The Democratic Party is coming to town.
The Democratic Party is coming to town.
Expect the Democrats to roll out a Being There parody, in which Chris Callaghan, upon entering the comptroller's office for the first time asks, "Is there a TV upstairs? I like to watch." Or better yet, how about a spoof of the Republican Party's chances on November 7 that's just like the motorway pileup scene in Godard's Week End?
Weekend at Alan's [Empire Zone]
All these negative ads in the Twentieth District require some serious press conferences. Even John Sweeney's wife, Gayle, has a press statement she found time to write in between shooting commercials.
My husband's opponent has a hired gun that feels the need to embarrass me and slander my marriage. Because of that I must respond to the unfair and unwarranted attacks on my personal life. The evening in question was a very difficult time for our family. Real life has real problems. Like every family, we have personal challenges we must overcome. Anyone who believes life is not complicated just doesn't [breaks off]. The pressure of a yearlong public scrutiny reached its breaking point, and so had I. I did not need to be protected from John. At no time has John hurt me or done anything other than try to protect me. There were never any injuries to me. Neither John nor I are perfect, but we love each other deeply. The incident report that has been given to the press is untrue. The real incident report has nothing in it like the salacious words in the concocted document. I don't know if it is possible, but I give my permission for the state police to release the real report for all to see.
U.S. representative John Sweeney, R-Clifton Park, given at a press conference outside the home of one of his aides
There was no domestic violence, and like my wife, I would call on the state police to release the original report. My opponent has no shame. She has shown that throughout this campaign. In her desire for power, she has tried to ruin my marriage and slander my family … And you know I've been very open in the last year, especially about my family, whether it was my son or my own health problems more so than I needed to be. I will say today, this is the last time I'm going talk about my family in the context of politics.
Statement released by Democratic challenger Kirsten Gillibrand:
It is Mr. Sweeney's word versus that of numerous sources and trusted local news organizations across our region. In five days voters will get to decide which they trust. Multiple sources have made it clear that police responded to a domestic-violence incident reported from Mr. Sweeney's home in December. This is about John Sweeney's behavior, his history of lies, his arrogance and bullying.
On June 1, Hevesi told an audience at a Queens College graduation ceremony that Senator Charles Schumer would "put a bullet between the president's eyes if he could get away with it." Hevesi apologized several hours later to Schumer and to President George W. Bush, but the murmurings of "that bitch crazy" had already begun. Five months of really bad decision-making later, Hevesi is en route to the glue factory of scandal-hobbled pols.
Today Schumer joined fellow Democrats in ushering His Hevness into the sweet hereafter. The senator packed metaphorical heat with his thoughts on Hevesi's troubles: "What's happened with Alan Hevesi is a true tragedy," Schumer said. "I served with him in the Assembly, and he's a very bright guy. What he's done now is very, very wrong. You can't just say it's a mistake and flick it away."
Official Apologizes for Saying Bush Should Be Shot Between Eyes [WNBC]
Chuck on Alan [Capitol Confidential]
Besides, anyone who's taken on the yeoman's task of contemplating John Spencer's visage might notice his complexion is hardly peaches-and-cream perfect. Maybe the health plan for Yonkers public employees couldn't hook up "millions" in plastic surgery, but how bad could the co-pay have been on a microdermabrasion?
Meanwhile, as Clinton was cutting up her nemesis, he was backtracking from another comment. A columnist for the Journal News said that Spencer made an "off-color remark" (i.e., steamy) about Mrs. Clinton's sexuality.
The writer, Phil Reisman, said that he asked Spencer if he would label Clinton a liberal in their debates last weekend. Reisman says Spencer "said words to the effect of, 'Well, you know me, words slip out, but I won't call her a lesbian or anything.'"
Whenever the remote control in John Spencer's mind flips past Hillary Clinton, the Spice Channel is only one click away.
'It's so ridiculous that Ben Smith, the blogger sitting next to me on an airplane, who quite frankly, made statements that I surely wouldn't repeat about other candidates in the race. He was in a giddy mood making statements, so I think in his conversational mind with a jet engine blowing in his right ear, uh … we had a rambling conversation about the sixties. That's what our conversation was about and how he came out with those ridiculous fabrications is beyond me."
