Kevin Frisch: That old black magic called politics
In witchcraft, there’s something known as a “familiar,” a sort of nefarious assistant that helps witches carry out their dark doings. Familiars are described, in various writings, as “hellish imps,” “a type of demon” and “evil minions of darkness.”
Politicians, too, have familiars. They are known as party operatives. They work their sulfurous brand of magic not with the aid of toad’s lips and incantations, but with sharp tongues and innuendo.
Edgar Santana, deputy executive director of the New York State Democratic Committee, was busy stirring the cauldron last week after racy e-mails forwarded by Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino were made public. (Someone evidently hacked into the candidate’s computer and found some tasteless e-mails he received and passed along. He was then forced to address the matter. This is what passes for “political discourse” in New York.)
Paladino owned up, apologizing to New Yorkers who might be offended by, say, an e-mail containing images of bestiality that insulted the French. (Well, apologizing to female New Yorkers anyway. He suggested men who had never opened a provocative e-mail not vote for him, making him the first candidate in state history to court the male-provocative-e-mail-loving-bestiality tolerating-French-bating vote.)
So, OK, Paladino is fair game and he answers for his actions. But that’s not enough for the aforementioned Santana, who hoped to cast a larger spell. Thus, this e-mail:
“When asked to comment on Carl Paladino’s offensive emails ... his Republican rival Rick Lazio — who has his own history of offensive actions toward women — hasn’t weighed in.”
There’s a very good reason Lazio hasn’t weighed in: He’s smart. Why would he want to become part of — not to mention help to prolong — the seedy-e-mail story?
And how about that characterization of Lazio as having “his own history of offensive actions toward women.” Talk about working a little verbal witchcraft.
As far as I can tell, Lazio’s history on this count starts and ends with a ham-handed effort he made to get U.S. Senate opponent Hillary Rodham Clinton to sign a pledge during a debate in Buffalo back in 2000. It was bad stagecraft, it was bad politics and it turned undecided voters — including many women — against him. But I don’t know that even Clinton considered it offensive, and it hardly constitutes a “history ... of actions.”
Santana wasn’t dancing alone near the political pentagram; Michael Czin, northeast regional press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, issued a press release broadcasting Paladino’s e-mails — “Racism, Porn” — to the latter’s Tea Party backers, adding, as an aside, an allegation that the candidate had fathered a child during an extramarital affair.
Not to suggest that there isn’t a Wicked Witch of the Red States to counter that of the Blue. Indeed, placing a pox on the opposite house seems to be the chief mode of political-speak.
Just to dip into this week’s e-mail for an example: Republican U.S. Senate candidate David Malpass of New York hadn’t even finished his announcement tour before his familiar, spokeswoman Jessica Proud, was calling on opponent Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand to disassociate with her consulting firm, which evidently settled some pension fund unpleasantness with the state attorney general. “Will she stand with the taxpayers or with her tainted political advisors?” Proud wondered.
It’s all part of that black magic called partisan politicking.
And you thought it was just a coincidence Halloween and Election Day are so close together.
ContactMessenger managing editor Kevin Frisch at (585) 394-0770, ext. 257, or via e-mail at email@example.com.