There are few things harder in political life than second inaugurals. They’re hard on the politician delivering them, because all too often there is not much one can say that has not been already said. And there is a naturally conservative streak in politicians that leads them to keep saying the themes or promises or whatever it is that got the people to re-elect them so recently.
Probably only Abraham Lincoln has done the second inaugural well; his is carved on the monument on the National Mall. For almost everyone else in public life, a rerun is almost assured for the audience — and it’s kind of tough on them, too, because most politicians tend to go on too long.
Mitch Landrieu is a successful mayor, and he had the challenge in his speech of reconciling the elaboration on his successes with the detailing of the unfinished business that he will face in a second term.
It is a daunting task, and we liked the way the mayor framed the challenges with a deadline, the 300th anniversary of the founding of New Orleans.
“Four years from now may seem a long way away, but time flies,” the mayor said. “Those 1,460 days will pass in a second.”
He is absolutely right, and we hope the mayor’s big-picture speech, full of emotional allusions, does not obscure the remarkable urgency of the new term’s challenges.
The city faces a series of crises, financially pressed as recovery funds decline and state government, battered by its own financial problems, is no longer as deep-pocketed as it used to be.
“In the next four years, we’ve got to keep making the tough decisions so we cannot only survive, but thrive and control our own destiny,” the mayor said. “We must find a way to pay for new, looming liabilities from the firefighters pension fund and federal consent decrees and build a police department with 1,600 officers so we can make our city safe.”
As the mayor rightly said, “We need to keep the recovery going” — and if that sounds a little more prosaic than the rest of his speech, it’s a fundamental bottom line that is vital not only to greeting the 2018 anniversary with brio, but to turning the burden of post-Katrina history into a transformational, generational shift for New Orleans.
So 1,450-something days, now. They will go by in a second, and the city must make use of every one of those days.