“The Mayor’s killin’ me!” were the first words out of Fausto “Fuzzy” Mamori’s mouth when I entered the visiting room of one of America’s finest penal institutions, or as he calls it, “Yaddo for BS artists.”
“Don’t get overheated,” I reply. “Even if he thought that was a good campaign promise if he shocked the world and got elected President, the crime you were convicted of doesn’t fall under the Federal death-penalty statute.”
“Since when do I have to translate my words for you from the original English?” Fuzzy replied. “Did you forget about the proposition bet I’ve been offering on the Democratic primaries?”
“The over-under on whether he gets more delegates than Giuliani in 2008?”
“Exactly. Remember last time you were here right after the Mayor got into the race I told you the entire inmate population and three-quarters of the guards were betting the ‘under’ on him getting fewer than two delegates? Well, that huckleberry’s been so hopeless I lowered the number to under one-half and I’m still getting buried.”
No Barter System
“Is this for cash money redeemable if you’re paroled while still living?” I asked.
“Of course it is,” Fuzzy said. “They only play for cigarettes in the state prisons.”
“So what are you gonna do?”
“What can I do? I had a dream last week that I dropped the under to minus a half-delegate to encourage some action on the ‘over.’“
“I don’t think that would solve your problem, Fuzz.”
“No kiddin’. I woke up screaming once I realized that if I put minus a half out there, I’d get buried in ‘over’ action because there’s no such thing as minus-one-delegate.”
“So the Mayor’s locked in at zero,” I said.
“And so am I given my current living situation and my future assets unless that clown stops talking about making a graceful exit from the primaries and starts running like he means it.”
“You mean shamelessly?”
“What’s he got to be proud of?”
“Well, he saw Gillibrand got better coverage when she dropped out than he’s had since he got in.”
“Yeah, but she still had a reputation to protect,” Fuzzy said.
“And he doesn’t?”
“Well, he might if he hung around long enough for the City Council to approve his plan to close Rikers. That’s gotta be worth at least two, three votes in the early primary states where delegates are deluded enough to think that passes for good government. Two chumps is all I need.”
“Gee, Fuzz, you’re getting cynical in your old age.”
“Not as cynical as pushing a major overhaul of the city jail system that might get you some support in the primaries but you won’t have to live with it, if and when it finally takes place in 2026.”
“If and when?”
“Well, Ruben Diaz Jr. is already opposing using the police tow-pound in The Bronx because he says it’s too far from the courthouse. How many other likely mayoral candidates are gonna come up with their own reasons why the plan is impractical, especially if this latest blip in the crime rate turns out to be more than a one-month thing?”
“Yeah,” I replied, “but the NYPD has it confined to just three boroughs, and as long as it doesn’t spread to Manhattan, The Times isn’t gonna go back to covering the city with enough resources to make the non-tabloid media pay attention.”
“The only reason crime continues falling in Manhattan is that Shelly Silver’s keeping a low profile.”
“Fuzzy, you still bitter about Shelly being out on appeal and stringing out the system while you’re doing your time like an honorable convicted felon?”
“Nah—although I don’t see why it would hurt any of my so-called friends to at least drop me a postcard thanking me for my service. How can I feel bitter toward a guy who, even if NY1’s cameras make him look 10 pounds heavier than he is, still seems like he hasn’t left Sammy’s Roumanian for the past six months, unless it was to bargain-eat at Katz’s here and there.”
Raining on His Workforce
“OK, let’s hold the pastrami for a minute and get back to presidential politics. What did you make of Trump defying Mark Twain and trying to do something about the weather in Alabama during ‘Dorian’?”
“It just goes to remind you how lucky we are to have a bumbling idiot like him in the White House instead of an evil genius with similar ideas but enough brains to pick his spots and be careful about his language. I mean, why wouldn’t he just say, sorry folks, the forecast changed since the last time I checked and it turns out Alabama’s not gonna regret all those years of chanting, ‘Roll, Tide, roll’?”
