The 2005 Wacko Awards

With everyone chasing a Bloombucks bonus, only the most craven can win

Launched over 25 years ago, the Wacko Awards have been handed out by the Voice to the biggest bullies, bumblers, screwups, and suck-ups in almost every major campaign. We appropriated the Wacko name from then mayor Ed Koch, who used the elongated version ("waaaacko") to deride his critics, especially us. Though 2005 offered up a potpourri of worthy recipients, there are only a limited number of Wackos, and most of them this year go to the media. Here are the chosen few:

Grabbing this year's Bloombucks Bonuses are those four titans of the New York press, Mort Zuckerman, Rupert Murdoch, Arthur Carter, and Pinch Sulzberger, whose Daily News, Post, Observer, andTimes competed for the Mogul Mouth-to-Mouth Resuscitation Air Bag. Converting their predictable editorial endorsements of Bloomberg into a campaign-long splurge of double-standard news coverage, their collective invisible hand generated a juggernaut of juiced judgment for their fellow mogul that crossed all ideological or partisan lines. Instead of paying so much as lip service to the level-playing-field job of a free press, the moguls added their own "objective" voices to the torrent of echoing ads purchased by Bloombucks, combining to revive in a breathless six months a mayor who'd hit historic approval-rating lows.

In addition to their Bonus and Air Bag, the owners will receive 41 Bullets and a Gag to commemorate their endless repetition of Fernando Ferrer's Diallo gaffe and their simultaneous silence on Bloombucks's blather about Lenora Fulani. Without ever telegraphing what they would've said if Ferrer had instead called Diallo a crime though a jury found otherwise, the four papers combined to print 152 references to Ferrer's statement, cheered on by the black-vote-hunting Bloomies. Not one paper published Ferrer's full initial statement, which contained many pointed blasts at the cops, the cop commissioner, and the then mayor. Nor did anyone notice that when Ferrer was asked about the comment months later at the debate, Bloomberg took a speechless pass on the slaying, just as he had when he signed a council bill renaming the street where Diallo was killed.

Tabloid target: Ferrer
photo: Lauren Braun
Tabloid target: Ferrer


Waddya know?

The Missing in Action Most-Important-Numbers- You-Barely-or-Never-Heard Quiz requires Wacko readers to guess just how often these vital statistics were mentioned by the press in general election coverage. Some questions test your ability to compute unreported totals:

1. The $4 billion to $4.5 billion budget gap for next year
2. The 18.5 percent property tax hike railed about at the Post and elsewhere prior to the campaign
3. The 723,000 Bloomy vote total, lowest winning tally in the last 81 years of two-person mayoral races
4. The number of years since a majority of the city's white voters last backed a Democrat for mayor, eclipsed by post-election coverage of blacks and Latinos transcending race and party
5. The page on which the News buried the story of the first official mayoral debate, which was boycotted by Bloombucks
6. The caveat word count in the Times endorsement of Bloombucks, excusing his one-man demolition of its prized campaign finance system
7. The expenditure cap limiting Bloombucks if Pinch Sulzberger hadn't given him the go-ahead to opt out of campaign finance
8. The best-guess victory margin if Bloombucks had had to run with the stadium still in play, no Olympics, and the comparative hole at ground zero
9. Bloombucks's Fulani vote total, without which he would not have beaten Rudy Giuliani's 1997 margin
10. The amount Bloombucks has and will spend on PR to convince us that money didn't re-elect him

Answers 1. 13 2. 10 3. Zero 4. 20 5. Page 39 6. 297 words 7. $5.7 million 8. 51-48 9. 74,715 10. unknowable

In stark contrast, EveryPaper, whose titans also endorsed George Pataki in 2002 and Rudy Giuliani in 1997 in a chorus of incumbency boosterism, turned Bloombucks's subsidies and salutes to Fulani into a non-story. When Fulani reiterated her heartfelt belief that Jews are "mass murderers of people of color," Bloombucks tried to duck questions about her at a press conference the next day, claiming at first not to hear a reporter's question, even though Fulani's remarks were recited twice, loudly. Then Bloombucks declared: "I just have no comment on it. I don't know what she is referring to, so you'll have to ask her," a response that would've buried an unprotected pol under a barrage of tabloid cover lines no matter how many times he tried to restate it.

Elected on Fulani's Independence Party line in 2001 and running on it again, Bloombucks has steered his own and city funding in Fulani's direction. He even appeared at a million-dollar fundraiser for Fulani just two days before she did her Jew blast. Bloombucks, who said he was "thrilled" to participate in Fulani's extravaganza, did get around to condemning her remarks, and that was enough, apparently, to kill the controversy. Revelations that Bloombucks made crass deals with Fulani's party, including agreeing to put a charter amendment on the ballot for them, were ignored. Ferrer's Diallo comments came just a couple of weeks before Bloombucks's Fulani flub, but Freddy's controversy lasted eight months, while Bloomy's ended in eight hours, earning Mogul Muzzles for all four brother behemoths.

The Slip-Them-a-Mickey Jug goes to Mickey Carroll, the polling giant who should asterisk his Quinnipiac University predictions with plus-or-minus-20-point margins of error. While others got it almost as wrong, Carroll's was in a chloral hydrate class by itself, going all the way up to a 38-point margin for Mayor Mike the day before the election, making them 50 percent off after missing by 25 percent in the primary.

But it was Carroll's post-primary poll in September, right after Ferrer got his 40 percent primary win, that had the real Mickey Finn knockout effect, made famous by the turn-of-the-century Chicago bartender who packed his late-night drinks with a secret wallop and robbed his drugged patrons. Just when every pundit was predicting a winner's bounce for Ferrer, abetted by a giant unity rally at City Hall, Quinnipiac found a Mike margin that had widened to 14 points. If any poll killed momentum and money for Ferrer, it was this one.

What Carroll never revealed was that he had to juice that result to get Bloombucks's total over the magical 50 percent mark, including likely and leaning voters even though first polls in an election cycle rarely count these much more subjective categories of voters. If Carroll had instead reported the nine-point margin among registered voters, rather than trying to figure out this early who was a leaner or a likely, it would've left Big Mike five points shy of 50, with Ferrer closing in. Located in suburban Connecticut, Quinnipiac used only six Spanish-speaking students of the 155 paid to make calls and repeatedly missed Latino preferences, even under-weighting Hispanics in the sample at one point.

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