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Archive of Lovable Losers

11/ 2/06

4:30 PM

Lovable Losers 

Callaghan Brings in the Too Big Guns

John McCain has broken his excruciating silence on the Hevesi scandal and come out in favor of Republican Christopher Callaghan.

Like all Americans, the people of New York want and deserve integrity in their government, and that's why I'm endorsing Chris Callaghan for State Comptroller. Chris Callaghan has the integrity, the honesty and the decades of experience to restore faith in the Comptroller's Office, and I know that he will make an outstanding fiscal watchdog for the people of New York State. Chris Callaghan is the right man for this job, and I'm looking forward to encouraging New Yorkers to support his candidacy. Chris Callaghan is going to make a great comptroller.

And really, who better to judge the work of the Saratoga Country treasurer than a senator from Arizona?

Read the full release.


11:37 AM

Lovable Losers 

Faso Lifts Up Their Hearts

John Faso inspires a crowd in Brooklyn.Photograph by Jon Dolan

The Brownstone Republicans don't meet in a brownstone. They meet in the mauve-beige first-floor community room of Cadman Towers, one of the finest structures built under Mitchell-Lama.

There were about 60 people assembled at last night's candidate forum: ten or so low-level journos and a gaggle of party loyalists who have the passing familiarity of early-bird-special regulars. Even in what is, by all accounts, a grim hour for New York Republicans, the collegiality inside this safe space trumped the dispiriting political climate outside.

The evening's premier guest, gubernatorial candidate John Faso, arrived promptly at 6:30 and almost immediately launched into the one thing all local Republicans can speak about with unmitigated glee: Alan Hevesi and Eliot Spitzer's refusal to accept Christopher Callaghan as the inevitable best man for the job.

"In essence, what he's saying to the voters is 'Don't vote in the race for comptroller,'" Faso said. "'Don't vote in that race.' And what they want — and this is the dirty little secret — is they want Mr. Hevesi to be elected so Spitzer and Shelley Sliver can pick who the next comptroller is." Then he outlined his tax-cutting plan and transitioned into the line that endears him most deeply to this crowd. "The essential difference between myself and Eliot Spitzer is he believes in the power of government to ordain human behavior. I am very skeptical of the power of government to ordain human behavior."

It's an unmentioned irony that if government wasn't in the business of ordaining public life to some extent, massive middle-income housing blocks like this one wouldn't exist and the Brownstone Republicans might be squeezing into one of their members' own homes.

But there were stranger things to wonder about last night. Like how can a politician whose entire platform is based on cutting taxes to stimulate investment have raised but one-tenth the money of his liberal, Democrat opponent? Why hasn't the national party stepped in to spend New Yorkers' contributions on a New York race? Why haven't state officials been more supportive of their standard bearer? ("Pataki stabbed him in the back," noted an elderly man to harrumphing approval.)

"It's a big money game," said Faso.

And yet political events aren't about political realities. A woman at the back of the room whom Faso called on by name offered a comment-question about the irrefutable success of the Bush tax cuts. A room of Democrat activists at the height of Clinton's popularity wouldn't have shown the kind of spirited approval these people did for Bush at the nadir of his popularity and power. Of course, no small amount of that against-the-odds enthusiasm extends to their troubled candidate for governor. Sort of.

A man at the front asked Faso if he'd be interested in running in a special election for what will soon be Alan Hevesi's old job. After a polite briefing on the procedural impossibility of such an occurrence, Faso, more a straight-talk guy than a hope-and-dreams hawker, stepped back and looked into the middle distance where embattled pols see possibilities no one else can: "Every day I wake up and I tell myself, 'I can win. I can win. I can win.'"

The place went bananas (in an understated blue-blazer way, of course). And for one brief moment, the basement of this Soviet-style housing project became the epicenter of promise for a tax-slashing, free-spending, investment-soaked tomorrow that will lift all boats in a monsoon of trickle-down manna. It's the weirdest irony, and the only one everyone there could savor.


