24 March 2008

Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick Charged . . . But It Ain't Over

After years of hating the New York Yankees, ridiculing the New York Times and rolling my eyes at the New York state of mind, I finally understand why so many people love New York. Their politicians know when to step aside . . . well, except Hillary, but then she's a Clinton and not really a New Yorker. But when New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was accused of illegal actions centered on sex he didn't wait for nationally embarrassing criminal charges to resign from his position. No, he stepped aside for the next sex-burdened politician to rush into the breach.

That's not how we roll in Detroit.

Today Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was booked on eight felonies, including perjury, conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice and misconduct in office. His former chief of staff, Christine Beatty, scored seven counts of her own. The charges stem from the couple (alleged couple) claiming under oath that they were not having an affair. It probably wouldn't have been a big deal save the fact that they were under oath in a whistle blower trial for the wrongful dismissal of police officers; a dismissal that would eventually cost the the city an $8.4 million settlement (a whole lotta tax-payer lettuce just so the mayor could catch his groove).

Mayor Kilpatrick has thus far used his forceful personality to skillfully sidestep fallout from his scandal-ridden ride in the motor city, causing many to wonder if anyone would or could bring a semblance of accountability to his administration. They didn't need to wonder with Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy now on the case. During her press conference today she firmly leveled her assessment of Kilpatrick's actions, explaining that her "investigation has clearly shown that public dollars were used, people's lives were ruined, the justice system was severely mocked and the public trust trampled on." And just in case the mayor missed her point, she calmly noted that “Even children understand that lying is wrong.”

The case against the mayor seems increasingly strong with thousands of text messages buttressing the accusations, so how likely is he to step aside like a good New Yorker might? Not very. As I pointed out weeks ago, Kilpatrick is guided not by the heart and desire of his city but by the hubris in his soul. It is his fatal flaw. His kryptonite. And I am not alone in this observation as Lou Dobbs used the same word (hubris) tonight to describe Kilpatrick's rush to destruction. Hey, does that mean I can insist that Dobbs is a secret but ardent reader of The Khaki Elephant? Anyway, Kwame Kilpatrick will fight on because it is who he is. He has already defied the will of the Detroit City Council. He has verbally attacked it's President, Kenneth Cockrel Jr. He has played the race card to silence the local papers. And he will now face off against Kym Worthy.

In his mind, Kilpatrick was on a mission from God to take leadership of Detroit. With such a high calling, how could he possibly fail? And if divine intervention should fall short, he seems to have summoned strength from Bill Clinton's example: dodge and delay until you finally parse the issue down to determining what the word "is" is? But be careful, Mr. Mayor. Kym Worthy is certainly no Kenneth Starr.