Political Theater
by Jeff Kramer - Wednesday, February 19th, 2014
Some people will react negatively no matter how much rain you save.

Looks like we already have our first show for the Outdoor Amphitheater: “Love Letters” starring County Executive Joanie Mahoney and retired Newhouse School dean David Rubin.

Their emotionally charged exchanges in The Post Standard were a perfect antidote for the winter doldrums. My favorite line (spoiler alert) was when the $122,000-a-year public servant — proud daughter of a former assemblyman — gave voice to that most helpless and overlooked underclass of all in New York State: Politicians.

I think I speak for many when I say the abuse we take when we put ourselves out there to help our communities is annoying,” she raged in her response last week to a critical column by Rubin.

Annoying? Seriously? I don’t mean to blame the victim, but when you spend every waking hour playing footsies with the governor from the other party, and then scuttle up The Hill to secretly — ok, quietly — help a private university build a publicly funded sports palace that almost no one knows jack about, well, yes, some people will react negatively no matter how much rain you save. It’s called politics.

Not that I’m letting Rubin off the hook. By failing to return the message Joanie left at his office the Sunday his column ran, he provoked in her a public jeremiad that spilled the beans on some uncomfortable truths about my profession. Most damaging was her accusation that Rubin avoided contacting her or her staff in reporting his column, despite knowing that she had relevant information about the stadium proposal.

My guess is that the facts might have gotten in the way of the story you were trying to tell, so better to just ignore the facts,” she fumed.

Nice job, Rubin. Now the whole world knows how I work, too.

Of greater concern, though, is Joanie. As a victim of PTSE — Political Traumatic Stress Entitlement — she needs time to heal. We can all help in that process by speaking to her in calm, soothing tones and making a special effort to avoid unpleasant, annoying topics such as her penchant for stashing friends and family on the county payroll. Will you join me in stopping the cycle of abuse?

Adopting a nurturing, empathic posture toward an elected official might feel strange at first, especially if you’re not a major corporation. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Below are three hypothetical interaction scenarios with the county executive. Each scenario has an annoying and non-annoying response option. By understanding the difference, you’ll be less annoying to Joanie and reduce your risk of getting scorched in the hellfire of another open letter campaign:

SCENARIO N0. 1

You’re at a $1,000-a-plate fundraiser for Gov. Cuomo hosted by Joanie. Your first words to her are:

ANNOYING: Hey, Joanie, you know that state anti-corruption thing you’re on? The Moribund Commission or whatever it’s called. Like, seriously, what’s the real reason you didn’t want them to investigate Cuomo’s finances? You two in the tank or what? Hey, these crab puffs are killer!

NON-ANNOYING: Congratulations on the Wall Street Journal naming you a person to watch in 2014. I’m so happy that they recognized you as the strong, confident Republican woman that you so clearly are. Maybe David Rubin should take notes — for once. (Laugh) Wow, these crab puffs are yum!

SCENARIO N0. 2

You have a deep emotional attachment to the Carrier Dome, so you’re upset that Joanie was involved in a stealth plan to tear it down and replace it with a taxpayer subsidized McStadium in the ‘hood. You log in for a live chat with Joanie at syracuse.com, and type the following:

ANNOYING: Sounds like a classic smokescreen, Joanie. You and the guv pushed the secret stadium plan knowing Mayor Steph would shoot it down due to insufficient information. That way he would have an excuse to spend the money elsewhere. You must really want to be Lt. Guv.  Admit it, Joanie — you’re a tool.

NON-ANNOYING: Hi, Joanie! I saw you on the news introducing that Hoffman Two-toed Sloth at the zoo. So adorable. Everyone could tell how much it loved you. Speaking of slow moving animals, I know it must be frustrating to work on campaign finance reform, but I want you to know how much we all appreciate it.

Scenario N0.3

You attend a speech by Joanie at the Whitman School of Management titled “Female Managerial Empowerment and Entrepreneurship in an Age of Unfunded Mandates” — a real showstopper. During the question-and-answer period, you ask:

ANNOYING: Madam Executive, how would it make you feel as a strong, confident Republican woman if you ran for Congress against Democrat Dan Maffei, and your boy Cuomo endorsed him instead of you? Wouldn’t you be annoyed considering you’re already serving as Cuomo’s unpaid handmaiden? Or is he paying you?

NON-ANNOYING: You did the right thing, Joanie! I’ve never liked that Carrier Dome anyway. It’s too loud.

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