11:56 AM

Lovable Losers 

Missing: Jeanine Pirro

Have you seen this woman?Photograph by Patrick McMullan

With all the madness surrounding John Spencer's messy mouth and Alan Hevesi's hard times, the lady that started this whole scandal-scarred trend, Jeanine Pirro, has slipped from our sights. She's hasn't been in the papers much since her eyeball-gauging debates with Andrew Cuomo on October 15 and 17. Today she lost the endorsement of the New York Post. She did, however, get one Tuesday from recently retired U.S. congressman Amo Houghton, one of the few Republicans in Congress to vote against the Iraq war.

"It's been quiet compared to the last three weeks," says Pirro spokesperson John Gallagher.

Yesterday Pirro did radio and television interviews in the Buffalo area and stayed at her mother's house in Elmira, where mom made dinner for Pirro and a couple of traveling companions. Today she has a fund-raiser in Binghamton and an endorsement from the Syracuse Chamber of Commerce. Tonight she'll be back downstate speaking to the Bronx Realty Advisory Board at the Bronx Botanical Gardens. Pirro will end her evening in Westchester speaking to the Westchester-Rockland Society of Pharmacists. This event isn't open to the public, but if you can sneak in, pack your Zoloft. Those cats can party.

If you want to get on Team Pirro, there's a "Jeanine Pirro Get Out the Vote Meeting" tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. at the Metropolitan Republican Club, 122 E. 83rd St., nr. Lexington Ave.

Catch the wave!

Cuomo for Attorney General [NYP]

Can This Marriage Be Saved? [NYM]

10:50 AM

Lovable Losers 

Spinning Spencer

Free publicity isn't easy to come by in a pay-for-play culture such as ours. The stage light of fate falls where it may and rarely fixes its gaze for long. Like any student of the biz, John Spencer's handler, Rob Ryan, knows this rule. He's spinning like a top to keep his boy from falling off the front page and into the ass-end of the "Metro" section from whence few polls rise.

Yesterday Ryan continued to stoke the simmering controversy initiated by his charge's untoward comments about Senator Hillary Clinton's appearance. In a letter to the Daily News, he questioned "blogger/reporter" Ben Smith's account of the Spencer story. Like Broadway Danny Rose working a one-legged juggler, Ryan sets about making stew out of gruel:

For some reason, known only to him, Mr. .Smith seems to believe that the word "work" automatically translates into "plastic surgery". Perhaps he should keep up on the news and read what his fellow bloggers have to say on the matter. Just yesterday, Amanda Carpenter, a respected editor and author, wrote on the blog HILLARY WATCH that in the months of April and May 2006 the Clinton campaign reported spending $3,000 on celebrity hairstylist Isabelle Goetz to work on Senator Clinton's hair. In the month of May alone, Senator Clinton's campaign spent $2800 on the talents of make-up artist Barbara Lacey to work her magic on Mrs. Clinton. Are these professionals not being paid for their work?

Through-out both stories Mr. Smith runs rough shod over the quotes and the facts. Two glaring examples of inaccuracies are the claim that last Friday he and Mr. Spencer were on the "10:30 am JetBlue flight" — yet no such flight exists. Mr. Smith also refers to me as Mayor Spencer's "campaign manager" — a position I do not hold. My business card lists me as Communications Director and I have also been referred to as "campaign spokesperson" but, never campaign manager. While both these matters may appear trivial, I feel they are indicative of the sloppiness with which Mr. Smith has approached this story. If he can't report these simple facts correctly, how can we expect him to accurately report quotes without a tape recorder or without written notes?

It's hard to imagine John Spencer seeing Hillary's hair and saying, "Oh, that styling has Isabelle Goetz written all over it, and she does not come cheap" and then retroactively pricing the "work" to reach his estimated "millions" of dollars. But the idea of John Spencer: Secret Fashion Aesthete is intriguing. Nice work, Rob.

When in Doubt, Shoot the Messenger [Capitol Confidential]


5:24 PM

Lovable Losers 

Callaghan Cashes In

Chris Callaghan looks forward to crowded press conferences.Courtesy of Callaghan for New York

J. Christopher Callaghan is driving his '99 Honda Civic east on the thruway right now and talking (through an earpiece, of course) about something that never seemed possible for his Cinderella campaign for state comptroller: a television ad!

