WO interviews John Cahill — Candidate for Attorney General

John Cahill is like a breath of fresh air in the murky world of contemporary politics. The hour we recently spent at our Westchester studios with Governor George Pataki’s former chief of staff left me feeling better about politics, the potential of good, enlightened government and even with a somewhat renewed confidence in a Republican Party which has lost its way. The registration numbers are heavily against him in his race for Attorney General of New York State. But John Cahill, who speaks eloquently of a Party that is more inclusive and compassionate, just might restore your faith in the political process and even in the confused and beleaguered Republican Party. We’ve argued for years that men and women of real quality, substance and ability will not submit to the rigors of public service. And then every once in a while along comes a John Cahill. We’ll see how well he does …

– – – W.O.

William O’Shaughnessy:
In our studio, live this very morning in June, is a man we’ve admired – I’ve got to tell you straight out – for a long time. He’s a Republican … are you ready? And he’s running for attorney general of the Empire State. He’s a Yonkers, New York guy … a child of Yonkers – “where true love conquers” … John Cahill.

John Cahill:
Bill … it’s great to be with you.

William O’Shaughnessy:
You really ran the State of New York for a good, long time as George Elmer Pataki’s Secretary – which means chief of staff. You ran the damn place.

John Cahill:
Well, it was a job with a lot of responsibilities. It had gotten me to know the State from Long Island to Buffalo, Bill. I have a real passion for the State. It’s an amazing state with amazing people. Because of that background I have in government as his Secretary and also previous to that as Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation … I’m anxious to get back into public service.

William O’Shaughnessy:
Secretary doesn’t mean the typing kind. Secretary means you run everything.

John Cahill:
Secretary means you do what the governor needs to get done. That includes typing if you have to. But really it’s the highest appointed position in the State. All State agencies report into the Secretary to the Governor. So your responsibilities run from the environment to health care to transportation. All of those State agencies out there run through the implementation of the Governor’s policies.

William O’Shaughnessy:
John Cahill, you and – former Governor Pataki – have been together for a long time. How did you meet?

John Cahill:
Yes … it goes back to the days of practicing law with a mutual friend of ours – Mr. William Plunkett …

William O’Shaughnessy:
“Brother Bill” Plunkett, Esquire.

John Cahill:
Yes, absolutely. Actually, Bill was very instrumental in convincing me to go to law school. I met him when I was coaching and teaching at Stepinac High School in White Plains when I coached his oldest son, Ryan. And Bill convinced me to go to law school. He gave me a job as a summer intern. And the first case I tried at Plunkett & Jaffe was tried with Mr. Kevin Plunkett, his brother, and George Pataki, in upstate New York. George Pataki and I have been friends ever since.

William O’Shaughnessy:
In every telling and by every account, John Cahill is a nice guy. You are greatly admired in your home heath. Why the hell do you want to mess with politics now?

John Cahill:
Well, never having run in politics before … but having been around government for a good 12 years, Bill, you see the difference it can make in people’s lives. Government can be an instrument of good or it can be an instrument of not so good. And I’ve seen the goodness of government. Whether it was working at DEC or our rebuilding efforts in lower Manhattan, I believe in public service. And I believe my time in government and in the public sector has given me the qualifications and background to serve capably as the next New York State Attorney General.

William O’Shaughnessy:
What’s going on in the State of New York? We only know what we see in the public press. It looks like a mess. Is it really as bad as it seems?

John Cahill:
Well, I think it really depends on where you go. I spent last week traveling much of upstate New York … Buffalo, Jamestown, Elmira, Corning … some great old towns in New York with wonderful, people. And I must say there’s a sense of concern and lack of confidence in the future. What I hear most, the biggest concern, is about jobs and also the brain drain. Where are my children going to live? If they go off to college, do they come back? Is there going to be a future here for the next generation of New Yorkers? I believe there is because New York is always going to be, as you mentioned, the Empire State. But we need to have government fighting for the needs of these people by having programs and policies and law enforcement that will build a future for New Yorkers and that’s my concern right now, Bill. There is a lot of concern in upstate New York about the future of the State and what it means for the next generation of New Yorkers.

William O’Shaughnessy:
John Cahill, can anything … can anyone – even Cahill – save Binghamton or Utica or Batavia?

John Cahill:
Yes, I do believe they can, Bill. I think there are policies and opportunities in the State. One of the challenging issues the State is facing is on the issue of developing natural gasses along the Southern Tier. Hydrofracking is a very controversial issue right now in the State. And as you travel the Southern Tier – Binghamton, Jamestown, Elmira, that is a really big issue. And having been Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation four years … and prior to that I served as their general counsel, I spent my entire life around environmental issues and energy issues. And I do believe it can be done safely. We shouldn’t be drilling in the New York City watershed. We shouldn’t be drilling in our State parks. But there are areas in the State – if properly regulated – that I believe my former agency is capable of regulating. And that would not only be an economic game-changer for the Southern Tier, but for all of New York State.

William O’Shaughnessy:
There’s a story in the Wall Street Journal this very morning, John Cahill, about all the little towns, hamlets and villages that have actually banned fracking.

John Cahill:
Yes … and it’s now before the Court of Appeals as to whether these towns and villages can act unilaterally to basically ban fracking. And if that was to happen, obviously the opportunities for companies to come in is going to be severely limited. New York State has generally recognized in the past that energy mining, developing those resources, are preempted on the local level. So that’s right now before the Court of Appeals and that is going to be an important issue as to whether we do develop oil and gas in the Southern Tier.