So what was their "rambling conversation" like? The E&O Speculator has the answers:
Smith: So, what were the sixties like for you, Mr. Spencer?
Spencer: Pretty empty. Hillary Clinton wasn't in my life yet, and so I had no focus, no direction. I enlisted in Vietnam, out of desperation more than anything. I wouldn't have done that if I'd had the grounding power of love. I'd have stayed in school, maybe gone to graduate school. I'm a pretty bright guy, ran a whole city, ya know. Anyway, yeah, the sixties sucked. Now, if you'll pardon me, these JetBlue flights are my only chance to watch competitive bass fishing.
A Conversational Mind [The Politicker]
"You ever see a picture of her back then? Whew," said Spencer of Clinton's younger days. "I don't know why Bill married her." Spencer conceded that Clinton "looks good now," thanks to lots of plastic surgery.
Spencer's pinheaded comments are especially striking considering his fawning treatment of Clinton in their two debates this weekend. In fact, they suggest more is at stake than Spencer is letting on. If you'll recall the mating rituals of junior-high gym class, roughly the apogee of Spencer's intellectual maturation, the male often attempts to court the female through negative assertions about her appearance, clothes sense, smell, etc. Now John Spencer is not an untalented courtier. He has wooed women into wearing the sobriquet Mrs. John Spencer on three different occasions, so you know the guy can throw a little game. Telling Ben Smith "Hillary has cooties" would have tipped his hand too much. He played brilliantly, leading with the harsh stuff ("I don't know why Bill married her") and then throwing in the sweetener ("she looks good now"). Witness, amateur studs, he's got her coming and going.
On Friday night, he played it cool, showing Hillary his command of the issues and staying above petty political jabs to show her he's a gentlemen.
By Sunday morning, Spencer couldn't contain himself. At one point, viewers were shown a recent Time cover with a picture of Hillary Clinton and boxes in which readers could check "love her" or "hate her." Hillary chuckled. Spencer lunged like the jungle lion he is. "I like Hillary Clinton," he said plainly and clearly into his mike. Later he noted that she was younger than he is, making it pretty obvious that his "like" was, in fact, full on "like-like."
This doesn't just explain why Spencer wants more debates; it explains his entire candidacy. He can't win. He wouldn't know what to do if he did. He's underfunded, shunned by his party, and unpopular among prospective voters. But he'll endure all that for a chance to get near the maiden he pines for. You have to admire a guy who'll travel all over the state staging events no one shows up for and espousing ideas most people find terrifying, just to get a few fleeting moments in the same room as the girl he fancies. Of course Spencer wants more debates; they're the only opportunity his hungry heart has of finally being made whole.
Mud in the Face [NYDN]
In a recent discussion between Republican representative Sue Kelly and Democratic challenger John Hall, Hall raised questions about Kelly's former role as chair of the congressional-page committee in light of the Mark Foley scandal. Kelly pretty much handed the less-experienced Hall his ass, even throwing in a couple of breathless "Have you no shame!"s to seal the deal. Bravura stuff.
Well, Kelly's shocked! shocked! bluster seemed a bit overwrought at the time; this news segment from local WRNN-TV makes the well of emotion she tapped seem just a touch overbaked. WRNN invited the candidates for the Nineteenth District seat to debate in its studios. Kelly never responded and in fact scurries away from the reporter when confronted.
Good work, WRNN. Rarely do we see such a daring Beckettian study in absence on local news.
Sue Kelly Runs From Reporters [TPM Cafe]
We've been following the congressional race in the Twentieth District, between Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand (of the self-aware ironic ads) and Republican John Sweeney (of the folksy, authentic ads), partly for entertainment value and partly because it's turned into one of the more exciting contests in the emerging battleground region that is upstate New York.
