This is my Open Letter to Co-Chair Paul G. Kirk, Jr., of the presidential debate site selection commission and his fellow commission members Co-Chair Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr., Howard G. Buffet, Sen. John C. Danforth, Antonia Hernandez, Caroline Kennedy, Mike McCurry, Newton N. Minow, Dorothy Ridlings, Sen. Alan K. Simpson, and H. Patrick Swygert. It was e-mailed to Mr. Kirk yesterday afternoon, with copies going to the handful of members I've e-mail addresses for. Except for a couple regarding which I got the message that the recipient was out of town, and another saying delivery has been delayed, they seem to have gone out O.K. So I'll let you if I get any replies and share them in future diaries.
I decided to make this an Open Letter and share it below the fold because for other members on the list I don't have e-mail addresses. In the hope that somewhere in the blogosphere they or someone who knows them might run across this post. You never know. Also, commission members whose minds are closed about New Orleans probably will either delete unread any e-mails they get on the subject (even though I put "Debate" in the subject line--not New Orleans) or just ignore them. Judging from their behavior so far regarding New Orleans, I wouldn't be surprised at anything. The letter follows:
Dear Mr. Kirk:
New Orleans and Louisiana deserve better. And I demand better.
Your site selection commission's rejection of New Orleans as a presidential debate venue is morally indefensible in light of what Katrina meant and how it affected this country.
Nothing you or your fellow commission members can say to CYA, like the various lame excuses offered in this New York Times article, will be believed. Because everyone familiar with New Orleans knows without a doubt that every excuse that has been provided the media so far for New Orleans' rejection is untrue.
The biggest lie you've told is that she's not ready to host such a big event because she hasn't recovered enough from Katrina. If you really think New Orleans isn't ready, then how do you explain all the conventions (including an opthamologists' convention of 20,000), sporting events, and such things as JazzFest, the French Quarter Festival, and last but not least, Mardi Gras--that have all taken place since Katrina? And I'll add, successfully--New Orleans hosts these events beautifully. So you and the other members of your commission just don't seem to get it.
And what were you thinking when you chose Oxford, Mississippi? Which has fewer than 700 hotel rooms--in contrast to New Orleans--which per your lie isn't ready to host any big events--which has 24,000. And Ole Miss, where the debate is slated to be held, is a symbol of our nation's racist past. While in contrast New Orleans, with her one-of-a-kind culture, represents diversity and tolerance--what America should stand for. How could you have rejected far New Orleans in favor of Oxford, Mississippi, which in light of the above, does not deserve to be a debate venue?
I ask that rhetorically because I'm sure I know why the fix is in: Mississippi's lucky break at Louisiana's expense is obviously the Bush Administration's handiwork. As I write in this Daily Kos diary "BushCo's fingerprints from the lump of coal they just handed Louisiana are all over this early Christmas gift to Haley Barbour."
So New Orleans' rejection is an obvious sell-out to the Bush Administration. I am 99% sure that BushCo operatives somehow persuaded you to reject New Orleans. And on the off-chance that nobody from BushCo actually had any influence in the selection process, this decision is still an obvious suck-up.
Because the Bush Administration wants Louisiana, especially New Orleans, kept out of the news. It's like the way a brutally abusive husband would want to keep his badly injured wife at home, out of the public eye. Because he doesn't want other people to see her wounds--the wounds he himself gave her--because then he would be forced to face the consequences of his having abused her.
The Bush Administration doesn't want the reminder of its criminal neglect of New Orleans in Katrina's aftermath that a presidential debate there would bring. Or of the fact that Bush himself caused her flooding by, in 2001, cutting the Army Corps of Engineers' fund for levee maintenance in order to pay for tax cuts for the rich.
And of course BushCo doesn't want Katrina and New Orleans to become campaign issues. Also, they don't want New Orleans and Louisiana to bask in the glory of the positive media attention they'd garner from hosting such a debate.
