International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Life and Comment
Astorino: Friend and Colleague in the land of Scum
Not one hour ago I received a link to a story that turned my stomach,
something that rarely happens to cynical old hacks who've not only
seen but done it all twice. It seems that during the previous day's
debate between candidates for the county's executive position at
Pace University, the incumbent, 72 year-old Democrat Andrew Spano
saw fit to frame his Republican opponent, 42 year-old Robert Astorino's
economic policies as racist.
Spano, after a dozen
years in office, the duration of which Westchester's tax bracket has
elevated to that of A-Rod, the Clintons or the guy who owns Madison
Square Garden is finally being challenged and has gone the predictable
ugly route. Spano's been around the block more than once and let's face
it maybe one time too many. He knows what he said and how it would be
extrapolated; Astorino's policies -- "a cover for racism"
-- make the candidate a racist. This appears to be the new political
"buzz" word, as was "commie" in the fifties and
"subversive" in the sixties and "undesirable" in
the seventies and, whenever the urge strikes, throw Nazi in there for
Sure its politics as usual, covered here with a sense of spiteful apathy
and smarmy humor weekly. In fact, it's completely understandable and
sadly probable from our perspective; who doesn't choose panic and mudslinging
over an exchange of ideas? It is nothing else if not entertaining, which
goes a long way when you sit where I do. Problem is this time the target
of this gutless attack is someone I know well and sincerely respect.
I can tell you firsthand from a long-standing personal and working history
with the candidate that neither Rob Astorino nor his proposed fiscal
polices are racist. In fact, knowing Rob as I do, stooping to this ham-fisted
attempt at demonizing speaks more of his opponent's spectacular lack
of honor, not to mention his lazily conceived and doom-addled strategy.
While being a professional colleague of mine for nearly twenty years,
during which he has displayed nothing but an enviable commitment to
ethics in all forms, Rob has managed to succeed at the impossible; competing
in two vocations replete with soulless bottom-feeding degenerates; journalism
and politics, while maintaining an unwavering comportment that is impervious
to corruption. Despite this reporter's repulsive dereliction of scruples
and frightening lack of integrity, he has called me friend; as I, him.
And as I gracelessly careen towards the half century mark, it is not
a term I dare use loosely. Robert is indeed a friend; a true bedrock
warrior in the infinite roll call we all must cherish when the karma
winds shift in weirdly unpredictably directions.
This is why for years now I have been reticent to use this hoarsely
sacred weekly voice to champion his political causes, which has currently
taken him through his second campaign for County Executive of Westchester,
It's Rob's dream to make a difference. I know, because he has told me
so, against all the bitter advice I have given him beneath the pall
of such nonsense as "making a difference" or "changing
the game for my kids", and all the other piddling garbage most
politicians regurgitate to justify some ego binge in which we're supposed
He does not run for accolade or some opaque definition of love and acceptance.
He's nailed that in several solid gigs in radio and television, and
built it at home with his wife and three children. Neither does he run
merely to win and then turn into a tired political lifer mannequin like
his opponent. He runs for the sheer youthful passion of proving that
democracy must begin and end with the will of the people, that to deny
your neighbors a choice against the status quo is the ultimate act of
unpatriotic cowardice. He runs because every once in a long while someone
needs to prove the entire system is not a bust.
Yet, with all of that before me; kinship, professional respect and a
story worth telling, I still felt in light of the subjective no-brakes
miasma that normally fills this column that it was somehow inappropriate
to comment. But when hit with this bullshit, which tops all the other
bullshit hurled at Rob for trying to oust a man whose sense of decency
has even managed to make me, a mean-spirited, black-hearted iniquity
machine, nauseous, I could be silent no longer.
So in the interest of complete disclosure, I admit to my support in
all facets of the Astorino campaign, his generosity in offering me full
access for a book I'd planned to write a few times but was curtailed
by one assignment after the other, and finally, despite an unabashed
commitment to an existence of derelict paganism, standing as godfather
for his first born.
Thus, I will guiltlessly forge ahead.
I do not know Andrew Spano from the proverbial wall's hole, but I can
clearly deduct from his actions in this campaign and the consecutively
botched years at a job he is patently incapable of performing that he
is a barely functioning fear-mongering dunderhead who has outlived any
possible usefulness to the body politic but refuses to give up the ghost
for either some bizarre state of euphoric inertia or sheer madness.
Whether you're Republican, Democrat, liberal or conservative, any race,
creed or color, there is something passé about Spano's tired
shtick in which in many ways a young idealist like Astorino, whatever
you think of his policies, should always replace. This is what I believe
fueled this country in 2008 -- more than race or ideology. Eventually
it's just time for a new generation, a fresh voice to offer an alternative
idea without the clatter which drowns it out, from town hall goofiness
to debate wrangling.
Lord knows I'm not saying Spano has no right to spout fallacies or get
rough and loose with the truth, even in light of his disastrous HUD
deal that will likely bankrupt what is already the second highest taxed
county in America. On the contrary, that kind of thing allows us contact
with the core of a person's balance, both intellectually and morally.
