You wouldn't know it from the current occupant of the White House, but the buck is supposed to stop at the president's desk. Same goes for a mayor of a big city — and by logical extension, for someone running for that office.
So mayoral candidate Desiree Charbonnet's apparent claim at a Monday night forum that she's not personally responsible for her campaign's first big move since the Oct. 14 primary is more than a little tone-deaf.
“Don’t accuse me of writing that,” Charbonnet said of notes on opponent LaToya Cantrell's potentially damning City Council credit card records, which her campaign admits distributing. “I didn’t touch your documents at all. I didn’t send them to the media. The campaign did that.”
The exchange comes as the campaign continues to be dominated by back-and-forth over Cantrell's use of her public credit card. She says she did nothing wrong, complied with council policies and paid back some expenses that could be considered personal or political. Charbonnet's campaign has been pushing the line that Cantrell's actions are illegal, and a key supporter, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, even made public anonymous "criminal complaints" that track the campaign's accusations.
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And despite her strange attempt to keep her hands clean, Charbonnet did talk about the allegations at the forum. So her claim of distance was both disingenuous and unconvincing.
The irony here is the attack is an attempt to solidify a narrative about Cantrell, that she's likely to be a poor steward of public money. The Charbonnet campaign has also pointed to Cantrell's past tax lien and foreclosure proceedings on her damaged home following Hurricane Katrina.
But the execution feeds into an equally damning narrative about Charbonnet, that she's surrounded by other players who are calling the shots. Cannizzaro's actions could also feed into that, and now so could the candidate's own claim of distance.
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“That’s your campaign,” Cantrell said to Charbonnet at the forum.
Yes, it is. And if she doesn't take responsibility for what it does, that's something worth talking about.