Times-Picayune, The (New Orleans, LA) - Sunday, May 15, 2005
Author: James Gill
Ray Nagin ran for mayor as a businessman and outsider, but he has now become a genuine 18-carat politician.
Nagin showed that his evolution is complete when, in his third annual state of the city speech, he started blaming the press.
It was like going back 20 years or more and listening to an embattled Dutch Morial laying into the Fourth Estate.
Perhaps Nagin is not yet in the Dutch Morial class when it comes to dealing with the press. But then Dutch Morial set a standard that few politicians can emulate.
One time he allowed that if he tried to correct every mistake that appeared in the newspaper, there would be no time left to run the city. He was quite the bantam, and, on another occasion, offered to boff a burly radio reporter on the noggin.
These recollections are not set down in rancor. Yours truly always found Dutch Morial a square guy and a very civil one too.
The same may be said of Nagin even as he resorts to the classic politician’s cop-out by suggesting that the press is determined to "change people’s perception" that he is "an honest guy with integrity."
Nobody every met an honest guy without integrity, but please let the tautology go and do not make fun of hizzoner. The press has already offended him quite enough. "You even stooped to mocking!" he cried. "You put my head on cartoon characters of Elvis Presley and a little man with a king’s outfit on."
How terrible that the press has hurt Nagin ’s feelings. But who knew he was such a delicate plant? Big-city mayors are usually made of sterner stuff.
But Nagin apparently thought he would be the first American politician ever to be spared criticism or jest. On his election, he recalled, "editors and news directors were giving each other high fives, sipping mint juleps and hurricanes." Sounds like a typical night at The Times-Picayune to me.
Nagin exaggerates, of course, but he did come to office, if not as a messiah then at least a breath of fresh air after the shady antics of the Marc Morial years. Now Nagin complains, as politicians are wont to do when the bloom wears off, that the media have turned against him.
Make that the local media, because Nagin avers that he is regarded as a hero on the national scene. "National publications tout our successes," he said. "In fact, a national media company recently gave me the scales of justice award."
Nagin , who used to work for Cox and is known as "cable guy," was indeed so honored -- by Court TV.
But if life for Nagin does consist of "local knocks and national boosts," he had better make the best of it, for, so long as there is one dubious contract or cozy insurance deal left, the media will take notice.
Nobody disputes that Nagin ’s administration is much straighter than Marc Morial’s or that great strides have been made in tackling corruption at City Hall. When Nagin says he is "not becoming richer being mayor," there are no snickers.
He may be "an honest guy" but no administration is perfect and local knocks are just part of the game. Nagin has been a politician long enough to know that there is no point in whining about it. If a cartoon depicts him as a king or the King, a brave mayor will manage a smile.
"My friends in the media," Nagin adjured, "you must help this city believe in itself."
What he means, of course, is that his friends in the media must help this city believe in Ray Nagin , politician.