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What Aaron Broussard Didn't Tell Us

Friday, 30 September 2005 12:00 AM

Twice now, the president of Louisiana's Jefferson Parish, Aaron Broussard (an ambitious Democrat), has thrown teary tantrums on "Meet the Press." Among his choice blubberings: "We've been abandoned by our own government! Bureaucracy has committed murder! Some people need to be strung up. They need to be burned at the stake!"

On national TV Broussard told a tragic story of a parish employee whose elderly mother drowned in a nursing home in a neighboring parish because federal help arrived too late.

"Is someone coming to get me, son?" Broussard quoted the frantic telephone calls. "Yes, somebody's coming to get you, Momma, " he quoted his employee as answering. "Somebody's coming ..."

"She drowned Friday night," Broussard started bawling. "She drowned Friday night!"

"Just take a pause, Mr. President," a chastened Tim Russert was forced to respond, "while you gather yourself in your very emotional times. I understand."

The story was soon exposed as mostly phony by The New York Times, MSNBC and CNN (not exactly outposts of the vast right-wing conspiracy), among many other sources. The blogoshere was humming for days with accounts of the phoniness until the major media finally caught on.

Tragically, the poor man's mother did drown, but it had absolutely nothing to do with the tardiness of any federal rescuers. And it occurred five days earlier than Broussard claimed, which made it a wholly local evacuation matter. In fact, the nursing home owners are under arrest and charged with homicide for the deaths of the 34 patients who drowned.

Tim Russert had Broussard on again on September 24 and actually – but very politely – brought up the touchy nursing home story matter, hinting at obvious embellishments if nothing more serious.

"What kind of sick mind ... what kind of black-hearted people want to nitpick a man's mother's death!" Broussard teared up again. "Get out of my face!" Now he broke down again. "Get out of my face!"

All parents recognize this behavior. Your kid is caught red-handed in mischief. He's a sharp kid but the evidence against him is so gross and overwhelming that he can't possibly conjure up any excuses or alibis on such short notice. So he resorts to tear-squeezing.

Bill Clinton was very good at this. As we all know, this works even better to camouflage an even more serious infraction, one that hasn't been discovered yet – to call off the dogs, so to speak.

You'd never know it from the major media, but there are several hundred thousand people in Broussard's own Jefferson parish right now who, if they could get their hands on some torches and pitchforks, would storm Broussard's office faster than that mob of enraged villagers stormed Baron Von Frankenstein's castle.

These people have been rendered homeless by flooding, and they're not blaming the feds or even the state. They're blaming their Parish president, Aaron Broussard. If Tim Russert really wants some fireworks, he might invite some of these infuriated residents of Jefferson parish (who include my parents and dozens of lifelong friends) on his show.

Eastern Jefferson parish, the most highly populated area, which sits next to New Orleans, consists mostly of reclaimed marsh and swamp. A series of drainage canals criss-cross the parish. These end at huge pumping stations (18 of them, costing tens of millions of dollars) that pump out rainwater from the canals into adjacent Lake Pontchartrain to keep the parish from flooding.

This is necessary even during heavy rains, and sporadic flooding is common in portions of eastern Jefferson parish (I grew up there, I know) during torrential thunderstorms.

Well, all of the people hired to operate Jefferson parish's pumps were evacuated to a hundred miles north of New Orleans – on the orders of Aaron Broussard. Cops and firemen, naturally, stayed. Many sensible people consider these pump operators every bit as essential as cops and firemen during a major hurricane. (And you can hear their furious sputterings on all the local radio talk shows, Mr. Russert.)

The pumping stations themselves are huge, sturdy, blockhouse-type buildings. None sustained any major damage from the winds. In fact, I received some reports that area policemen, during the height of the hurricane, actually sought refuge inside a pumping station, recognizing it as the safest place around. Sure enough, they emerged completely unscathed, as was the expensive – but completely idle – pumping station.

Though no levees broke, damage in eastern Jefferson parish might reach $1 billion, mostly from flooding. If Tim Russert wants some genuine rage on his show, I know tens of thousands of people from Jefferson parish who might volunteer – and with true stories.

Humberto Fontova is the author of


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Twice now,thepresident of Louisiana's Jefferson Parish, Aaron Broussard (an ambitiousDemocrat), has thrown teary tantrums on "Meet the Press."Among his choice blubberings: "We've been abandoned by our own government! Bureaucracy has committed murder! Some people need to be...
Friday, 30 September 2005 12:00 AM
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