Joe, Eliot and Anthony
I was invited recently to a breakfast gathering for Joseph Lhota, the likely Republican nominee for New York City Mayor.
Now, before any regular readers think I was forcibly detained prior and made to drink some dark-arts potion made from kudzu, Texas mesquite and ground Palmetto bugs, I freely confess I went willingly. I wanted to hear what “Joe” (according to his literature, regular guy, father was a cop, first one in his family to go to college, then transformed into rich, successful, powerful Republican) had to say.
I did this for three reasons. The first is that I am simply a junkie for politics, at any level. The second is that I really believe that if you aren’t willing to listen to what the other side has to say, you might actually be missing something. And the third is that I live here. New York is my town, and it makes a huge difference to me how it is run. So, I very much care about who the next Mayor is.
People who live outside New York tend not to understand us. We are a heaving, hot, opinionated, pushy, sometimes appallingly indifferent, sometimes overwhelmingly generous sprawling mess of greatness. We clearly repel a great many; a close friend has such an animus to the place that he routinely, when referring to any other city, will use “compares favorably to New York” as a suffix. I fully expect him to say “Kabul? Compares favorably with New York.”
Democrats outnumber Republicans by a six to one margin, and the City Council is completely dominated by Democrats, but we are also hardheaded and practical. When it comes to the person at the top of the ticket, we will listen to anyone who has good ideas and seems to have a clue as to how to run the show. The last elected Democrat was David Dinkins (nice man, not a good mayor) who succeeded Ed Koch twenty years ago. We had Rudy, and now we have Mike. Rudy stormed in and, like Hercules, cleaned the Augean Stables. Then, he was reelected, and indulged himself in power and other vices. Bloomberg, on the whole, has done a fine job, albeit with some missteps and some third-term excesses. Personally, I have appreciated Bloomberg’s abilities.
So, why Joe? I listened to him carefully; he was calm, he was rational, he was organized, he was very knowledgeable, and he had a very clever rhetorical trick of turning questions into opportunities to show that knowledge. He was also quite emotionally intelligent; even in a room of deep-pocketed and influential people clearly ready to write a check, he knew there were certain hot buttons you don’t push. We may be more than willing to cross party lines if we think the city will run better, but not for Rick Santorum or Wayne LaPierre.
Of course, no discussion of Joe is complete without one of his Democratic opponents, and he has picked a very opportune time to run. This year’s group is particularly nondescript. There is the well meaning-but-dull Bill Thompson, and the knowledgeable-but-often ham-fisted Council Speaker, Christine Quinn, and seemingly competent-but-bland Sal Albano, and tightly wound (and perhaps scandal-tinged) City Comptroller, John Liu, and the voluble but profoundly old-fashioned Public Advocate (a job that doesn’t have a lot of responsibilities or authority) Bill DeBlasio. Each one of these folk has the endorsement of one public union or another. We also used to be the diligent Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer (more about him later) but he pulled out, and with the blessings of his mates, is now running for City Comptroller.
With apologies to all those worthies, there was a certain lack of, shall we say, sex appeal. Now, don’t get me wrong. New York has had its glamorous Mayors, like John Lindsay, but most of the time, we pick them a little ehhhh. Joe Lohta himself bears an unsettling resemblance to the late actor Peter Boyle. But, this is New York. We are people of substance here. A Bob McDonnell type just wouldn’t fly. We aren’t hiring someone who looks like a host of Fox and Friends.
Still, faced with the well meaning but dull (which, if you think about it, describes a very large percentage of Democratic politicians nationwide) it’s quite possible that Joe’s hulking presence could send shivers down the leg of an Upper East Side doyenne.
Until, of course, Anthony Weiner stepped in. Yes, that chap, who had to resign his seat in disgrace (or something) because of a minor scandal in which he texted a picture of his underwear (while still in it) to a woman who was not his wife. Anthony is back, and with him a little prurient interest. Weiner has better hair than Sal Albano and John Liu, and it’s frankly no contest between him and Joe on that front.
I’m not sure exactly what Anthony Weiner stands for, as the Weiner for Mayor website doesn’t actually say anything, but, pretty clearly, whatever it is must resonate. Weiner is now leading in some of the polls (I have to admit the reasons for that completely escape me) and one would think that the very worthy and hard working Scott Stringer must be a very happy man these days, having made the choice to step aside and have a clear and unencumbered path to the Comptroller’s office.
Ah, the agony of counting one’s chickens. Because, while I might not feel especially inspired by Anthony Weiner’s reentry into political life, others apparently were. Most prominently, Eliot Spitzer, our disgraced (no question about it) former Governor. Mr. Spitzer was brought down by his own sex scandal, which involved prostitutes and various other tawdriness. If you are comparing scandals, Spitzer’s seemed a little more “adult” than Weiner’s, and perhaps that led him to run for a job with great gravitas, the very same City Comptroller’s spot that is the apple in the eye of Scott Stringer.
Stringer, however, is a New Yorker to his very core, and went on CNBC (and later Morning Joe) to say “he’s not going to cry.” We are tough here. Unfortunately, he was identified as “Spitzer Opponent.” And he, too, is trailing in the polls.
You would be amazed at how many people are offended at this, especially among the Republicans. Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post has been having a grand old time, and one waits with anticipation for Fox to carry special commentary on the issue from Newt Gingrich, an acknowledged authority in this area. The Daily Caller, Tucker Carlson’s rag, is actually running an article “Spitzer Honed His Lust For Power As Princeton Student Body President.”
Since you really can’t make any of this up, we will have to see how all these things shake out. Spitzer may not make it on the ballot; he needs a last minute surge in signature gathering to get there, and Scott Stringer’s troops (and lawyers) are waiting for every smudge. As for Weiner, I still have a hard time believing he can get the nomination.
And, what about Joe Lhota? I am sure he is enjoying all this, and he has a well-deserved reputation for competence, but he has some vulnerabilities as well. There is the “Ghost Of Rudy” Issue, as good old Joe was and apparently still is awfully close to our former Mayor.
And Rudy, despite his second life as a perennial critic, candidate, and money machine, just isn’t that popular back here in his home town. He doesn’t seem to be all that fond of us either. When asked by Huff Post if he thought Weiner or Spitzer could win, he said no, but first, he apparently “chuckled” and said "I don't know -- New York is a place that constantly amazes you."
I don’t know either, but the spectacle of Rudy Giuliani (the man who announced his divorce from his second wife at a press conference before mentioning it to either her or their children) opining on Eliot and Anthony’s behavior gave me a bit of a chuckle as well.
I guess I just haven’t made up my mind in the Mayoral race. I may not decide until I walk into the voting booth.
And, as for Comptroller, while I will likely vote for Stringer, I’m half-rooting for Spitzer. It isn’t just the sex appeal. A friend who has worked in city government tells me Spitzer is hard-boiled enough to take no prisoners with the budget, and particularly, pension fund management. That is probably a good thing.
I have decided to save the Daily Caller story on Spitzer’s reign of terror at Princeton until Election Night, if he gets there. It’s like putting a bottle of Champagne on ice.
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