William O’Shaughnessy:
Well, you’re not saying you know better than those local yokels?

John Cahill:
No, I’m not. I’m saying I think we need to have an overall State policy that certainly gives the locals the appropriate opportunity to participate in the decision-making process. Certainly there would be a concern if with each town you had a patch-work around the State. And that would be a concern, Bill. But I think there is a process to make sure we get the locals on board, to get the counties on board. And if there’s strong feeling that it’s not the right place, no one should be forced to live with issues they don’t want to live with. But at the same time there are areas around the State, Bill, that very much are anxious to move forward appropriately and diligently on developing those resources.

William O’Shaughnessy:
His name is John Cahill … he hails from Yonkers, right over the Cross County Parkway, that colorful, if sometimes beleaguered city on the Hudson and he’s running and surprise, surprise – as a Republican!

John Cahill:
Yes, I am. I’ve been a Republican my entire life, Bill. You say why are you a Republican? My parents are Irish immigrants … how come you’re not a Democrat? Actually, my father was a Republican as well. We believe in opportunity. I do believe in an active government, but I don’t believe in a dependent government or a government that forces dependency. And I think the government can have an awful lot to give people – as it’s given me, a son of immigrants – an opportunity to achieve something in this world.

William O’Shaughnessy:
So what kind of Republican are you, John Cahill? There was a story in City and State this week – a blog, a very good one – that there ain’t no more Rockefeller Republicans.

John Cahill:
I guess I’m a Rockefeller Republican … a Pataki Republican …

William O’Shaughnessy:
Is that one and the same?

John Cahill:
I would leave that to the Rockefellers and the Patakis. They have differences but they have a lot of similarities, I expect. And I think it goes back to the idea that we’re not anti-government. We do believe in a role for government. But we believe in the overriding sense and responsibility of opportunity and not dependency, Bill. And I think certainly that was Governor Pataki’s mantra and if I recall Governor Rockefeller also had a lot to say about that as well. We’re not like many of the other Republicans around the country who believe that government should have very little role in bettering the lives of its citizens.

William O’Shaughnessy:
Do you remember when Louis Lefkowitz of sainted memory was attorney general?

John Cahill:
Yes, I’m old enough to remember Louis Lefkowitz. And you know, when I look at that office, Bill, he’s somebody I certainly admire as an attorney general. He was known as the “People’s Lawyer.” He was somebody who really served the interests of the people of the State and used that office not to aspire to higher office. He never ran for governor … he had a tough guy in front of him to run for governor!

William O’Shaughnessy:
Rockefeller …

John Cahill:
Yes! Rockefeller. But he was dedicated to that notion of serving as the people’s lawyer. And certainly that is a model I would like to emulate again in the office of the attorney general.

William O’Shaughnessy:
Out on the stump on the road, the rubber chicken circuit, you’ve said again and again you want to be the people’s lawyer. But aren’t you also the governor’s lawyer?

John Cahill:
Sure, you have a responsibility as the attorney general to serve as the lawyer for the Executive and the executive agencies. That is an important component of serving as attorney general. Absolutely, Bill. But the role of attorney general has broader responsibilities than just defending the Governor or being the lawyer for the Executive. It’s also being an advocate for the People. The responsibility is clearly to defend the civil rights of the citizens of the State of New York. And that’s why I’ve been such a strong advocate and, quite frankly, a critic of the current attorney general. When we have issues concerning the education of our children, which many of us do … it’s a civil rights issue. I believe the attorney general should be more outspoken, more vocal, to be sure the children of the state are given a quality education … as our Constitution requires.

William O’Shaughnessy:
You’re talking about a guy named Schneiderman? I don’t even know his first name.

John Cahill:
Yes. Mr. Eric Schneiderman.

William O’Shaughnessy:
Can you beat him?

John Cahill:
I believe I can. I wouldn’t be in this just to run around the State. I’ve done that before and I love this State. But I believe the response I’ve gotten so far, Bill, is very positive. Most people in the State of New York do not know the present attorney general, they cannot identify him on any particular issue. I also believe there is a sense around the State that having members of different parties at the crucial positions in Albany is important for a good, functioning government. We haven’t had that in the last eight years. And I think we’ve had quite a bit of dysfunction in Albany. I believe people do want a balance of authority, a balance of power in Albany. I would like to bring that balance of power to Albany.

William O’Shaughnessy:
John Cahill … I don’t want to injure you, but the word in political circles is that the Democrat Governor – Andrew Mark Cuomo – thinks you’re a pretty good guy.

John Cahill:
Well, that’s nice to hear.

William O’Shaughnessy:
You’re a Republican. He’s a Democrat!

John Cahill:
You know what, I’ve always approached government and politics really non-political, Bill. I mean whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, we all have the responsibility to serve the interests of the people. That’s the ideology rather than being a Republican or a Democrat I would take to the office of Attorney General.

William O’Shaughnessy:
Let’s take some calls from our listeners for the Republican – are you also the Conservative candidate?

John Cahill:
Yes I am …

William O’Shaughnessy:
The Republican-Conservative candidate for attorney general of the State of New York John Cahill … let’s go to the phones. You’re on the air …

Caller:
I’m listening to Mr. Cahill and normally as we get closer to Election Day we ask well why should the person already in there be discharged? I heard what you were saying before that you think you can beat Mr. Schneiderman. In general what type of a job do you think he’s doing? What would you do different?

