At a meeting with the Gazette editorial board yesterday when acting mayor of Schenectady Gary McCarthy was asked about campaign literature of his that attributed statements to this newspaper that didn’t actually appear in the newspaper, his defense, which I thought perfect, was “editorial latitude.”
I knew just what he meant, since I occasionally avail myself of such expansiveness. I’ll sometimes say that a certain statement was the stupidest thing I ever heard in my life, or that a certain syndicated columnist is a miserable wretch, when I know full well I’m not being strictly accurate.
I expect readers to cut me a little slack, and in fairness I’m willing to cut political candidates a little slack.
McCarthy has been hitting Schenectady mailboxes with attack ads against his Alliance-Republican opponent, Roger Hull, which indeed have demonstrated some latitude with the facts, and I’m willing to say, well, that’s politics.
Now Hull is hitting back with an attack ad of his own on local television, and I say the same.
Hull’s ad hits McCarthy, a Democrat, as a big spender and says, among other things, “When he’s not racking up overtime at one of his four government jobs, Gary’s been on a spending spree with government dollars.”
Four government jobs? Well, let’s see. He’s the acting mayor, even though that’s not technically a job, and he’s the president of the City Council, which is a job, and in that capacity he is temporarily discharging the duties of the mayor, so that’s sort of a two-in-one situation.
He is an investigator in the office of the Schenectady County district attorney, which has long been his bread-and-butter job, and the one in which he made $33,236 in overtime last year, but he has been on leave from that since taking over the mayor’s duties and no longer gets paid for it.
And that’s it, really. He used to be on the Metroplex board and on the Industrial Development Agency board, but those were both unpaid positions and he has left them both. The same with the SACC-TV board. It was unpaid and he has left it.
So his only job is City Council president, which pays $14,100, and in that capacity he also discharges the duties of mayor, for which he does not get paid overtime.
But that’s OK. Hull’s ad depicts McCarthy wearing a tam-o’-shanter and swinging a golf club through a spray of dollar bills as a way of illustrating McCarthy’s plan to spend $3 million refurbishing the municipal golf course, and do you think I’m going to find fault because McCarthy doesn’t actually wear a tam-o’-shanter? Of course not. Editorial latitude.
Then we have McCarthy’s newest full-color glossy mailer — one of those oversized postcards that show up at this time of year — picturing former Mayor Al Jurczynski in the rearview mirror of the Hull vehicle.
“When Roger Hull talks about his vision for Schenectady,” the card says, “you might want to look at who’s along for the ride.” And there’s Mayor Al, who famously left the city deep in deficit, almost unable to pay its bills.
“Don’t let Al’s crew take Schenectady taxpayers for a ride again,” it says.
I checked with my old friend Mayor Al about this, and he said, “I wouldn’t expect anything else from a guy I whupped in 1999,” harking back to his second mayoral election, when he did indeed defeat McCarthy.
And without any provocation from me he described McCarthy as “mean, vicious and vindictive,” and added, “It will be a tragedy if this guy gets in the mayor’s office.”
So there you go. Editorial latitude.
If it’s good for one, it’s good for all.
My only regret is that the campaign is coming to an end so soon. It was quiet and dignified for so long that I lost interest, and now just as it’s developing some latitude, it’s about to end. What is a poor journalist to do?
Richard Cohen is one of the few syndicated columnists I admire, so it was with dismay that I read him yesterday in this newspaper denouncing the banking industry and the filthy rich who “now take umbrage when President Barack Obama calls out their industry for approbation.”
For approbation? No, no. Approbation means approval. Obama has called out the industry for opprobrium, maybe, or disapprobation, but certainly not for approval.