Posts Tagged ‘Al Gore’

Lesser Evil Time Again?

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

By Michael Kaufman

Tuesday is Election Day and as usual I am faced with some “lesser evil” choices I’d prefer to do without. Over the years I’ve cast many a quixotic primary vote for my candidate of choice, only to see them finish far behind someone I don’t like very much at all. Then when the general election comes around in November I am often faced with a choice of voting for someone I don’t like very much, someone I like even less, or someone I like but who is running as a minor party candidate and who has no chance of getting elected.

Sometimes I’ve had the luxury of voting for someone I like and who has no chance of winning because the candidate I don’t like very much is a shoo-in to defeat the one I like even less. That is what I did in the 2000 presidential election when I voted for Ralph Nader. Al Gore carried New York State by a big margin as expected but to this day I meet people who sneer when I tell them how I voted and all but blame me personally for George W. Bush’s ascent to the presidency, as if Gore himself bore no responsibility for his uninspiring campaign.

And while I’m at it I’ll tell you the exact moment I knew for sure Gore wasn’t getting my vote: While speaking at a big gathering of the AFL-CIO he told the attendees he has fond memories of his mother singing old labor movement songs to him when he was little. The example he gave was “Look for the Union Label,” a jingle written specifically for a TV commercial aired by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union when Al was already all grown up. Apparently neither he nor his speechwriter(s) had ever heard of “Which Side Are You On?” or “Union Maid” or “Miner’s Life,” or “Solidarity Forever,” or any number of other worthy songs that inspired working people fighting for their rights.  I reasoned then as I do now that a person who can let little lies such as this roll off their tongue is likely to do the same for big lies.

I still haven’t made up my mind about Tuesday’s gubernatorial election. I don’t like Andrew Cuomo very much, I like Rob Astorino even less, and if Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins had even a remote chance of winning I’d vote for him in a heartbeat. But Hawkins has no chance and I don’t believe the polls that show Cuomo with an insurmountable lead over Astorino. He does not have the passionate support of progressive Democrats despite his action on behalf of marriage equality, women’s health issues, and gun control. Yet it is precisely those issues that inspire passionate animosity among the supporters of Astorino. So unless I’m convinced otherwise, I’ll be holding my nose again and voting for Cuomo.

The race for Congress in the 18th District offers a choice among a candidate I don’t like very much (Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney), one I like even less (Nan Hayworth), and one I like even less than the one I like even less than Hayworth (Scott Smith). Maloney has been something of a disappointment on a number of issues but he is head and shoulders above Hayworth. In fact, he even did something very good for the Village of Warwick, as I learned from Mayor Michael Newhard during a recent conversation at the doggie park. I don’t remember exactly what Maloney did but I recall being impressed. I was also pleased by the reception I got the other day when I called Maloney’s district office to see if he could help a local farmer in need. As for Hayworth, I have seen the past and it didn’t work. Smith is a single-issue independent candidate who claims that both Maloney and Hayworth are too soft on immigrants.

Meanwhile, a peculiar race is taking place for the state Assembly seat in the 98th District. Elisa Tutini won the Democratic primary after sending out numerous mailers identifying her with causes dear to the hearts of progressives, and especially women’s equality. I had never heard of her before but she got my vote, although I learned later that Krista Serrano held similar views and that Tutini won with the support of bloc voting from Kiryas Joel. Her Republican opponent is Karl (Karlapalooza) Brabanec, who is part of the ugly cabal of Republicans who rule the roost in Orange County these days. Brabanic won the Republican primary with the help of bloc voting from KJ as well. But his primary opponent Dan Castricone will be on the ballot as the candidate of an entity called the Womens Equality Party. Castricone has been endorsed by United Monroe, which describes itself as “a grassroots citizens’ group devoted to endorsing candidates who will promote accountability, civility and transparency in government.” Castricone has cast himself as the “anti-KJ bloc voting” candidate. He has made KJ’s request to annex some 500 acres of land in the Town of Monroe his “seminal issue.”

“Once KJ has control of the land, there will be an immediate zoning change,” says Castricone. “High-density housing will proliferate, taxing the resources of Orange County taxpayers and straining infrastructure of the surrounding area, including streets, highways, sewage treatment plants, water supplies and school districts.” All of that may or may not happen whoever gets elected to the Assembly. But frankly I’m more worried about the harm this right-wing Republican from Tuxedo might do in the state legislature than I am about additional Satmar Hasidim moving to Orange County. To add to the peculiarity, the Womens Equality Party has candidates on its line in only two of the other races. Cuomo is their candidate for governor….and it is the sole line for the aforementioned anti-immigration candidate Scott Smith!