The race is either pretty close or neck-and-neck, depending on which poll you consult, and things might just get a whole lot squeakier. Incumbent Sweeney, a guy who already had some character issues, is again having his relationship with House ethics questioned. The Albany Times-Union is reporting that "U.S. Rep. John Sweeney may have violated congressional ethics rules by failing to reveal who paid for a trip he took to a Pacific island with a lobbyist hired by convicted Washington influence peddler Jack Abramoff."
Not to be outdone, Kirsten Gillibrand came in for a little criticism today as well, though of a somewhat less damning nature. A veterans group in the Capital Region took her to task for attacking Sweeney's voting record on the war and veterans benefits. A National Guardsman named Matthew Tully, recently returned from Iraq, offered this remark.
"We are the new face of veterans in the Capital Region. We are sick and tired of politicians politicizing the Iraqi war for their own personal gain. Ms. Gillibrand has never served in the military and yet she is making veterans benefits and the Iraqi war a top priority," Tully said.
Not to get overly technical about the relationship between government and the armed forces, but if only lawmakers who'd served in the military were allowed to have oversight regarding military affairs, wouldn't that be like sorta how it is in one of those, uh, whadya call 'em…fascist military dictatorships? Either we can't handle the truth or someone needs to undo the bunch in Col. Nathan R. Jessep's olive-drab undies.
As you might expect, the closer the contest, the lower the blows. A debate last night devolved into King accusing Mejias of taking a donation from an area mosque with alleged terror ties. Mejias then accused King of fear-mongering while noting that King also received money from the mosque. Weird, right? It makes sense that an Al Qaeda–smooching Democrat might roll deep with the freedom-hating forces of evil, but a saber-rattling Republican? Turns out, King loves Baghdad.
He gave this speech (lovingly uploaded by Think Progress) in February 2006 in Merrick, New York. Recalling a recent trip to Iraq, he describes Baghdad as a veritable Soho on the Euphrates: "You're talking about bumper-to-bumper traffic, you're talking about shopping centers, you're talking about restaurants, you're talking video stores, you're talking about guys selling roses on the street corner."
Bush Stars in King-Mejias Debate [Newsday]
There were many fine digs during yesterday's attorney-general debate Jeanine Pirro on Andrew Cuomo's tainted HUD tenure, Cuomo on Pirro's irresponsibility as Westchester D.A. but the best came from Cuomo spokesman Wendy Katz. During the debate, Pirro accused Cuomo of accepting fees for speeches he made as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development during the Clinton administration. Cuomo claims the money went to his former wife, Kerry Kennedy. "Once again, Mrs. Pirro got it wrong on government forms," said Katz. "We are shocked if Mrs. Pirro's position would fail to recognize the independence of a professional woman from her husband."
Integrity at Issue in AG Debate [Albany Times-Union]
Beneath the strike-through portion on the Website is this change of heart:
You know what? In the wake of the Foley Scandal there's no way in hell we can endorse a man who bravely stepped before the microphones to say he didn't know anything about anything, and managed to surround himself with children to do it. What a dirtball. Esquire now endorses: Davis
Early and Often will offer its endorsements on Wednesday, November 8.
Local Republicans are wondering if maybe their all-Hevesi-all-the-time approach toward the '06 election might be a bit of a distraction from the greater congressional struggle. Then again, maybe they should swipe at whatever low-hanging fruit this mean season bears, namely incumbent state comptroller Alan Hevesi.
Hevesi broke from his recent low-profile M.O. on Monday to make an appearance at Cornell University. There, he spoke to an entrepreneurship class about the corporate scandals of the nineties and offered a few non-answers on his wife-ferrying woes.
"You're drawing conclusions without knowing the facts," Hevesi told the Cornell Daily Sun. "I'm not going to discuss them with the public until I've finished a report through the Ethics Commission that I requested.
"Don't believe everything you hear. That's my quote."
John Callaghan, son of Hevesi's opponent Chris Callaghan, serves as the challenger's spokesman and was predictably hard on his old man's rival and, somewhat less predictably, pretty tough on his own mother.
"My mom wasn't able to walk for most of last summer," he said. "[Hevesi] reached for the easy button."
