Mary Landrieu shot off her mouth and may regret it

Published 9:35 pm Thursday, February 1, 2007

Sen. Mary Landrieu, in a pique of frustration at the way Louisiana has been treated by federal government in its efforts to recover from Hurricane Katrina, lashed out at Mississippi the other day, calling it the most corrupt state in the nation.

Obviously, she has forgotten the history of corruption in Louisiana dating back at least to the time of Huey Long.

Today, Louisiana has a former governor in federal prison for corruption; henchmen and family members of former Mayor Mark Morial of New Orleans are falling like bowling pins to a corruption investigation by the federal government; and, of course, there is the strange case of U.S. Rep. William Jefferson — is he corrupt or isn’t he and if he is, where are the official charges.

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Mississippi, like any other state, has been bedeviled by corrupt politicians over the decades, but Louisiana is the state with the reputation for corruption because it seems to turn out so many more corrupt politicians than other states.

Frankly, if she is talking about the current Mississippi administration, I would like to see the proof. Conniving, indifferent to anybody not as wealthy as he is, small-minded, self-serving and occasionally bullying are all terms that come to mind with Gov. Haley Barbour, but not corrupt. No smell of that has wafted in front of my political nose, not yet anyway.

Sen. Landrieu needs to take a deep breath and count to 10 before shooting off her mouth. We here along the Gulf Coast need a united front in dealing with the indifference of the federal government towards our continuing problems brought on by Hurricane Katrina.

A U.S. Senate committee studying the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina has been in New Orleans this past week. Frankly, if Governor Barbour didn’t pander so much to the Bush administration, it would be helpful if that panel would come here and take a look at “ground-zero” for the hurricane.

There were no communities in Louisiana wiped out directly by the hurricane, while there were three that essentially were wiped out in Mississippi and others so heavily damaged that they are shadows of their former selves.

Louisiana’s damage came as a result of engineering failures more than it did directly as a result of the power of the storm.

Sen. Landrieu needs to take a look at where the damage in Louisiana came from. It came from failed levees, an indirect Katrina problem. Had Louisiana’s levees held, as they supposedly were designed to do, New Orleans probably would have shrugged its shoulders after Katrina and breathed a sigh of relief at having again been missed by the big one.

Now, where corruption is concerned, many of the rumors of corruption in Louisiana for years have revolved around Louisiana’s myriad of levee boards and their relationships with local governments. One has to wonder today about how much of the problem with the levees rests of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and how much with the local levee boards.

Poor engineering by the Corps certainly was a big factor in the failure of the levees, and was the factor in the surge that washed up the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet and drowned St. Bernard Parish and other areas south of New Orleans, that and the poor and deteriorating health of the marshes that for so long protected the city.

One has to wonder about corruption, frankly, on the part of the Corps of Engineers, given the overwhelming failure of its works of engineering.

Mississippi had nothing to do with any of that. Louisiana really needs to go after the Corps of Engineers, and to be successful in that battle, it is going to need all the allies it can get. The Corps has proven a formidable foe over the years. The last time I remember it losing badly in court was in its efforts to defend an easement buying practice up around Grenada Lake in north Mississippi. The Corps really got walloped there.

Sen. Landrieu should request the Attorney General of the State of Louisiana to study that case, or actually the several cases brought by landowners in the area, to see if any of the decisions on the law there apply in Louisiana’s situation.

The cure for Louisiana, in my opinion, relies heavily on the state taking on the Corps of Engineers and handing it the drubbing in federal court that it so richly deserves. If corruption doesn’t apply, certainly incompetence does, and incompetence by an engineer or engineering firm certainly should be grounds for a massive and successful lawsuit to recover damages.