“We have lights out at 11—did I miss anything in the last 15 minutes of the Democratic debate?” Fausto “Fuzzy” Mamori asked me when I visited him the morning after at the kinder, gentler Federal prison facility where he still has several years to run on his lease.
“Elizabeth Warren approached Bernie at the end and he stuck out his hand and she pulled hers away to prevent him from shaking. And then she had a few words for him, and it didn’t seem like ‘good luck’ was among them.”
“Well,” Fuzzy said, “one of them has to be lying about her claim that he told her a woman couldn’t be elected President, and either it wasn’t her or she was pretty intent on giving the TV audience that impression.”
“It might be that she made that an issue only after she found out Bernie’s staff was bad-mouthing her the day before she went public with that conversation.”
Something Had to Give
“It was bound to happen,” he said. “You’ve got two people splitting the left-of-center vote, and Bernie’s supporters probably figure she’s poaching on his territory. I can tell you from way back these left-wing nonaggression treaties don’t last.”
“And,” I said, “Bernie’s reputation in Congress is that he doesn’t play well with others, which is why he was an Independent until he got serious about seeking the Democratic nomination. Although word is, everybody liked him when he was Mayor of Burlington, thought he did good work.”
“Maybe that’s where the problem started,” Fuzzy said. “Any Mayor with ambition to move up in the world usually is too busy promoting themselves and stepping on the toes of those fighting them for attention to cultivate many friendships. Look at the city: you know anyone in power who de Blasio’s close with?”
“Bloomberg leave City Hall with any new buddies?”
“Not unless you count the people who stayed on his payroll.”
“And Rudy?” Fuzzy asked.
“Not anyone he couldn’t turn on in a minute or wouldn’t turn on him if the Feds were closing in.”
“You see my point. Bernie may have said that to Warren, thinking it would never leave the room and might make her reconsider running. It only takes one person to break through the conventional wisdom before people accept that anyone can convince a majority of the country to choose them as President, whether it’s an Irish Catholic or a black man.”
“Or the current incumbent?”
“He still hasn’t convinced a majority,” Fuzzy reminded me.
“So let’s talk about the Mayors,” I said.
“Let’s start with the one who there’s the least to say about,” he replied.
“You think after the run for President his heart wasn’t in coming back to City Hall fulltime?”
“Fulltime? The guy never showed the desire to put in the work you need to do the job right as soon as he figured out it was harder and more-demanding than being Public Advocate,” Fuzzy said. “It wasn’t until Rudy got into his second term and he started thinking about running for Senator that he shifted his focus to what would help him nationally and blew up his relationship with the only Schools Chancellor he’d ever gotten along with. De Blasio in his first year in office got universal pre-K and solved the contract mess Bloomberg stuck him with, then got bogged down first feuding with the Governor and then with the police unions. It was as if he made a decision by midway through 2015 when he unloaded on Cuomo, and it was like: ‘OK, I accomplished something big and I kept crime low so let’s see if that’s enough to ride to the White House and get me out of this snake-pit.’ And once he did that, he wasn’t going to adjust to starting his work-day earlier or stop making some of the shady deals that would keep the contributions flowing in.
“And,” Fuzzy continued, “all the people he had promised to help if they just voted him in—the homeless, the Housing Authority tenants—they just weren’t a priority. Once he dodged indictment by Bharara and the Manhattan DA’s Office early in his re-election year, all he could think about was winning big and then making the presidential run. It never occurred to him that Liz Warren’s got energy and conviction and Bernie’s got an idiosyncratic charisma that can travel across state lines, and de Blasio doesn’t have any of those qualities so he never got any traction, even when he talked about the things he accomplished as Mayor. So he’s become the twist on the old cliché—forgotten but not gone—and the one revelation he’s had is that with homicides and shootings going up last year, his legacy on crime could take a hit if there isn’t an adjustment made quickly in the bail-reform law.”
“I’d hate to think how much longer you’d be going if he wasn’t the guy there was the least to talk about.”
