There are those who argue that the state of Louisiana, with its long roll of indicted and convicted public officials, has gained a position of supremacy in the area of political-financial scandal. That's not necessarily so. The perfect scandal, like the perfect murder, is the one that goes undetected, and it is just as likely to have occurred in a place like Nebraska or Oregon or New Hampshire as in Louisiana. More likely, really, because the perfect scandal would be a crabbed, furtive thing, bringing joy only to those who got rich off it. In Louisiana, it is accepted that scandals should be fun.
The case of Gov. Edwin W. Edwards, indicted last week by a federal grand jury, has followed in that tradition. The governor, now in his third term, saled insouciantly through six federal and three state grand jury investigations without indictment. When there were rumors that he was fond of, say, gambling, he generally called a press conference to confirm them. Last year, just before starting a new term, he took 607 friends -- mostly lobbyists -- on a trip to France, for which they paid $10,000 each.
A few weeks ago, as a federal grand jury was winding up its work, Mr. Edwards gave 8-to-5 odds he would not be indicted. Last week, after being indicted on 50 counts of conspiracy, racketeering, mail fraud and wire fraud, he appeared on the lawn of the state mansion in Baton Rouge, dressed in a yellow jogging outfit and speaking confidently of a breakthrough: the triumph of aerobics over penology. "I'm healthier now than I was a year ago," he said. "I'll be around to live out any sentence that might result from this." The following day he renewed his declarations of innocence, but said that if convicted he probably would resign his office, even though Louisiana law doesn't require it.
There was a story in this paper the other day that said many people in Louisiana are getting tired of this sort of thing and would like to change the state's ways and re-do its image. Maybe they'll succeed, but it's hard to imagine Louisiana being chastened. It seems more likely to us that someday, perhaps before the end of the century, Louisiana will be staging its scandals in the New Orleans Superdome, with grand juries running football plays, federal judges blowing whistles, and a 200-piece half-time marching band made up of U.S. attorneys and federal auditors. In the honored position of drum major will be the governor of the state, strutting down the field in a high fur hat and cavalry boots -- and we wouldn't give you 8 to 5 that it won't be Edwin W. Edwards.