Another intriguing race is the battle of the Christines for Family Court Judge. Christine Krahulik is the Republican and Conservative Party candidate. That would ordinarily be a deal breaker for me but she has been endorsed by Beth Quinn, for whom I have enormous respect. Unfortunately, Beth did not really explain the reasons for her endorsement other than that she knows Ms. Krahulik to be a wonderful person. Christine Stage is running on the Democratic, Working Families and Independence Party lines. She has also been described as a wonderful person and seems highly qualified by her experience. So unless I hear more from Beth to change my mind between now and Tuesday, I’m voting for Christine Stage.

So to recap, here are my choices (one or more of which require nose holding and may be subject to change): Cuomo for Governor, Maloney for Congress, Tutini for Assembly and Stage for Family Court Judge. Whether you agree or disagree, please be sure to exercise your precious right to vote come Tuesday.

Michael can be reached at



Thank You, Keith Olbermann

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

By Michael Kaufman

Something has been gnawing at my brain ever since I read about Keith Olbermann being fired by the Current television network. I was struck by the smug tone of many of the articles, even from news sources generally regarded as progressive or left-leaning. Few voices have been raised on Olbermann’s behalf, perhaps because one of Current’s founders and co-owners is Al Gore, who has done a meritorious job of raising public awareness of the challenges posed by environmental pollution and climate change.

Coverage of the firing, Olbermann’s lawsuit and the countersuit filed by the network, tends to hone on Olbermann’s “stormy” relationships with previous employers, ESPN and MSNBC. One article contained an anecdote about Olbermann yelling impatiently at a limo driver who possessed limited English language skills. The same article said he yelled at staff members.

Some folks don’t like Olbermann because he has a big head, which is true of both his hat size and his ego. (His fight with Current is often described as a “clash of egos,” Olbermann versus Gore and his partner Joel Hyatt.) Yes, his style can sometimes be grating and abrasive. And as much as I agree with him, it isn’t necessary to conclude every report of Sara Palin’s latest antics with, “That woman is an idiot.”

But something else needs to be said here. When no other commentator on national television dared speak out against the U.S.invasion of Iraq, Olbermann did so, boldly and eloquently. That is how I first became aware of him as anything other than a clever sports commentator. Someone forwarded me a link to one of his commentaries on MSNBC….and then another…until I started watching “Countdown” every night for myself. I had stopped watching MSNBC in 2003 after they fired Phil Donahue, host of the highest rated show on the network at the time because he allowed some guests on his program to express antiwar sentiments.

A study commissioned by parent company NBC had described Donahue as “a tired, left-wing liberal out of touch with the current marketplace” who would be a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war.” The report warned that the Donahue show could be “a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.”

In an email leaked at the time, one executive suggested that MSNBC could take advantage of the “anticipated larger audience who will tune in during a time of war” to “reinvent itself” and “cross-pollinate our programming” by linking pundits to war coverage. “It’s unlikely that we can use Phil in this way, particularly given his public stance on the advisability of the war effort,” the email said.

This was a time of unprecedented censorship, of embedded reporters (no David Halberstams or Pete Hamills covering this war). Instead we were given deceitful propaganda about “weapons of mass destruction,” fed by unnamed government sources to Judith Miller and dutifully printed by The New York Times. Retired generals who questioned the policy were silenced and smeared. There would be no photos of body bags or coffins bringing home our dead. You couldn’t even hear the Dixie Chicks singing on the radio: One of them had spoken out against the war. And if you wanted to see the day-to-day devastation and ruin caused by “Shock and Awe” you had to watch the news fromFrance with English subtitles on WNYC.

It took guts for Olbermann to speak out then…..maybe not quite on the order of Ed Murrow taking on Joe McCarthy, but close enough in my book. And when “Countdown” became the highest-rated show on MSNBC the network bosses decided it was good business to identify the station with the “liberal antiwar agenda.”  Thanks to Keith we can now tune in to the likes of  Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, Lawrence O’Donnell, Melissa Harris-Perry, and Chris Hayes….at least until the next time the marketplace requires cheerleading for war.

Michael can be reached at