National Politics

New Orleans mayor says voters are tiring of Trump chaos

In this Friday, March 16, 2018 photo, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu poses with a copy of his new book, “In the Shadow of Statues” in New Orleans.
In this Friday, March 16, 2018 photo, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu poses with a copy of his new book, “In the Shadow of Statues” in New Orleans. AP file

New Orleans Democratic Mayor Mitch Landrieu said voters are growing weary of the chaos surrounding Donald Trump’s presidency and will choose a candidate in the next election who promises stability in government and expertise in policy.

“You can say from a year and a half of Trump being in office, people will reject this form of governing,” Landrieu said at a Bloomberg breakfast Thursday in Washington. “Whether they elect a Democrat or a Republican, they are going to demand excellence, they are going to demand a steady hand, they’re going to demand not chaos. They are going to demand some level of certitude.”

Landrieu, 57, is seen by many Democrats as a potential contender for the party’s presidential nomination in 2020 at a time when there is no clear candidate to challenge Trump. He’s had a long political career in Louisiana and is the son of Moon Landrieu, a former New Orleans mayor and Housing and Urban Development secretary, and the brother of former senator Mary Landrieu. But Landrieu said he hasn’t given much thought to running for the White House.

“I don’t think you guys ought to be worried about a dearth of candidates” in the next presidential race. “I don’t intend to be one of them,” he said adding, “things could change.”

Describing himself as a moderate, Landrieu suggested that he might not be well-suited to Democrats’ presidential primary process, even if he believes he would be able to do a good job in the Oval Office.

In both the Democratic and Republican parties, “moderates are getting crushed” and “the people that are getting pushed to the top” tend toward the extreme ends of the ideological spectrum, he said. Candidates who say “I’m a problem-solver” generally “don’t get rewarded in a primary process.”

Still, he argued that the job of mayor is good preparation for the White House because it’s one of the political offices most like the presidency.

Landrieu, who leaves office at the end of his second term in May, said his immediate plans are up in the air. “I don’t know what I’m going to do” other than giving speeches and perhaps working with an academic institution.

Trump’s time in office has led to a rise in political activism, especially among liberals, because “people are starting to wake up to the fact that it’s not a fait accompli that the country’s going to be OK.”

Trump’s administration has been marked by unprecedented turnover among his top advisers, and he’s sometimes blindsided or contradicted aides in setting policy by tweet.

In just the past few weeks, he’s fired or forced out four top-level aides: Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin, on Wednesday; National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster last week; and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn earlier this month. Last week, after his staff worked with congressional leaders on a compromise on a massive spending bill, Trump threatened to veto the legislation hours before the deadline for him to sign it to avoid a government shutdown. He eventually relented.

At the same time, Americans feel “much more emboldened” to voice racist views since Trump was elected, Landrieu said, though he stressed that “not everybody who voted for Donald Trump is a racist.” While the national racial debate has shifted since Trump took office, “I don’t think that he can deserve credit for a race conversation.”

“Where that leads is anybody’s guess,” Landrieu said, adding that he’s optimistic that the country will shift. “In the long arc, I think love always wins. There’s a lot of damage on the way.”

He is set to receive the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in May for his leadership in removing four Confederate monuments in New Orleans. His book about the experience, “In the Shadow of Statues,” was just published. Though journalists interpret such books as the prelude to a White House bid, “a precursor to another thing,” Landrieu said it’s meant to be “a guide to where somebody’s been and a guide to a better place.”

As mayor of a major port city, Landrieu is a proponent of free trade and opposes the Trump administration’s new tariffs. “Trade wars don’t really help anybody, they hurt, they make the costs of goods go up and they cost more jobs than they create,” he said. Most politicians “really have not done a good job” communicating with people who live in areas hurt by free trade and providing them with training for new careers.

Landrieu’s speech earlier this month at the Gridiron Dinner in Washington generated buzz about his future political ambitions. In those remarks, he jokingly compared himself to Trump in that they are both overweight and bald but that it’s easier for him to admit it. But he also offered a bipartisan hand to Trump, saying, “You are my president; you are our president” and that he wants him to do well because “our country depends on it.”

Landrieu said Thursday that he made the comments because “as an American citizen I wanted to demonstrate a model of behavior that I think we all need in this country,” respecting the presidency regardless of who holds the office.