afternoons with clyde

A running commentary from an independent perspective on political culture and the culture of politics – on the shared political views of a community as well as the shared views of political practitioners – in the United States generally, and New York in particular (with a few eccentric observations on other subjects thrown in for good measure).

Category: Uncategorized

Convenient Illnesses


In 1954, the US Senate was scheduled to vote to censure one of their members, Joseph McCarthy. Conveniently absent for the vote was John Fitzgerald Kennedy. He claimed a medical emergency, and an ambulance carried him off the Senate floor. Kennedy knew that the censure would be approved, but didn’t want to vote on it. The reasons: his brother, Robert, worked for McCarthy’s Senate Committee; his father, Joseph, was a supporter of McCarthy; and Kennedy didn’t want to offend the Irish Catholics from his home state of Massachusetts. It was not one of Kennedy’s finest moments.

I was reminded of this moment in history when I heard the news that Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was declining to speak at a Senate hearing on the assault on the US Consulate in Benghazi. The official reason: she was ill at home, had a dizzy spell, fell and sustained a concussion. The real reason: she knew that she and her department would be severely criticized for screwing up the security at the Consulate and did not want to harm her legacy as Secretary and her future run the Presidency in 2016. Indeed, a special inquiry looking into the assault yesterday issued a damning report on the episode, although they did not fault her specifically. She quickly accepted the 29 recommendations the inquiry offered for improving security at all diplomatic outposts. How very convenient.


Why Do New Yorkers Vote Against Their Own Best Interests?

Are we all rich enough to continue our noblesse oblige attitude towards the rest of the country?  After all, for decades we’ve sent billions upon billions of our tax dollars to Washington and received only relative fractions in return.  And yet, we remain solidly Democrat even when the policies of that party tend to undermine our economic growth.

The consequences of the Obama administrations current tax reform proposal will be particularly detrimental to New York.  We already pay about the highest state and local taxes in the nation, and our cost of living is also comparatively off the charts, especially when it comes to housing; with proposed limits on deductibility of state and local taxes as well as mortgages, middle class New Yorkers are bound to suffer.  While we boast some of the highest earners in the nation, we also take pride in their commitment to charitable endeavors; moreover, our local nonprofit sector is comparatively large and employs and supports millions of people.  If deductions for charitable contributions are likewise limited, the ripple effect could have adverse consequences not only at the national level, but for poor and working-class New Yorkers who rely on social services.

It seems to me that there ought to be some middle ground.  Perhaps creating a progressive system of deductibility based not only on individual income, but also on calculations that take into consideration local cost of living and median (not per capita) income.

New York needs to take a stand for once and demand that Washington stop biting the hand that feeds it.


Better the Devil You Know

Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t…

It seems that the voters largely followed that old idiom in electing Obama…and it appears they were right.  Romney’s secretly recorded appearance at the fundraiser where he now famously referred to the 47 percent of America as dependent on government handouts probably, more than anything else, cost him any gains he made in the debates.  Yet there were still those who believed that this ham-handed version of campaign strategy doled out to a roomful of fat cat supporters could not be a real reflection of Romney’s character.  But no longer.  As the New York Times has reported, in a post-election conference call with reporters (again, a so-called “private” event – this guy obviously can’t learn), Romney referenced Obama’s “old playbook,” which involved “gifts” to African-American, Hispanic and young voters.  In other words, Romney charges that Obama used the policies of his administration to provide “generous” assistance to those communities to essentially buy their votes.  Led by up-and-comer Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana, Republican leaders were quick to condemn Romney’s tasteless and cowardly charges.  Having had no enthusiasm for either candidate, I for one am now certain that Romney would’ve been a very poor choice for president.

In a related note, I was recently reading an excerpt from the script of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the argument between Potter and George Baily.  It is uncanny how their positions reflect those of the erstwhile candidates – in particular, Potter’s characterization of Ernie the cabdriver…


WSJ Cartoon

WSJ Cartoon