Political Theatre

Oh my oh my.  What a few days of drama we’ve had.  The actors all took the stage, and hammed it up more than a highschool production of Shakespeare.  But wait, there’s more!  We get all of this on multiple stages to boot!  Not satisfied with the all night snooze fest in Washington?  Well, we have plenty of it here in New York, and I’m quite sure we can spare some for a travelling road show version if anyone is interested.

So, let’s start on the big stage.  Ayup, all those high school drama queens in the US Senate.  An “all night debate on Iraq to show we’re serious.”  That’s about the funniest thing I’ve heard since I watched Robert Wuhl’s “Assume the Position 201.”  What an absolutely lame attempt to grand stand in front of an audience.  This joke is so pathetic, I can’t belive anyone would actually fall for it. 

I’m curious as to the ratings for this “debate,” as carried by C-SPAN.  The curiosity stems from the fact that sometime around 4am, John McCain got his turn at the podium, and was followed by Clinton.  I did not watch this myself, as I was working, and blissfuly did not have TV access.  Now, I wonder if anyone thought about the reason for this all night chat-a-thon. 

Think about it this way, what is one of the more effective interrogation techniques?  Sleep deprivation.  What better way to get your opponents to “see it your way,” than to get them so tired and bleery eyed they can’t think straight.  Dollars to doughnuts that was  a factor in the Democratic “leadership’s” rationale for this silly waste of time.  Wonder if anyone else has compared this dog and pony show to torture?  Now, guys like McCain have certainly endured worse, and have the leadership to carry their fellow members through this ordeal. 

Sure Harry Reid promised non-Iraq votes, but as usual, nothing happened.  These all night sessions rarely, if ever produce anything other than some media buzz.  Oh sure, in the past there have been some entertaining moments, Huey Long reading poetry and from the telephone book during a filibuster, or Strom Thurmond reciting limericks, but that’s about the sum value of it. 

Meanwhile, here in the Empire State, we have more of a home grown variety of political showmanship.  Forget the Greek Tragedy in Washington.  This is more of a Japanese Noh play than classic dram (or tragedy or comedy).  Lots of posturing and silence, punctuated by moments of non-action.  All that was missing was the elaborate costumes and face masks.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver held his court in NYC over the weekend and through the begining of this week.  That meant that the Assembly would not be able to sit in session, and would make any moves by the Senate meaningless, as nothing would be able to go to the Governor for signing.  As previously mentioned here, that means holding up a lot of needed legislation, such as on amending the Berger Commission report on hospitals, dealing with the Horse Racing franchise, and Bloomy’s “congestion relief plan” for NYC.

For a guy who is supposed to represent Manhattan, and NYC in a wider sense, Shelly Silver does do a lot  to kill any initiative that could boost the city.  First it was the West Side Arena plan, a plan that would have built a major sports arena facility on the depressed West Side of Manhattan.  It would have brought the Jets back to NYC (they play in Jersey with the Giants), added a major venue for the arts, and given the city a major leg up in competing for the Olympics.  His opposition was, and still is, nonsensical.  It would have meant that the city would no longer require as much State funds for operations and programs, due to the increased tax base, and the resultant revenues from tourism.  Now, Shelly sits silent while Bloomy tries to reduce congestion during daylight hours on Manhattan, which is pretty bad.  Just ask anyone who has tried to drive in or out of the island.

Travel north along the Thruway, and you will eventally reach Albany.  The Senate sat in session, and tried to get some business done.  Silver submarined this by brow beating the Democratic minority leader into pulling out of voting on the NYC congestion plan.  Poor Malcolm Smith got hosed by Silver, and lambasted by Bloomy.  Smith was on record as supporting the plan, but caved to Silver’s Stalinist tactics, and pulled out of the vote, killing the legislation.  So, NYC and the State miss out on some $500 million in Federal Highway funds.  All in favor of a “study” as proposed by Silver.

About the only thing I can think of as to why Silver keeps undermining this stuff is that he doesn’t stand to gain anything from it.  Not enough contracts going to his campaign funders?  No sizable kick backs?  Or is he just pissed off that none of this is stuff he could take credit for?  Or perhaps it’s that if these thing sgot passed and done, it would make the City more financially independent?  Could it be because it would in essence, reduce the State’s influence on the City?  I don’t know at this point.  I just think that Shelly is a bitter old man who has reached the pinacle of his political career, knows it, and resents it.

I’m sure other States have their moments like this.  But no one, not even the vaunted US Congress does political theatre better than NY.  We’re numbah one when it comes to dysfunctional political drama.


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