John Cahill:
I do not like the job he is doing. A couple of areas I would take issue with the current Attorney General: One, on law enforcement and on criminal justice issues. For instance, we have a heroin epidemic exploding across the State right now. If you travel from Staten Island up to Buffalo that is really having a devastating impact on many of our communities. And what is the attorney general’s response to that? Well, it’s to hand out an antidote. That’s fine. I believe we should save every life possible. But how about going after the criminals dispensing that horrible drug to those in our communities. We need tougher laws and we need tougher law enforcement when it comes to heroin and drug use in the State. We need to have an attorney general who is helping to bring businesses into this State, not fighting job opportunities on every front. And that’s whether it’s in the financial service industry, in the high-tech industry, in the natural gas industry. We’ve had an attorney general who has been anti-business from day one in office. And number three … anybody out there would say who is the attorney general? People don’t know who he is. Would you hire a lawyer who hasn’t shown up, who you haven’t identified with, who hasn’t helped your life in the last four years? I don’t think you would re-hire him. I will be the advocate for the people of New York. I will be, yes, the governor’s lawyer and the executive lawyer, but I would also be a much stronger advocate for the people of New York.

William O’Shaughnessy:
If push comes to shove … who do you go with? The people or the governor?

John Cahill:
I don’t think it’s really a choice, Bill. Clearly you have a responsibility as attorney general to represent the Governor and to represent the interests of the Executive. Listen, when I was Secretary to the Governor, we worked with Elliot Spitzer. Not exactly an ideologue of similarity to Governor Pataki. But he knew his responsibility with respect to representing the Executive. He also had his own responsibilities and took on his own issues in that role. And not to say I would emulate that attorney general either, but I think the point that you’re making is a good one … you do have responsibility under New York State law and under the constitution to represent the Executive. But that doesn’t preclude you from setting your own policies and advocating for New Yorkers.

William O’Shaughnessy:
John Cahill, your own party is a mess. The Republican Party. It almost doesn’t exist anymore. Or does it?

John Cahill:
Oh it does, Bill. I think there are different sectors of the Republican Party. But frankly, you’re also seeing that in the Democratic Party. You saw that with the Working Family Party at their convention up in Albany two weeks ago from the far left pressuring the Governor on the endorsement. Listen, both political parties are going to have fringe elements pressing the issue. And many times, because they are so influential in the primary process, they can have a dramatic impact on elections. But I do believe in the Republican Party, with the right message and the right voice about being inclusive. One of the things the Republican Party has a problem with is being compassionate. At least projecting itself as compassionate, Bill …

William O’Shaughnessy:
What do you mean?

John Cahill:
Well, take for instance … I came out on Sunday in support of medical marijuana and many in my party are opposed to it. Now I’m not in favor of legalizing marijuana. But when you talk to so many of the advocates and the parents who have children who suffer from seizures that would benefit from medical marijuana, I was convinced that yes, we could do this. We can do it by providing additional resources to law enforcement, to State troopers and local police to make sure that the law is properly enforced. But we need to be, as a party, more caring and more responsive and show that to the people of this State and to the people of this country.

William O’Shaughnessy:
John Cahill, you mentioned State Troopers … the State Police. Weren’t you just endorsed by the troopers?

John Cahill:
Yes I was. I’m very proud my first political endorsement came from the New York State Police.

William O’Shaughnessy:
So the next time I’m stopped going up 684 … I’m going to have a Cahill bumper sticker …

John Cahill:
Bill, I think you know a lot of other people that can help you a lot more than I can. But I’d be proud to help you, Bill.

William O’Shaughnessy:
That’s a great endorsement … the troopers.
John Cahill:
Yes … I’m very proud. I worked with the State Police in both the DEC and in the Governor’s Office and they are a tremendous group of men and women that risk their lives every day. I don’t think anyone driving up the State Thruway at night, when they see a State Trooper pulled over, they say wow! That takes a lot of courage to do what they do everyday to protect us.

William O’Shaughnessy:
John Cahill … you’re on the Republican and Conservative lines. And you’re also with a neighbor of ours, Rob Astorino. How’s he doing?

John Cahill:
He’s been a tremendous county executive. He’s kept his word. He’s straightened out the finances of this county. And he is a great campaigner. I mean Rob takes the message every day to the public. He’s happy about it. He’s a wonderful guy. It shows on the stump. I think people have been surprised before in politics. Rob Astorino has the capability of surprising a lot of people.

William O’Shaughnessy:
He sat right at that very microphone and said some very nice things about Andrew Cuomo. But then lo and behold … a month later he changed his tune.

John Cahill:
Well … you know, listen … he’s got to be able to differentiate himself from the incumbent in order to win. I can’t speak for Rob, but I don’t think it’s personal animosity, but they have a difference of opinion about how the State should move forward. And I think that’s healthy for the electorate to have a choice. People competing for ideas. We’re going to see more of that and it’s probably going to get a little bit tougher as we get to Election Day. But Rob is a good person with a good heart and he wants to do the right thing for this State as he’s done for this county.

William O’Shaughnessy:
I agree with everything you’ve said about him. But Siena College … the poll … the people. They have him 36 points behind. Has he got a chance?