It certainly puts a face to cheap politics. It is sad and it is decrepit
and it should be sent packing.
Who knows what the voters will believe or carry with them into the privacy
of the polling booth? Not sure who wins these battles of finger-wagging
childishness after all. Not the people, I know that much. All I can
offer without hesitation or regret is that after watching a tape of
the entire debate, Andrew Spano, hardly a novice in this political landscape,
was waxed verily by my friend, and when push came to shove grasped desperately
at demeaning his opponent and then blatantly lied about Rob Astorino's
agenda and heart, and when given the opportunity, refused to retract
it. Therefore his credibility on everything else he stands for is in
This makes Rob Astorino the better man.
Let's hope the better man wins.
Late News Nov 3rd: ASTORINO WINS
© James Campion Oct 24th 2009
Nov 4th 2009
Good job on framing the next few crucial months for this "presidency
of change", which is still very much in the balance. I do have
my doubts. There has been chinks in this armor, however, the irrational
hatred and pinheaded attacking of our Obama, while expected from Right
Wing nuts and no-idea fence sitters, has clouded the real issues America
voted for as overwhelming as it ever has in its long history. We want
this president to push the envelope, clean up the mess left by drunks
and draft dodgers like Bush and Cheney, and put things right. This was
decided with rousing clarity in November '08. Loser may lament, but
they have to face facts. This is what America wants, a solid, binding
Health Care Bill, almost 70% of us. The few have to accept it, as those
of us who were appalled by the illegal war that was waged on false pretenses
was waged for almost eight years had to eat it. These idiots are complaining
after ten months?
There is still time, before they try and steal the country back.
Stay on the case.
Right on the money
as usual, Check Desk! This was a speech Obama should have made months
ago. It truly is as if he is still trying to rally the troops on every
issue, instead of standing his ground. The future and legacy of this
possibly one-term chance for a shake-up stands in the balance. You said
it right; this is Hopeville in Autumn in more way thasn one.
Oh come on, now. You cannot compare a campaign speech by a guy who made
his bones as the "Speech Maker In Chief" to a solid policy
debate. You fell for it. You fell for the packaging that was filled
with a multitude of nothingness. No specifics over the plan, no specifics
over what it would be or how it would be paid for. You fell for the
"we need it no matter what". You want to talk about being
on the wrong side of history...how about being the legislator that 1.voted
against his constituents interests and 2. voted for the bill that bankrupted
our country. THAT, my friend is being on the wrong side of history.
Obama doesn't want a bill...he wants HIS bill, the dream he spoke of
when he said single payer, Universal coverage is the goal. His lack
of meeting with GOP reps since April shows bi-partisanship is a folly
and further proof he has one goal and that goal doesn't include GOP
We will continue the fight because the majority of the American people
want us to.
You always bring the fire, my friend. You tell it like it is! What president
doesn't "sell it"? Exactly. I can hear the uranium from Africa
stammering from dullard boy now? Can't you? Thank God we have a president
who can speak the language. At least when I'm asked to eat the crap,
it sounds like I might enjoy it, instead of wondering if it's laced
Is every politician
from South Carolina a dipshit?
I had to write and thank you for doing what you do- I came across your
Ani DiFranco interview. She is my favorite artist, and it was a wonderful
piece you wrote. With what I am going through right now- trying to breathe
through the unknowing of how I can combine my talents and passions to
create change, inspire, and reach a higher level of myself- that interview
was just what I needed to read. Keep making a difference!
Going after Saint Jimmy was ballsy. (THE RACE ILLUSION: Issue -- 9/23/09)
Between this and the Ted Kennedy massacre, do you have any liberal friends
One of your best
in a while, nice job :)
With all due respect, I have to disagree with your take on this. I hear
racist remarks against Obama on a daily basis and have severed ties
with both friends and family because of the ugliness that came out of
their mouths prior to, and when this wonderful man was elected.
Those signs at the Washington DC "protest" portraying our
president as a witch doctor with a bone through his nose? The blatant
disrespect shown by The Moron of the Century, Joe Wilson, he of the
confederate flag? The multitude of message boards, fraught with racial
innuendo if not flat-out hatred just because Barack Obama is of African
C'mon James, Jimmy Carter was dead right in what he said. As a southerner
he would know better than most. And as a lifelong northerner, it sickens
me to think that racism continues to thrive, right here in good old
'liberal' New York. Unfortunately, whether it's the 17th, 18th, 19th,
20th or 21st century, it carries on in this sick country, somewhat more
hidden but very much alive.
Hope all is well with you and your family.
Paula DeMarta MastroianniHere's the problem: I know people are racist
pigs who just hate themselves and need to bash public figures to mask
their own sad and pathetic lives fraught with personal failure and embarrassment,
but I don't need Jimmy Carter to tell me this.
for National Health Care
James Campion + Feedback
There is little chance anything resembling a pittance of national health
care reform will be constructed much less passed through the legislative
branch of our government any time soon
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