“I'm not a witch. I'm nothing you've heard. I'm you. None of us are perfect...”
This quote is not from a spoof on Saturday Night Live or Sabrina the Teen Witch trying to make new friends in high school, but the opening lines uttered in an advertisement being run by a candidate who is running on the Republican Party ticket for the Delaware US Senate seat. Don’t get me wrong. Given how broken Washington is these days, I am even willing to give witchcraft a shot – hell, it could not make things worse. As for candidates, forget about being perfect. What troubles me greatly is not isolated cases of people dabbling in witchcraft, but that all of them seem to lack even the most basic qualities of leadership. I am talking about clear, rational thinking, problem solving skills and an ability to articulate their positions. Case in point is the New York Governor’s race where we have one man who wears black gloves, and represents the ‘Rent is 2 Damn High’ party, and even a self-confessed Madam who professed rather astutely that "businesses will leave this state quicker than Carl Paladino at a gay bar." I guess at least she does have some indirect gubernatorial experience, having supplied female escorts to the last Governor of New York, which is more than we can say about any of the other candidates. The recent debate also included a former Black Panther member, Freedom Party, Green Party and Libertarian Party candidates. Then, on the Republican ticket, we have Carl Paladino, who it seems is willing to “take out” reporters when he is angered about being questioned about his love child. He has also stated that he believes homosexuality is a bad life decision and one that children should be taught and encouraged not to make. Finally, we have Andrew Cuomo, the Democrat and consummate politician. His father was the first Italian American Governor of New York and he, too, has spent his entire life in politics. A fact that should have been a great weakness and Achilles heel for him, at a time when the one thing the whole country agrees on is getting rid of career politicians. You know something is very wrong when, in this environment, Cuomo seems like not just the sane choice for NY Governor, but the only one.
Everywhere I look I see voters being asked to choose between mediocre and less mediocre, corrupt and less corrupt, sane and less sane candidates. In Connecticut there is a Democrat running for Senate who misspoke about his military service; but it seems he misspoke on five separate occasions over as many years. Richard Blumenthal claimed he served in Vietnam when in fact he never left the shores of America. I realise there is a very fine line between politics and lying, but how do you trust a man who has a tendency to misspeak until he is caught doing it? On the other side we have Linda McMahon, who has reportedly spent upwards of $42 million of her personal fortune to make her bid for the Senate seat in the old fashioned manner – by buying her way in. She is the owner and was the CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), which she and her husband built from a small regional company into a global multi-billion dollar empire. A self-made woman but one who is also widely criticized for her decision to classify all wrestlers working for her company as independent contractors rather than employees, purely so that her company would not have to shell out for their Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment insurance. Perhaps, we do need some cut throat, no bullshit, take no prisoners type people to break the current deadlock in Washington and get this country moving again, but my problem is, again, that on the issues that matter to me, I have not been inspired by her. I also do not get a sense that she has a plan or vision. It feels more like she is seizing on the current voter anger and discontent against establishment politicians and using it as an opportunity to fulfil some personal milestone of a type A personality. I am not convinced that we are in good hands with her, but still encourage people to vote for her as she is certainly a better choice over someone who blatantly lies.
I want to move now to the race that personifies mediocrity, nay, in fact it takes mediocrity to another even more shallow level that I once never imagined possible. If you have not figured it out yet, I am talking about Nevada’s Senate race between Harry Reid and Sharron Angle. These candidates have much more in common that the political pundits have given them credit for. For one, each is not only running against the other, but has the added distinction of running against himself and herself. If you think Joe Biden has foot in mouth, then you need to hear some of the gaffes these two have made. While there are too many to list individually, I did pick my favourite gem from each candidate. Angle, during the primary, said that she wanted to “phase out both Social Security and Medicare.” Reid for his contribution stated that Obama was likely to succeed because he is "light skinned" and speaks with "no Negro dialect." Angle has also shown that she has one of the Democratic Party’s strongest traits - snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. When Angle won the Republican primary a few months ago Harry Reid looked like very old toast, but today it’s a really tight race. I feel sorry for Nevadans, but then again it is the home of Las Vegas, and the people of this state have always loved a blind roll of the dice.
Back in New York, we have Mr. Charles B. Rangel, the 80 year old member of the US House of Representatives who serves New York’s 15th District, and has served it since 1971. Since 1971! This means he has held his current office for close to 40 years and nearly served 20 consecutive terms. The House Ethics committee recently charged him with violating 13 ethics and federal regulations. Serious charges that include misusing his office to raise millions for a college building bearing his name, failing to report income tax on properties he owns, and using a rent-stabilized apartment in Harlem as an office while stating that it was for living purposes. Rather than do the honourable thing and resign to clear his name, he has not even made an attempt to explain the charges against him. Instead, Mr. Rangel decided his best defense was offense. He stood up on the floor of the House of Representatives and challenged members of both parties to kick him out. He defiantly told them that if they think he is guilty of violating House rules, then "fire your best shot at getting rid of me through expulsion." He then proceeded to hold a very public and lavish 80th birthday party at New York’s exclusive Plaza Hotel. I am not sure what shocked me more; the fact that he genuinely seems to think he did nothing wrong or that members of both parties have so many corrupt, dirty little skeletons in their own closets that they have quietly faded into the night hoping voters will be the judge and jury for Mr. Rangel.
Finally, there is the junior Senator from New York, Kirsten Gillibrand and all the endorsements she has received during her short term. She filled Hillary Clinton’s vacated Senate seat by special appointment and is now up for re-election. While Mayor Bloomberg recently stated that he will not endorse either Schumer or Gillibrand, he was clearly dazzled by her at a dinner the other night, enough to give her attractiveness a solid endorsement. He told the media, “I did not ask her where her dress came from or anything, but she’s a pleasure to sit next to and she certainly looked good.” Earlier this year Harry Reid, the Senate Majority leader, lauded Gillibrand for being the “hottest member” in the Senate. This seems to be the general consensus on Gillibrand’s service so far. When Gov.Paterson, who is legally blind, was asked by a reporter for his assessment of Gillibrand’s appearance, he replied "Well, I never noticed it, but upon information and belief she is a very pretty woman.” And he added “I think her real influence on people has been in the areas of agriculture and in the areas of national security and in the areas of finance, where she is real hot.”
My advice to all you voters is to go ahead and vote for the wrestler, the witch and the wardrobe. Even if they don’t change a damn thing in Washington, they certainly cannot make things any worse. Besides, we would at least be far more entertained while we continue to watch our tax dollars being used for wasteful spending and corporate bailouts, and we would have much better looking people to hate. And that folks is progress in my book!