“I guess he still lives by Roy Cohn’s advice to always attack and never admit you’re wrong.”
“I’m not sure you want to go through life listening to a guy who was a legal prodigy but wound disgracing himself several times over and died with his reputation in shambles and afflicted by a disease he wouldn’t admit he had,” Fuzzy said.
“And then to compound it by having Wilbur Ross, the man most likely to play Old Man Potter if they ever do a remake of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” threaten to start firing people in the national weather apparatus unless the bosses there disavowed the tweet out of Birmingham telling residents there was nothing to worry about from ‘Dorian’?” I said.
“When you’re a rich thug who’s bullied his way through life,” Fuzzy said, “you like having other rich thugs around to do that kind of dirty work so you’ve got a fall guy if it blows up on you.”
“Yeah,” I said, but Wilbur already had the first explosion when the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court called him a babbling liar, and Trump’s still sending him out there like some aging version of Edwin Diaz who is bound to make the wrong pitch in the wrong spot.”
“Are you suggesting he should have contracted out the job to Rudy Giuliani?” Fuzzy said with a smirk.
“That would not only be improper, it would be ridiculous, although both Trump and Rudy aren’t exactly immigrants when it comes to stepping onto that soil,” I replied. “But seriously, nobody who’s working in the administration could tell the President he was just digging a deeper hole for himself when he used the Sharpie on the map to make it look like the storm was ‘Bama-bound?”
“For all we know, that’s what Bolton told him before King Donald shot him down and Johnny Shock-and-Awe retaliated by leaking to the media Trump’s question about whether they couldn’t just nuke the hurricane and head it off at the pass.”
Tough Boots to Fill
“You think it’s a good thing that Bolton’s not there now to push for war in every hot spot on the globe?”
“That depends,” Fuzzy said, “on whether they replace him with Jared Kushner or, worse yet, Stephen Miller, and whether Putin convinced Trump that his best bet is to hand him the Nuclear Football in return for political asylum and the vodka concession at the Trump Moscow Hotel.”
“You think Trump might go for that deal?”
“Well ask yourself this: would Schumer and Pelosi tell him not to take it? Would the Times and Washington Post editorial pages urge him to reconsider? Would the European Union warn him that he’s making an existential mistake?”
“I think the answer’s yes, yes and yes,” I said.
“And that means Trump can sell it to his base, and the Hannity/Judge Jeanine wing of Fox News. Bolton may have been a crazy warmonger, but he knew inviting the Taliban to Camp David for peace talks just before the anniversary of 9/11 looked bad and was especially dumb since the President hadn’t set any pre-conditions, and Putin and Kim Jong-un weren’t America’s friends and were playing Trump like a two-dollar banjo. Who else in the administration has the brains and guts to tell that to Cheeto Boy?”
“Well, how about Mitch McConnell?”
“The Kentucky Crawler? Anytime he says something that indicates he thinks Trump’s lost his mind, the President just waits him out and Mitch slides back into his shell, whether it’s on Putin or gun control. If I had to bet, he’s positioning himself with China in case it winds up in a bidding war with Russia over who buys the President’s loyalty.”
“So you don’t believe those gibes about Moscow Mitch that suggest the Senate Majority Leader isn’t allowing legislation to guard against more Russian election interference to go anywhere because he’s also in Putin’s pocket,” I said.
“No, I think Mitch is mainly worried about keeping the White House and keeping his majority in the Senate, and if the only way that can happen is if Putin keeps his thumb on the scale, he can live with that.”
“So he doesn’t see Russia as a sister Red State?”
Margo and Vlad
“I don’t think so,” Fuzzy said. “Although after we got basic cable here, I found myself wondering about the Margo Martindale connection.”
“Margo Martindale the actress?”
“No one ever mistook her for a jockey, boyo. You remember in ‘Justified,’ that series about a U.S. Marshal who goes home to the Kentucky hill country and finds a thriving drug trade there, she was the matriarch of one of the crime families?”
“Hard to forget her.”