John Cahill:
Sure he’s got a chance. First of all, very few people, except for political junkies like you and me, Bill, are not paying a lot of attention to the elections coming this November. They will focus on it after Labor Day. Everybody has a chance in politics. People who don’t have a chance are the people who are sitting on the sidelines. Did you see what happened in Virginia early last week.

William O’Shaughnessy:
What happened?

John Cahill:
The Republican pulled an upset over the Majority Leader Cantor. I think that what happened was Representative Cantor lost touch with his district. He was busy traveling around the state … taking his message and planning to be the next Speaker and once you lost touch with your constituents, you are very vulnerable to losing an election. Not to say Governor Cuomo has lost touch, but it shows that any politician – and politicians know this Bill – they are vulnerable. Rob is going to be out there taking it to the Governor. Challenging him on issues and you just don’t know what can happen in an election.

William O’Shaughnessy:
Let’s go again to the phones …

Caller:
Good morning Mr. Cahill … first of all, good luck in your race. I wanted to ask you … Eric Schneiderman, has a reputation of being maybe a little too tough on businesses and on Wall Street. How would you approach the same kind of clientele?

John Cahill:
Thank you for calling … when I was DEC Commissioner I had similar responsibilities with respect to enforcement. I was obviously focused on environmental crimes and violations. But I always took the approach to be tough but fair. In New York State, we need a level playing field. That’s what people expect. We need to be the referee. But we don’t need people grandstanding on enforcement actions in order to help their political career. And frankly, I think we’ve seen that too often in the attorney general’s office. It’s been used to be an aspiring governor as opposed to attorney general. We need somebody, as Bill has mentioned, like Louis Lefkowitz who was committed to that office. I’ve said this once … I’ve said it before … if I’m elected as attorney general, I will not use that office to seek higher office. You can not have somebody in that position that the public, would question the motivation behind them, whether it’s an action behind the people’s interest or you’re serving your political interest. That is a crucial element for the office of Attorney General.

Caller:
I remember Lefkowitz. What do you think he brought to the table that you can bring to the table and be the anti-Schneiderman?

John Cahill:
I think he brought a sense of fairness to the office. He instilled a sense of competency and integrity in that office and no one, if I recall, every questioned the merits of him bringing an action on behalf of the People of New York. Because he was committed to that office. He was not seeking higher office. He did not have a political agenda. He had one agenda and that was to serve the public. And I think that’s a crucial element for anybody in that type of position. Another great New Yorker was Morgenthau, the district attorney of Manhattan. Yes, he ran for governor, but before he was elected to the office of DA … I guess in 1960 against Governor Rockefeller … he never used the office of District Attorney of Manhattan to seek higher office. And he was looked upon, and rightfully so, as probably the District Attorney, the law enforcement official of the country with the most integrity and the most capable office.

William O’Shaughnessy:
John Cahill … I still can’t figure out something. You have a nice family, a beautiful blonde wife. And yet you’re out and about … I see you constantly on Facebook in some cockamamie, obscure town that nobody’s ever heard of. First of all, you went to Elmira, and you didn’t go to the right place!

John Cahill:
Why is that?

William O’Shaughnessy:
I told you, the chicken wings at Bernie Murray’s! And Moretti’s.

John Cahill:
I went to Louie’s. It’s a terrific place in Elmira.

William O’Shaughnessy:
See, I’m a great advisor to Cahill. You really listen to me about chicken wings! When you’re in these awful, far-flung places, that’s my word – awful – you seem to like them.

John Cahill:
I love them. They’re not awful. They’re just wonderful people looking for a future for their towns and for their families. No different from my neighbors in Yonkers that are concerned if their kids are going to stay in the neighborhood. Are they going to be forced out because they need a job and can’t afford the taxes here in New York and they’ll have to move elsewhere. People have lived in these communities for generations. They want their communities to succeed. They want a government and an attorney general’s office that is responsive to the needs of these communities.

William O’Shaughnessy:
You mentioned earlier our mutual friend William Plunkett, Esq. He’s had a great impact on all our lives.

John Cahill:
He has …

William O’Shaughnessy:
He gets mad at me every time the New York tabloids quote me accusing Plunkett of being the most powerful man in New York State. He gets mad for about one minute!

John Cahill:
Yes … just a minute!
William O’Shaughnessy:
So, I’m not surprised he likes you. We call him “Monsignor” Plunkett! I think he’d prefer “Cardinal.” What about your Catholic faith? Is it important to you?

John Cahill:
Yes … it’s real important to me, Bill. As you mentioned, I grew up in an Irish-Catholic household. Went to Archbishop Stepinac. Fordham University. And actually when I met Bill Plunkett I was giving some serious thought to joining the seminary. I was teaching religion and coaching basketball, baseball and soccer at Stepinac. It has remained an important element in my life until this day.

William O’Shaughnessy:
Do you regret never becoming a priest?

John Cahill:
No. I have a wonderful wife and four beautiful kids. Bill was one of the ones who kind of steered me in that direction. Even though I decided to take a different path, my Catholic faith is and will always be an important part of my life.

William O’Shaughnessy:
What do you think of your new Pope? Francis …

John Cahill:
He’s a hero. A Hero. One thing that is remarkable is that you look at the leaders of the Catholic faith and when we really need a dynamic leader – which the Church desperately needed right now – we have this new Pope. He’s brought new energy, new excitement … he has just been a remarkable, remarkable leader. And Cardinal Dolan, who I am a big fan of here in New York … once again, we have tremendous leadership in our faith.

