I didn’t know C.B. Forgotston. I occasionally got e-mails from him, and I was included in some of the back-and-forth e-mail conversations he had with a number of watchers of Louisiana politics. But I never met the man, and I have no personal stories to offer in the wake of his suicide over the weekend.
I do know that Forgotston hated Bobby Jindal with a burning passion, so much so that it often seemed unhealthy and unhinged. How much of that was showmanship and bluster, which in the blogging business is a necessity since nobody reads soft-spoken bloggers or shares their work on Facebook, and how much was real, I couldn’t say. Beating Jindal to a pulp was the stock in trade of virtually everyone among reporters and commentators in Louisiana, though, and much of that was deserved. Forgotston led the charge, for which he will be remembered.
But did Forgotston’s vocation as a political critic and analyst have anything to do with him shooting himself? That seems to be what people are thinking based on what’s been said about him on Facebook and Twitter. That now Jindal is all but gone from the governor’s mansion Forgotston had nothing else to live for.
I find that ghoulish and macabre. Most of us deal with demons no one sees, and clearly Forgotston did. The guess is he would have been more than happy to deal the same treatment to John Bel Edwards – or David Vitter, for that matter – that he dealt to Jindal. And the real reason he’s no longer with us was something he never told the audience of his blog.
I’m not a big fan of suicide. Life is a gift, and it’s worth living even in the worst of circumstances. But there are circumstances which at least challenge that assumption, and people do what they believe they have to do. It’s pointless to judge the choice C.B. made over the weekend without knowing all, and frankly, those circumstances are none of our business.
The state will miss his voice, though, and his death imparts a responsibility on those of us in the blogger/critic/pundit world to close ranks and continue the fight. Somebody needs to apply the same scrutiny to Edwards that Forgotston did to Jindal. In a week we’ll have a new governor and he doesn’t deserve a pass for the kind of governance he’s already showing he’s going to give us.
WHY WOULD I SAY THAT? Well, a perfect example would be the decision to take Robert Barham out of his job as head of the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Barham has been nationally known as one of the best practitioners of the wildlife management craft during his time running that department, and he’s the type of public servant – a conservative Democrat turned relatively centrist Republican – that our “conservative Democrat” incoming governor would supposedly want around.
But instead, Barham is out, and he’s being replaced by Charlie Melancon – the ex-Congressman and failed Senate candidate who since leaving public office has had a pair of lobbying jobs which didn’t go particularly well.
Melancon is a guy who’s all but retired. Perhaps Edwards felt like he deserved a sleepy cabinet job in a department he can’t screw up, but that’s hardly the pursuit of excellence.
Mike Edmonson is sticking around to run the state police, when you can hardly find any rank-and-file troopers who think it’s a good idea for him to be in that job and when it’s fairly obvious the state troopers’ association board broke its own rules to endorse Edwards in what looked like a rather shameless ploy to buy the job as state police commander for him, and Bob Barham is out. Plus, Jay Ephialtes Dardenne as Commissioner of Administration to complete one of the most brazenly obvious political campaign bargains I’ve ever seen.
That’s really all you need to know about what kind of administration we’ve got coming in Louisiana. We’re going to need some loud voices to call it out, and I’m not sure the same “mainstream” media which had very little interest in vetting Edwards during the campaign will be up to the task.
ONE THING WHICH IS FUN ABOUT THIS is that for Edwards’ inauguration, Channel 2 in Baton Rouge has asked me to be on the set they’ll have put up on the reviewing stand. I’m going to be on the tube for two hours off and on to provide analysis, likely paired alongside someone who will be more friendly to the new governor.
The temptation, or perhaps the convention, is to be magnanimous in such an occasion, but clearly that’s not why WBRZ called me. And I promise to offer the best, most truthful analysis of the new regime I can. Which does not at this time conjoin with magnanimity.
I still don’t quite understand where Dardenne, speaking for Edwards, gets the idea that Louisiana has a $1.9 billion budget deficit for next year, and I don’t think anybody should trust that number until we know what’s included in that $1.9 billion. Is that $1.9 billion based on the 2015 budget? Is it based on automatic increases of state spending? Is it based on the spending preferences of John Bel Edwards as he seeks to reward all the constituencies which got him elected?
Yes, Louisiana had a $1.6 billion deficit to make up last year. That’s why the legislature raised taxes to the tune of $700 million and supposedly instituted “deep” cuts to boot. Now the deficit is $300 million greater even with those tax increases? Yes, the price of oil has dropped significantly. But all those “deep” cuts ought to have softened the blow – and how come the tax increases haven’t helped? And if the budget is this bad, how come John Bel Edwards voted for it?
Nobody should take those numbers on faith. They sound like cheap political alarmism setting the narrative for which we’re to accept further tax increases.
And if that’s the kind of governance we’re going to get, nobody ought to be celebrating Edwards’ inauguration. You shouldn’t expect me to do it on local TV.