"I'm feeling greeeat!" he says. "Cable is within financial reach. I think we can make that happen."

Yesterday, editorial boards pounced on an ethics report that found Alan Hevesi's use of a chauffeur for his wife and his failure to properly reimburse his office unlawful. Today, GOP operatives at the New York Republican State Committee frantically began making calls to raise money for Callaghan and cut his bare-bones campaign a $25,000 check.

"The ethics ruling changes everything," says Ryan Moses, the committee's executive director, who's also planned a Monday fund-raiser for Callaghan. "We're not gonna leave a stone unturned when it comes to this race."

The $25,000 check is big money for Callaghan. As of today, Callaghan says his campaign has a measly $10,000 on hand — money he claims is already committed. (Hevesi reported about $5.9 million in funds to the New York State Board of Elections earlier this month.)

And Callaghan's got a long way to go to get on air — even in small markets. Political strategists estimate any legitimate television campaign could cost $1 million bucks, give or take. "Having $25,000 in the New York market around Election Day is like taking a nickel and dumping it in the Pacific Ocean and hoping you can find it a month later," says Dem consultant Hank Sheinkopf. "Could he do it? Sure. He could produce it on cardboard and Ogdensburg [a city near the Canadian border, pop. 12,364] could watch it like twelve, fifteen times."

Geoffrey Gray

Don't Count Him Out [NYM]


4:35 PM

Lovable Losers 

Never Too Early For Shays's Rebellion

Last week Representative Chris Shays (R-Conn.) stepped outside the niceties of standard political discourse and put a salty smackdown on Teddy Kennedy. Today the ten-term incumbent forged a new path of questionable discourse, preserved by Greg Sargent (also a New York Magazine contributing editor) at TPMCafe. In a debate with Democratic challenger Dianne Farrell, Shays — a supporter of the Iraq war — expressed his wish that we had entered Iraq earlier. "Now let me just tell you something about the reality. We're there. And if we made mistakes, we're still there. In my judgment, we should have gone in sooner but not for weapons of mass destruction."

Sadly, Shays did not elaborate. But we hope desperately that he will; he'll say something even weirder next time.

CT-04: Shays: We Should Have Invaded Iraq "Sooner," and "Not For WMD" [TPMCafe]


2:15 PM

Lovable Losers 

Pirro Claims Slipping Under Statistics

She's back in the papers! Back like a bolt of lightning, like a heart-attack, like … well, like an apparently unsuccessful Westchester district attorney. Today's Times has a piece undercutting Pirro's biggest issue (other than My Sufferings Are the Sufferings of All Mankind). The story asserts Pirro's math is a little fuzzy regarding the 111 sex-crimes convictions she claims to have made while in office. Far from being the iron fist of the law, Pirro was, in fact, unable to match the conviction records of district attorneys in nearby counties. This news comes two days before her first debate with Andrew Cuomo. Let's hear it for the vast political-media conspiracy!

In Sex Arrests Hailed by Pirro, Little Jail Time [NYT]

10/ 9/06

1:30 PM

Lovable Losers 

For Callaghan, Stingy Equals Sexy

We bet Mrs. Hevesi gets whatever sharpener she wants.Courtesy of Staples Inc.

The race for state comptroller is often a dull affair with speeches about auditing state agencies and candidates doodling around the margins of New York's pension program. We are redeemed from political torpor this year as both candidates have offered up their wives to the great race.

For his part, Republican Christopher Callaghan is stingy with his spouse. As Saratoga County Treasurer, Callaghan once denied his wife, who worked in the county clerk's office, an electric pencil sharpener. "I think she may have eventually got one," Callaghan conceded, "but the first answer she got was no."

Contrast this degree of asceticism with incumbent comptroller and inveterate wife spoiler Alan Hevesi, who famously hooked up his old lady with a taxpayer-funded chauffeur to the tune of about 5,000 electric pencil sharpeners. (Assuming Mrs. Callaghan had her eye on the X-ACTO Helix 1900, retailing for $15.99 at Staples.)

