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Fmr. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin’s Bizarre New Memoir

Ray Nagin has published a memoir about his time as mayor of New Orleans during Katrina. Nagin writes in the book that he began to become paranoid during the immediate response to the disaster, at one point thinking that a private defense security firm was attempting to bug his office:

Among the more shocking revelations is the former mayor’s account of the evening of Aug. 30, 2005. Nagin writes that he and his top aides were in the Hyatt’s fourth-floor command center when about 20 men entered, “dressed in black combat outfits and adorned in bulletproof vests, rifles, and leg straps holding at least two very large handguns each.

“Their presence was shocking, menacing, bizarre, and surreal,” he writes, adding that one barked out: “‘We’re here to protect the mayor. Everybody else get out.’”

The armed men wouldn’t say who sent them or why, though Nagin surmises they may have worked for mega-defense contractor Blackwater. “If they were here to protect me, I sure did not feel that as my gut told me there was another agenda at play, and it clearly did not have our best interests at heart, period,” he writes.

The guards managed to access Nagin’s 27th-floor suite and install “all kinds of wires” they claimed were “for a satellite connection.” Ultimately, though, their efforts were thwarted when “Greg (Meffert) and crew stopped (them) cold,” Nagin writes, referring to his former chief technology officer.

“And after several rounds of going back and forth, our unwelcome visitors got the message that we were not going to allow them to take over or gain access to my room to plant bugging devices.”

Nagin also thought at one point that the CIA would try to assassinate him with a poisoned dart after he took to the radio to criticize President Bush, FEMA, and Senator Mary Landrieu, among others:

Nagin also worried about becoming a target of sinister forces after his famous Sept. 1, 2005, rant on WWL-AM, which the former mayor writes was prompted by reports that Blanco and U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu and David Vitter had bragged “about how well things were going,” even as evacuees continued to suffer at the Superdome and Convention Center.

“I thought to myself, ‘I’m a dead man! I have just publicly denounced the governor, U.S. Senators, FEMA and the president of the United States,’” he writes. “I started wondering if during the night I would be visited by specially trained CIA agents. Could they secretly shoot me with a miniature, slow-acting poison dart?

“As my dad often told me, ‘Be careful your mouth doesn’t write a check your butt can’t cash.’ I was convinced my mouth had just gotten me into a whole lot of trouble,” he writes.

And at one point, he was paranoid that government medical staffers would inject him with something poisonous:

Nagin admits he also suffered pangs of paranoia on the Monday after the storm, when he visited the USS Iwo Jima, an amphibious assault ship that docked near the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and served as a base of federal operations.

There, he was escorted to an infirmary where two medical staffers “had orders to examine me and give me shots.”

“I was still a little paranoid and again started imagining a secret CIA plot where in six months I would be gone,” he writes. “After thinking for a minute, I said to them, ‘Okay, you can give me shots, but I want you to do the same for my two security guys.’

“My thinking was it would have been easier to spin that stress ultimately took me out, but it would be much harder to explain all three of us suddenly dying mysteriously,” writes Nagin, who said during Wednesday’s briefing that his sense of suspicion abated shortly after his visit to the ship.

Nat Brown is a former deputy web editor of Foreign Affairs and a former deputy managing editor of National Review Online.

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