It seems to be a trait among the Callaghan men to not go soft on Callaghan women, but when you're going around implying even ailing Mama C isn't above your stringent ethical standard, that's cold. Real cold.
Just imagine what kind of badass Chris Callaghan's going to be when it comes time to restructure the state's pension system.
Hevesi Defends Service Record [Cornell Daily Sun]
In the Oscar-nominated documentary Street Fight, which follows the Newark mayoral race of 2003, there's a scene where unassailably likable reform-minded challenger Cory Booker preps for a debate against legendarily corrupt, machine incumbent Sharpe James. Booker, hesitant to use any information he can't back up, is worrying over the specifics of a factoid when a consultant cuts in with a little political realism. "In a debate you can say anything and people will think it's true," she says.
Well, that may have been how things went down in the bronze age of 2003, but these days, some rigorously unbiased soul is always watching. Wrongs are righted (with a nice soundtrack) in this montage of bits from last Sunday's debate between New Jersey Senate candidates Robert Menendez (D) and Tom Kean Jr. (R).
Three decades ago, it was Richard Nixon's eighteen and a half minutes the empty stretch of tape through which a presidency fell, dragging a disillusioned nation with it. Today, technological advances mean longer spans of political chicanery.
As the dogged GOP blogger Urban Elephants reports, Republican state-comptroller candidate J. Christopher Callaghan today accused his opponent, incumbent Alan Hevesi, of ordering a state employee to erase the hard drive of a computer Hevesi had loaned out to family members. In a letter to the State Ethics Commission, Callaghan said he had called Hevesi's fraud hotline on October 4 to report the unauthorized use of a state laptop. After his call, the hard drive was "scrubbed clean."
"It has been suggested that the recent complaints I've made about Mr. Hevesi to your office, to that of the Albany County District Attorney, and to that of the New York State Board of Elections are politically motivated and timed to damage my opponent's chances of reelection. That's very true but also irrelevant," Callaghan wrote.
Callaghan's probing questions took a sharper tone in a huffy press release also issued today: "It appears that the Comptroller, instead of looking into the matter I had called his hotline to report, may have skipped to the last step and simply eliminated the evidence. What are they trying to hide, and did they force an unsuspecting civil servant to hide it? This is a legitimate question for the Ethics Commission, I believe."
What was on that laptop? A book report? Photos of the family dog? A Hevesi family playlist? The public has a right to know. This state needs people like Chris Callaghan, who places petty calls to fraud hotlines and admits that his actions are politically motivated and timed to damage Hevesi's chance of reelection.
Callaghan Press Release: Hevesi Hard Drive Wiped Clean [Empire Newswire]
Callaghan's Letter to the State Ethics Commission [Empire Newswire]
This year, Farrell has mounted an even heartier campaign, tying Shays to the Iraq War, which he supported though he did call for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation last week. Farrell is up 46-41, but it's still a close enough race to call on the party's prime-time faces. So last week, Democratic inspiration Teddy Kennedy appeared at Farrell's side.
Keep in mind that Farrell (like many Democrats) wants House speaker Dennis Hastert to resign and wants Shays to return any funds raised by the tainted Foley. A tired, irritable Shays fought back with this: "I know the speaker didn't go over a bridge and leave a young person in the water, and then have a press conference the next day."
Can we get a "Oh, no, you didn't!" from the gallery? Perhaps a "You did not just go there"?
Shays was, of course, referring to Chappaquiddick, the 1969 incident in which Kennedy's car ran off a Massachusetts bridge, killing his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, and burying Kennedy's chances of reviving his family's presidential legacy.
When you think about it that way, Shays is right. Dennis Hastert and Ted Kennedy have absolutely nothing in common.
Shays Hits Hard in Page Scandal [Hartford Courant]
Yesterday, one of our own, a blogger named Connecticut Bob, completely flipped the script and busted a guerrilla journalistic cap in the ass of a Connecticut Blob named Joe Lieberman. Bob not only gets right up in a sitting U.S. Senator's face and boo-ya! catches him in a lie (Lieberman denied calling the Foley mess a partisan frenzy), but fluidly strings together the evidence to back it up and gets it online with lightning speed. It's an amazing example of "People Powered Media" getting a jump on the MSM. One MSM-er even had the guts to admit it, though the rest of the green-visor-wearing fossils in the print graveyard failed to rattle even a bone of acknowledgment.
