KENNEDY vs. CUOMO: New Yorkers Await Governor Patterson’s Decision

New York Governor David Patterson has a difficult decision to make in choosing a replacement for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Senator Clinton was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, January 21st, sworn in and assumes the position of Secretary of State. As a former volunteer, supporter and fundraiser for then Governor Bill Clinton’s Presidential Campaign in 1992, I applaud her selection and confirmation to assume this rather significant and important role in American Government, especially in these strange and uncertain times. Truth told since working and voting for President Clinton, my support of the Clinton’s has been tested. I have wavered in my trust of their joint political aims and for me questions about them remain. So many questionable things have transpired since the 1990’s that I find it hard to give my unequivocal blind support to anything Clinton or any politician for that matter. I know that I am not alone. In this election cycle, while most of my family supported Hillary Clinton, I personally supported Barack Obama, not because I was certain he would win, but because in my heart and mind I knew that he was the right man at this time. President Obama’s ability to rise over petty political disputes to select Senator Clinton as his Secretary of State confirmed my trust in Obama’s Executive decision making. In many respects, Senator Clinton appears quite well suited to be Secretary of State. Hillary has a powerful intellect, is an excellent strategic thinker and her time as First Lady not only made her an Ambassador to the world at large but the consummate government insider, to a degree that is positively spooky!. Let’s be clear, from the KGB to the CIA and global organized criminal elements, we live in a crazy world of spooks where powerful people are not always who and what they seem to be, so perhaps it is not too strange a concept for America to have some positively compelling brains on our side as well. Hillary Clinton will thrive in the position of Secretary of State. And while many will disagree, I do not believe Hillary’s Presidential opportunities have expired.

Today, however, Governor Patterson’s decision was made a little less or more complicated depending on your political perspective, when Caroline Kennedy, who by most mainstream media accounts was the presumed leading candidate with the inside track to secure the appointment to fill for Hillary’s U.S. Senate seat, as reported by the New York Times, dropped out from consideration. But the Associated Press and others then reported otherwise, that Caroline Kennedy did not drop out. After midnight The NY Daily News reported that Caroline Kennedy officially dropped out. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo was in the unenviable position of wanting to be considered but not wanting to lobby against a Kennedy, even though polls show that Andrew Cuomo is the preferred candidate of most New York voters to replace Hillary Clinton. Outside Manhattan Society’s cocktail circuit, an informal poll of family, friends and leading Democrats in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens shows Andrew Cuomo draws considerable strengths where Caroline is somewhat of an unknown and would be relying on the Kennedy brand. But this is New York and the Cuomo brand is not exactly chopped liver either. Notably, Caroline Kennedy’s support of President Barack Obama during the Democratic primary battle gives her a powerful friend with a level of access that would be helpful to New York.

The Kennedy and Cuomo clans have and continue to serve New York well. Despite the critique that Caroline’s record has received from some in the mainstream media, she has been a reserved and private but nevertheless remarkable citizen. The high profile divorce of Caroline Kennedy’s cousin, Kerry Kennedy from Andrew Cuomo has certainly created some tension between two prominent Democratic political families, but not for me. I choose to love and respect both the Kennedy and Cuomo families for their respective contributions to the lives of Americans and New York citizens in particular. Two of my heroes are former New York Governor Mario Cuomo and Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

The Kennedy family has suffered immeasurable tragedy and been subjected to an unprecedented level of public scrutiny. Caroline Kennedy’s record has been scrutinized and she personally critiqued for her private nature and her suitability to assume Hillary’s Senate questioned. The critiques have not resonated with me, because under the circumstances, Caroline has every right to be a little more withdrawn and distrustful of those who want her to be more public.

Long before I picked up a camera to photograph society or began to blog, I encountered Sweet Caroline’s brother JFK, Jr. several times on the streets of New York City, from the Upper East Side to Tribeca, either on his bicycle or on foot. He always gave a look, smiled pleasantly and twice said hello as if to acknowledge that I respectfully noticed him but did not seek to invade his space. When he launched George Magazine, like many I was impressed, impressed from the perspective that he chose to analyze politics in America. Mind you, I had no personal knowledge or understanding of John Johns mindset, was not a confidante, friend nor could I claim any special relationship with him, my limited interactions and my observation of him in the media made me see that this guy had “IT”— leadership combined with genuine interpersonal skills. Unless you were insecure or resentful person, he was the kind of guy you wanted to like. I hoped that it was simply a matter of time before he would campaign for political office. When JFK, Jr.’s plane went down over Marthas Vineyard, for some reason it really disturbed me deeply and made some of the more dangerous explanations, almost seem plausible. The world lost a special soul when JFK, Jr. died. Caroline Kennedy does not need to explain to me why she is a private and somewhat more reclusive citizen. What she brings to the table as a humanitarian, her intellect and perspective are sufficient for me to support her appointment, even if I respect Andrew Cuomo’s qualifications equally, if not more so. It is an embarrassment of riches that New Yorkers could get a Kennedy or a Cuomo.

