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The Way Back Machine

May 20, 2010

Obscure cultural reference of the day: In the early 60s, there was a Saturday morning cartoon called Peabody’s Improbable History.  It featured a very smart dog and his pet boy who would travel through time with the use of the “way back” machine. Yes, it was a takeoff on Jules Verne, but it was still creative TV for that period. Almost all the other cartoons featured characters that battered or blew up each other.

The way back machine is fun rhetorical device, which we employ today. We’re dialing it back to:

1992: Robert Abrams calls Al D’Amato a “fascist.” D’Amato feigns outrage at what he calls an anti-Italian slur and wins by 1 percent. 

1998: D’Amato calls Chuck Schumer a “putzhead.” Schumer’s people claim that it is an anti-Semitic slur, and he wins by a narrow margin.   

2001: Mark Green says he would have done “as well or better” than Rudy Guiliani in dealing with 9-11. Mike Bloomberg seizes on the remark and ekes out a narrow victory in the mayor’s race.   

2002: Andrew Cuomo says that Governor Pataki was a Rudy’s “coat holder” during 9-11. The remark dogs Cuomo until he pulls out of the race just before the primary. 

2007: Eliot Spitzer tells Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco that nobody will stand in his way because he (Spitzer) is a “f***ing steamroller.” More than anything else, this single comment marks Spitzer as a man temperamentally unsuited for the governor’s office. 

2009: Erie County Executive Chris Collins, regarded as the frontrunner for the GOP nod for governor, likens Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, an Orthodox Jew, to the anti-Christ and to Adolf Hitler. His political star dims. His candidacy is over before it starts.     

2010: What improbable history will occur this year?

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