Friday, October 30, 2009

A fallen leader and a budget shortfall

Is it just me or do you notice that bad things happen in pairs, batches or concert with one another? No sooner did the news leak out that New Orleans is in the throes of an imminent financial crisis - a $28 million projected shortfall - then the death of former Governor David Treen was reported. Treen was the first Republican to grace the governor's mansion since Reconstruction. Indeed, the Solid South was already rapidly disintegrating from a Democratic stronghold and rearranging itself into a Republican haven when Treen was elected back in 1979. He served the state of Louisiana for four years from 1980 to 1984 and did so with dignity and little fanfare. The biggest challenge his administration faced was how to deal with the Democrat-controlled Legislature. His ineffectiveness in shepherding his own programs was probably what cost him his reelection in 1983. Treen was defeated by the much more flamboyant and slick Edwin Edwards, whom he had succeeded - a politician who was in many ways his exact opposite. While Treen was seen as a devoted, faithful husband, Edwards was considered a philanderer and a rake. Treen was a political chameleon, having been a member of the racist State's Right Party in the early 1960's, when it was politically expedient. However, he made the leap to the Republican Party not long after the turbulent Civil Rights period made being a segregationist a risky proposition for any serious candidate. Interestingly, one of Treen's last public outings was when he appealed this year for an early release for Edwards, now serving time in the federal system after being convicted on a variety of racketeering, extortion, fraud and money-laundering counts. David Treen was the respected elder statesman of Louisiana politics. While he never served four terms (like Edwards) or became the laughing-stock of the nation (like Edwards), he did make a mark for himself as a quiet standard bearer of the Republican Party. It's a shame. New Orleans could use leaders like Treen to help see it through its current financial crisis.

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