William O’Shaughnessy:
Cardinal Dolan, speaking of which, seems to be a big fan of your running mate Rob Astorino. Are you and Dolan pretty tight?
“The Times They Are a Changing …”

John Cahill:
Well, he’s been very, very good to me. I serve on a couple of boards for the Cardinal. So he has been very supportive. I think he’s been a great leader of our faith. I was very close with Cardinal Egan as well. I was the Governor’s “ambassador” to the Cardinal’s office. I’ve enjoyed a relationship with our spiritual leaders here in New York for some time, Bill.

William O’Shaughnessy:
How about ambassador to the Vatican? Wouldn’t that be a great gig?

John Cahill:
I only have eyes for New York. That would be a great gig. But I only have eyes for Elmira probably more than the Vatican!
William O’Shaughnessy:
Your Catholic faith, stick with it for a minute, John Cahill. Mario Cuomo said he prays for sureness. Sureness. Are you sure about your faith?

John Cahill:
I think all of us, whatever faith you believe in at points in your life, you question. I think it’s good to question. We’ve been taught to question our faith. It makes you stronger in your faith once you help find the answers to what you’re seeking. I do seek sureness. I guess I would say I pray for hope. I pray for opportunity more than I pray for sureness, Bill. Because I’m pretty sure, at this point in my life. I’m confident in my faith, but I really pray for the opportunities for other people whether they’re here in New York that they be given a life of meaning and worth. That’s why I want to get back into public service.

William O’Shaughnessy:
Mr. Attorney General Cahill … I’ve already got you elected! You’re the Attorney General. Office in Albany. Office in New York. The court says you’ve got to close down an abortion clinic. Or you’ve got to keep one open. What do you do?

John Cahill:
You follow the laws of the State of New York, Bill. It’s very clear. You leave your personal faith, your issues behind you when you take a Constitutional oath to uphold the laws and the Constitution of the State of New York. I recognized that when I got into this. I took that same oath when I served as Secretary to the Governor.

William O’Shaughnessy:
The oath says what?

John Cahill:
You will uphold the laws of the State of New York, the Constitution of New York and of the United States.

William O’Shaughnessy:
So help me …

John Cahill:
So help me God. I will do that as I have done. People might have criticized me for many things during my tenure in government, Bill. I don’t think anyone would have questioned me for ever, ever violating the oath I took in serving out my public responsibility. And I would do the same again as Attorney General.

William O’Shaughnessy:
That job of Secretary to the Governor calls for “the hammer.” Mr. No! Did you have a tough time being the tough guy?

John Cahill:
I think I tried to be tough in a fair way. I don’t believe that in order to be tough you need to scream at people. But you need to give people a direct answer as to what they’re seeking. I tried to represent the Governor in that position. I don’t think Governor Pataki was the type of guy who wanted people to be screamed at or yelled at. He was the type of guy who delivered and if we couldn’t do something, be direct and tell them exactly why and we’ll move on. That’s what I try to do. I didn’t have a problem saying no to people because by telling no that was often in the best interest of the State.

William O’Shaughnessy:
George Pataki … to this day do we really know him? What kind of guy is he?

John Cahill:
A remarkable guy. He really is. I mean he is a very regular sort of guy from Peekskill. A background in farming … at the same time he has an amazing intellect. Yale, Columbia. His mind works at a different speed than anyone I’ve ever met. He is a very kind, decent, smart guy who loved to serve the State with great distinction in his 12 years. I’m happy to have him as a friend and now I have him as a business partner as well, Bill.

William O’Shaughnessy:
Do you think he still looks in the mirror and sees a president?

John Cahill:
I don’t think there is anybody who served as governor of the State of New York who hasn’t thought of being president. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. When you’re elected by what I would say is the most important state in the country, you should think about whether it’s right with you personally to run for president. And once you have that one thought in your mind, you will have it for the rest of your life. So I think whether it’s Andrew Cuomo, Mario Cuomo, George Pataki, Nelson Rockefeller … I think New Yorkers expect their governor to be of Presidential timber.

William O’Shaughnessy:
Someone said Nelson ran too hard for it … and Mario wouldn’t run at all!

John Cahill:
It’s a hard decision … running for president. It’s hard enough traveling the State, Bill. Can you imagine going to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, endlessly, for two years leading up to the Presidential primaries and caucuses? That’s a real demand on people’s lives.

William O’Shaughnessy:
We’ll take another call … Jimmy Breslin, the great writer, one of the great journalists of our time. I said to him, listen … I loved your stuff about Winston Churchill, Bobby Kennedy, Jack Kennedy. Why are you writing about these obscure guys? He said: Who’s to write about? So John Cahill, is there anybody on the political scene or the national – or even international – who you think has the great stuff? Any heroes?

John Cahill:
You mentioned President Kennedy … we had his picture in my house, Bill, until the day my mom passed away. It was a center point of our lives. I’ll never forget the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. It was literally the first thing I remember in my life. I was four years old at the time and watching with my mother as she cried and we watched the funeral. Same thing with Bobby Kennedy. I remember my mom waking me up that morning and said get down on your knees and say a prayer for Senator Kennedy. So the Kennedys, even though they were Democrats, they were Irish and they were great politicians. They tried to change the world which is extraordinarily admirable. And I think if you would look at the political map today, I still think there’s the makings of political heroes. And I think we’re all looking for people to look up to … I was a big Ronald Reagan fan in my formative days back when I was in college. But I’m still looking for that leader who is talking about compassion and care. Jeb Bush, I’m a big fan of his because he’s open to Hispanics. He’s open to expanding the breadth of the Republican Party much as Governor George Pataki was. We need that type of leadership again … certainly in the Party and in the country.

