COMPLAINING POL: Gatey, if you care to write an extended diatribe about what you are inferring from a statement that i release, i would recommend giving me a call beforehand.
Why do some pols (Charles Barron--who is not the whiner above-- most comes to mind), not understand the simple difference between a reporter and an opinion writer?
Reporters find facts and break news. Opinion writers analyze news. If I break a story (it’s happened), it is a happy accident. When I need a fact to do a piece I do make a call or send an email.
But I usually have no need to do this.
If a politician chooses to release a quote into the “Stream of Commentary,” I do not need to check the facts:
The quote, though often a damned lie, is in itself the fact.
I then have the right to analyze it using all my stored knowledge and ability to research, and all of my powers of analysis, such as they are.
If the pol disagrees with what I say, he is free to post his own comment, or even his own piece.
But in all these years of pols whining about not getting a call beforehand, almost none of them has ever challenged me on the facts.Since publishing two long and interlocking pieces about the responses of various pols to the criminal complaints filed against State Senator Carl Kruger and Assemblyman William “Junior” Boyland (but decidedly not about the criminal complaints themselves), as well as some follow up, I’ve been swamped with emails, Facebook messages, and even a few comments on the threads.
Some of the stuff I’ve received is in the realm of tasteless (“I watched “’Midnight Cowboy’ the other night and there’s an uncanny resemblance between Joe Buck’s grandma and Dotty Turano,” and “He’s gynecologist? Talk about wasted opportunities”).
Other comments made me do so more re-thinking.
It was a subject I thought I’d beaten to death, but to my surprise, there’s some life left in the old girl (not a Kruger reference) yet.
One thought is it would be useful to examine the range of response.
From the far regular end of the spectrum, we have former Surrogate and State Assemblyman Frank Seddio, a Regular Democratic, supporter of County Leader Vito Lopez and the District Leader from Kruger’s home club.Seddio, a man most famous for the Christmas displays at his Canarsie Home, first takes the trouble of repeating what he says is Kruger’s (somewhat un-Christ-like) response, which mostly consisted of the word “Fuck,” after which Seddio offered his own opinion.
SEDDIO: "I don't know what will happen with Carl Kruger but anytime I have dealt with him he has been an honest broker…I stand on the belief that you stand by your friends. If that is something that would hurt me so be it. I am not going to shrink away from people that I have a relationship with just because some one made an allegation.”
Whatever one thinks about this, it is the sort of old-fashioned expression of loyalty rarely seen anymore. Many may not like Frank Seddio’s value system, but given the overwhelming negative press coverage of Kruger in this complaint’s wake, one has to acknowledge that Seddio has a sense of honor and a value system, and it is one which stands up in the worst of times, consequences be damned.
Surely, Kruger, a gay man who votes against same sex marriage, would not do the same for Seddio. For Kruger, expedience always trumps honor.Irregular Democrat and anti-Lopez Councilman Lew Fidler, who also comes out of Kruger’s area of the world, but hardly qualifies as a friend, even they share much territory and many supporters, takes a different, but also honorable tact.
The Brooklyn Paper described Fidler as “stunned.” They also describe him as coming to Kruger’s defense, but the words actually Fidler used indicate something quite different:
FIDLER: “Carl Kruger, just like any American, is entitled to a presumption of innocence,”
As an expression of support, this may be somewhat better than “Brutus in an honorable man,” although, unlike Marc Anthony, Fidler does not acknowledge Kruger’s honor.
Fidler could almost be Howard Dean talking about the rights of Osama bin Laden, but with far less passion.
Moving to the Borough’s refomier precincts, we come to nerdcore phenomena Lincoln Restler.Restler had published a statement calling upon Kruger and Boyland to resign, and posted a statement.
RESTLER: The charges against Senator Carl Kruger & Assemblyman William Boyland are a sad reflection of the corrupt Brooklyn Democratic machine. As Chairman of the Brooklyn Democratic Committee, Vito Lopez consistently supports candidates focused on self-enrichment, rather than the needs of our struggling neighborhoods. We need honest leadership in Albany, Sen. Kruger & Assemblyman Boyland should resign their seats immediately.”
This was a rather stunning expression of the belief that Carl Kruger was not “EVERY AMERICAN.”Restler supporter Nick Rizzo posted a long response to my criticism, much of dealing with a matter I had not touched upon and will not, the substance of the charges.
However, Nick, who usually write for Gawker, does make the interesting implication--perhaps in response to my point that Restler did not call for Kevin Parker’s resignation-- that charges involving one’s office may justify a different position than charges about one’s out of office activities (a point also discussed in more detail in my piece on the Republican response). Colin Campbell of theBrooklyn Politics Blog made the point more explicitly:
COLIN: Your point about possible hypocrisy given Lincoln's actions or inactions in other cases from Parker to Osama is …subject to being argued as contextually and substantively different like an argument that Kruger's & Boyland's allegations prevent effective representation in a way different from Parker's situation.
He also called Restler’s statement a “purely free-speech move and not a judgment of guilt, calling on an elected official to voluntarily resign does not seem out-of-bounds or unreasonable if the situation is serious enough.”
In response, noted that this might have been a valid point if it had any relationship to what Restler said, but re-reading Restler’s statement, it is clear that there is no way to interpret what he said as anything but a pre-trial presumption of guilt.
Rizzo pretty explicitly presumes the same, but that’s OK, he‘s a blogger, not a party official.
