Standing before a backdrop of American and New Orleans flags, Mayor Mitch Landrieu spiked the football on his Confederate monument removal crusade just as the statue of Robert E. Lee was being plucked from the pillar it stood upon for over 100 years.
In a rambling and at times repetitive, conspiratorial, and farcical twenty-one minute address before a favorable crowd in the very building where the remains of General P.G.T. Beauregard and Confederate President Jefferson Davis were laid in state before burial in New Orleans, Landrieu declared the Civil War over (152 years after Appomattox Court House), claimed that the statues were utilized to remind folks “who was really in charge,” and boasted he took back the land where they once stood for the United States.
It was a speech more fitting for a psychiatric institute patient suffering from severe delusions of grandeur than a man charged with running a major city with major problems.
Landrieu even had the temerity to use a quote by President George W. Bush that great nations do not hide their history, apparently oblivious to his own actions by erasing historical landmarks from the city’s landscape and dumping them in the back of a city work yard.
It was as if the mayor was caught up in an alternate reality while spewing alternate history.
Landrieu kept pushing the point that the Confederacy was the bane of humanity, as if they were the forerunner of the Third Reich, hoping the more extreme the analogy, even if false, the more moral authority he could assume in taking down the monuments.
Landrieu ludicrously cast Beauregard as a figure of oppression while conveniently ignoring the creole general’s role as an advocate for unity and mutual-respect amongst the city’s black and white communities during the harsh days of Reconstruction.
And then Landrieu lamented the lack of monuments and memorials to African slaves and lynchings.
Actually I concur with Landrieu on this point – the city could add more monuments honoring African-Americans. Finally a valid point, though one which raises a valid criticism: why didn’t Landrieu do something about that during the first seven years he was mayor?
He had plenty of time and opportunities to do so. And why is the self-appointed bulldozer of monuments blaming what he contemptuously referred to as the self-appointed defenders of the monuments?
Why is it the responsibility of those “defenders” to finance new monuments when they are already paying the tab and exerting the elbow grease cleaning ones that stood after the mayor indirectly encouraged hooligans to vandalize them to conform with his “nuisance” declaration.
The entire monument hoopla was designed not so much to smash the “Cult of the Lost Cause” but to expand Landrieu’s national political profile, or to put it in less charitable terms, to create his own personality cult.
Landrieu’s efforts paid dividends, for him though not New Orleans.
Mitch Landrieu has received publicity from media outlets from all over the country, being featured (and feted) by the New York Times and the Washington Post for something that isn’t a priority for New Orleans residents regardless of race.
During his address Landrieu wasn’t speaking to City Hall staff or the two council members who showed up; he was speaking to the national media. Landrieu’s audience and constituency is now the east coast not the gulf coast.
It’s becoming apparent that the city tricentennial will be more about promoting Landrieu first and the city second, as what happened in 2015 with his self-aggrandizing “Katrina 10” publicity operation that monopolized attention and ignored other areas devastated by the hurricane.
And then there is the termed out mayor’s fundraising for his NOLA PAC at a time when he should be putting together money for the tricentennial committee. But this isn’t about politics, right?
In lieu of working on issues like reducing crime and filling potholes, the city of New Orleans will likely be treated to more grandiose bowdlerizations by Landrieu. As Take ‘Em Down Nola and their press agents at the Times Picayune have cataloged, there are no shortage of minor monuments and street signs related to the Confederacy to swap out.
After all it’s easier to rename a street than it is to repair it.
Landrieu is following a similar pattern as another termed out Louisiana politician who spent the last years of his time in office obsessing over the national media and people who live outside of the state, ignoring the serious problems facing locals and pushing forth an agenda that was not relevant to his constituents.
Is Mitch Landrieu eying a bid for the White House in 2020? Probably not, unless he starts headlining fundraisers for Planned Parenthood.
Though there can be no doubt Landrieu is feverishly working to raise his national profile, perhaps for future consideration for a cabinet position in the next Democratic administration or to assume the leadership of some kind of Beltway-based special interest group.
He’s already forgotten about his current constituency and is using the office he holds to springboard to his next. The city be damned.
Mitch Landrieu has become Bobby Jindal.