Andrew Cuomo, appears to be the right man with the right resume at the right time. He and his family have a history of service to New Yorkers, he was elected to the office of Attorney General and has spent time working in Washington, DC as HUD Secretary in the Clinton Administration. Furthermore, he and his family have high profile relationships and they fundamentally understand the business of government. If Andrew is able to become even half the politician that was his father, Mario Cuomo, then New Yorkers will be well served.

Notably as reported by Elizabeth Benjamin of the NY Daily News. In bidding a fond farewell to New York’s departing junior senator, Hillary Clinton, at his reception last night, Gov. David Paterson seemed to bemoan the fact that he’s having so much trouble settling on her replacement. Governor Patterson was quoted:

“It will be the first time that an individual who is from a class of people who came to this country in chains, will now help to set it free, when we swear in President Barack Obama,” Paterson said.

“So in the midst of all the firsts we would like to celebrate a last. This is the last time that one of the all time favorite public officials in New York will see us as senator of our state.”

“But like so many events in her career, a last has only been a prelude to another first. She will distinguish herself and this country when she is confirmed on Wednesday as the United States secretary of state.”

“Never, in my opinion, in American history, has an individual who ran for office in 2000, and was questioned about the capabilities, ascended to such an extent that we can’t even find an apt replacement.”

With all due respect to Governor Patterson and the ascension of Hillary Clinton’s political career from First Lady to NY Senator and now Secretary of State, nobody has yet permanently filled Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s shoes.  New York needs a Senator who will fight and battle for New York and for whom this position is not a stepping stone to higher office.  New York’s next Senator would do well to follow in the footsteps of Moynihan or Senator Chuck Schumer for that matter. Governor Patterson needs however to have a very strong Democratic ticket in 2010. Support from the Obama White House and City Hall wouldn’t hurt either. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Cuomo family in New York city campaigning for a Democratic Ticket of Andrew Cuomo for U.S. Senate and Governor Patterson would be a significant force as well. Surely, it must be a difficult decision. But then again, there is the woman’s vote and the rest of New York State, outside New York City, which is the reason why some believe the dark horse could be Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand

The End of Social Life?

Approximately two weeks ago I made the following comment or shall I say rant on social networking site aSmallWorld.net in connection with a story about FameGame.com’s ranking system of the top New York social scenesters.

Andy Warhol is dead and everyone’s 15 minutes will soon be up. Make no mistake about that. As the economy unravels further and we head into a global worldwide “Depression” the relative significance of who and what is important on New York’s party circuit will matter far less. As far more folks find themselves living less glamorous lives, our willingness to celebrate the petulant indulgences of others will dissipate. Perhaps then fame will become based more on some substantive and real set of values and accomplishments rather than doing coke at Bungalow 8 or merely staying out too late at parties at high end boutiques. A change is coming. Our patience for focusing incessantly on such drivel will be eclipsed as family fortunes, savings and the social standing are wiped out from New York to Palm Beach and Europe by scumbags like Bernie Madoff and kin. The lives of many have taken a hit. Painful times are ahead for even those who once thought that they were shielded from reality for life.

