I'm thinking about beginning all of my correspondence with that opening from now on. Yesterday I said that the Letten-O'Keefe video "does not disappoint." I might have understated my feelings a bit.
It is every bit the big-pompous-asshole-screams-bizarre-unconventional-insults-at-annoying-little-twerp bit of comedy gold I had imagined it could be the moment we learned of the encounter.
Since yesterday afternoon, I've watched it at least 50 times. Every time I laugh loudest at some new aspect. There's the way Letten holds the phone steady next to his reddened face as he shouts. There's the part where he, literally, throws the book at O'Keefe. There's the line "All of you, you're hobbits. You are less than I can ever tell you. You are scum. Do you understand?" It's the, "Do you understand?" part that gets me. I think this rhetorical treasure should be recreated on stage for future generations to ponder. Like the Lincoln-Douglas debates.
So it's a wonderful blessing and we should be thankful for it. But also pay attention to what it also might tell us about the already infamous sloppiness of Letten's office.
This background adds an interesting dimension to O’Keefe’s claim that Mann, or someone on her team, leaked privileged emails between O’Keefe and his lawyer, in an attempt to drive media coverage against him. In the second video, O’Keefe says that Attorney General Eric Holder pressured Letten’s office to prosecute O’Keefe (presumably for political reasons).And, of course, there's more there. Go read.
The videos note some of the many interconnections in and outside Letten’s office. For example, Mann and her husband were both top prosecutors, and Sen. Landrieu’s brother Maurice was a prosecutor on staff. The second video quotes from a letter O’Keefe’s attorneys sent to the Department of Justice asking that Mann recuse herself from the case due to “intertwining political issues.” (According to O’Keefe, there was no response to the request.)
The letter failed to mention a relevant fact that I’ve wondered about: Mann grew up with Landrieu. They were classmates at Ursuline Academy (both were class of ‘73 graduates). Further, Mann’s father — Joseph Maselli — a proud Italian-American and fervent foe of ethnic and racial bigotry, proposed building the Piazza d’Italia to Mayor Moon Landrieu. (The plaza is now undergoing renovations under Moon’s son, Mayor Mitch Landrieu). Indeed, according to Maselli’s Oct. 23, 2009, obituary in The Times-Picayune, Moon Landrieu was an honorary pallbearer for Maselli. So Mann grew up with Mary Landrieu, and their fathers were friends.
This seems to be the basis of a pretty clear conflict of interest. Letten’s recusal might have given the appearance of fairness, but Mann may have had more of a conflict than her boss! If so, Mann should not have prosecuted the case and should have recused herself along with Letten.