They're scared, of course. And for good reason: Rarely has a guy recording his interview on a camera-phone broken down a major politician so effortlessly. Sure, it was a pretty minor lie. And, okay, it's hard to see how it could impede Lieberman's lead (50-40 against Ned Lamont as of Oct. 5). And, yes, even if it did, making Joe Lieberman look like a fool isn't exactly a Watergate-level scoop.
We don't know Connecticut Bob, but we assume Friday was a big day for him. Maybe he puffed up his chest and went out for a drink. He met his pals at Bloggies, the packed house yelled "Bob!" and the drinks flowed, uh, liberally, deep into the night. Bloggers in Hammel On Trial T-shirts high-fived bloggers in Bruce Cochburn T-shirts. And a girl came in. But seemed like she was looking for another place, so she left. Which is okay. Because when you're feeling that great, when you're riding that high, who needs the pressure? Not Connecticut Bob, the man who made your laptop shake.
Connecticut Republican representative Christopher Shays called for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's resignation on Wednesday. Shays, a longtime supporter of the Iraq war, is frustrated by misleading testimony given by Pentagon officials appearing before the House Government Reform subcommittee on national security, emerging threats, and international relations. Shays who chairs the subcommittee and has traveled to Iraq fourteen times since the war began joins a growing list of moderates in tough election fights trying to carve out the right position on the unpopular Iraq War.
"I am losing faith in how we are fighting this war," he told the Washington Post. "I believe we have to motivate the Iraqis to do more."
Tough stuff. And you thought Hugo Chavez could swing the rhetorical anvil. Shays offered his comments while waving a copy of Chicken Soup for the Scared Bush Supporter's Soul, which peaked Wednesday at 146,324 on Amazon.com sales rankings.
"GOP Lawmaker Calls for Rumsfeld to Quit" [AP]
Democrats, save what little hair you have left after reading Matt Bai's New York Times Magazine profile of Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean. You'll need something to yank after realizing that there are ten congressional districts in New York where Democrats are running either against incumbent Republicans or for an open seat. Winning these races is unlikely, especially with Dean off fomenting liberal revolution among the change-hungry peoples of Utah and Alaska.
Hillary took a shot at Dean's 50-State Strategy last Friday at a DNC fund-raising event. "The [Republican National Committee] is pouring tens of millions of dollars into races and we're not matching that. We're doing investments, you know, in ground [operations] and other efforts which will be very beneficial, but the RNC has about $60 million to $70 million waiting to drop on our candidates."
An aide stepped in to extract the talons of truth and pull back to a more cautious "Well, we did say something nice about the DNC" position, but the Yawper can read between the lines in Newsday. The DNC elected Dean in 2005 on the strength of the 50-State Strategy; for Dean to keep his job, the Republicans must lose the majority.
Back in July, Jeanine Pirro's first campaign ad mocked Andrew Cuomo's brief stint in the office of legendary Manhattan D.A. Robert Morgenthau. His tenure as a "junior prosecutor" lasted only 21 months, the spot said. As the gig in Morgenthau's office was likely arranged by Mario Cuomo, Andrew comes off looking more like Fredo Corleone than Atticus Finch.
But in her letter sent Thursday to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Pirro portrays Cuomo's relationship with his Morgenthau colleague Elliot Jacobson as evidence of a partisan witch hunt. But wait? Didn't her ad sneeringly recall that Cuomo served in the D.A.'s office "21 years ago"? What happened to hapless Andy restocking the copy machine?
Pirro has endowed Cuomo with the power to ring up old friends who worked in different divisions of the D.A.'s office and get them to embark on explosive crusades against political opponents.
So stand up, Miss Jeanine! Andrew Cuomo is passing.
