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1:20 PM

Debate Team 

Hevesi Yearns for Nerd Reputation

Alan Hevesi (center) and Chris Callaghan (right) pause for a moment in between not talking about comptrolling.Photograph by Keith Bedford/AP

During the journalist roundtable on NY1 following last night's sweatily anticipated Alan Hevesi-Chris Callaghan debate, Village Voice reporter Tom Robbins compared Hevesi's discourse to Nixon's "Checkers" speech of the 1952 vice presidential campaign. The two were similar in many ways but different in one eerie sense: Nixon had his wife, Pat, with him when he appeared on TV to defend himself from allegations of taking illegal contributions, essentially using her as a prop.

Hevesi couldn't produce his infirmed wife, Carol, but he conveyed her spirit with grim imagery of her spinal injury, three open-heart surgeries, and attempted suicide. Had Hevesi stuck with the implication that life with a chronically ill loved one can at times drive a person beyond reason, he might have approached the resolute dignity Nixon nailed in the Checkers speech. But in his vacillations between "abjectly" apologetic, combative, defiant, equivocating, and indignant, our troubled state comptroller fast-forwarded straight to the Tricky Dick of Watergate. Rather than the humble state number-cruncher coming clean, we got King Lear with a calculator.

And it's sad, because 35 years of good public service is a pretty lousy thing to throw away in one moment of careless hubris. When the debate turned to the actual office the candidates sought (about minute 49), we saw something that's been pretty absent throughout all the (admittedly excellent) scandalmongering: Alan Hevesi can comptroll his ass off. Check out this dig at Callaghan's shoddy oversight as Saratoga County treasurer. "The lack of proper accounting records and the failure to adequately monitor the financial status of each capital project is a significant weakness in the county's management system." Ouch.

If only Hevesi had stuck with the droning, banal stuff no one cares about. Then we'd be awarding our top accountant with the obliviousness he so deserves, rather than the persecution he now endures.

Hevesi Defends Accusations in Comptrollers Debate [NY1]