“OK, wiseguy,” Fuzzy said, “just for that, I’ll shorten it up on Giuliani.”
“People are speculating that he could be joining us inside someday if that guy Lev Parnas tells everything he knows about the “Road to Ukraine” movie with their friend Igor. One of the guys who still visits me here says when he sees Rudy around town these days he doesn’t look right, like a fighter who took too many punches. And when he tells reporters he doesn’t care about his legacy, don’t believe him: that’s all he thinks about when he’s not finding new trouble for himself. There—how’s that for concise?”
“I’m impressed, Fuzz. So how about Bloomberg?”
“The man who can’t be bothered with Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, not to mention the debates?”
“You don’t think he’ll be looking to qualify for them before Super Tuesday?”
“From what I saw last night, none of the candidates really distinguished themselves or had a breakout moment. So if I was a guy whose bankroll was too legit to quit and who never dazzled anyone in the handful of debates he did while running for Mayor, I’d be asking myself whether I’m not better off letting my ads define me. Especially since he’s not gonna have to worry about any of the other candidates calling him anything harsher than “billionaire,” since they’re all hoping that once he drops out, if they’re the one who gets the nomination, Uncle Mike will make good on his promise to spend whatever it takes to get a Democrat elected.”
“You don’t think he could jump in and win the nomination or take it in a brokered convention?” I asked.
Can’t Laugh Off Money
“Anything’s possible,” Fuzzy replied. “No one saw this guy being elected Mayor in 2001. But you had some unexpected events, from 9/11’s impact on the city to Mark Green managing to alienate Freddy Ferrer’s supporters so much that they stayed home on Election Day. Not to mention Bloomberg’s $74 million outlay on that election. That kind of money is like a good pass rush in football: it’s tough to overcome it. And given that the guy could spend at least 20 times that much this time if he’s not dead in the water after Super Tuesday, you do the math.”
“Attention must be paid, huh?”
“Just look at the guy’s ads. He does his homework, or he has the people working for him do it. You won’t see him gasping for air the way the Mets did once that Houston Astro cheating problem shifted the focus to Carlos Beltran.”
“Could you blame Carlos for trying to make sure he never again got frozen by an Adam Wainwright curveball?”
“You think an organization with more foresight doesn’t look far enough ahead to realize before they hire him that this might turn into a problem? When you don’t consider the angles, you wind up getting left with the bat on your shoulder. Figuratively speaking, in this case.”
“Speaking of guys who figure the angles,” I said, “how did Cuomo not anticipate the agita that’s been the prime feature of the bail-reform and discovery changes at the time he signed off on that as part of the budget last spring?”
“It wouldn’t be the first time Andrew didn’t think something through completely,” Fuzzy said. “But there’s also the possibility that he realized what could happen and decided that maybe a huge backlash wasn’t such a bad thing.”
“A little history,” Fuzzy said. “Cuomo was elected in 2010 in a landslide, yet at the same time the Democrats lost the majority in the State Senate that they had regained just two years earlier, after being in the minority since 1963. There was a reaction by the voters in some swing districts to the corruption infesting some of the Democratic leadership that had already come to the surface, and over his first couple of years in office, most of those guys were cleared out by prosecutors—both the Feds and Morgenthau’s office.
“This time around,” he continued, “Democrats have nearly a 20-vote majority in the Senate, and the progressives may be overplaying their hand big-time, but none of them figure to get indicted anytime soon. And since those people aren’t exactly big fans of the Governor, the only thing that’s gonna bring them to their senses is if enough of the Democratic Senators in places like Long Island and the Hudson Valley suddenly have reason to worry that the backlash that’s been building could cost them their seats. Remember, the GOP doesn’t have to flip nine seats: just enough to get some Democratic survivors, like Simcha Felder, to decide to caucus with the Republicans again. So maybe Andrew’s thinking that’s his best chance to get things back under control.”
“Pretty ingenious, in a perverse sort of way, if you’re right,” I said.
“On the other hand,” Fuzzy replied, “if I’m so freakin’ brilliant, what am I doing in Federal lock-up?”
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