Posts Tagged ‘Schumer’

Fame, Fate and Happenstance

Friday, May 8th, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

Me with Mario Cuomo.

Me with Mario Cuomo in Albany.

This isolation thing has us looking desperately for ways to stay connected on social media, which, of course, is exactly what it was intended to do in the first place. Unfortunately, politics — more accurately, confrontational politics — and outright lies have for the most part pushed pictures of cute dogs and cats and delicious meals to the periphery, if not completely off the Facebook news feed. Twitter is worse. The connection, when there is one, tends to be of an us-versus-them nature.

   I admit to being part of this changed atmosphere. I think there’s a fight going on for the future of a once-proud nation. But I also think there’s a need to maintain that unthreatening, neighborly sense of connection. If we’re all in the same boat, who are my co-passengers?

    To be fair, I have seen attempts during this isolation to “connect,” as it were, on Facebook. But I don’t know what letter my favorite album begins with, Willie Mays will always be the best baseball player I ever saw and I don’t qualify for the 10-photos-that-prove-I’m-a-mom challenge. I do like the renaissance of cooking photos, though.

     So, in my own need to connect in a neighborly manner, I wandered through old columns I’ve posted on the Internet to see if I could find a promising topic.

     There it was. On April 6, 2011. Ego. We’ve all got one and journalists have well-nurtured ones. But this column was an essentially harmless exercise in ego — compiling a list of “famous” people I’ve met. As I wrote at the time, it was prompted by my previous column — an obituary in effect — in which I recalled a chance meeting with the late Geraldine Ferraro on a hot August day at the Ulster County Fair in 1998. The Newburgh native, former congresswoman and vice presidential running mate to Walter Mondale (first female from a major party to run for the office) was now running (again) in a Democratic primary for a Senate seat from New York. I was writing editorials for The Times Herald-Record in Middletown at the time. She was gracious: “Hi Bob, nice to see you again.“ She answered my questions and moved on with her hand-shaking. She lost to Chuck Schumer. She should’ve been the first female vice president of the United States.

       That column got me to thinking of other “famous“ persons I had met. I’ll run through some of that list, with the hope that some readers will do the same in the comment section or in an email. Then I’ll share them. Remember, this is about connecting and I’m sure many of you have memories of a brush, or more, with the famous or infamous. So share them. Basic ground rules: It must have been an actual meeting, meaning words were exchanged, hands possibly shaken, and local politicians don‘t count except for members of Congress. You need a line somewhere.

      I must also add that, working in newspapers for more than four decades, one is bound to run into prominent people. It comes with the territory. My list happens to be heavier with sports personalities and politicians because I was once a sports editor and then a political writer and editorial writer. Of fellow scribblers, probably the most famous was columnist Pete Hamill, who visited The Record in Middletown. There was also Newsweek’s Howard Fineman and longtime sports writer Milton Richman.

      The world of sports offered encounters with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach (interviewed in the back of a limo in Binghamton. N.Y.), boxer/TV personality Rocky Graziano (“Somebody Up There Likes Me”), Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer (naked in a whirlpool bath), boxing champ Floyd Patterson (eating in a restaurant in New Paltz), Olympic marathon gold and silver medal winner Frank Shorter (after shorter races in Middletown, his hometown) and a memorable handshake in Binghamton with Jackie Robinson. (“A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Robinson.”)

      In the world of entertainment there was the very tall Harry Belafonte at the Concord Hotel (somewhere there’s photographic evidence), the very drunk Clancy Brothers (around a bar after hours in Binghamton), Western novelist Larry McMurtry in Fort Worth, movie and TV actor Victor Arnold (the hit man in the original “Shaft”), over coffee in Middletown, Yiddish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer (on a stage in Sullivan County) and, in a Woodstock art gallery, an also very tall Henny Youngman (“Take my card, please.”) He really said that. And I took it.

     Not surprisingly, there are a bunch of political figures on my list, starting with Ferraro’s running mate, former Vice President Walter Mondale (a hello-how-are-ya in Minneapolis). There are the New York governors: The imperial Nelson Rockefeller (he of the middle finger salute), the lanky George Pataki from Peekskill, and the Cuomos — the senior, Mario, who could hold a room hostage for hours ( and did), and junior, Andrew, when he was state attorney general and when he was messing up the gubernatorial campaign of H. Carl McCall. Also, the other also-rans: New York Mayor Ed Koch, Tom (Who?) Golisano, Pierre (“the Record staff are the rudest people I have ever encountered”) Rinfret, Andrew (I don’t stand a chance) O’Rourke, Howard Samuels (a very cool customer), and Arthur (Hey, I was once a Supreme Court justice) Goldberg. Throw in Marvin Mandel in Maryland and Anne Richards in an elevator in Fort Worth. And of course, a special place is reserved in my heart for short-term New York governor, Eliot Spitzer, the dumbest smart politician I ever met.