Read Jeanine Pirro's letter to Alberto Gonzalez. [NYT]
Jeanine Pirro is the first candidate of the YouTube age. At the beginning of the week, few New Yorkers knew who she was. Thanks to Wednesday's press conference, she could be a viral phenom.
The only precedent for a political snuff film this grisly is the closed-hearing video of Bill Clinton testifying during the Lewinsky scandal. The footage of Pirro's press conference is grainy and disjointed, like surveillance conducted by a stalker with a cell phone. Yet the creepy noir of it all manages to induce sympathy for a person who seemed beyond it.
Pirro has made prosecuting "predatory" sex offenders the theme of her campaign, pushing the notion of a suburban family under siege from unseen evils. Those politics often seemed forced; now they seem scarily, if unintentionally, authentic. This is the best campaign ad Pirro could ever run. And it didn't cost a thing.[Via The Daily Politics]
The news of the day the week, the election? is that Jeanine Pirro, Republican candidate for state attorney general is under investigation for wiretapping her husband. At an afternoon press conference, Pirro admitted to asking former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik to bug the family boat to determine if her husband convicted tax evader Albert J. Pirro Jr. was having an affair.
As political spouses go, Al is no Laura Bush. He spent eleven months in prison, fathered an illegitimate daughter during his marriage to Pirro, and was recently arrested for speeding. This latest disaster comes on the heels of the revelation that Pirro, as Westchester D.A., had ignored a call to examine DNA evidence that ultimately exonerated a murderer.
You almost have to admire the mixture of incompetence and fortitude that compels Jeanine Pirro to press on, Job-like, with her political career. She has to know these things can become public. She certainly doesn't do much to ensure they stay private (Holler, Bernie!), yet she ignores these probable pitfalls and continues to seek public office, at higher and higher levels.
In a certain sense, Pirro endures. Early this month, a win over Andrew Cuomo seemed, if not probable, at least possible. It might even have been a contest. Now, it looks assured that New York will be denied the thrill of the horse race in 2006.
Watch the press conference. (WNBC)
The Clinton-Fox-Condi-Hillary "terror wars" doubles match is fun tabloid fodder but a fiery blow to thoughtful public debate. As the ladies take this opportunity to make stern faces at each other, what they should really be doing is hugging.
Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice are both women behind hotheaded men who are alternately worshipped and despised. When Bill Clinton rages at Chris Wallace, Hillary defends him. When George W. Bush says something incomprehensible, Condi regurgitates his words in an educated, sensible manner. Together, they've shouldered a burden that should give them a bond.
But instead, they hiss at each other. In an effort to begin the healing, Early and Often invited Hillary and Condi to a pretend undisclosed location. The following détente ensued:
E&O: Well, the healing, let's get it rolling. Madame Secretary?
Condi: Well, first off, it's my job. I serve at the pleasure of the president of the United States. I respond to criticism of our foreign policy be it from Bill Clinton or Hugo Chavez.
Hillary: Ah! See, right there, there is it. No shame, no shame at all with you people. I came in here in good faith I canceled bingo in Peekskill. Seniors never forget, never.
I let you choose the bottled water. I …
Condi: It was just an example chosen at random.
Hillary: Was Max Cleland an example chosen at random?
Condi: I don't even know what that means.
[Rice's cell phone rings. Her ringtone is the theme from Dallas.]
Condi: I … I gotta take this … Hi … Yes. I'm in New York. Tonight, I'll be back down tonight.
What's wrong? What? Say it again. [Pauses, speaks in a stage whisper.] They're in the third drawer from the top, to the left, next to your golf shirts. [Turns to Clinton.] I'm sorry.
Hillary: Dress pants?
Condi: "Work" jeans. It's "brush-clearing day."
Hillary: I see.
Condi: [Perspiring] I'd rather you didn't witness that …
Hillary: It's fine.
[Five minutes of silence.]
Hillary: It's strange. These men we've chosen. Chelsea and I, we have our own language at this point. We didn't even have to make eye contact during that Fox thing. It's in the air.
Condi: It was what it was.
Hillary: It always is.
What you can expect from New York Magazine's politics daily.