Friday, March 14, 2008

The Jar

#372 The Jar

I am setting up a "swearing jar." But instead of putting a quarter in it every time I swear, I'm going to put a quarter in it everytime I say -- or even think -- a good thought about anyone in politics, past, present or future. When I have accumulated enough money, I'm going to call up The Emperors Club -- or whatever name they've changed it to by then -- and ask for an appointment with someone Eliot Spitzer hasn't been with.

This is a medium term project, that is, under ten years. The cost of the phone call and the Viagra will come out of cash flow. There will be no crossing of state lines.

Thinking back on 50 years of covering politicians, I can pick out only a handful of the ones that weren't either on the take or abusing their office in some way. Maybe mayors Dinkins, Koch and Bloomberg. Maybe Congressman Otis Pike of Riverhead (although there's some doubt about that,) and Assembly speaker Perry Duryea of Montauk. Senators Javits, and Kennedy and Moynihan. (I like Al D'Amato personally, but that doesn't mean I am oblivious to some of his shenanigans.) Federal judge Eugene Nickerson, Assemblyman Jerry Kremer. Representatives Peter King and Allard Lowenstein. Not a long list.

The Nassau County State Supreme Court judge who performed a wedding ceremony in 1962, and whose name I have forgotten, got his job when appointed by the county Democratic party chairman. The chairman and the judge were the same guy. The same county sent one Republican party chairman to prison, after he took the place of a guy involved in shady land deals. Same county that spawned a Chief Appeals Court justice, Sol Wachtler, who resigned in disgrace after a smarmy affair during which he made what we now would call harassing telephone calls and disguised himself as a cowboy.

A commissioner who lived down the block got a new sidewalk from a municipal contractor. A town supervisor was on the take and did time and then got another municipal job. Prosecuted by a district attorney who also was on the take, and another one who became an anti-abortion activist, but restricted his activism, largely, to times he was on the clock.

Land deals, sewer deals, road deals, bridge deals, welfare deals, snow removal deals, park deals, stock deals, tuition deals. Relatives on the payroll, usually in no-show jobs. What are friends for?

And those are just the guys whose stories come easily to mind.

I have been alive through the administrations of a dozen Presidents, at least eight nine of whom had serious flaws, either personal or professional. And all twelve were liars.

I have covered dozens of campaigns in which sexist or racist rantings and other scare tactics were the order of the day. Fear taxes. Fear blacks. Fear immigrants. Fear women. Fear Arabs. Fear Catholics. Fear Mormons. Fear Evangelicals. Fear Italians, Irish and Jews. Fear homosexuals.

Gridlock. Deadlock. Gay liaisons. Non-gay liaisons. Guys who award themselves pay increases. Guys who get their houses painted by government employees on government time. Guys who are paid municipal or state or federal money to campaign?

Dunno. Maybe it's just I got to cover the bad lot. Maybe there are a lot of good types out there. Metzenbaum, maybe. But I keep going back to the line attributed to Henry Kissinger: 90 percent of politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation.

I'm done with all this stuff, except when I have to not-be.

Emperors Club, it won't be long now. The jar is big. Those quarters already are mounting up, to coin a phrase.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2008


Anonymous said...

kins, Kennedy and Moynahan not using their public office for advantage? Wow!

Peter S. said...

To your short list, I'd like to add one - who you've probably never heard of: Former Rep. Matthew McHugh, former Tompkins County DA who was a Democrat elected to Congress in the post-Watergate election of 1974.

Nice man, treated young, upcoming reporters well, and it was at his headquarters that I had my first successful live-on-election-night radio experience. He served until 1992, currently retired.

OK, who really knows if he ever did anything bad. I owe you a quarter.

4761 J-6

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