All’s fair, they say, in Love and War. And I guess you’d have to say in Politics as well. At least it is here in Westchester, in the contentious and mean-spirited race in the 37th Senate District.
But before we weigh in on the nasty current contretemps between Democrat George Latimer and Republican Bob Cohen … our mind drifts back several decades to another election year battle for that very same State Senate seat. It occurred somewhere, we recall, in the uncomplicated, serene 70’s. And that long-ago contest between a beloved, soft-spoken Republican named Anthony B. Gioffre and a courtly, refined Democrat Max Berking, though hard-fought, is remembered even to this day for the civility and dignity which attended both combatants, Gioffre and Berking. Refreshingly, it was just two nice, well-intentioned fellows, two real gentlemen having a go at the issues. But not at each other. That little flash of Déjà vu serves to remind us that Bob Cohen and George Latimer are also nice guys. Both of them. Why the hell then are they going at each other like street-brawlers!
Mr. Cohen sat in our office early one morning and spoke movingly, with passion and eloquence, as he told us he hoped one day to emulate the public service of Jacob K. Javits and Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Jack Javits and Pat Moynihan. You couldn’t wish for more stellar or worthy role models. (Latimer proudly holds up Bobby Kennedy as his inspiration. Another good choice). But then something happened to both nice guys. But especially to Bob Cohen. The multi-million dollar campaign he conjured up to destroy the reputation of his opponent has set new records for vitriol, meanness and personal ad hominem attacks.
Mr. Cohen, over the last several months, has unleashed a blizzard of direct mail broadsides and faux “man-on-the-street” television ads accusing Mr. Latimer of something Westchester people know he’s not. One of them even called Assemblyman Latimer “a Benedict Arnold.” In other words, a traitor. And, sadly, Mr. Latimer is not without sin in the matter. By his hand we’ve learned that Mr. Cohen is a “slumlord.” Nice stuff … from both of them.
The worst, darkest instincts of each candidate has been fueled, encouraged and subsidized by the elders of the State Democratic and Republican party machines battling for control of the State Senate. And thus perhaps Latimer and Cohen are merely pawns in a much larger power game. But one of them will represent you and yours come the first of the year. We’re for George Latimer.
George Latimer is a politician the way the men of our father’s time imagined them to be. He is the very embodiment of Tip O’Neill’s wise and prescient comment that all politics is local. Latimer brings a realness, a genuineness that can’t be faked or manufactured. He’s been like that in every season of his life and throughout his public service. And despite over a million dollars invested to tarnish and diminish his reputation, we have confidence that Latimer will continue to serve us well … only this time as a senator.
But make no mistake: as gifted, sincere and decent as the Democrat is, it is no easy matter to find against Mr. Cohen. For in his best moments, Bob Cohen has all the equipment and attributes to be a real standout in public life. But as attractive as he is, he has stunted that potential by climbing into the gutter with that “take no prisoners”, highly personal and vindictive campaign against a very good man.
Apparently, our friends at The Journal News and The New York Times saw through it.
And we join them in endorsing George Latimer for New YorkState Senate.
This is a WVOX Editorial of the Air. This is Bill O’Shaughnessy.