Christine Beatty sat in the courtroom, staring at her feet, hollow as a ghost, even as the columns seemed to be collapsing around her in some Biblical destruction scene, the mayor about to plead guilty, the police chief quitting, helicopters flying over the Manoogian Mansion. And you wondered, as the man she once considered the “love of my life” began his life as a convicted criminal, if she finally realized what everyone in this town should know by now:
Charm and arrogance are a treacherous combination.
Kwame Kilpatrick charmed Beatty, as he did many voters in Detroit, but behind that was an arrogance and a sense of entitlement that didn’t begin with his chief of staff and didn’t end Thursday. Kilpatrick was still sounding like a railroaded victim in that Detroit courtroom, claiming he lost his right to a presumption of innocence “a long time ago” and rushing through the words “I lied under oath” like a man on a hostage tape.
Kilpatrick’s counsel, Sharon McPhail, once told me he was as close to a king as Detroit had. Two days ago, she was telling the governor he was brilliant. She was one of many apparently dazzled by his personality.
But McPhail is out now, as is her king, and soon this whole thing will fade behind the brighter light of this truth: One man is not bigger than the city he governs.
Now, before we get too proud of ourselves, Detroit, remember, we elected him – twice. So this is not a day for dancing, and it is hardly the day our problems were solved. Know this: If we don’t fix the blueprints of city government, the charter itself, the mess of a way we elect a city council, the messiah himself will have trouble running this city.
But what was lost Thursday was a huge boulder in the middle of the road. We can take a blessed step forward now. And we must.
As for the big lesson learned here? Maybe only this: There’s a lot of charming and arrogant folks in jail. And now there’ll be one more.
The city, bigger than any one man, will survive.
Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760). Also catch “Monday Sports Albom” 7-8 p.m. Mondays on WJR. To read his recent columns, go to www.freep.com/mitch.