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Trial will test Kilpatrick's ability to take a hit, keep rolling

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Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (pictured right)  (Credit: MyFox Detroit) Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (pictured right) (Credit: MyFox Detroit)
DETROIT (MyFox Detroit) -

I was going to write a couple of days ago about what a drag it must be for Kwame Kilpatrick to sit in a courtroom day after day, listening to people who may decide where he spends the next 20 years talk about how much talent and potential he had.

And how badly he blew it.

Amazingly, Kilpatrick listened to all of this with a stony countenance. Surely it's something he's thought about almost every day since he was forced out of office in 2008. But if it still bothers him, he's not letting on.

But as we prepare for opening statements in what is arguably the biggest trial in Detroit political history, it strikes me that we're in the midst of something that is probably momentous enough to push all other thoughts out of the former mayor's mind. And, of course, there's that amazing ability to compartmentalize that Kilpatrick has shown over the years. My first hint of it came in early 2002, about a month after he succeeded Dennis Archer. Reflecting on the minor missteps he'd made, he shared the advice he said an old football coach had given him: "If you're going to make a mistake, make an aggressive mistake."

It'd be the only advice he's ever heeded.

Since then, I've seen Kilpatrick's flair for self-preservation manifest itself over and over. It goes something like this: That didn't work. Damn. S--- happens. Nothing I can do about it now. I'll just leave it for everyone else to deal with and move on. NEXT!

That ability to take a hit and keep rolling will be sorely tested over the next four months.

It's bad enough that prosecutors will try to use his own words -- tapped into a Blackberry and, I suspect, captured in phone calls to his dad's wiretapped line -- against him. The government also has persuaded long-time friends to betray him as part of plea deals that will reduce the amount of time they will serve in prison.

Over the last few days of jury selection Kilpatrick seemed less jovial, almost like it was sinking in that warmups were almost over and the game was about to begin. Only in this game, the stakes are like the kind you'd find on an old episode of the Twilight Zone, in which the local hero goes up against the devil. That's not to say that Uncle Sam is the devil, but to Kilpatrick -- who feels the feds are out to crush his very soul -- Unkie Sam must look a lot like Ol' Scratch wearing a star spangled top hat.

Even if Kilpatrick was sincere when he told a ballroom full of journalists he met with last month that he is looking forward to the celebration that will take place when he's exonerated, even this most confident of men must harbor some lingering doubt that things will go wrong.

When the incredulous reporters challenged his confidence that he will beat the rap, the former star athlete said he's never heard a coach give a pep talk that involved preparing the team for defeat.

I reckon that's true enough. I've coached a lot of losing teams and I don't recall ever telling the kids to get ready for a shellacking (though there WAS that time we had only 7 skaters against Mt. Clemens ...).

At any rate, Kilpatrick delivered a damn good line.

If he were a lesser man looking for advice, I'd offer him this maxim that has served me well over the years: "Hope for the best ... but prepare for the worst."
 
Follow M.L. Elrick's coverage of the Kilpatrick & Co. trial daily on Fox 2 and at www.myfoxdetroit.com. Contact him at ml.elrick@foxtv.com or via Twitter or Facebook.

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