Will Kwame Be A Drag On Barack, Even In Exile?

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SEPTEMBER 22, 2008

Will Kwame Be A Drag On Barack, Even In Exile?

This'll be Detroit's first week free of its arrogant, felonious ex-mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick -- and a chance to begin tracing in the polls how his final ouster tweaks Obama's chances around Detroit.

The conventional wisdom says that Kilpatrick's exit is a boon for Obama, both because it plain old gets him out of the way and because condemning Kilpatrick gives Obama a chance to take a Bill Cosby-esque tough stance against reprobates within his own community. "Barack Obama's campaign is thrilled," Time wrote.

Well, it sure is better for Obama to have Kilpatrick out of office than in it, filling the newspapers as he tries to turn his abuse-of-power scandal into a piece of racial demagoguery. But I'm not sure sweeping Kilpatrick away erases the trouble his years-long series of scandals (Michiganders, remember the red Lincoln Navigator?) causes for Obama. Edward McClellan puts it bluntly in Salon: "Plenty of suburbanites believe the blacks ruined Detroit, and that Kilpatrick is only the latest avatar of their misrule." When some discredited politician becomes a symbol in voters' minds of bigger frustrations, those who are or who seem to be affiliated with him can suffer even more keenly after that discredited politician takes his final fall, as people step back and try to draw their lessons from the whole mess. Tom DeLay's resignation in 2006 didn't do a whit of good for Republicans -- it only sent them into their real free fall.

--Eve Fairbanks

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