It's hard to see how this bodes well for a Callaghan administration in Albany. Treat your wife anyway you want, bub, but don't deny an office drone an automatic pencil sharpener. What's next, a paper-clip-tracking program?

GOP Pins Hopes on Callaghan [NYDN]

10/ 6/06

6:30 PM

Lovable Losers 

Pirro's Tomorrow Begins Today

Jeanine Pirro at the Indian Parade in Brooklyn last month,
when things were simpler.Courtesy Globe Photos

Beleaguered attorney-general candidate Jeanine Pirro was pleased to learn Thursday that a Quinnipiac University poll showed her trailing Andrew Cuomo by nineteen points. Pirro told the Times Herald-Record that her marital troubles have been good for the campaign: "It brought me up. Quinnipiac had me at 23 or 24 (points) a couple weeks ago, and I bounced up five. All the polls are moving in the right direction. I think that as New Yorkers start to realize there is only one candidate who's got the experience and the qualifications to do this job, they'll realize I am the person that should be elected."

Maybe she's on to something? Okay, of course she's not. But we like to dwell in the realm of the possible, so here's a theory: Today's reports that Pirro was not a part owner of "the family boat" (which would make it illegal for her to attempt to bug it) present the saga's first more-boring-than-crazy twist. It's lawyers doing their lawyering, not something that compels you to get up at 5 a.m., go to the Post's Website, and hit refresh over and over again. Which might mean the inanity portion of the program is winding down.

So after two weeks of public humiliation, she's no worse off in the polls than she was before the scandal broke. Pirro's name recognition has spread beyond people who watch NY1's "Inside City Hall" and now extends to most living mammals. Though trailing by nineteen points isn't anyone's idea of a good poll, it's encouraging for Pirro. There's still time.

10/ 5/06

11:55 AM

Lovable Losers 

John Spencer's Thousand-Yard Stare

With round-the-clock craziness roiling the Republican asylum, it's easy to lose track of an inmate or two. But then a candidate does something to bring the spotlight of questionable behavior back on himself.

Republican Senate hopeful John Spencer, a Vietnam vet who loves the smell of napalm in the morning so much he sprinkles it on his Cheerios, has released a statement calling on supporters to enlist in his undying fight against the VC in our midst, Hanoi Hillary Clinton.

In a "National Security Dispatch" (a.k.a. a campaign mailer) "Lt. John Spencer (USA-Vietnam)" let slip the dogs of war in language that might make even a Grenada-invasion reenactor like Dick Cheney a little squeamish.

"We are going to do exactly what I led my men to do when we were outnumbered in combat — target our fire for maximum efficiency and maximum effectiveness," the bad lieutenant entreats metaphorically (we hope).

"My friend, one thing I learned in combat is that nothing matters more than being able to count on the person standing by your side, and I am counting on YOU today." Now, hit the Paypal and give Lieutenant Spencer $20.

Even 35 years after the Vietnam, the caissons still roll, the bugles still blare, and the call to arms echoes across the purple mountains and fruited plains in the space between his ears.

"Clinton Opponent Uses Combat Images in Fundraising Appeal" [AP]

10/ 3/06

5:45 PM

Lovable Losers 

‘That Voter ’ Spotted Wearing Faso T-Shirt at Faso Rally

No one would argue that it's easy being John Faso. Certainly, not the GOP nominee for governor himself. He's a conservative Republican in a berry-blue state, he's running against a man who wants to be the next FDR, and he had to stage a scrappy underdog campaign to get this terrible gig in the first place. Kierkegaard described such an endeavor as a teleological suspension of the ethical that places faith in the absurd. Great if you chomp baguettes and wear berets. Not so hot if you're a supply-sider with anchorman hair.

And, yet, Faso struggles on. It's what teleology suspenders do.