William O’Shaughnessy:
I hate to throw you a surprise, but they’re talking about Romney again … drafting Romney.

John Cahill:
I don’t see that happening, at all. I’ve known Governor Romney, he’s a wonderful guy. I would be really surprised if the Republican Party would get behind Governor Romney again. I would be surprised if Governor Romney really was excited about running a third time for president.

William O’Shaughnessy:
Republican John Cahill … what about the guy across the river? The big guy! Christie?

John Cahill:
I think he’s done some really good things over in New Jersey. I think the “Bridge-gate” scandal will get behind him. Obviously it’s been a drag on his administration. A drag on the state. We hear he had no prior knowledge of it. But it’s going to be a challenge for anybody to run for president. He’ll have to deal with those issues and running a state that is very difficult state to govern.

Caller:
What do you think can be done about the rampant shootings in the schools, movie theatres and the malls?

John Cahill:
Good question … an important question. We talk a lot about gun safety and gun violence and we have the Safe Act that passed a few years ago, but we’re not really talking enough about the mental health crisis in this country. And I really worry that we are focused on guns, and I’m concerned about guns as well although I have some issues with the Safe Act that was passed without any serious debate. We really need to do more on mental health issues in our country whether it is the young that are being exposed to violence and recreating violence in these schools which is creating horror around the country. So I think we really need to take a comprehensive approach to these issues of violence and gun violence. Certainly tougher enforcement on illegal guns is important. But we can’t lose sight of the fact that many of these people doing these horrible things show there really is a mental health crisis in this country that we’re not properly addressing.

William O’Shaughnessy:
What’s wrong with the Safe Act you don’t like?

John Cahill:
The Safe Act … let’s talk about how it was passed. It was passed in the middle of the night without any debate on the message and necessity. On an issue that is so important to so many people upstate, we need to have a serious debate on the issue, Bill.

William O’Shaughnessy:
You mean, they like their guns?

John Cahill:
They do like their guns. They grew up in a culture of hunting and conservation. They are law-abiding citizens. These are not people who are violent. The law itself is flawed because it meant even police officers were carrying illegal weapons because it limited the magazine clip to seven clips whereas most law enforcers carry ten clips. So there wasn’t real serious thought put into the legislation, Bill. If we’re going to look at gun control we need to look at as a compressive issue that addresses what we are trying to achieve and that is to reduce violence in our schools. I think we can do better than we’ve done on the Safe Act.

William O’Shaughnessy:
Whose fault was that about the only ten bullets?

John Cahill:
You have to put blame on everyone that had to do with the passage of the legislation. From the Governor’s Office to the Legislature. If we had a serious debate on an issue, weaknesses in the Bill such as that would have been pointed out. And we could have done something I think would have been more beneficial on gun violence along with mental health issues.

William O’Shaughnessy:
Caller does that make sense?

Caller:
Yes it does indeed.

William O’Shaughnessy:
John Cahill … as I told you before, you’ve got the numbers against you. Can you raise enough money to beat this guy.

John Cahill:
I’ve been out there raising money and it’s been going well. It’s going to take a significant amount of resources, but I’m out there, I’m speaking with the donors … for those interested, I’m having a fundraiser at Zuppa’s on Monday in Yonkers. You’re welcome down to the Yonkers waterfront

William O’Shaughnessy:
How much does it cost to get in?

John Cahill:
We’ll talk about that Bill! There are various levels but, listen, all are welcome. It’s not only the big donors, but certainly I want to have the grass roots support particularly from the people in my county and in my hometown to get them involved in the campaign. So I am confident the resources will be there, Bill. If I wasn’t … I wouldn’t have gotten into the race.

William O’Shaughnessy:
Don’t you hate to ask for money?

John Cahill:
You know, it’s hard. You have to think of it this way, Bill. My answer to that is yes. But you know what, if you believe in yourself and if you believe in the message, what you’re selling, you’re not asking for a contribution, you’re asking for an investment in the State. You’re asking for people to believe that you will make the State a better state and therefore what you’re asking for is not just a contribution but an investment.

William O’Shaughnessy:
So, you’ve got Cuomo against Astorino at the top of the ticket. And then for attorney general you have Cahill on two lines – Republican/Conservative against Schneiderman. Do you think enough people from the Democratic Party are going to come over for you?

John Cahill:
That’s certainly going to be the challenge. I recognize that Democrats and Independents and Republicans – I have to reach out to all of those groups. And I certainly plan on doing that. I do not believe people of this State are monolithic voters … that they just go down and vote Democrat. You can just look at the election returns last year, for instance on the Comptroller’s race, the Comptroller got 47% while the Governor candidate – Palladino – got 34%. People are willing – Democrats, Independents – are willing to look at Republicans based upon what their message is and what they are going to offer the State. We have a long history of ticket-splitting in the State. People want to balance government in Albany. I think Democrats and Independents will be there in November.

