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RAGIN’ FOR NAGIN! The mayor looks real good in clothes, the Times’ Joyce Purnick gushes: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2005

RAGIN’ FOR NAGIN: Good lord, Ray Nagin’s a fabulous guy! For one of the warmest tongue-baths in recent press history, read Joyce Purnick’s ludicrous profile of our “new political celebrity” in today’s Times. “Mayor C. Ray Nagin is just plain different,” she gushes. In paragraph 2, she splains why:
PURNICK (9/21/05): A former business executive, Mr. Nagin is a Democrat who lashed out at Republican Washington, likes to cuss, has begun treating the president whose administration he lambasted as a buddy and makes no secret of his differences with the state's governor, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, also a Democrat. Mostly, he seems to be unapologetically making it up as he goes along, as he did on Monday when he (temporarily) defied official advice to slow the reopening of his city.
Clearly, we’re supposed to be surprised when the mayor plays “buddy” with Bush, and when he acknowledges “differences” with Blanco. Absent-mindedly, Purnick forgets to mention some salient facts—the fact that Nagin supported Bush in Campaign 2000 and opposed Blanco in her 2003 State House race. She’s too busy handing us pap like this:
PURNICK: But the mayor, a native of the city from a working-class family, is considered honest and strongly opposed to the old, often corrupt ways, yet limited by his city's poverty and its people's low expectations.

''If he had gotten those people out, it would have been shocking,'' said Alvin Gauthier, a science teacher and basketball coach at a New Orleans high school, as he waited in line here on Monday at the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief center.

It would have been “shocking” if he did have a plan! But so it goes as half-wits like Purnick pander to our newest celebrity. By the way—who considers Nagin “honest and opposed to the old, corrupt ways?” Simple— the people Purnick quotes! Only one dissenter is included.

What’s the truth about Nagin and his performance? That would be a complex matter to judge; we can’t say where the merits lay. But Purnick is playing the dumbest kind of pseudo-liberal racial politics. “Mr. Nagin did not get everyone out, did not fire up the school buses for evacuees, did not have enough food or water for them in the Superdome or the convention center, did not protect people adequately and let the looters loot so he could make rescues the priority,” she mentions at one point. But so what? Two paragraphs later, we get the more salient fact—Nagin has very nice shirts:

PURNICK: Instead of facing political oblivion, Mr. Nagin has emerged as something of a folk hero, a familiar figure with his distinctive shirts and shaved head.
He wasn’t prepared to save poor peoples’ lives. But so what! He looks good in clothes!

As with Alessandra Stanley’s review about those “lowlife rednecks” (more below), Purnick showcases pseudo-liberal racial politics at their dumbest. In Manhattan, the handsome black guy has to be right. Did he let poor blacks suffer? Who cares?

What’s the truth about Mayor Nagin? At this point, we simply don’t know. We do know one thing—we’ll never find out by reading “profiles” as witless and fawning as this one. Even the photograph plays us for rubes. Message: Thad Allen cares!

YES, WE ACTUALLY WATCHED: Yes, we watched My Name is Earl (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/20/05). Visually, it was much, much better than most sitcoms are. And yes, it was shamelessly derivative of Raising Arizona; at least three specific shots in the first five minutes were plainly taken straight from that film. And sure enough, it wasn’t long before we got to enjoy the first mean joke about a black baby. But here’s the thing that had us puzzled: What ever made Alessandra Stanley think that Earl, the “lowlife redneck” in question, had a “pleasant backwoods drawl?” We had to search for any hint of an accent; presumably, this choice was made so NBC wouldn’t be accusing of mocking “rednecks.” But for the modern pseudo-liberal, nothing—nothing—is more fun than looking down on red-state white folk. This is bad on the merits, and it’s terrible politics—but it’s big, major fun for inane pseudo-liberals. So Stanley heard that “backwoods drawl” in her mind. She understood the show’s hidden theme. Like Reagan’s kid who searched for the pony, she knew the drawl had to be there.