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Mr. Bush, Please Don’t Pardon the “Silver Zipper”

Former Gov. Edwin Edwards (D-LA) is scheduled for release in July 2011. That suits me fine.

Louisiana does not need a sideshow right now. If I thought for a moment that the 81-year-old ex-governor was capable of just going home and relaxing on the farm, or even minding his own business at the craps tables, I might be inclined to support his release.

But the man revels in his notoriety. He will do everything possible to reenter the political scene and derail Bobby Jindal’s important agenda.

Times-Picayune story here.

President George W. Bush’s latest list of pardons does not include several high-profile criminals, including former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, who still hope the president will grant them clemency in his final weeks in office.

On Monday, Bush granted pardons to 14 individuals and commuted the prison sentences of two others whose misdeeds included dealing drugs, evading taxes, killing bald eagles or mishandling hazardous waste.

The most recent batch, however, did not include … four-term Democratic Louisiana Gov. Edwards …

Former Republican Louisiana Gov. Dave Treen said he remains hopeful that Bush will act on his request for a commutation of Edwards, 81, who was convicted of corrupting the state’s riverboat casino licensing process and isn’t slated for release until 2011.

“I’m still hopeful that we’ll get his commutation before Bush leaves offices,” Treen said.

Not me, Dave. The entertainment value that Edwin provided us pales in comparison with the near permanent damage he has done to this State.Edwin Edwards crafted the current State Constitution in 1972; part of what he had in mind was the ultimate burial of the Republican Party in LA.

Didn’t work out that way, though. In 1979, Dave Treen became the first Republican Governor of the State since Reconstruction. (Edwards had served two consecutive terms and could not run for a third.) Treen was never mistaken for the sharpest tool in the shed. After a lackluster first term, Edwards challenged him in 1983. From Wikipedia:

Before election day, Edwards had joked with reporters: “The only way I can lose this election is if I’m caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy”. Edwards zinged Treen many times, once describing Treen as “so slow it takes him an hour and a half to watch 60 Minutes.” During a gubernatorial debate in 1983, Treen asked Edwards, “How come you talk out of both sides of your mouth?” Edwards instantly responded, *”So people like you with only half a brain can understand me.” *Although Edwards won the 1983 election in a 62 percent landslide, effectively ending Treen’s political career, former Governor Treen has since spoken out against his former opponent’s incarceration. …

In February 1985, soon after his third term began, Edwards was forced to stand trial on charges of mail fraud, obstruction of justice, and bribery, brought by U.S. Attorney John Volz. The charges were centered around an alleged scheme in which Edwards and his associates received almost two million dollars in exchange for granting preferential treatment to companies dealing with state hospitals. Edwards proclaimed his innocence and insisted that the charges were politically motivated by Volz and the Republican party. The first trial resulted in a mistrial in December 1985, while a second trial in 1986 resulted in an acquittal. Edwards later recited during a toast at a French Quarter bar, though his beverage was non alcoholic as he did not drink, a rhyming invitation for Volz to “kiss my [a$$]“. The trials were rather lengthy, and at one point during the first trial but before the mistrial the governor rode to the Hale Boggs U.S. Courthouse on a mule from his hotel. When asked by reporters why he did so, he replied something to the effect that it was symbolic of the speed and intellect of the federal judicial system, but also that he supported ‘tradition.’

In 1987, Republican Buddy Roemer defeated Edwards. Edwards ran for governor again in 1991; this time, the jungle primary system pitted him in the run-off election against “former” Klansman David Duke, a “putative Republican”, to quote Wikipedia. Your humble correspondent did vote for Edwin in 1991, following the advice on the popular bumper sticker:* “Vote for the Crook. It’s Important.” *

During Edwards’ fourth term, 100% of his attention was devoted to casino gambling. Check that; 30% was devoted to legalizing it, and 70% devoted to exploiting it for personal gain, and the gain of cronies and relatives.

Edwards was indicted in 1998 by the federal government… Edwards was found guilty on 17 of 26 counts, including racketeering, extortion, money laundering, mail fraud, and wire fraud; his son Stephen [an attorney] was convicted on 18 counts. “I did not do anything wrong as a governor, even if you accept the verdict as it is, it doesn’t indicate that,” Edwards told the press after his conviction. On his way to prison he said, “I will be a model prisoner, as I have been a model citizen”.

Louisiana will be undoing Edwards’ damage for generations. However, he still enjoys quite a bit of residual good will among the crowd that admires his brazen, riverboat gambler image. You will not find a more charismatic politician.

Personally, I think 30 more months in the Gray Bar Hotel suits Edwin just fine.

Emphasis added throughout.

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