William O’Shaughnessy:
Is your wife, Kim, OK with this?

John Cahill:
Yes … she’s been great. She has supported me in all these crazy things I’ve done in my life.

William O’Shaughnessy:
Did you walk in one day and say guess what?

John Cahill:
Well this isn’t as bad as when I went to Albany in 1995 when I had four kids under four years of age and traveling back and forth to Albany commuting. At least my kids are older now and she has been my biggest supporter in life. She’s more private than I am, Bill. But she has been 100% behind me. I wouldn’t have done it without her.

William O’Shaughnessy:
So, does Kim Cahill like the rubber chicken dinners?

John Cahill:
She does. She loves meeting people. She loves talking to people. She is much more social than I am, thank God. So she’s going to be a real asset to me on the campaign trail.

William O’Shaughnessy:
What about your kids? How old are they?

John Cahill:
I have 23, 21 and twins that are 19.

William O’Shaughnessy:
Oh, they can put up a lot of posters …

John Cahill:
They sure can. They are my advance team! I had my daughter with me on the Southern Tier trip this past weekend. And it was great for them to see parts of the State they’ve never seen before. My oldest son put off going to law school to basically be my body man for the course of the summer.

William O’Shaughnessy:
What’s his name?

John Cahill:
John Patrick, Jr. I have my daughter Megan who just graduated from Fordham University. She’s is today heading down to my office working the phones with me. My son Jimmy has been traveling around the State with me teaching me how to do social networking. How to do Twitter and how to do Facebook. So it’s really been a wonderful family effort, Bill.

William O’Shaughnessy:
I wish we had television John Cahill. People could see the look of optimism and to use your favorite word … hope. I see it on your face. Again, I’ve got to tell you thought occurs … this guy is too nice. We like rogues! We like Spitzer-types!

John Cahill:
No … listen. When I think about political heroes, one of the guys I really admired growing up was Jack Kemp as a Republican.

William O’Shaughnessy:
Jack Kemp … the quarterback?

John Cahill:
The quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, a congressman ….

William O’Shaughnessy:
He was a nice guy.

John Cahill:
He was a wonderful man, a wonderful politician. And, as you mentioned, he was a nice guy with a vision about opportunity. About creating opportunity for those in the inner cities. He knew immigrants come to our shores looking for hope like my parents did. Let’s leave parties aside, we need to be as a society more open and find ways to bring hope and opportunity to uplift people in our society. I think we can do that better from the Attorney General’s office. That would, obviously, be a priority of mine as an elected official.

William O’Shaughnessy:
John, that’s the second time you bought up immigrants. The paper this morning, the lead editorial in our beloved New York Times – do you have a chance to get their endorsement?

John Cahill:
You know … I’ll certainly have a conversation with them. I’m going to be reaching to everybody. I believe I do have a chance because of the message I have of inclusiveness and a different type of view – ideology toward government. But, you know, that will be up to the New York Times. I’m not counting on it, Bill. But I will certainly have a conversation with them.

William O’Shaughnessy:
Speaking of immigrants, they say that 40,000 children have been picked up at the border and are now in custody. What the hell would you do with them?

John Cahill:
It’s a really, really tough issue. We need to have laws in this country. We need to protect our borders. That’s what defines a country … having borders. And clearly the idea of forcing these kids out of their homelands into the US shores is something that shouldn’t be tolerated – frankly – on either side of the border.

William O’Shaughnessy:
Who is forcing?

John Cahill:
The parents or the societies. Whether Mexican or from Central America coming up through Mexico and forcing these kids basically into the United States because they don’t see that there’s any hope in some of these countries. And I tell you, Bill, I’ve traveled to Central America and you see the poverty in places like El Salvador. You understand why they’re so desperate to get out of El Salvador and into this country. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need to secure our borders. But at the same time, we need to realize that these immigrants that are here, they’re not going back. We need to bring them into our society and we need to give them opportunities. I’ve been criticized for supporting the Dream Act which would give tuition assistance to children of undocumented aliens. I don’t believe in penalizing children because of the mistakes of their parents. I just really believe that society – we need to be more open, more inclusive. We need to absolutely secure our borders. That’s what defines us as Americans. But these individuals that have been here for decades now, we need to find a way to bring them into our society.

William O’Shaughnessy:
That’s a very compassionate, generous, enlightened view. It ain’t particularly a Republican view.

John Cahill:
Right … maybe I’m not the typical Republican. I’ll leave that up to others to define. When I think about being a Republican, it’s about opportunity. Whether that is a child of an illegal immigrant or my child, I want to give them the same opportunity. That’s what is going to make our country or our State better … by giving them the tools to succeed and having them as part of our society.

William O’Shaughnessy:
John Cahill, let’s take another call. I always get in trouble with the last call. You’re on the air the Republican/Conservative candidate for Attorney General of the State of New York … John Cahill of Yonkers, where true love conquers …

Caller:
Just kind of curious … since you were talking earlier about your political heroes, Mr. Cahill, who are some of the attorneys general from the past you thought did a really good job?

John Cahill:
Well certainly, we talked a lot about Louis Lefkowitz this morning from New York State. Again, he was the people’s lawyer. He was out there looking to build a better office to serve the people. Not looking for higher political aspirations. Bob Moragenthau, although he wasn’t the attorney general, he was the District Attorney here. Carl Vergari in Westchester County, another wonderful individual who ran a great D.A.’s office as did Jeanine Pirro … and I’m a big fan of Janet DiFiore.

