'Big Easy' Busy With Super Bowl, Mayoral Election

The New Orleans Saints won their first Super Bowl Championship Sunday and the city is celebrating big time. Some see it as a turning point for the beleaguered city which was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina. Also over the weekend, Mitch Landrieu won the mayor's office. He beat 10 opponents to become the first white mayor of the mostly black city since his father left the post in the late 1970s.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Oh, and lets just not mention, it is a bitter, bitter, bitter, bitter - bitterly cold morning in my home state of Indiana. But thats not important right now. Lets talk about New Orleans. Cokie Roberts, New Orleans native, is on the line, as she is every Monday. Hi, Cokie.

COKIE ROBERTS: Hi, Steve. Well, thats the way it goes sometimes. I must say that I am just sitting here listening to that Mike Pesca piece with a huge smile on my face.

INSKEEP: I imagine so. Well, what does the Super Bowl mean for New Orleans?

ROBERTS: Well, you know, you've heard over the last couple of weeks since they won the championship, how much the team means to the city, how it's so much more than football. And you just heard Drew Brees say that this was for the city. But all of that is true. It's just remarkable how the whole city and all of us ex-pats have been so excited and so much in touch with each other for the last couple of weeks, just feeling like this is the turnaround moment.

And along with the mayor's race that happened Saturday night, the sense that the city now really is going to come back, that this is a turning point. And I know that that's silly for a football game to have that kind of import, but it just is true.

INSKEEP: It certainly does, the civic event for people, I know that. Mitch Landrieu is the guy who won that mayor's election that you mentioned. What does his election say about New Orleans?

ROBERTS: A lot, because he's the first white to win since his dad left office in 1978; he had huge support in the black community. He even brought James Carville and Mary Matalin together, politically as well as personally. Mary Matalin had a fundraiser for women for Landrieu.

And he said, on Saturday night after he'd won, that the city had decided to strike a blow for a city that decided to be united rather than divided. And the candidate who came in second, with only 14 percent of the vote, Troy Henry, who is an African-American, showed up at Landrieu headquarters Saturday night, and Landrieu brought him up on stage to show that unity.

So that combination, that combination of the team, and whites and blacks coming together in this election, really does have people very, very hopeful about the future of the city.

INSKEEP: We're talking with NPR's Cokie Roberts. And Cokie, just before the Super Bowl, as you know, President Obama had an interview broadcast with Katie Couric of CBS, and he was asked about health care - maybe you could think of that as the Super Bowl of legislation in the last year or so. And he said that he's inviting both Republican and Democratic lawmakers to a televised health-care summit. What, if anything, could come out of that?

ROBERTS: Well, again, this theme of unity, Steve, we're hearing all over. And the Republican leader of the House, John Boehner, said he's pleased that the White House wants a bipartisan conversation. I think the president thinks that this is something that he needs to be doing A, to get health care moving again but B, to show the American people that he really is back on track of reaching out across party lines, the way he talked during the campaign.

He told the Democratic National Committee on Saturday: We need to extend our hands to the other side. Now, Democrats in Congress feel like they already have debated health care to fair thee well. But if the president thinks he can get something done, more power to him. And it'll be something interesting to watch. I think he thinks it worked for him to go to the Republican caucus - when he did a week or so ago - and that he's going to try it again.

And probably, this debate will take place - the discussion is that it might take place at Blair House, across the street from the White House. So, it would be a very formal, high-level conversation.

INSKEEP: And very briefly, was Sarah Palin talking about unity when she appeared at a...

ROBERTS: No.

INSKEEP: ...Tea Party convention on the weekend?

ROBERTS: I think it's fair to say she was not talking about unity. She said: How is that hope-y change-y stuff working out for ya - talking about the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda leaving us less secure.

INSKEEP: Thanks very much, as always. Cokie Roberts - of New Orleans, the Super Bowl champions. You hear her most Mondays, right here on MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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