On the menu today: What would it take to get you to publicly denounce and demonize a friend and colleague of 30 years? Up in New York City, a pair of geriatric Democratic leaders in Congress, Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler, are demonstrating that all it takes is the prospect of not returning to the House for another term. It’s hilarious and depressing, watching two colleagues who once called each other friends now paint each other as cowardly, lazy, gullible, and entitled.
What a Nasty Democratic Primary among Friends Teaches Us
Ask the typical American outside of New York City to lay out the differences between Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler, and they’ll probably respond, “Who and who?” The two longtime New York Democrats are competing against each other in a congressional primary on Tuesday because of a court-mandated redistricting plan.
Even if the person you ask follows politics, that person will probably be hard-pressed to list differences between the two, other than that one’s a man and one’s a woman. Both are congressional Democrats who were first elected in 1992. Both have chaired key committees during their tenure; Maloney currently chairs the House Oversight Committee, and Nadler chairs the House Judiciary Committee.
Ideologically, they’re also hard to distinguish. The American Conservative Union gives Nadler a lifetime rating of 2.58 out of 100 and Maloney a 3.67 out of 100. Their voting records are largely, but not entirely, the same: “From 1993 through last year, CQ Roll Call editors have identified 388 House roll calls as ‘key votes’ that helped define that year’s action. And on 353 of them, Nadler and Maloney voted the same, while Maloney did not vote on five and Nadler did not vote on three.” In other words, on the biggest and most consequential votes, Nadler and Maloney voted the same 90 percent of the time.
Residents of this new Big Apple district are represented by a progressive Democrat now, and they will be represented by a progressive Democrat after November. The only real question is which progressive Democrat that will be.
When you represent a district for three decades, you get to know the other members of your delegation well, particularly when their district is nearby. Nadler and Maloney appeared together at tons of press conferences, ribbon-cuttings, and other events over the years. They no doubt know each other well and describe each other as friends.
And yet, this primary battle is about as nasty as they come.
Allies of Ms. Maloney whispered doubts about Mr. Nadler’s health. (His aides say his health is good.) Mr. Nadler’s associates circulated old news articles about Ms. Maloney’s obsession with pandas, and suggested that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is officially neutral in the race, really preferred him.
Nadler took the moment to attack Maloney on the issue, saying that if her position on the 2015 deal had been successful, Iran would have developed “a nuclear bomb with which to threaten Israel and the rest of the Middle East.”
The congenial tone between Nadler and Maloney at last week’s NY1 debate grew notably more cutting during the Emanu-El forum. Expounding on the difference of their records, Nadler called Maloney “gullible enough to believe the misrepresentations of the Bush administration” and voted in favor of the Iraq War — a position that Maloney now says she regrets.
In a separate interview, Nadler also called Maloney’s vote for the Patriot Act “cowardly.”
Maloney argued that Nadler’s past support for fellow Democrats accused of sexual misconduct demonstrates he’s just a fair-weather defender of women’s rights: “Someone who claims to fight for women’s rights but openly campaigns with a man accused of sexual assault is not who voters should send back to Washington during an extremely fragile moment for women’s rights.” She contended that, in the end, New York’s women can’t count on Nadler and that he’s lazy: “In the interview, she said flatly that Mr. Nadler did not work as hard as she did, particularly on local issues; accused him of taking credit for a woman’s work and said residents of one of the nation’s wealthiest, most liberal districts needed her — not him or Mr. Patel.” (Suraj Patel, who has unsuccessfully challenged Maloney in Democratic primaries twice before, is running a distant third in this race.)
Nadler shot back that when Maloney needed to get something done, she came to him: “She’ll deny it, but I was instrumental in getting the Second Avenue subway running,” he told New York magazine. “Carolyn came to me and asked me to get the funding, and I got it.”
And she suggested that if she loses the primary, it will be because New York Democratic politics “old boys’ network” abandoned her and stuck with Nadler:
“There is an old boys’ network that sticks together and they do not let women in,” Maloney told NY1 in an interview Tuesday on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. “I was friends with a lot of males that I worked with on the West Side and now they won’t even talk with me. They’re all with Jerry, just like glue.”
