When it comes to American politics, it can be an arena where politicians can capture the imagination of those they serve, rising to the level of a hero. But that ascension can be short-lived. The fall from grace can leave politicians broken, and those who believed in them feeling betrayed and bitter. This has been perfectly illustrated this week with the conviction on corruption charges for former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin relating to bribery and the expanding investigation into New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s role in the bridge scandal. Christie and Nagin are two men that have proved that political super heroes can crumble under the weight of corruption and scandal.
The man who helped keep New Orleans above water during the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, former Mayor Ray Nagin is going under, perhaps for 20 years. On Wednesday, a federal jury convicted Nagin on 20 of a possible 21 counts of corruption and bribery.
A sentencing hearing looms for Nagin on June 11. The 20 years he could receive would put him in jeopardy of not being a free man until his 77th birthday. Faced with a such a bleak future, Nagin showed little emotion as the verdict was read. U.S. District Judge Helen Berrigan changed the terms of Nagin’s bond to require that he be monitored and subject to home detention until his June sentencing. Nagin was once held to the esteem of a folk hero in many eyes of citizens of New Orleans due to his impassioned and blunt indictments of the federal governments response to the hurricane. “Get off your a**es” he chided the feds.
This attitude endeared him to his constituents during one of the worst storms in American history. Katrina would leave over 1800 people dead and thousands homeless. The landscape of New Orleans was changed forever. Through that calamity and uncertainty, Nagin guided the city back from the brink. But according to federal prosecutors, Nagin was a politician out for his own enrichment. There were over 30 witnesses lined up to corroborate the federal governments’ charges. The prosecutors’ case stated that Nagin, a Democrat accepted over half a million dollars in payouts and even a first class trip to Jamaica. Throughout his time as mayor there were many times Nagin was not present as the city struggled. Many of those that supported him during Katrina, still believed in him. The consensus was that he was an ineffective leader but at least he was clean. But that all went out the window when the jury handed down its decision this week.
Chris Christie knows a thing or two about losing adulation due to failed expectations. The bridge scandal that embroiled the Christie office is still heating up and threatens to boil over. The investigative probe has just been expanded this week. Christie who was once the political world’s wonder man, had the rare ability to garner praise from both Republicans and Democrats. He now has a hard time getting photo ops with members of his own party. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the four Republicans running for governor in Illinois had no plans to attend scheduled Christie fundraisers in the state. As the evidence grows, Christie’s stature could continue to shrink. American politics can be a tumultuous stage. One where human flaws such as greed and pride play out for all the country to see. It will be interesting to see if Christie and Nagin are able to stand strong or if they will crumble under the weight of the corruption and scandal that surrounds them.
The two men don’t have much in common at first glance, but the fact that their reputations have taken major hits makes them brothers in shame. Christie won’t face any jail time for his alleged transgression but his hope of a presidential run is in serious trouble. How does anyone deal with the dissolution of their careers and even their dreams? But given the fact these men where held in such esteem with the national spotlight on them…how will they deal with it? Christie and Nagin will be judged from here on out based on their abilities to not crumble under the corruption and scandal that weighs on them. If they can manage to withstand, then perhaps they can rise again. America loves giving second chances.
Editorial by Tony Bowers