The Bush Administration does not have Louisiana's best interests at heart. In fact, it has, by its lackluster response to Katrina in the first place and by the low priority it has put on New Orleans' recovery, hurt her very badly. And by rejecting New Orleans, you and your fellow commission members have compounded her abuse. So your commission has unconscionably played right into BushCo's hands. This makes your rejection of New Orleans a politically-motivated sham.
Because the debate sites have already been announced and are probably carved in stone, there are three steps you and your fellow commission members need to take as soon as possible to satisfactorily resolve this situation.
1.) Publicly apologize to the city and people of New Orleans and the state and people of Louisiana for having rejected New Orleans as one of the original four debate sites. Add that this decision had been made in error.
2.) Tell the truth about New Orleans. Note the sorts of events she has hosted beautifully since Katrina and add that she, indeed, is not only ready to host a presidential debate, but also that she, a national treasure, would be the perfect spot for such a debate.
While the first two steps are mere public relations--the icing on the cake--the final step is the cake itself. It is the most important because it the only way you will be doing right for New Orleans and for Louisiana. It is non-negotiable--nothing less will be acceptable.
3.) Plan, schedule, and announce a fifth debate to be held in New Orleans. This needs to be set up as soon as possible.
And this New Orleans debate needs to be a debate of the two presidential candidates--not vice-presidential. And--God forbid--New Orleans can't just be an alternate site. It was not only highly insulting but disrespectful to New Orleans to not even have awarded her the booby prize of being an alternate site--which you and your fellow commission members picked a couple of hick towns so far off the beaten track I can;t recall their names or the states they're in. And they probably haver fewer hotel rooms than Oxford, Mississippi. So a presidential debate--the real thing--is the way to go for New Orleans.
Topics discussed in this New Orleans debate could include not only Katrina recovery, New Orleans, and disaster preparation and response, but also such allied issues as poverty, race relations, the environment, etc. All of these need to be talked about, and have rarely (especially Katrina recovery and New Orleans) come up in any of the candidates' debates so far.
All of these are topics Katrina was supposed to have started a national conversation on. But didn't, as Katrina recovery got lost in the shuffle due to a Bush Administration unwilling to give this issue the attention it should have. For prioritizing it would have meant spending money it didn't want to spend. And the people of New Orleans were abandoned and forgotten by their own government, the mainstream media, and many other Americans.
You and your fellow commission members don't want to be seen as being among those who've abandoned and forgotten New Orleans, do you?
Your site selection commission's rejection of New Orleans as a debate site is downright inexcusable and un-American. And if you fail to accede to the above demands, which to recap are:
1.) Public apologies to New Orleans and Louisiana.
2.) Tell the truth about New Orleans.
And the most important:
3.) Plan, schedule, and announce as soon as possible a fifth debate of the two presidential candidates in New Orleans--
it will be unforgivable.
If you and your fellow commission members are unable or unwilling to comply with these demands, perhaps you all should resign your seats on the commission. Because the fact that you all rejected New Orleans in the first place shows that you all aren't worthy of being in such a lofty position. Because you put petty political considerations ahead of doing what's morally right.
The only way you and your fellow commission members will be able to redeem yourselves would be by giving New Orleans that fifth presidential debate she so richly deserves to host. No ifs, ands or buts. And if you don't want to do this, please resign so you can be replaced by someone who has a heart, a soul, and a conscience.
For a fifth debate held in New Orleans--one that is presidential--is the only satisfactory way to resolve this matter. It is non-negotiable. Please plan, schedule, and announce a fifth debate for New Orleans as soon as possible. Thank you very much.
Very truly yours,
(Correction--After having e-mailed this letter, I read a comment under another diary saying the ophthalmologists' convention in New Orleans had over 23,000--not just 20,000, which I'd cited off the top of my head--but that would still be quite a lot of folks!)
Also--I'm planning to crosspost this on the two blogs of which I'm a member--if you've a blog or belong to one that you'd like to crosspost this on--feel free to do so.
Tomorrow if all goes well I plan to follow this up with a diary on how we can all start a grassroots effort towards a fifth debate in New Orleans and keep it going.