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Not To Be Hasty

September 23, 2014

We’re constantly trying to keep ourselves from making hasty or final judgments. To that end, we have signs in our treehouse that read: “On the other hand,…; On second thought,…; Conversely,…; Inversely,…; Perversely,….”

It’s so damn easy to fall into the pattern of thinking you’ve got it all figured out.  It’s so damn easy to  BYOB (believe your own bullshit.) These signs remind us not to do that.

Having said that, we again return to PB.  On the one hand, it’s very appealing and it makes so much sense to have this figure who is above it all and who is dedicated to simply doing the right thing. On the other hand, whether you’re a journalist or simply a person trying to follow the news and make informed and independent decisions on public policy matters, you have to be skeptical of everyone.

PB is now a true media darling. And whatever he says is reported in a way that makes it clear that reporters think he has gravitas. But here are two things about media darlings you should know: First, nobody becomes one by accident. It involves a ton of self-promotion. And second, the desire to be a media darling, as evidenced by the actions needed to become one, raise real questions about a person.

We’re understating this. The unvarnished truth is that people who become media darlings almost always have a bad case of BYOB.

In this regard, just listen to what PB said in speech yesterday. He was talking about his office’s role in fighting corruption:

“We make sure we don’t care how big you are, how much money you have, how powerful you are, or whether you’re a hedge fund manager, a cabinet secretary or the governor of a state, if we see smoke and we see evidence of wrongdoing, we’re always going to take a look at it.”

PB insisted in his remarks and in later media interviews that he wasn’t going to talk about specifics of any case (which is a prosecutor’s way of dictating the terms of discussion) but he nevertheless felt free to opine on Albany and politics writ large:

“If you could prosecute for all the conduct in politics that is otherwise lawful that disgusts you, we would have nobody in government.”

PB made that last comment to widespread laughter in the audience, which he clearly enjoyed.  All of this, especially that last part about enjoying the attention, is rather bothersome for us. Why exactly is he saying all of this in public? Why is he giving speeches with one-liners? Why is he doing interviews in which he takes thinly veiled shots at prominent people? Why is he talking about what disgusts him? Is that in his job description? Does it say somewhere in the Constitution that the US Attorney shall make pronouncements about matters that disgust him?  Or does it say that he’s supposed to prosecute federal crimes?

Conversely, one might actually make a decent case that everything that PB is doing is good because it has put the fear of God into Albany pols and perhaps scared them into conducting themselves in a more scrupulous manner.

On the other hand, think opportunity costs. What isn’t PB doing now that he’s so busily fighting corruption in Albany?  Put another way, what has the whole Moreland focus detracted from? One answer is, oh yeah, Shelly Silver’s problems. He was on the ropes, but ever since Moreland popped up, nobody even talks about the Assembly scandals. In that sense, PB has been great for the status quo, hasn’t he?

On the other hand, perversely, PB’s intervention is a rare moment of poetic justice. Think of it: Someone is messing with Cuomo in exactly the same way that he messed with people as AG.

And yet, inversely, we can’t help being absolutely incredulous that PB, a former top staffer to Chuck Schumer, has become the arbiter of what is right and wrong in politics today. We’re not saying that Chuck is a bad man. We’re only saying that in all of modern history throughout our nation, no one has benefitted more from the pay to play culture than Chuck. He’s the most prolific fundraiser ever, anywhere. No one can argue this point. It is absolutely true, and so is the fact that PB was integral part of Schumer’s extraordinary political machine for a long time.

In the end, having said all of that, we, like you, really don’t know what to think. So we’re going to hold off and definitely not make a hasty or final judgment.  So should you.

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