1. Basketball analyst Digger Phelps appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box show to talk about the men’s NCAA basketball tournament known as March Madness. At the end of the segment (video here) Phelps said that in two weeks, coinciding with the Final Four in New Orleans, he will be on hand to announce that John McDonogh High School is going to become a “culinary high school.” Presumably that means the current culinary arts program at McDonogh will be expanded school-wide, and as the school transitions from Recovery School District to charter board governance, McDonogh will find a niche as a specialty high school where students learn culinary arts and the business of restaurant management and ownership.
Incidentally, Phelps picked Michigan State to go to the Final Four and win it all. Whether the Spartans fulfill Phelps’ prophecy remains to be seen, but Phelps is right to laud the leadership of Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo. In my book (as yet unpublished), the still criminally underrated Izzo is the best coach in the country.
2. Columnist James Gill wrote another masterpiece in Wednesday’s Times-Picayune. Elegantly and perceptively, he wove Sen. Rick Santorum’s presidential aspirations with Bobby Jindal’s pandering to religious hardliners. Then he included a primer on current pro-science legislation in Baton Rouge and a history lesson about Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island. All in 700 words! C’mon, Gill, that’s just not fair.
There’s one political irony I can add to the mix. Conventional wisdom holds that Santorum’s recent primary success in the south will prolong the Republican primaries, and thereby weaken the eventual nominee (likely Gov. Mitt Romney). Obviously, a weak Republican challenger will improve President Barack Obama’s chances for re-election.
So let’s take the scenario a step farther. As James H., the writer of the Opinionated Catholic blog, has noted, Louisiana – a largely Catholic and culturally conservative state in the Deep South – is almost custom-made for Santorum. For example, a recent poll by WWL- TV showed Santorum in the lead, and a North Shore Tea Party’s straw poll had national frontrunner Romney at 6 percent with his other three challengers all in the 30 percent range – and that was before Santorum’s victories in Alabama and Mississippi. If the Bayou State follows suit, and delivers a big win to the former Pennsylvania Senator on Saturday March 24, it will certainly extend this slow-motion car crash known as the GOP primary elections.
But here’s the rub. Louisiana is one of the most anti-Obama states in the union and if Louisiana votes for Santorum (which seems very likely) those who most want Obama out of office will help ensure his re-election. Sustaining Santorum’s chances weakens Romney which helps Obama. And four more years of Obama helps … well, it actually helps Sen. David Vitter and Governor Bobby Jindal.
Jindal, for one, appears bent on national office. So an Obama re-election will set the table nicely for him to run in 2016, rather than wait out the possible second term of an incumbent Republican president. Vitter, on the other hand, resuscitated his political career after the D.C. Madam scandal by opposing Obama (and illegal immigration). Now Vitter’s collecting awards for protecting animals, while his former media maven, John Brabender, is telling everyone the story of Seamus - the dog Romney “strapped to the roof of his car” (in a kennel) before driving the family 12 hours to Canada. (Don’t forget the canine-centric picture on Obama’s 2011 White House Christmas cards – sort of a preview of the insipid dog days of this political summer, which approach faster than we think.)
Why do I spend so much virtual ink handicapping the GOP primary rather than the local upcoming election for City Council at-large seat (also up for grabs on March 24)? Because nobody cares about the Council race! As the NolaDefender website reported, only “two dozen political devotees and media types” showed up for the candidate forum on Tuesday. And the only candidate who wants to rock the boat is Gary Landrieu who (took my advice?) and made opposition to traffic cameras a central part of his platform. Perhaps that’s why Landrieu’s cousin, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, won’t endorse him. The city’s already addicted to the revenues from these cameras, which necessitates installing more and more of them.
Landrieu has a secret plan for “huge economic development” – but he won’t disclose it. I sure wish he would. The crazier the plan the better, in my view, because we need something in this “race” to grab voters’ attention. The issues aren’t doing it. Crime, jobs, schools … yawn, yawn, yawn.
Perhaps if one of the candidates mistreated a pet?