Kevin Frisch: Rage against the (political) machine
Canandaigua, N.Y. -- When New York's increasingly worrisome Republican nominee for governor, Carl Paladino, said he was going to "take a baseball bat to Albany," I assumed he was speaking euphemistically. Now I'm not so sure.
The famously petulant Tea Party populist - who wears his anger as proudly as most politicians wear their little American flag pins - just endured the kind of week that would torpedo most campaigns:
- Published reports disclosed his inner circle consists of a spokesman who has been in trouble with the IRS and an advisor (sometimes driver) who served jail time for DWI and an aide who was indicted on charges of stealing more than $1 million from a past political campaign.
- He made allegations that his opponent, Democratic gubernatorial candidate and state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, took a "payoff" -- while he was HUD director for the Clinton administration -- from a businessman who is now a campaign donor, and that he may have had extramarital affairs. He offered little proof of either assertion.
- Gazing into his crystal ball at a future Paladino administration, he told a reporter, "It's not going to be pretty. ... It's going to be very confrontational."
- As if to prove that - not that anyone doubted his word - he got into a now-infamous shouting match with a New York Post reporter, offering up the threat, "I'll take you out, Buddy!"
Not that there wasn't some good news last week. Rick Lazio dropped out of the race on the Conservative ticket and the party formally endorsed Paladino.
State Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long must be mightily conflicted these days. While Tea Party-powered Paladino is a good bet to lure the 50,000 votes a party needs to stay on the ballot in New York, Long hasn't exactly been a fan.
"If Carl Paladino wins this thing, it will cause severe damage - it could be for decades - to the Republican Party of New York State," Long told the New York Times earlier this month.
As ringing endorsements go, that's one without a peal.
State Conservative Party Vice Chairman Tom Cook of Monroe County is considerably less conflicted; he announced he was resigning his post as a result of the endorsement.
But it was Paladino's rant Wednesday evening when the Post's Fred Dicker asked him for proof of his Cuomo-affair allegation that will likely define the candidate and his campaign.
He was angry. He was accusatory. He was evasive. And he was wrong: He had no proof that Cuomo had ever had an affair and later backed off the assertion, saying he only meant to suggest the media scrutinize Cuomo's past as it has his own.
But basically, he was a bully.
We're all angry about the condition of New York. We all want the power structure shaken up and the status quo dismantled. But anger in and of itself is not a governing tool. The state's in bad enough shape - the last thing New York needs is an unpredictable hothead swinging a baseball bat, spewing threats and raging against those with whom he has already pledged to be confrontational.
So. That was a fast campaign. Thanks to his questionable confidantes, erratic assertions and bombastic behavior, the race for New York's top elective post may well be all over, except for the shouting.
If nothing else, Paladino will ensure there is plenty of that.
Messenger managing editor Kevin Frisch's column, "Funny Thing ...", appears each Sunday in the Daily Messenger. Contact him at (585) 394-0770, ext. 257, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.