Being a party official demands a different standard of conduct.
Frankly, I think it ill behooves an officer of the Democratic Party to be advancing the argument for the presumption of guilt as a method of analysis in the year 2011. Down this road comes profiling, preventive detention and all the other things Lincoln Restler probably claims to oppose.
But advocating profiling and collective punishment would not help advance Restler’s career, so I guess we shouldn’t worry.
One gets the feeling that if Kruger were, before his trail, being held naked in solitary confinement, Restler and Rizzo would have no problem with it.
Restler also took the trouble to post his statement on Facebook, where, to my surprise, her fellow Reform District Leader Jo Anne Simon, an accomplished attorney well versed in constitutional law, gave it a “Like.”
I emailed her to express my shock.
She responded with shock of her own, pointing to the statement she’d also posted on Restler’s thread, and saying she couldn’t see how I interpreted it as agreement with Lincoln's call for resignation.
SIMON: Brooklyn clearly needs to get its house in order, and support and encourage good government-minded candidates who will represent the people honestly. Time and criminal process will determine what becomes of this matter, but really - this is not the kind of attention we want to be brought to Brooklyn's Democratic Party.
I could hardly disagree with either the statement or her interpretation of it, but I did point out that Simon had put a "Like" by Restler’s post, and that a "Like" conveys agreement. I pointed out that if she didn’t want to be misunderstood, she could remove the "Like," and just leave the comment.
When I checked back a few hours later, the “Like” had been removed.
Now we come to Chris Owens.OWENS: "This is a delicate time for our State and we don't need distracted or politically constrained elected officials.
State Senator Carl Kruger and State Assembly member William F. Boyland, Jr., should each immediately resign their public elected positions so that the people of Brooklyn can be effectively and honestly served by individuals free of negative distractions.
No one is guilty until convicted in a court of law. But these two elected officials need to do right by their constituents and all New Yorkers by resigning right now and taking their scandals out of the public sector.
This is a delicate time for our State and we don't need distracted or politically constrained elected officials. There are programs and services to save, rights to protect and important reforms to address. Elected officials from the borough of Brooklyn cannot be handcuffed any more than they already are. Resignation is a respectful resolution of these two individuals' situations."
I think this is a very different statement from Restler’s, but I think it is still problematic, despite what one Owens supporters in his email described as the “narrow focus of it’s call for Kruger's and Boyland's resignations.”
First, the "narrow focus" which came in the wake of my columns, seems both pro forma and prophylactic.
In some ways, Rizzo and Campbell have the better argument. Under their rationale, one can defend calling for Kruger’s resignation, but not Kevin Parker’s, because the nature of the charges is what matters.
Owens does seem to have expressed his opinion about Kevin Parker privately, especially among the members of his political club, but, whatever his private thoughts, Owens who publicly opines about all matter of concerns, and puts then puts those thoughts into press releases, did do so after Parker’s indictment, even though he’d been President of CBID, a club which ostensibly represents the 44th AD (as well as his own 52nd).
Further, Owens has run for Congress in most of Parker’s district and (even though he got his clocked cleaned in Parker’s area) probably has some fervent supporters there. A statement by him about Parker would have gotten notice and perhaps even had some political impact.
Even more importantly, Owens had made no such call about Clarence Norman, and remained silent when his father compared Norman’s indictment to a lynching.
Clarence, being Clarence, responded with s stunning sense of entitlement and a concomitant lack of gratitude, but now that Owens has sensibly seen his future is in the Brownstone belt (rather than the Brownsville belt) it is no longer politically inconvenient to take such positions.
Still, I find Owens’ statement superior to Restler’s, though I would’ve preferred one more like Simon’s
I also note that I stand by my comment that Owens’ calling for Boyland’s resignation at this juncture, though wrong-headed, is gutsy for a black pol, even though far less so than a pronouncement about Norman would have been.
Though representing a mostly white AD, Owens still operates in the black political world. While Lincoln Restler does have some African-American constituents (about 12% of his AD in the 2000 census--roughly the percentage that Owens has), Owens will surely have to eat some shit for his statement that Restler will not.I also do not think I was as naïve about Owens as one reader, “Gitty” (probably named for the ex-wife of an indicted operative formerly with the Garson crime Family), has suggested.
Gitty complains that in saying, as I did, that calling for Boyland’s resignation could not have been easy for Owens, I minimized the fact that Boyland’s sister had challenged Owens’ father for his seat in congress.
Maybe; although, I was the one who noted that that Tracy Boyland had run against Major Owens in the first place.But I think there’s some evidence that Chris is very primal about his Brownsville days and extremely unforgiving of his enemies from those days (like Sam Wright, Jeanette Gadson, Tom Fortune and Enoch “Eunuch” Williams) while far more easily forgiving adversaries, such as myself, who came later.
I suspect that, whatever his differences with them, Owens still harbors some deep affection, in spite of himself (and in spite of them), for the Boylands. I also note that a part of this may be that Major was grateful to Tracy, who, after all, split Major’s opposition vote with another young lady from a former ally's family (Yvette Clarke).
Anyway, all this talk about Owens’ history distracts from the main point, which is that the way a pol reacts to events such as charges of corruption against others is often an indication of what their real values are.
And for some, it appears that bathing themselves in the whitewash of cheap publicity about their own moral sanctity is of higher value to them than would be imparting civic lessons about our sacred constitutional rights.
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