This week, at an American Legion post in Colonie, New York, Faso opened the "Tax Relief Now" tour, highlighting his signature issue of stimulating the lagging upstate economy by cutting taxes and scaling back intrusive government regulation. Views may differ on the policy, but considering that Faso has less name recognition than the third band on a three-band bill at Arlene's Grocery on a Tuesday, the plan could use a catchier name. Like one of these:

• The Faso-Nation tour
• The Fas, Ass, and Grass tour
• The Hey, I'm Over Here. To the Right. No, WAY to the Right tour
• The Yeah, I'm Kinda Crazy With the Tax Cuts But Who Needs Schools and Roads Anyway tour
• The Render Unto Spitzer tour
• The Back in Black tour (Already taken by AC/DC)
• The Lisa Santangelo! Appearing Here! One Night Only! tour

2:30 PM

Lovable Losers 

He Learned It By Watching Joycelyn Elders

Chris Migliaccio, 23-year-old Republican from Queens, may not succeed in his maiden voyage into electoral politics (a long-shot bid for the State Assembly), but he has stumbled into his very first political mini-imbroglio. Competing in an American Parliamentary Debate Association tournament late last month at Smith College, the Cardozo law student launched into an impassioned plea for the teaching of masturbation in sex-ed classes, outlining his plan to extend a helping hand to frustrated kids and touching on more general themes in the field ("a friend of mine just got chlamydia," he says in an aside at one point).

Of course, this was all in the theoretical domain of a college debate competition and Chris doesn't suggest we practice what his debate-self preaches. But in the YouTube (or, in this case Google Video) age, where meaning is abstracted from context, it looks pretty bad, like the saddest campus comic on earth who's not Dane Cook.

This might not be so safe for work.

GOP Candidate's Hands-on Politics [NYDN]


1:30 PM

Lovable Losers 

Pirros at the Gate

They're not the Clintons. They're not the Sopranos. They're the Pirros. And they've got our hearts by the kneecaps. Still, we worry. In today's accelerated media cycle, could even a story this great get swept from our national consciousness? How do we keep this week's "Political Wife Bugs Her Cheating Husband" from turning into next week's "Killer Shark Terrorizes Florida Beaches"?

Give it a "gate." Affixed to a -gate, no event can be smudged from the page of history. Some options: Algate, Berniegate, Stugotsgate, Gated Community Gate, Rejected HBO Pilot Gate, Crying Through Your Most Recent Collagen Injection Gate, Leave Him! Gate, Waste Management Gate, Who Will Tell the Children Gate, My Torment Is My Shield Gate, and, of course, Troopergate.


11:30 AM

Lovable Losers 

Hall & Votes

Praying for a politics of hope? Well, the Democratic candidate for Congress in the Hudson Valley's Nineteenth District has been fighting for a better, groovier tomorrow for three decades. As co-leader of seventies soft-rock hit makers Orleans, John Hall mellowed out our worried post-Watergate minds with tunes like "Still the One" and "Dance With Me."

Hall, a longtime environmental activist, served two years in the Ulster County Legislature (1989–1991). He may be inexperienced, but he is no stranger to political conflict. When the Bush campaign used "Still the One" as a theme song, Hall sent over a cease-and-desist order. The president found another song.

"I thought it was pretty typical of this administration," Hall told the Times Herald-Record on September 17. "They assumed they could use anything they wanted without permission, and they were too incompetent to do a Google search and see that I had been elected as a Democrat."

Hall bested three other candidates in the Democratic primary, but the general election is more intimidating. Four-term GOP incumbent Sue Kelly may be vulnerable in a year when the Bush administration is up for a no-confidence vote, but she has nearly $1.3 million to Hall's not-quite $246,000 (as of August 23). Also, Hall's contemplation of impeachment could be a little much for this largely suburban district that elected George Bush by nine points over John Kerry.

So Hall is an inexperienced environmentalist liberal with no money in a conservative district.

But he's got what Kelly never will: He's got the beat. Sing it with me now:

Fantasy could never be so giving
I feel free I hope that you are willing
Pick the beat up and kick your feet up
Dance with me

Dance on, John Hall. Dance on.

John Hall for Congress
Sue Kelly for Congress