There was one moment at the just-completed state Republican convention that got pretty much skipped over amid all the hubbub of the big floor fight between the victorious old-liners backing Rick Lazio, and the dissidents trying to pry the door open to let ex-Democrat Steve Levy carry the party banner for governor this fall. That was the speech on the first day of the convention by former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia, which was interesting for a few reasons.
For one, Garcia was the first ex-federal prosecutor to take the podium at a state Republican confab since Rudy Giuliani set GOP hearts throbbing 20 years ago. This raises inevitable questions as to whether he sees himself following in his predecessor’s political footsteps.
For another, although no one was impolite enough to mention this, it was Garcia’s investigation that led to the undoing of the last elected Democratic governor, one Eliot Spitzer, after the feds started probing his heavy hooker habit. That’s one major debt of gratitude the party owes him, even if no one wants to say so out loud.
Then there’s the fact that Garcia also gave a pretty interesting speech, saying some things left unsaid by any others taking the stage at the gathering.
Take the last point first: Garcia’s talk hit hard at public corruption. This makes sense given the fact that he conducted high-profile probes that sent three sitting state lawmakers to prison. But unlike the dozens of other GOPers who hit the same corruption note over and over, Garcia didn’t pretend that it was just a problem for Democrats.
“We must face the truth here,” the ex-lawman stated. “This is not a problem that plagues just one party. This cannot be an exercise in fingerpointing. As we well know, the headlines have reached into both sides of the aisle. Because corruption has no party affiliation.”
Those lines didn’t win even a smattering of applause from the red-blooded crowd, but then neither did his added remarks about fiscal irresponsibility which he said “goes hand in hand” with corruption.
“It wasn’t that kind of speech,” Garcia said this afternoon from the midtown law firm where he now works. “I thought it was a little bit different in that I agree some things need to be said generally, which is that corruption is not a party issue, and that it’s a New York issue right now.”
As for politics, he insists that, unlike Giuliani or his former New Jersey counterpart and now governor, Chris Christie, he has no immediate ambitions. “I am not running for anything. I am not in the line for any of that. Not interested,” he said. Pressed, he took things down a notch: “I would never say never on anything, but definitely not for this cycle. It was just nice to get the invitation,” he said. “I had never been to a convention.”
As for his unmentioned Spitzer takedown, he said, “I don’t connect the two things at all. It would be inappropriate to speak about cases I prosecuted. This was a very separate thing. I was speaking as a former U.S. attorney about general issues that are not party issues, issues that are facing the state and nation.”