As the drama over Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni's texting scandal has unfolded over the past few days, I couldn't help thinking about an episode out of Washington in 2011.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner had been caught sending a sexually suggestive photo on Twitter. His party leadership wanted none of the scandal, and despite Weiner's efforts to power through and hold on to his job, he wound up resigning. And around that time, some journalists in Washington started asking a pointed question about Republican Louisiana U.S. Sen. David Vitter, whose phone number had been found in the records of a Washington, DC prostitution ring four years earlier: How come Weiner had to go, while Vitter got to stay?
The answer does not bode well for Yenni.
The FBI has been looking into allegations that Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni sent se…
While Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi was quick to cut Weiner loose, Vitter's fellow Republicans had rallied to his side. They had a practical reason: Had Vitter been forced to resign, then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco would have replaced him with a Democrat, which would have been a huge loss for the party. But regardless of why it happened, the fact that the establishment gave him cover made his survival in office possible.
Compare that to the reaction to the Yenni story. In the days since WWL-TV's David Hammer broke the news about an FBI investigation into his inappropriate texts and subsequent meetings with a 17-year-old high school student when Yenni was Kenner mayor, there's been no sign of an official groundswell on his behalf.
Quite the opposite. While other parish officials initially reserved public judgment — just as Vitter's peers first did — Yenni did himself no favors by skipping Wednesday's council meeting. The stated reason was that he didn't want to be a distraction, but the effect was that he looked like he was hiding and missed the opportunity to present a more sympathetic face and directly appeal for another chance. His subsequent video released Thursday night included an incomplete confession and apology, but its takeaway message was that Yenni was ready to turn the page and move on.
Update, 3:35 p.m., Friday: Jefferson Parish Council members Ben Zahn, Mark Spears, Jennifer …
By later that night, it was clear that the rest of the establishment wasn't. The Parish's two at-large Council members, Cynthia Lee-Sheng and Chris Roberts, called for his resignation, and still more dominoes are likely to fall.
Their condemnation alone isn't a death knell for Yenni's career. But as both Weiner and Vitter would probably admit if they were being honest, it's incredibly difficult for a politician — even a brazenly ambitious one who wants to stay in the public eye despite what people are saying — to weather a scandal like this on his own.