My proudest moment as a journalist was when Al D’Amato called me a “viper” in his memoir, Power, Pasta & Politics. Second proudest was when Chuck Schumer — in his 2007 book, Positively American — cited one of my stories as the decisive moment in his successful 1998 senate campaign against D’Amato, saying it “helped save us.”
But even I have to give D’Amato credit for his unbridled outrage on Fox Business last week.
D’Amato called Jack Burkman, who was identified by Fox as a GOP strategist, a “nasty racist” and repeatedly derided Burkman’s language as “bullshit” in an explosive discussion about privatizing the post office. D’Amato agreed with much of Burkman’s economic analysis, but assailed Burkman’s reference to postal workers as having “the skill level” of Nigerians and Ethiopians, adding that we’d be better off if these workers were “driving cabs.”
As with all things D’Amato, though, you have to wonder if he was really upset about something else Burkman said that no one noticed.
Throughout the segment, Burkman argued that members of Congress were willing to fund the post office because they “name big post offices after themselves,” charging that a Newark post office building is named after Democratic senator Frank Lautenberg. “Somebody who hasn’t even died yet has named a post office after himself,” Burkman shrieked.
D’Amato went ballistic after Burkman elevated this accusation later in the debate, saying it was “more than grotesque for a living person to use federal funds to put his name on a post office,” contending that the naming rights were “a major motivation” for building the projects in the first place.
Burkman apparently didn’t recall that the largest building on Long Island, and the third largest federal courthouse in the country is named the Alfonse M. D’Amato United States Courthouse. D’Amato secured funding for the 12-story, 870,000 square foot, courthouse while still in the Senate, though it didn’t open until 2000, after his loss to Schumer. Peter King, the Republican congressman from Long Island whose son works at D’Amato’s lobbying firm, introduced a bill to change the name from The Long Island U.S. Courthouse in 2002.