Since resigning last Friday and then blaming a Rahm Emanuel–led conspiracy for pushing him out as revenge for voting against health-care reform Representative Eric Massa of New York’s 29th has become a bit of a Republican hero, not least for putting the image of the nude, finger-jabbing Emanuel into conservative bloggers’ minds and Photoshop collages. This unlikely twist of fortune will be made official at 5 p.m. today with an hour-long appearance on Glenn Beck’s show. But while Massa’s Democratic colleagues are surprised by the speed of events “he was always a kind of intense dude, but nobody expected this,” says a staffer for a fellow congressman who’s worked with Massa they’re also enjoying his flameout, and expecting it to get worse. New York political consultant Hank Sheinkopf calls him a “nice enough fella” who’s “obviously lost his mind,” and another Washington source who worked with Massa for six years has an even starker take.
“He’s always at the center of every story somehow. If you look at the transcript from that radio show, it’s just a bunch of little stories, and that’s how he constantly is: little stories about everything. Whatever you say in front of him — ‘Man, I love Burger King’ — he’ll immediately say, ‘Oh yeah, I know the founder and we came up with the recipe for the fries together.’ He’ll tell you he ran Wesley Clark’s New Hampshire campaign, which will be a surprise to Wesley Clark. There was this thing a couple months ago when he saw a traffic accident and stopped and helped until EMTs arrived. But then a part of the story became that he had been trained in emergency services and had spent time on the ambulance. [Massa claimed it was his twelfth rescue in as many years.] There’s always something like that. You start to wonder how many things he could have possibly done. So he’s either Forrest Gump … or he’s all tall tales.”
Off the record, almost everyone in the New York Democratic establishment happily quotes right-wing blogger Bob Lonsberry’s post claiming Massa has “touched at least two men inappropriately” while at the Navy, and hints that bigger revelations are on the way. “These conservative guys like Rush and Beck that are buying his story and having him on — they’re going to regret it,” forecasts one source. Massa, whose congressional handlers no longer work for him and who now conducts his media strategy through a Hornell radio host named Bill Berry, said he was “exhausted” and had no comment.