In an opinion written last week, Times-Picayune columnist Tim Morris voiced his opposition to “Ban the Box” — not for employment applications, but for birthday parties.
Morris, whose excellence as a news editor got him promoted to opinion writer in January, bemoaned a rival publication’s decision to patronize “an event celebrating the state’s most flamboyantly corrupt politician.”
You would be forgiven for concluding that this execrable event must be an illegal backroom poker game, a Gotham-style conclave of criminal masterminds, or a good old-fashioned orgy. Nope. Morris used his Times-Picayune platform to decry Edwin Edwards’ upcoming 90th birthday party.
That’s right: What Willard Scott himself once cheerfully announced each morning before talking about the weather in your neck of the woods, The T-P would treat like T.P.
Morris assured us such an occasion taints and shames everyone it touches, including — oh, look at that — the owner of a competing newspaper.
Of course, Morris asserted, this ain’t no normal birthday party. Admission to a normal birthday party is a modest gift and a love of veggie trays; admission to Edwin Edwards’ birthday party is $250. What’s more, Edwards is no normal 90-year-old. Not every nonagenarian governed a state for four terms, served nearly a decade in federal prison on corruption charges, and emerged with a third wife 50 years his junior, the likes of whom most Louisianans only see in television shows about California.
Let’s not romanticize it, as people too often will: Edwin Edwards went to jail for things a public servant should never do, even in Louisiana. But Morris’ thrust is that a celebration of Edwards’ long life — remarkable by any account — is indistinguishable from an open embrace of political and moral decay. Morris assured us such an occasion taints and shames everyone it touches, including — oh, look at that — the owner of a competing newspaper.
Louisiana passed laws to prevent state government from asking applicants about prior convictions in 2016 and state schools doing the same in 2017. In a state so bullish on banning the box, it seems peculiar that Morris took the position that a felon who served his time should be denied cake and ice cream.
It’s easier to understand if you consider that Tim Morris wrote only one column referencing specific legislation in Louisiana’s criminal justice reform package passed this year, affording equal time to his views on the Heaven’s Gate cult and Michelle Obama’s yucky school lunches. That one article, ironically, was about letting old people out of prison. This, despite the reform package gaining such bipartisan support that even David Vitter lobbied for it, probably in an effort to keep his future options open.
Why endorse David Vitter, who skirted the box his entire career, but eviscerate Edwin Edwards, who sat in the box for eight years?
Speaking of David Vitter, don’t forget The Times-Picayune‘s full-throated endorsement of his gubernatorial campaign in 2015, never acknowledging Vitter’s senatorial solicitations (even when his waning momentum goaded him into vaguely admitting it), or his legally dubious minions surveilling conversations, or his car accident with his super PAC’s fundraiser.
Why endorse David Vitter, who skirted the box his entire career, but eviscerate Edwin Edwards, who sat in the box for eight years? Why ban the box for run-of-the-mill murderers but not for geriatric grafters who happen to be famous? Most importantly, why would a Louisiana newspaper so capriciously bite the gnarled, papery hand that fed it story after juicy story for over five decades?
Maybe Tim Morris and The Times-Picayune are fed up with Louisiana’s milquetoast strain of political corruption now that we’re faced with meatier stuff in the national news every day. After all, whether you’re throwing a party or running a newspaper, better make it a good one.