Trump in Lake Charles

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are greeted by Gov. John Bel Edwards and Louisiana first lady Donna Edwards after exiting Air Force One at Chennault International Airport in Lake Charles on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017.

President Donald Trump has a lot on his plate these days, what with the problems any president would face and the many more of his own making. Does he really need to mediate the long-running feud between Gov. John Bel Edwards and U.S. Sen. John Kennedy?

Apparently Kennedy thinks so, or at least believes that the president should pick sides between Edwards, the rare Democratic governor with whom the Republican president has developed a productive working relationship, and the Republican senator who is considering challenging him next fall.

Edwards is off to New Jersey today to meet with Trump about the state’s criminal justice reform efforts, which are starting to show the intended results, a drop in the state’s long-leading incarceration rate. This is a cause that has an unusual level of bipartisan support, both in Louisiana (with Kennedy and another habitual Edwards critic, Attorney General Jeff Landry, as very vocal exceptions) and in Washington, where the president’s son-in-law and advisor, Jared Kushner, has taken an interest.

Yet Kennedy marked the attention to his state by firing off a letter to Trump badmouthing the change, saying it is failing “law-abiding” citizens in Louisiana, and arguing that it should be cautionary tale rather than a model.

The letter came as Edwards and critics of the law are arguing over recidivism statistics and whether the re-arrest of some former prisoners, including two who were released early and were later charged with murder, negates the law’s promise of money savings and second chance for many who were convicted on non-violent charges. Edwards’ staff responded by accusing Kennedy of playing politics and “embarrassing the state of Louisiana.”

It certainly wouldn’t be the first time Kennedy did either of those things. And the idea of turning an opportunity to showcase his state into a chance to score points is certainly in character.

Yes, the issues raised by criminal justice reform are difficult, which is one reason to celebrate real attempts by members of both parties to grapple with them together. By all indications, Louisiana will be doing so at least through next fall’s election. There’s really no need to drag the White House into it.


Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.