She has even speculated that if elected, Nadler would not serve a full term because of some undisclosed health issue. By Sunday, Maloney was contending that Nadler is losing his marbles:
I think that you should read the editorial in the NY Post today. They call him senile. They cite his performance at the debate where he couldn’t even remember who he impeached. He said he impeached Bush.
As New York magazine put it, “Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney really hate each other.”
Why? Neither one deliberately set out to end the other’s career in Congress; the redistricting plan that put them in the same district was handed down by a court. Both of them chose to run in this new district, instead of an adjacent one, because this is the district where they live. It’s not like either one can contend that they’re being cheated out of an illustrious future career in Congress; Maloney is 76 years old, Nadler is 75.
Is staying in Congress for a 31st and 32nd year worth trying to destroy the reputation of someone you audaciously still call a friend? Apparently, it is.
If you’re a conservative, this is all hilarious. Two longtime allies with little to no ideological distinction are turning on each other with ferocity and venom, turning their primary into a demolition derby just out of a desire to stay in Congress for a few more years — years that are extremely likely to be spent in the minority!
But, if you suspect that politics rots your brain and corrodes your soul, this is rather vivid evidence that the longer you stay in power, the more you prioritize staying there. In the end, winning another term is all that matters to these two.
Imagine running against someone you call a friend who’s been working alongside you for 30 years. You would think that it would be a relief, not an irritation, to face a potential loss to a friend and longtime ally who sees the world the same way you do. If you can’t win, better that the district be represented by someone you trust, a figure you see as right-minded and who has the right values. Instead, Maloney and Nadler are frothing at the mouth, denouncing each other as lazy, entitled, gullible, cowardly, senile, and dishonest.
I have no dog in this fight; I’m not a progressive, I’m not a Democrat, and I don’t live in that congressional district. But if I did have a vote, I would select Patel, simply because he’s never claimed to be or pretended to be friends with either of his rivals. Maloney and Nadler have demonstrated in recent months that they’re simply terrible human beings who prioritize winning over the reputation of an alleged friend and colleague. It would be fitting if both could be sent back into private life.
A Bombing in Moscow
A lot of bright people — like our Andrew Stuttaford — will put a lot of thought into figuring who the most likely suspects are in the car-bomb assassination that killed Darya Dugina, the daughter of pro-Putin Russian philosopher Alexander Dugin, over the weekend in Moscow. (One disturbingly plausible theory is that her father was the target, and she just chose to drive his car on the worst possible day.) But just as Jake was urged to forget it because it’s Chinatown, this feels like the sort of mystery that will never be solved, because it is Russia, and that country is rife with secret plots, conspiracies, rival factions, skullduggery, intrigue, lies, and cover-ups — and legal authorities whose interest in the truth is highly conditional at best. We can look for answers, but we shouldn’t expect them.
In the comments on Friday, a reader grumbled, “Jim, I think it is a discredit to your reputation that you seem compelled to flog your books at the end of your insightful posts. Are a few more dollars really that important?””
Well, who else is going to promote my books? Only a handful of well-known authors get publicists or sales teams. I am my publicist and sales team.
Almost every author I know has some variation of this experience: You finally get your book published, you see it on the shelf or table at the bookstore, and you feel amazing . . . and then you see shoppers walking by the shelf or book, and you realize that your work is just one of thousands, maybe tens of thousands of options in that store. And a lot of those shoppers are picking up something by, say, George R. R. Martin, because HBO is running what amounts to an hour-long commercial for his works every Sunday night.
Authors must promote their books, full stop. There is no path to success where you demurely and humbly stand by while the world just stumbles across your offerings from the ever-growing reading options out there. I don’t want to brag, but the Morning Jolt has a big, big audience, and at this point, only a small fraction of the Jolt’s readership has given these thriller novels a try. I suspect that a significant portion of that audience would enjoy the books, and so that’s one of the reasons I wrote the short story Saving the Devil — a $.99-cent way to try the series and see if it’s your kind of thing.
There are two ways to deal with my promoting the books. The first is to just ignore it; every weekday, at minimum, there’s 1,500 words of news and analysis and other stuff to enjoy in the Jolt before you get to the stuff about the books.
The other option is to buy the books! Because at some point I’ll conclude I’ve sold all I can to the Morning Jolt audience and move on to other things.