       Among senators, the erudite D. Patrick Moynihan held court in Goshen and Chuck Schumer showed up seemingly for breakfast every day at The Record. And, giving them their due, Congressmen Ben Gilman, Matt McHugh, Howard Robison, Maurice Hinchey, John Hall (who founded the rock group Orleans and also qualifies as an entertainer), Bella (The Hat) Abzug (hors d’oeuvres and handshakes on Long Island), and Congresswoman Sue Kelly, who famously and entertainingly imploded during an interview with The Record.

    Among civil rights figures, Jesse Jackson (handshake and question) towered above the rest, literally and figuratively at a conference in Charleston, S.C., but Floyd McKissick, national director of CORE, was more accessible about 15 years earlier at Gentleman Joe’s, a popular bar in Binghamton.

    But perhaps the most “famous” person I ever had a meaningful conversation with is someone whose name almost nobody recognized, and most probably still don’t know: Norma McCorvey. McCorvey is better known as Jane Roe of the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision that confirmed a woman’s right to choose abortion. When I met her in Middletown, she had not only changed from pro-choice to pro-life on abortion, but had joined the Roman Catholic Church and announced she was no longer a lesbian and was campaigning to overturn the decision. Change is news.

      That’s it. My list. Now I’d like to hear from you, either in a comment or email. It’s either that or take another trivia quiz or walk the dog again. Netflix will always be there later.

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

An Administration Obsessed with Leaks

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

AP_RGBBy Bob Gaydos

When Barack Obama was running for president, he promised an administration that would be the most transparent of all time, one that would make sure the public was aware of how its government was operating — who was doing what and why.

It appears the president meant that openness to apply to those branches of government not under his direct or indirect control. Before the news broke this week that the Justice Department had used a secret subpoena to seize the phone records of up to 100 reporters and editors for the Associated Press earlier this year, the Obama administration had already set a record for indictments of present or former government officials accused of being either whistle-blowers or information leakers, depending on one’s point of view. In fact, the six such indictments are twice as many as all previous administrations combined. That suggests more than a passing interest in keeping things less than transparent.

The new case, under investigation by the U.S. Attorneys Office in the District of Columbia, involves a news story disclosing the CIA’s foiling of an Al-Qaeda plot in Yemen to blow up an airliner with an improved version of the so-called “underwear bomb.” Apparently, the CIA had an agent or agents embedded in the Al-Qaeda group. The AP did not immediately report the story as events were unfolding, at the request of the administration, which cited national security concerns. But the news agency released the story after hearing the White House planned to discuss the case publicly. That would seem to override any arguments of national security.

In fact, the national security argument seems to be questionable in the six pending cases as well, all of which were widely reported in press accounts and/or in books. While officials’ obsession with secrecy has occasionally shaken public confidence in the government, the republic has not yet crumbled from the efforts of a free press.

And that is the overriding issue here — not the CIA’s, FBI’s, or any other secrecy-obsessed agency’s ability to do its job, but the constitutionally protected right of a free and unfettered press to do its job of informing the citizens. Make no mistake, when a powerful government agency, without notice or opportunity to challenge in court, seizes a wide swath of journalists’ files or, in this case, phone records, it can have a chilling effect on the press and the public.

The files seized came from AP phone lines in various bureaus, including Washington, D.C. and New York as well as in the Capitol. As the AP pointed out in response to the seizures, the records provided a list of everyone the reporters or editors had talked to over a two-month period. If there is any more effective way of convincing people not to talk to reporters than removing the assurance of confidentiality, I don’t know it. A free press cannot operate as intended if the subjects of its stories can gain access to the possible source of the information reported.

In this case, the Justice Department apparently did not even have to justify the records seizures, and they came only after the department, by its own admission, had interviewed several hundred people and reviewed thousands of other files. In other words, it had nothing to go on, so it decided to go on a fishing expedition at AP offices.

The president is claiming no knowledge of the Justice Department’s actions in this case, which could well be true. It is also irrelevant. What matters is that high-level officials in the nation’s top law-enforcement agency felt justified in going after reporters’ records with no attempt at due process — no need to prove that the convenient “national security” argument had merit. The more citizens of a country surrender their rights to protection from unreasonable searches, seizures, wire-tappings, detentions, or door-bustings, the less secure they make themselves.

There is no telling how people in power will use that power in the future. That’s why laws should protect the most vulnerable, not the most powerful. Those in power have tremendous resources at their disposal to do what is necessary to protect the citizenry without abusing their power at the expense of the citizenry.

In this case, Obama has asked U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, to reintroduce a media shield bill that went nowhere four years ago. It would further protect journalists who refuse to disclose confidential sources and would enable news agencies to ask a federal judge to deny requests for access to phone records.

That would at least give the press a fighting chance against heavy-handed “investigation” by government agencies. But a president who promised an open government and has instead authorized increased secret snooping on United States citizens has an obligation to do much more. Far too much behavior in the Obama administration has been justified as necessary for national security. A free and unfettered citizenry and press are the best evidence of a secure nation.

bob@zestoforange.com