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Jewish World Review
Sept. 8, 2008
/ 8 Elul 5768
Keep walking, Motown mayor
Keep walking, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Out the door, off the stage and into a jail cell. You had a chance, on what could have been the most honest night of your life, to truly stand up, to change the image of who you are and perhaps begin to change yourself. Instead, you put cops at the door, blocked reporters you didn't like from coming in, then bathed in sycophantic applause before leaving in a gush of phony bravado, like an ego-mad athlete being tossed from the game.
"You done set me up for a comeback" were your final words, because you couldn't resist, as the curtain came down, one more grab of the spotlight. Instead of fessing up to a series of lies that paralyzed Detroit, cost it millions and turned it into an international embarrassment, you exited like a poor victim, swinging at some vast, invisible conspiracy, as if people in this state had nothing better to do than to mount an exhausting, nine-month campaign against you -- full of your own text messages. As if it were other people who had sex in hotel rooms, fired cops, traded city money for silence and lied under oath while you stood innocently on the sidelines.
Keep walking, Kwame. Even at a moment when some were inclined to feel sorry for you, you had the audacity to reach for your wife and blame other people for trying to "tear this up." Was it other people who sent a text message to Christine Beatty reading "I need you soooo bad"?
Was it other people who sent Beatty the words, "I promise for the rest of my life you will be my girl"?
Others tried to tear up your marriage?
Instead of taking the chance to say, "Here is what I did wrong," you used your goodbye minutes to take a swipe at the governor, Jennifer Granholm, who had the audacity -- at a request from your own city council -- to hold a hearing about your removal. What exactly was her crime? If anything, she should have thrown your butt out a long time ago.
Be honest. You're only steamed at Granholm because, without her, you'd still be clinging to your job. It was that hearing that put a ticking clock on the only bargaining chip you had, the office of mayor. You had to make a plea deal, or risk her taking that card away. That's why you suggested a "political agenda." She threatened your power grip. It's an agenda all right. Yours, not hers.
And while we're at it, let's be clear on this whole "resignation" thing. You said "sometimes standing strong means stepping down" as if this whole thing were in your control. Sorry. You confessed to two felony counts, and once you did that, you were out of office automatically. If you want to make it sound like "prayer" and "fasting" led you to leave instead of the rules, go ahead.
But keep walking.
You used your closing minutes to pat yourself on the back for the "standards that we've set of excellence" during your tenure. Please. Look around Detroit -- schools, poverty, unemployment, red tape. This is excellence?
Someone failed to tell you Thursday night was not a state of the city address. But then, most crooks don't get a cheering room and TV time. Even convicted, you basked in privileges you seem to consider a birthright and showed no more remorse than the common line "I take full responsibility for my own actions" without ever going into what those actions were, perhaps so that you can deny them later. It's a bit like that line "if I upset anyone, I'm sorry," which has the benefit of sounding like an apology while still sort of blaming others.
There are no others now, Kwame. There's just you and jail and five years in which you can't run for office, five years in which you'll need to find work, like the citizens you once lorded over. Five years is a long time. Faces get forgotten. People move on. Detroit will move on. We'll try to clean up the tangled wires of your administration, to undo the bullying and the cronyism. And to be better.
We wish you luck in doing the same. But keep walking, Kwame. You can talk all you want about your comeback. If this city is as smart as you say, we won't be seeing it here.
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