We all heard it. The radio interview last week with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. The interview in which he blasted the Bush administration’s response to the growing catastrophe in New Orleans.

There is nothing happening. And they’re feeding the public a line of bull and they’re spinning, and people are dying down here.

I don’t want to see anybody do anymore goddamn press conferences. Put a moratorium on press conferences. Don’t do another press conference until the resources are in this city. And then come down to this city and stand with us when there are military trucks and troops that we can’t even count.

But we authorized $8 billion to go to Iraq lickety-quick. After 9/11, we gave the president unprecedented powers lickety-quick to take care of New York and other places.

Now, you mean to tell me that a place where most of your oil is coming through, a place that is so unique when you mention New Orleans anywhere around the world, everybody’s eyes light up — you mean to tell me that a place where you probably have thousands of people that have died and thousands more that are dying every day, that we can’t figure out a way to authorize the resources that we need? Come on, man.

Don’t tell me 40,000 people are coming here. They’re not here. It’s too doggone late. Now get off your asses and do something, and let’s fix the biggest goddamn crisis in the history of this country.

Not the response the Bush administration was expecting. Yesterday Josh Marshall suggested that the administration is going after Ray Nagin. Given the administration’s efforts to blame Nagin and Blanco for the post-disaster disaster, it would seem that Marshall is right.

But who is Ray Nagin, and what can the administration find in his past or present that can be used to silence him?
From  Wikipedia:

Before his election, Nagin was a member of the Republican Party and had little political experience; he was a vice president and general manager at Cox Communications, a cable communications company and subsidiary of Cox Enterprises. Nagin did give donations periodically to candidates, namely President George W. Bush and former Republican U.S. Representative Billy Tauzin in 1999 and 2000, as well as to Democratic U.S. Senators John Breaux and J. Bennett Johnston earlier in the decade.

Days before filing for the New Orleans Mayoral race in February 2002, Nagin switched his party registration to the Democratic Party, presumably in order to improve his chances of winning the race in heavily Democratic New Orleans. Shortly before the primary election, an endorsement praising Nagin as a reformer by Gambit Magazine gave him crucial momentum that would carry through for the primary election and runoff. In the first round of the crowded mayoral election in February 2002, Nagin received first place with 29% of the vote, against such opponents as Police Chief Richard Pennington, State Senator Paulette Irons, City Councilman Troy Carter and others. In the runoff with Pennington in May 2002, Nagin won with 59% of the vote. His campaign was largely self-financed.


Nagin also made a controversial endorsement of current Republican U.S. Representative Bobby Jindal in the 2003 Louisiana Gubernatorial Runoff over current Democratic Governor Kathleen Blanco, and only reluctantly endorsed U.S. Senator John Kerry in the 2004 Presidential race.

Hmmmm. A former Republican who contributed to Bush. He also supported the Republican candidate for Louisiana Governor over Democrat Blanco. He only “reluctantly” supported Kerry for president. Kinda puts the damper on the “Ray Nagin is a partisan Democrat” meme.

Nagin is also a  business person, the kind of guy the Bush administration usually likes to snuggle up with.

Nagin is a certified public accountant who serves as vice president and general manager of Cox Communications, the local cable television company. He supervises more than 900 people and an annual budget of $200 million — more than one third of the annual city operating budget. He is president and founder of the New Orleans Brass minor league hockey team, and he was Gambit Weekly’s New Orleanian of the Year for 1998.

So what the hell is wrong with Nagin? A former Republican and businessman who contributed to Bush, who supported Republican candidates for major office in Louisiana, and who clearly knows how to play the political game as evidenced by his switch to the Democratic Party days before his campaign for mayor began and by his “reluctant” support of the Democratic candidate John Kerry. This is a guy the Bush administration should love, and who should himself be in love with the Bush administration. So what happened?

“My candidacy represents a total departure from how we elect people in this town,” Nagin says. “It says to the political organizations, ‘We don’t need you.’ It says to the business community, ‘Your co-dependency on this bankrupt, political system has to change.'”


So Nagin is:

A Republican at heart…Check!
A Wealthy businessman…Check!
Willing to play the political game…Check!

Honest and unwilling to tolerate corruption…Oh shit!

Of course, that quote from Nagin above is from his political campaign. In other words, it’s from before  his election. Did Nagin keep this campaign promise? Apparently so.

Shortly after he was elected, Mayor Nagin revealed that he would not tolerate the atmosphere of political corruption that had pervaded city government. He instituted a criminal and administrative probe with the help of the New Orleans Police Department and the Metropolitan Crime Commission – an area watchdog group – that resulted in the arrest of 84 city workers and the restructuring of the New Orleans utilities department. Mayor Nagin is resolved to erase the image of New Orleans as a place where graft is part of the old-world charm.

A citizen of New Orleans provides some extra detail:

After less than six months in office Mayor Nagin has started doing what no one has done in years, clean up the corruption in City Government. Yesterday in a move that has been unheard of in New Orleans, Brake-tag stations were shut down, dozens of city employees and cabdrivers were arrested, and a high-ranking bureaucrat was fired Monday as Mayor Ray Nagin launched a sweeping crack-down on alleged government corruption, one that is expected to stretch well beyond the Taxicab Bureau and inspection stations initially targeted.


The Utilities Department director was dismissed and escorted out of her office Monday, and the deputy director of the department and head of the Taxicab Bureau, was fired and escorted out of City Hall in handcuffs.


On Monday before sunrise, law enforcement officers began serving arrest warrants on 84 taxi drivers and city employees charged with bribery, malfeasance and other crimes.


Let me restate that this type of accountability is UNHEARD of in New Orleans. These practices and dozens of others have been going on since I have lived in this city. It was known to everyone in the city that if you were opening a new business that you would have to grease some palms in order to do so.


As an example of what type of individual Ray Nagin is, his cousin was on the list of taxi cab drivers to be arrested. When asked what to do about it he told them if he is guilty arrest him, and they did. He was handcuffed right along with the other taxi cab drivers.

It’s true that Ray Nagin, because of his willingness to speak his mind in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, has become a major nightmare for the Bush administration. His radio interview slamming the Bush administration was carried all over the world. But if you think about it, Bush’s Nagin Nightmare may only be getting started.

What is Ray Nagin’s background?

Nagin is a certified public accountant who serves as vice president and general manager of Cox Communications, the local cable television company. He supervises more than 900 people and an annual budget of $200 million — more than one third of the annual city operating budget.

Some are estimating that the cost to recover from the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina may run as much as $150 billion, a substantial chunk of which will be spent on New Orleans. But unlike the Halliburton infested cesspool of Iraq, New Orleans will have something that Iraq does not: oversight. And Ray Nagin appears to be the guy to do just that.

Let’s recap. Ray Nagin is:

An experienced certified public accountant…Check!
General manager of a large corporation…Check!
Capable of overseeing multi-million dollar budgets and large numbers of employees…Check!
Honest and unwilling to tolerate corruption…Check!
Willing to publicly and forcefully call the Bush administration out on its failings…Check!
Already pissed at the Bush administration and its lackeys…Check!

George W. Bush… meet the Ray Nagin buzzsaw. Need some wood?

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