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Launched almost 25 years ago, the Wacko Awards are presented periodically to a wide array of nincompoops, boodlers, stumblebums and other undesirables. Just about everyone who is anyone in New York politics has a Wacko on their mantel, from A(l Sharpton) to Z(enia Mucha). We appropriated the Wacko name from then mayor Ed Koch, who used the elongated version (“waaaaacko”) to describe his many critics, including us. Though 2002 offered a panoply of worthy recipients, there are a limited number of Wackos. These are the chosen few:
Grabbing the Peter Principle Plaque is presidential candidate Al Sharpton, who was wiped out in races for mayor, U.S. Senator, state senator, and every other office he ever wanted. When he loses the presidential run as well, he is sure to announce for God.
The Invisible Woman Honorary Whisper goes to Donna Hanover, who went unlisted in the index of Rudy Giuliani’s 327-page bestseller Leadership. Giuliani even omitted her when he recounted how his friend Jon Sale “loves to tell a story about a double date I went on with him and his wife Jane,” a reference to an overnight party and stay in Jersey in 1990, when he was married to the Unmentionable.
Liberal Party boss Ray Harding gets the Custer Scalp. Vowing to win the 50,000 votes a party needs to keep its ballot line, even though his gubernatorial candidate, Andrew Cuomo, had quit, Harding likened Cuomo to El Cid, whose troops tied him to his horse and sent him into battle even though he was dead, trying to fake out the enemy. Netting barely 15,000 votes, and crushing the half-century-old party under the weight of his own self-serving scandals, lobbyist Harding mistook Little Big Horn for Valencia.
New York Post imports Lachlan Murdoch and Col Allan get the William Randolph Hearst Bloodlust Bugle for their frenzied front-page tooting for war and against transit workers—high notes they mixed themselves when they actually declared that labor leader Roger Toussaint was on a “jihad” against the city. With covers that alternated between ridiculing UN inspectors from the moment they arrived in Iraq to ones that derided Toussaint for driving in an SUV, it was impossible to tell if the Brits and Aussies who run the paper wanted the transit workers or the Iraqis nuked first. With circulation and war fever heating up simultaneously, just as they did in 1898 when Hearst sparked the Spanish-American War, the Post is becoming a weapon of mass destruction!
When the paper wasn’t fighting this two-front battle in 2002, it was excoriating Democratic gubernatorial candidate Carl McCall for helping his daughter get a job. The four McCall banners in five days helped re-elect the Grand Old Post’s governor and earned publisher Lachlan, whose papa Rupert gave him a national paper in Australia to run at the age of 23, the Father-Knows-Best Murky Mirror of Hypocrisy. Championing commuters against its own city in a cover-story circulation drive and plotting to ship 30,000 copies a day to Los Angeles, the quarter paper fantasizes about becoming a Murdochian U.S.A. Today, a fear-feeding reader for Fox Cable’s chunky couch potatoes.
Winning the Black Jelly Bean is that other Republican senate majority leader, Joe Bruno, the white-maned, white-horse-riding leader of the legendary all-white GOP conference in Albany. Not only did Bruno volunteer a defense of Trent Lott even after “W” and others had deserted him, but he turned the Segregation Senator into a racial victim, asking: “What else do you want to do? You want to hang him from an oak tree?” Bruno’s coveted award, of course, is named after the Texaco executives who were heard on tape ridiculing affirmative action efforts at the company with the declaration: “All the black jelly beans seem to be going to the bottom of the bag.” Just 11 days after the tape was released, Texaco settled a two-year diversity lawsuit for a record $176 million. Earl Butz, the Ford administration’s agriculture secretary, lasted a mere three days during the 1976 presidential election, killed by his October remark that all “coloreds want is a tight pussy, loose shoes and a warm place to shit.” Reagan Interior Secretary James Watt was gone in 18 days after he made this comment about his staff: “I have a black, a woman, two Jews, and a cripple. And we have talent.” It took 15 days for Senator Vent A-Lott to give up the ghost, collapsing right after Kiss-of-Death Bruno said Trent “ought to be cut some slack.”
Mexico City’s Rudy Giuliani walks away with the O. Henry “Ransom of Red Chief” Award, given periodically to any unrequited kidnap victim. The Voice has learned that Giuliani was secretly snatched from a cigar bar in the outskirts of the city he’s being paid $4 million to defend, with his 20-man NYPD detail temporarily blinded by the smoke. But he was located 10 days later by a quality-of-life Mexico City cop when caught jaywalking in a dazed condition. The kidnappers dumped him after even Denny Young, just like everyone in the O. Henry saga, refused to pay a ransom. Threatening notes to Judi Nathan were returned addressee unknown. Press Secretary Sunny Mindel treated her ransom letter as if it were a freedom of information request.
The Nixon-to-Hoffa Labor Shakedown Salute goes to George Pataki, who told transit workers after he was re-elected that no one would be riding in on a white horse with “bags of cash” to settle the MTA negotiations, but delivered suitcases of it to Dennis Rivera and Randi Weingarten in deals before the election. Pataki, who was as invisible as Rivera during the tumultuous transit confrontation, must have read the transcripts of Richard Nixon’s 1971 conversations with Attorney General John Mitchell and another aide about the decision to commute Teamster felon Jimmy Hoffa’s prison sentence. “And of course the understanding is,” said Mitchell, that the union “would provide political support” in the 1972 election in exchange, with Nixon chortling that the union “would play our game now, boy.”