On a sunny Columbus Day six years ago, Alfonse D’Amato stood on Fifth Avenue fighting back (crocodile) tears as he whined about challenger Bob Abrams’s now infamous “fascist” crack. Who would have believed–one Senate term later–that those were the days, my friend?
Today, we’re faced with poor Al whimpering that mean old Chuck Schumer called him a “liar” and “sleazy.” This is the swaggering Senator Pothole? The same tough guy who has faced down everyone from Saddam Hussein to Manuel Noriega? Jesus, we loved the 1992 ethnic-indignation riff, but this current stuff is just too pathetic. In your old Newark neighborhood, Alfonse, you’d get your ass kicked for this kind of crybaby act.
The Fonz will not, however, be bellyaching about Monday’s New York Times front pager on how he and Schumer are “not so opposite.” While he loves to needle the Times–which will surely endorse Schumer in a couple of weeks–as haughty and claims that he can’t stomach meeting with the paper’s editorial board, D’Amato has to dig any story that casts Schumer in a similar light as himself. Since the Times is Schumer’s bible, this comparison with D’Amato had to feel like quite a rebuke, the worst mud slung in the race.
On another press front, though, D’Amato did not fare as well. He was grilled last week by upstate reporters about his divisive “Brooklyn liberal” and upstatedownstate commercials. The Fonz got so flustered that he snapped at one reporter and yelled at another when a TV microphone entered the personal space near the Fonz’s face. Seems to us that the incumbent is a bit frazzled these days. Maybe the numbers emerging from the Finkelstein cave–not to mention the crash-and-burn of some recent Fonz commercials–have left the Island Park padrone a bit depressed.
Perhaps he is coming to the sad realization that voters may be tired of his shtick. Ed Koch’s act lasted 12 years before the wheels came off. Mario Cuomo also became expendable after a dozen years in office. Geraldine Ferraro’s icon status carried an expiration date. Now 18 years down the road, D’Amato may have had the right idea when he promised that the 1992 race was his last. At the time, that was cheap talk from a desperate man. But that doesn’t make it any less prescient.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 13, 1998