Edwards at peace
by Sam Hanna, Jr. - posted Thursday, December 13th, 2012 @ 8:02 am
If Edwin Edwards was 20 years younger and could run for governor, Louisiana Democrats wouldn't need to go shopping for a candidate for the 2015 gubernatorial race.
He was front and center Monday night at a West Monroe/West Ouachita Chamber of Commerce gathering where hundreds of people – black and white, young and old – turned out to hear the 85-year-old former governor deliver a speech. It was vintage Edwards, cracking jokes, making light of himself while reminding his audience how many times he was right when his detractors said he was flat wrong.
A prime example of the latter surfaced when Edwards took us down memory lane to revisit the controversial topic of taxing oil. During Edwards' first term as governor (1972-76), he led the charge to base severance taxes on a percentage of the price of each barrel of oil rather than the former flat rate. At the time, Edwards predicted the day would arrive when the price of a barrel of oil would top $100. More than a few naysayers thought he was crazy.
Guess who was right.
Obviously recognizing the audience in front of him, Edwards criticized President Obama for blocking the Keystone pipeline project. He also leveled some criticism toward Gov. Bobby Jindal over his decision not to accept federal funding to expand the state's Medicaid program.
But Edwards has never been one to belabor a point. Instead, he pokes and moves on to the next subject, leaving his listeners with something to think about later on. That's how he handled the press during his four terms as governor.
Though he has every reason to be a bit bitter about his trip to federal prison over his role in the riverboat licensing scandal, Edwards is remarkably humble about it. Prison will do that to you.
And flashes of Edwards' humility were on full display when he expressed how much it meant to him to see an audience as large as the one that gathered to hear him speak at the chamber event in West Monroe, a hotbed of conservatism to say the least. That's a side of Edwards we never saw during his long run as the most dominant political figure in Louisiana history.
Yet, isn't it ironic that the same U.S. Attorney's office that prosecuted Edwards some 13 years ago in a case that was marred by charges of prosecutorial misconduct is now mired in a controversy over prosecutors gone rogue?
You can rest assured Edwards realizes it, but he didn't elaborate on it Monday night. Maybe it's another sign that Edwards has made peace with his past, real or imagined.
Or maybe he's leaving it up to us to recognize a bunch of sanctimonious bastards when we see them.
Sam Hanna, Jr. is publisher of The Ouachita Citizen, and he serves in an editorial/management capacity with The Concordia Sentinel and The Franklin Sun, three newspapers owned and operated by the Hanna family. Hanna can be reached by calling (318) 805-8158 or by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.