Detroit's controversial and embattled mayor has imitated someone he undoubtedly admires, Bill Clinton, by lying about a sexual affair under oath to protect himself and his position. And, like Clinton, Kwami Kilpatrick hopes to brazen this storm out by acting contrite now that he's been caught, but refusing to even consider resigning.
Just as Clinton did not imagine that a semen-stained blue dress would expose his lies about Monica Lewinsky, Kilpatrick could not have foreseen that his and his lover's own words-as preserved on text messages-would eventually be used against him. But exposing the affair itself is just the tip of the iceberg in a long-developing sequence of events that should put to rest once and for all the canard that elected officials' private behavior has no spillover effect on their public performance.
The reason that Kilpatrick and his mistress, who happens also to be his chief of staff, felt compelled to lie about their affair under oath was to disprove allegations from a couple of whistleblowers on Detroit's police force-one of them the deputy police chief. These policemen had observed up close and personally the seamy side of Kilpatrick's personal life-the wild parties at the mayoral mansion, intimidation of media reporters by the mayor's bodyguard contingent, the alleged lease with city funds of an SUV for the mayor's wife-enough to blow the whistle, on behalf of the city and its taxpayers. As a result, the policemen were dismissed from the force, with as much justification as Clinton's infamous firing of the White House travel office staff.
Ironically, Kilpatrick's cover-up of the affair was not enough to defeat the whistleblowers' suit against him and the city, and the litigants won a settlement of $8 million. If you believe that Kilpatrick himself is on the hook for one penny of that settlement, then I have a bridge to nowhere to sell you.
You'd think, based on the above facts alone, that the people of Detroit would be ready to ride Kilpatrick out of town on a rail. But not so. Undoubtedly race plays a factor-Kilpatrick is black as is almost 90 percent of Detroit's population. He's charismatic (sound familiar?) enough to have been reelected in 2005 even though a lot of his bad behavior, including mismanagement of city finances was already exposed. For instance, he charged more than $200,000 on his city-issued credit card and then was forced to cut back city services and lay off hundreds of workers, while his family tooled around in a city-leased SUV.
In fact, many Detroiters are already using the familiar arguments that turned Clinton from perpetrator to victim in an amazing and unfortunate turnabout of events. The tired old argument that "he's doing a good job running the city, so lying about a six-year-old affair doesn't matter" is a whopper of massive proportions. How can anyone whose corrupt behavior cost his city at least $8 million possibly get a good report card from that city? Surely the perp-as-victim mentality is going over the top in this case, just as it did with Clinton.
The fact that the affair (at least the text message part) is now six years old and that Kilpatrick has supposedly patched up his marriage is irrelevant. The affair was just the capstone in a pattern of seamy behavior stretching through his entire term in office and culminating with the recent false testimony, and somehow this needs to be remembered in the coming days and weeks as Detroit and its other elected leaders struggle, along with Kilpatrick himself, to determine what his future should be. Certainly perjury charges are not out of the question; in fact, such charges might be the only thing that will ultimately drive Kilpatrick from office. As he's learned from his mentor, riding out storms like this when you're a liberal Democrat is not only possible but likely if you play the victim game. Detroiters who go along with this game allow themselves to be the ongoing victims of this utterly corrupt administration.
Sadly, it seems that every time ill-starred Detroit is ready to finally turn a corner toward restoring some of its pre-1967 reputation, it allows itself to get another black eye. The city needs to somehow rededicate itself to electing people of integrity, not those who simply want the cronyism and gravy train of corrupt government "service" to continue.