Hit & Run

The Big Sleazy


The troubles of corrupt Congressman William Jefferson (D-La.) aren't getting a real going-over in the press. The story's so goofy that it's getting covered, of course - a Congressman taking money from a Nigerian politician and stuffing it in his freezer? - but there's not much analysis of who Jefferson is.

1) He's the congressman from the most blighted section of New Orleans.
2) He could have been the city's mayor.

Both of these factoids hint at how troubled New Orleans really is, and how it re-elected Ray Nagin on Saturday. Jefferson was the frontrunner in the mayoral race of 1986, but his allies ran radio adds accusing opponent Sidney Barthelemy of "passing for white." This did almost nothing to hurt his career - in 1990, he ran for, and won, his seat in Congress. His opponent in that race was Marc Morial, whose momentum was blunted when he admitted that he'd fathered an eight-year-old girl living in the Ivory Coast. Morial, of course, went on to be elected mayor.

Now would be a good time for New Orleans to have hard-charging, ethical representation in Washington - leadership that's held accountable and expected to show results for its work. Unfortunately, that's not how New Orleans elects its leaders.