Like children who bawl anew as they recount and embellish a scrape, pols will often weep at their own false stories. Bill Clinton was often emotionally moved by his own lies. Howard Dean, needing a good lie to punctuate a speech on the dangers of requiring parental consent for abortion, made up a story about counseling an “incest” victim looking for an abortion. This generated in him the appropriate level of indignation to wow a NARAL audience during his presidential campaign. Two-bit huckster Aaron Broussard joins this procession of pols. The Jefferson Parish President’s crying jag on Meet the Press corresponded to the length of his now-famous falsehood: the sobs grew louder as he added extra days to his tale of an old woman who died while the federal “cavalry” failed to arrive.
Russert did a much better job of sorting out Howard Dean’s lie than that of Broussard, who was allowed to fog up the discussion a second time this last Sunday. “Tim” was taking him to a “sad place,” anybody who questioned his story (come on, it was only off by a mere four days and had nothing to do with the federal response) was “nitpicking,” and so forth.
And while the old fraud played the shattered victim, he was in reality having the time of his life, as it became clear from his bragging about his rhetorical skills and taunt to all comers to debate him (provided that he first got a full-night’s “sleep,” something, he was careful to remind the audience, that he has been deprived of for weeks). Appearing on Meet the Press successively is certainly a lot more fun than having to answer questions about Bail Bonds Unlimited during a corruption probe nicknamed Operation Wrinkled Robe. That’s what Broussard was doing before the flood.
A Louisiana television station reported in late August “that investigators have issued subpoenas to Parish President Aaron Broussard and 24th District Judge Kernan ‘Skip’ Hand”; the “subpoenas are related to political donations made by Bail Bonds Unlimited to Hand’s campaigns. [Broussard worked on his campaign.] Last month, Judge Alan Green was convicted of mail fraud as a result of the ongoing investigation. He was caught by FBI video surveillance taking an envelope stuffed with money from a Bail Bonds Unlimited employee.”
A plot device in movies and novels is the natural catastrophe that blows scandals and crimes away — the crook who commits some crime and gets away with it due to the authorities’ preoccupation with, and confusion after, addressing a disaster. Broussard and other Louisiana pols trust real life will work the same way, that the flood (and their “leadership” during it) will distract people from, and maybe even absolve them of, any pre-flood mischief. But unlike characters in movies, these rogues are not keeping a terribly low-profile.
Take a look at who was browbeating ousted FEMA head Michael Brown during yesterday’s Congressional hearing on government relief-effort failures — William Jefferson, the New Orleans congressman who, underscoring that the city is run by a political class not much different from the criminal class they overlook, is under federal investigation for graft. After Brown rightly called the Louisiana government “dysfunctional,” Jefferson exploded, “I find it absolutely stunning that this hearing would start out with you, Mr. Brown, laying the blame for FEMA’s failings at the feet of the governor of Louisiana and the Mayor of New Orleans.”
How many media outlets when they report this exchange will also report that Jefferson is under FBI investigation, that the FBI has found money hidden in his freezer, and that he is a loan-defaulting ex-slum lord? Jefferson’s lawyer, before the flood, was playing the race card, decrying the federal government’s decision to pursue its case in “white” Northern Virginia. Now Jefferson will place himself among the “victims” of alleged indifference by the federal government during the flood: the same federal government that didn’t care about you, he will in effect say to his constituents, is persecuting me.
And if Broussard can spare some time to tutor him, Jefferson will well up at just the right moment. After all, nothing is more cathartic than good fiction.
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