Tuesday, September 21, 2010

‘Senator Pothole’ Goes NY Postal With Fox Racist — And It’s a Thing of Beauty

Even if you disagreed with Alfonse D’Amato on the issues and found him a pain in the ass more often than not, those familiar with the three-term senator from New York had a grudging admiration for his pluck and outrageous combativeness. Al D’Amato was the quintessential working class ethnic Italian from Brooklyn. And he clung to office in what today we call a “Blue State” as a fierce infighter.

It’s not easy for a Republican to be elected senator from New York, let alone three times. Al had to work extra hard to stay on top, hence the nickname Senator Pothole, for his delivery of constituent services. D’Amato wore the nickname with pride. New York Magazine once ran a cover story entitled “Senator Pothole” with, you guessed it, a close-up of a New York City street pothole.

D’Amato haters used the nickname as a pejorative, like the unsubtle Al ‘Put It In the Back Seat’ D’Amato. There were persistent rumors of mob ties, especially with Al’s brother Armand, but nothing ever stuck. D’Amato’s constituents didn’t much care anyway, as long as he kept those services coming. In this sense he was like the Dapper Don, John Gotti, a local working class hero sticking it to establishment Manhattanites and The Man.

New Yorkers love a scrapper, and Al fit the bill. They loved his abrasive manner, his speech impediment and whaddya-whaddya in-your-face Brooklyn accent. There was an element of high political theater to his attacks. During the O.J. Simpson trial he once used a mock Japanese accent to impersonate Lance Ito, the presiding Japanese American judge. He had to apologize on the Senate floor. He also referred to the portly Democratic Congressman from New York, Jerry Nadler, as “Congressman Waddler” and did a duck walk to embellish the slur. He apologized for this, too.

Back when filibusters were of the old-fashioned “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” talk till you drop variety, Al D’Amato once filibustered a bill by reading the District of Columbia phone book. He filibustered a bill that would have cost upstate New York 750 jobs by singing “South of the Border (Down Mexico Way).” D’Amato holds the record for the second and seventh longest filibusters ever recorded in the United States Senate.

But for all his quirks and often outrageous conduct, Al D’Amato was a conservative Republican who could break the mold and work across the aisle in surprising ways. In 1993, he was one of only three Republicans to vote to allow gays to serve openly in the military. That’s three more Republicans than voted today, 17 years later, in the failed effort to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. In 1996, he sided with Democrats to extend federal protections in ending hiring discrimination against gays. Reflecting his working class — albeit Archie Bunker working class — roots, D’Amato was strongly pro-labor. When one of his opponents called him a fascist, D’Amato made the most of his faux personal injury and offense, suggesting it was an attack on his Italian heritage. Naturally ‘Il Duce’ won re-election in a tight race. It took Chuck Schumer to finally end Al D’Amato’s run by giving him a taste of his own medicine: In the heat of the campaign Al called Chuck a “putz-head,” which means “fool” or “penis-head” in Yiddish. Chuck turned the tables of personal outrage on Al, consolidating the Jewish vote. Almost certainly, D’Amato appreciated Schumer’s right-back-atcha political stab.

So it comes as no surprise that when Al D’Amato turned up on a Fox political show he tore into a scummy racist of the dime-a-dozen type they host day-in and day-out. It was like the Al D’Amato of old, and yes, it was a thing of beauty:

Postcript: Alfonse D’Amato may not be a progressive’s cup of tea, but he done good here in his inimitable style. D’Amato has four children from a prior marriage and two children, a boy and a girl, born in 2008 and 2009 from his current marriage. He is 73. (Shrugs) Hey. What else is there to say?


Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

What a pleasant surprise! A tip of the hat to old Al!

Nice site you have here.

All the best,

Tom Degan

Carlos said...

Thanks, Tom. :)