A story on the large posse that follows Swame around and how he is laughed at around the country. Great for Detroit!
When the militia is the message
Laura Miller can't remember where she first met Kwame Kilpatrick, but he made a big impression.
"It was at a national mayor's conference somewhere," recalls Miller, who served as Dallas' mayor from February 2002 until last June. "I was struck by his earring, and that he was larger than life, and that he spent a lot of time talking about how dangerous Dallas was.
"And I remember thinking that it was a bit much for a Detroiter to be talking about Dallas having a lot of crime," she adds.
Like Kilpatrick, Miller had three school-age children when she became mayor of a large (1.3 million) city riven by racial divisions. And like Kilpatrick, she often worried about her family's safety, especially after the dismissal of Dallas' African-American police chief made her a lightning rod for frustrated black voters.
But unlike Detroit's mayor, Miller -- who stands 5 feet 7 and weighs 132 pounds -- has never traveled with more than one bodyguard.
"Not even after Hurricane Katrina, when I would visit the arena where we were housing thousands of refugees," she notes.
Always good for a laugh
Miller, with whom I struck up an enduring friendship a couple of decades ago when we were reporters at the Miami Herald, told me Kilpatrick's oversize security detail has always been a source of amusement among his mayoral peers, and she laughed out loud when I told her that the legendary Posse Kwametatus had recently been expanded in response to Detroit's mushrooming mayoral scandal.
Like most people, she has a hard time believing that Detroit's super-size CEO faces graver danger than she did as a middle-aged woman in Dallas.
But then, the size of Kilpatrick's security detail has always had less to do with any realistic threat of violence than with his quest for status.
In Miller's world, a female politician signals her toughness by walking into confrontational situations with little or no obvious protection. In Kilpatrick's, an alpha male signifies his rank by gathering the largest possible entourage of toughs into his orbit, no matter how minimal the threat to his person.
Like Muqtada al-Sadr's militia or Tony Soprano's crew, the Posse Kwametatus exists less to intimidate Kilpatrick's detractors than to assure followers (and fair-weather allies) that the big dog is still in charge.
Pumping up the volume
Nobody likes to be laughed at, of course, and Kilpatrick can be more sensitive to his peers' derision when he is feeling less politically insecure.
In 2003, after a diamond-studded L. Brooks Patterson memorably lampooned Kilpatrick's gangsta style by striding into the Mackinac Policy Conference surrounded by aides sporting dark glasses and earpieces, the mayor's security footprint grew noticeably smaller.
Now, as he fights for his political life, the approval of peers like Patterson and Miller is a luxury Kilpatrick can't afford. His only audience now is the street, and his plumped-up posse is meant to assure die-hard supporters that the big dog isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
Contact BRIAN DICKERSON at 248-351-3697 or [email protected]