Republicans are lining up to badmouth Gov. John Bel Edwards, which is hardly surprising since he is that anomalous creature, a Southern Democrat in major office.
U.S. Sen. John Kennedy and state Attorney General Jeff Landry are giving Edwards such a rotten review that they are clearly lusting for his job.
Meanwhile a congressman largely unknown in this part of the state from a place you've never heard of is also considering a run. Ralph Abraham, of Alto, has plenty of time to become a household name and is making it plain he doesn't think much of Edwards' job performance.
There have, however, been no brickbats from one Republican who already is a household name. Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser says he is happy where he is and won't be a candidate for promotion when Edwards is up for re-election, which makes him an anomaly, too.
Meanwhile, the exchanges between Edwards and Kennedy achieve a nastiness that is making them the Hatfields and McCoys of Louisiana politics.
Edwards has a name that suggests English or Welsh ancestry, so he can be our modern-day Hatfield. The first of the McCoys to settle in this country was born in Ireland, and names don't come much more Hibernian than Kennedy.
A Hatfield died in a shoot-out with three McCoys following a moonshine-fueled dispute on an 1884 election day in Kentucky, but that's about the extent of their feud's political implications. The insults regularly exchanged recently by Kennedy and Edwards, on the other hand, were originally inspired by politics.
Edwards has also been going at it hammer and tongs since day one with Landry. But for the prolonged personal abuse that turns a spat into a feud, we must turn to Edwards and Kennedy. They have elevated tit for tat to such an art that they have taken to accusing each other of the same thing. Each says the other is guilty of diversionary correspondence.
"If the governor wants to spend his time productively, rather than writing letters, I would very respectfully suggest to him that he clean up his Department of Corrections," Kennedy said last Thursday.
A month ago Edwards' flack said that while he "appreciates the multiple letters Sen. Kennedy has composed over the last several days in between his television appearances, his time would be better focused on congressional matters.”
The letter that got Kennedy's goat was sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which had been considering a bill that would grant earlier release to federal inmates convicted on drug charges. Kennedy, whose views on such matters are reliably draconian, chimed in to suggest that the recent, modest liberalization of Louisiana's criminal justice system had been an “unqualified disaster” rammed through by Edwards without canvassing the views of sheriffs or district attorneys.
In fact, sheriffs and DAs had plenty of say in common-sense plans to reduce Louisiana's prison population, the highest per capita in the world, and Edwards could hardly be blamed for calling Kennedy a liar in his letter to the committee. Kennedy then declared that Edwards was in favor of “letting illegal immigrants in and dangerous criminals out,” so all hope of rational debate was gone.
Kennedy's observations on the Corrections Department were perfectly timed, however. That very day, former Avoyelles Parish prison warden Nate Cain was indicted yet again.
A month earlier, the shoe was on the other foot after Kennedy dashed off a letter to Edwards, who had said he supported a work requirement for able-bodied Medicaid recipients. Kennedy offered to set up a meeting to work on the necessary regulations, but made it clear in an interview that he flat-out didn't believe Edwards. “The governor does not believe in work requirements, but he's in a box. If John Bel is serious, he needs to show us. It would be the first time, but if he does I'll send him a bowl of fruit or something.” Kennedy said. Edwards was later reported to be working on a plan to deny subsidized health care to malingerers.
Politics is not a game for the faint-hearted, and it is only natural for Republicans to obstruct a Democrat governor are every turn and then attack him as ineffective. That doesn't necessarily mean they hate one another's guts, but, Kennedy and Edwards give the strong impression that this is the real McCoy.
Email James Gill at Gill1407@bellsouth.net.