I don't like to play with the big boys, but an intervention is in order. Who knows more about Memphis stuff than the Axis of Weevil's own Mike Hollihan?
I e-mailed Mr. Hollihan, who is a gracious respondent. He allows me to reprint any part of his mail. He writes:
[The original article is] this story(register if you will, not much different) from the Memphis Commercial Appeal, our daily paper. [...]That won't cool much heat, but at least it's from someone there.
As best I can puzzle it out, the folks who set this visit up didn't do a good job of communication. There appear to have been a lot of crossed wires and missed messages involved. It seems that the City Council President, Joe Brown (BTW, he's the former Judge Joe Brown of television court show fame!), was called when the Iraqis showed up at City Hall for their tour and he had no idea what was going on. Given that a heightened terror alert had gone out over the weekend, he predictably over-reacted. Our local government takes their personal security very seriously, as you can see.
Originally, the City Mayor's office claimed that no written requests had been made to them; the Mayor has since issued an apology to the Iraqis. The County Mayor ended up meeting with the Iraqis at our local Civic Center with City Councilwoman Carol Chumney, who was either spearheading the visit or jumping on the publicity bandwagon after the trouble surfaced; it's hard to tell. The Councilwoman has a record of publicity hogging.
By the time everyone had the story straight, it was too late and the
word was out that we had "snubbed" the Iraqis. I guess in a manner of
speaking we did, but it was also poor planning and execution, too. And a bit of grand-standing by Joe Brown and Carol Chumney. But they did get to meet with some City and County officials, so it wasn't a total loss. Just a bad show to the Iraqis.
However, the story took another turn when two of the delegates were
robbed on Beale Street! You can read stories here and here.
They were walking along in the "blues tourist district" when a local
pulled a gun on them and robbed them. This story isn't getting quite as
much play as the snub story because it will affect tourist dollars, but
it's actually worse than the snub since it confirms the repeatedly
denied stories about crime in that big-dollar tourist area.
So, even though we're getting pasted by the nation as racist yokels,
it's a more benign and more commonplace story than that. Grandstanding,
posturing politicians; too many overlapping political activities (John
Edwards spoke here today) not well coordinated; and a not-surprising
Memphis crime event were the basics of the story. Had the delegation not
been Iraqi goodwill ambassadors learning about democracy, it wouldn't
have rated much of a mention, if at all. We'd still look like idiots,
just not to the nation.
UPDATE: Read comments here for more from Mr. Hollihan on the Memphis City Council.