Here's what it is, reduced to the bare essentials. The mayoral scandal can be boiled down to these next two paragraphs:Detroit's highest and most powerful elected official, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, secretly ordered a deputy police chief fired in an effort to prevent him from uncovering the mayor's misdeeds.
The mayor, who is an attorney, and the chief of staff (with whom he was having an illicit sexual affair) then lied, in a court of law, while under oath, about what they had done. The jury did not believe them, and their actions and their lies led to a civil judgment that cost the impoverished city more than $9 million.
Nobody really disputes these facts, including His Dishonor himself, who tacitly acknowledged the text messages are authentic.
Christine Beatty: I'm sorry that we are going through this mess because of a decision that we made to fire Gary Brown. I will make sure that the next decision is much more thought out. Not regretting what was done at all, but thinking about how we can do things smarter.
Kwame Kilpatrick: True! It had to happen though. I'm all the way with that." (May 15, 2003)
That exchange, which appeared on the front page of the Detroit Free Press Jan. 24, is far more of a smoking gun than the prosecutors ever had in the Watergate scandal.
Any sane person would conclude that, for the sake of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick needs to resign or be removed. Right now.
The legal payment to Gary Brown and two other cops is barely the beginning of the financial damage done to this city by this man-child cavorting in what he thought was his promised land.
Somewhere there are businessmen, in New Delhi or Novi or Nevada, who have been thinking about moving or expanding their operations to Detroit. They've now stopped thinking about it. We'll never know who most of them are. Lots of other people who could have been persuaded to give Detroit a look now won't even think about it at all. Unless, perhaps, they are Jerry Springer.
Someone called me last week from an out-of-town airport, who was watching the national news on a big monitor. They had just seen a recap of the scandal, followed by the news that the mayor had appointed another childhood buddy named Kandia Milton as replacement chief of staff for the mistress forced to resign.
Well, that is, as the national news had it, the new chief of staff was ready to take over ... as soon as someone paid $9,418 in delinquent property tax bills for him. For all we know, it could have been his mother or brother; Kwame put them on the city payroll too.
My friend, a former Detroiter, had just seen all this on the television; they were angry, embarrassed, and hurt by the mess.
"What does this [mayor] want? Does he want to be in a remake of The Birth of a Nation? Is that how he proposes to bring economic prosperity to Detroit? Has he started eating chicken legs during City Council meetings and throwing the bones on the floor?
"Does he get paid by the Klan to act out racist stereotypes? 'Cause he better be getting well paid. He deserves it."
That might have been a little harsh, but not much. Later, I started trying to explain Kwame Kilpatrick to an editor at the Los Angeles Times. She cut me off. Bottom line, "He's just a pig," she said. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how much of America sees him. And as long as he is in office, his grinning moon face, with the black gangsta leather hat, will be the image of Detroit.
Nobody is bringing jobs here for that.
That's the stark reality. If Kwame Kilpatrick is not removed from office, Detroit doesn't have a prayer. If he really cared anything about the city or its people, he would have resigned already.
But you know the citizens have never been his priority. Being mayor has. The limousines, the high life, flunkies at your disposal, courtside seats and women, women, women.
We now know what his plan for survival is. They laid it all out for us during his televised performance, which was scripted and written for the mayor and his terrifyingly grim-faced wife. Nothing in that broadcast was more fascinating than her tremendous hatred and anger for him, turned outward instead.
They will do everything to make it all about sex, and the prying, evil and, yes, white-owned media effort to use it to destroy his family.
Here's the message they sent that night. This is the message they will send, again and again:
"Yes, the evil men of the (white) media will use this one very human error to tear the young black mayor down, bruthas. They want to tear Kwame Kilpatrick down because they want to tear us all down. They want to tear Detroit down.
"They want to tear us down because we are black."
That's what they want the citizens of Detroit to believe. They hope the intelligent, educated voters have moved to the suburbs.
They hope Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, worried about her own primary challenge, drags her feet on the investigation. Drags her feet till most people forget about the perjury and the lying under oath. Forget about the looting of the city treasury to pay for the cover-up. After all, as that great moral philosopher Adolph Mongo said on the television show Flashpoint Sunday: "The city got insurance."
Yes, they are counting on Detroiters being that stupid, and on being so poisoned by racism they can be manipulated by a slick thug.
My guess is that maybe Detroit is smarter than that.
Think about the irony of all this occurring now. Whatever happens, whoever the next president is, the political story of the year is Barack Obama, the young black senator from Illinois.
Four years ago, nobody had heard of him. Now, everyone has. Millions and millions of white voters think he should be the next president. Every other Democratic nominee in history has been a white man. He beat the pants off every one of those this year. He has done that by sending a message of hope that transcends race and politics. Longtime Republicans are supporting him. The polls show he would defeat any GOP nominee. Last weekend, the Los Angeles Times joined the long list endorsing him for president.
He is the future, whether he beats Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination this time or not.
Meanwhile, Detroiters have a choice. Do we want to move to admit our mistakes and build a future? Or do we squat in our crumbling buildings and play "pity us poor victims"? Do we want to defiantly support our Superfly mayor against all common sense and logic? Do we want to enable him and his cronies to keep doing it to us, again and again and again?
Or do we have the maturity to do the right thing?
This nation booted out a corrupt president, remember, and we not only survived, our democracy got stronger. Detroit will get a huge boost on all fronts if the city manages to start over.
We can easily survive without Kwame Kilpatrick. What is far less certain is whether the city can survive if he stays here.Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Contact him at [email protected]