“She used to get rid of her opponents by poisoning them with spiked moonshine. Remember what she called the moonshine?”
“Apple Pie. Think maybe the show borrowed a page from Putin?”
“Or vice versa,” Fuzzy said. “You remember the show that took its place when it ended, ‘The Americans’?”
“About the Russian spies during the Reagan era who had been embedded in America since they were young adults, running a travel agency in Washington?”
“You remember who their KGB handler was played by?”
“Margo Martindale. Another Putin link,” I said.
“Either that,” Fuzzy said, “or we both waste too much time watching TV dramas and theorizing about them. For bonus points, which network brought us both shows?”
“Rupert Murdoch’s basic-cable network, FX. Interesting. But how does that all connect to Mitch McConnell?”
“I’m not sure, but maybe we can figure that out while waiting to see whether de Blasio qualifies for the next Democratic debate.”
Picking on ‘Fredo’
“Well speaking of life imitating art,” I said, “what did you think of Chris Cuomo losing it when he got heckled by that guy who called him ‘Fredo’?”
“I have to admit,” Fuzzy said, “it was the first time I ever considered the possibility that Andrew was the cool, logical brother.”
“He insists he’s never seen ‘The Godfather.’“
“Mario supposedly didn’t watch it until a couple of years before he died because of the stereotyping. Something like this happens, you can understand why.”
“Well, I guess we found out that Chris isn’t as much like Richie Cunningham as his talk-show persona sometimes made him appear,” I said.
“So that analogy would put Andrew in the role of Fonzie.”
“Yeah, maybe that doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. Kind of like those opening demands by the MTA in the contract talks with TWU Local 100. I know it’s been a while since you were at the bargaining table, Fuzz, but how did you react when you heard management came in and threatened to take away days off if you didn’t furnish another way for them to save the same money?”
“We generally told them where to stick their demands,” Fuzzy said.
“So why would Patrick Foye think that was a productive way to start talks more than three months after the contract expired?”
“He’s a career administrator, isn’t he?” Fuzzy replied. “My guess is it was Andrew’s idea.”
“Even though he and Samuelsen are supposed to be tight?”
“Whaddaymean supposed to be? You forget already that Samuelsen was whacking away at Larry Schwartz for making accusations of fraud on worker overtime and ignoring Andrew saying pretty much the same thing? When Andrew sneezes, Larry’s waiting with the tissues. All this stuff is choreographed, and Tony Utano and Foye will jaw back at each other for a while and when they’ve impressed everybody with how hard they’re battling, suddenly both sides will get rid of the silly rhetoric and reach a conventional, boring deal.”
“Speaking of which,” I said, “you starting to wonder about Biden?”
An Ordinary Joe
“I never stopped wondering about Biden,” Fuzzy said. “He was a good Vice President for Obama. But he ran for President twice before that, didn’t exactly overwhelm anybody and had at least one major embarrassment each time. If he didn’t seem to be mixing up dates and occurrences when he’s out in public during this campaign, it would be easy to make the argument that maybe he’s like Harry Truman, and given the chance, he could surprise everyone and grow in the job. But if the gaffes keep coming, and he’s not inspiring anybody’s confidence, if he gets the nomination you’re looking at two guys who on the debate stage are gonna seem like punch-drunk boxers flailing away and talking smack rather than doing much smacking.”
“So whoever wins, it’s gonna look ugly,” I said.
“When it comes to winning ugly,” Fuzzy came back, “Trump’s got the benefit of a race over the track.”
“Maybe we’d better hope Liz Warren has some crossover ability, then.”
“Plenty of time to find out,” Fuzzy said. “As exhausted as most sane, rational people are by Trump, it’s still early in the process.”
“I guess I’ll know where to find you when I need an update.”
“More than likely,” Fuzzy said. “Although if de Blasio hangs in and gets those two delegates, by next April I may be able to afford a lawyer for my appeal.”
“Hope blooms anew in the spring,” I said.
“Until the first blown save from the Mets bullpen,” Fuzzy replied.
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