My comment subsequently got picked up and “interpreted” by Cityfile and edited by NY Post’s Page Six. A friend asked me what it felt like to be in the spotlight. For some reason it felt more like I was in the mainstream media’s crosshairs with Cityfile’s diss of my work as “the man who hovers at benefits and other social gatherings” and “posts photos to his quirky website”. Despite having some devoted fans and stylish admirers, being quoted in the pages of Forbes Magazine, the New York Times, New York Magazine, Absolute Magazine, having my photos appear in nearly every society publication from New York to Palm Beach, including Town & Country, and appearing as a commentator on E! Entertainment Television in a profile of Forbes The 20 Most Intriguing Billionaire Heiresses as a commentator, Cityfile’s implication was that I am somehow “less” or perhaps even that we “crash” when the exact opposite is the case. We do not cover anything where our presence is not requested. The existing social order will not go down without a fight but you would think that they could be a tad more creative then recycling the same formula week after week, month after month and year after year and then knocking someone a tad more independent minded who has a slightly different take on things in his hometown, and who frankly has a reputation for taking the right photos and the ability to occasionally provide some insightful perspective. Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan are where I have spent my entire life but for stints in college at Boston University followed by three years at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and a several years practicing law in Boston for the former Bingham Dana, now Bingham McCutcheon after spending nearly the first two years after law school at Weil Gotshal & Manges.

The thing is that I never claimed that social life per se was dead or over or that parties would come to an end and/or that nobody would pay attention. Nor am I am naive enough to think that poverty or a decline in the relative wealth of some in The Madoff Economy will make us all more sincere or spiritually inclined. In fact, its quite possible that the opposite will occur and that tough times will make us all a bit more scavenger like, especially if the current economic crisis deepens and leads to martial law. My point was simply that our tolerance or patience for continuing to read about the same 20 people we have thrust down our throats on a regular basis by PMC, Vogue Magazine and certain society publications, as being the most important New Yorkers on the social scene, will come to an end. David Patrick Columbia of New York Social Diary stated in the same piece that I was quoted in that “People will always care about the party circuit. In fact, they’ll probably care even more now, because the whole scene is . . . a diversion from reality. It’s always been about escape, and it’s gonna be even more about escape.” Agreed, people do want an escape, but does David understand that what we want is an escape from the over publicized bland nothingness that passes for meaningful social interaction in the greatest city in the world? The overly scripted New York social scene seems to exist to promote the celebrity of certain people whose sole claim to fame is their claim to fame. The escape we need is to turn a page on this diversion or at least modify it somewhat.

My prediction is that in more serious times, folks will focus on their basic needs, networking and survival. Hence readers of these publications and patrons of social events may in fact develop higher standards before they are willing to part with their hard earned and somewhat more scarce cash. Bernie Madoff and his kin/accomplices did not take money from poor people after all, but the scam has made some individuals relatively poor, impacted many other families in a profound way and will continue to create ripples among some of the most affluent in society, including those who usually are unaffected by economic downturns. Likewise, readers will simply turn away rather than read about the same over exposed society’s reality celebutantes. I certainly do not cheer or desire the demise of social interaction or the fortunes of those who make a living in and off of New York Nightlife, even if its not lost on me that there are increasing number of gold parties being held around Manhattan, where attendees sell their gold assets for some much needed cash. Increased social interaction, networking and promoting the common good are all things which may in fact sustain us in a more meaningful and necessary way.

A cultural re-awakening and re-enlightenment is what is needed in New York City. Andy Warhol is dead and the Studio 54 crowd that continues to have a lock on New York Nightlife and whom or what gets promoted and written about, needs to go the same route and step aside or get more creative for our culture to evolve.  ”Every aspect of Western culture needs a new code of ethics – a rational ethics – as a precondition of rebirth.”–Ayn Rand

Everyone’s 15 minutes of fame have turned into an hour, an overnight and now a Weekend at Bernie’s. While the formula worked for a while, its now a bit much if you ask me. This is New York City, the center of the Universe. Can we not do better than dragging around the same socialite carcasses on a nightly or weekly basis? Can we do better than importing LA’s culture of distraction embodied best perhaps on the pages of PerezHilton.com and now his east coast counterpart MicahJesse.com? Can we do better than those in publishing merely publicizing the every move of their BFF’s? Can we not find an alternate perspective and focus? In this reality based culture, can we instead focus just a little more on people who have actually accomplished something or are at least actually doing something with their celebrity or fame? Fame for the sake of fame only goes so far after all and is of limited interest, especially when you are trying to sell me a magazine for $5.95 or more and I have to look at the same faces doing the same irrelevant things week after week. I am no longer interested in reading about people who spend more money on a publicist to spread the word about their social significance and philanthropic deeds than their actual philanthropic deeds. There are some genuine New York stories out there that never get covered. But then again, we are living in curious times and the culture of distraction perhaps serves the purpose of shielding the general population from understanding what is happening to our country.