William O’Shaughnessy:
She was a Republican who became a Democrat.

John Cahill:
Yes … but she is a very good, capable district attorney here in Westchester. I’m happy to say that. I think the world of Janet as a person and as the district attorney. Those are the type of people that are in those positions of law enforcement that use those offices for the betterment of the people and not for their own political interests.

William O’Shaughnessy:
Speaking of which, would you ever switch parties to get elected?

John Cahill:
No. I really do believe in the core principles and values of the Republican Party. And that is a party that looks to create opportunities. We talked a lot about why I’m a Republican. Why I’m not a Democrat is because I do believe the Democrats look to create dependency. So I’m just about opportunity. Call me something other than a Republican, Bill, I believe in those type of values that the government can do well, can create opportunities, and have us achieve more. It’s helped me in my life. I wanted to have government do that for others as it has done for me.

William O’Shaughnessy:
I’ll bet you right now that four-year-old John Cahill in Yonkers was the child of Democrat parents.

John Cahill:
No … that’s not true. You would think, my parents, coming from Ireland, and actually my dad was an immigrant. When he immigrated he was a Democrat because in order to get a job you had to enroll as a Democrat. He changed over time. He was very much a conservative guy by the time that he died. But he was, again, about hard work and opportunity. That was a more underlying basis of his political philosophy more than anything else. That’s what I believe. I follow that as the basis of my political philosophy: hard work and opportunity.

William O’Shaughnessy:
John Cahill … I don’t know if you can pull this off. But you’ve got a lot of people rooting for you. All of a sudden, I spend an hour with you and I feel better about politics. I feel better about the Republican Party. You’re a damn breath of fresh air.

John Cahill:
Well … Bill, thank you. As the Mets used to say You Gotta Believe! I can win this. And the polls may say something now and then in June or July, that doesn’t mean anything. What really means something is getting this message out across the State. I appreciate it. It’s been fun being on with you. I think New York can do better. That’s why I’m out there.

William O’Shaughnessy:
Who is more difficult, O’Shaughnessy or Fred Dicker?

John Cahill:
That’s not quite close.

William O’Shaughnessy:
We carry him … proudly … every afternoon at 4 on WVOX.

John Cahill:
I know. Fred and I go way back. We’ve had our conversations over the years … and listen … he’s a tough journalist up in Albany. It’s great to be on with you, Bill. You’ve been a good friend.

# # #

William O’Shaughnessy, a former president of the New York State Broadcasters Association, was chairman of Public Affairs for the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington. He has been a point man and advocate for the broadcasters of America on First Amendment and Free Speech issues, and is presently chairman of the Guardian Fund of the Broadcasters Foundation of America. He operates two of the last independent stations in the New York area: WVOX and WVIP.

He is the author of “AirWAVES” (1999) … “It All Comes Back to Me Now” (2001) … “More Riffs, Rants and Raves” (2004) … “VOX POPULI: The O’Shaughnessy Files” was released in January, 2011. He is currently working on his fifth book for Fordham University Press, an anthology which will include this interview with John Cahill.

Contact:
William O’Shaughnessy
914-980-7003
wfo@wvox.com

Cindy Gallagher
Whitney Media
914-235-3279
cindy@wvox.com

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WO re: The Passing of Ruby Dee

William O’Shaughnessy

           President          

Whitney Media

WVOX and WVIP

 

Re:

The Passing of

Ruby Dee

 

June 12, 2014

 

With the passing of Ruby Dee, the American theatre has lost one of its most gifted and talented actors.  And WVOX has lost a neighbor.

Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee – you have to take them together – were a beloved presence in our home heath.

When people think of New Rochelle … they think of Dick Van Dyke.  But that was make believe.  Ossie and Ruby were for real.  They were very real.

Over the years she would walk Pinebrook Boulevard, taking her daily constitutional in every season and she would cause ‘whiplash’ for many a passing motorist:  “Isn’t that Ruby Dee!”  And for many of her 91 years, it was.

WO ruby ossieOssie and Ruby.  As the African-American Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne of the modern American theatre, they were royalty in that profession.  But to all of us privileged to know and love them … they were “of the hood.”  Neighbors.

They performed in theatres, television and radio studios and on movie lots.  But they did some of their best work out on the streets as citizen-activists.

A young Malcolm X used to sit in the living room of their big, sprawling house on Cortland Avenue and rage into the night about injustice and inequality.  And a former police commissioner of this very city actually kept quite an active “Subversive” file dedicated entirely to the most suspicious left-leaving “activist exploits” of the former Ruby Wallace and her equally dangerous husband.

They could have lived in any upscale, tony venue:  Greenwich, Waccabuc, Manhasset, Bronxville, Scarsdale, Bedford or Rye.  But they lived all their days in New Rochelle, just a few blocks from our local community broadcasting station which they supported all their days in every season.

When once I thanked Ossie for being so nice and so supportive of our local station, he said:  “Ruby and I travel all over the world making movies and we go where there is an audience.  When we’re on the road, you watch our home.  We have to be nice to you.” 

My mind drifts back many years to a political fundraiser we had at Le Cirque for Governor Mario Cuomo.  A thousand dollars a ticket.  When it was winding down and almost over … a car pulled up and delivered an exhausted looking Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis.  They had just come from Kennedy airport after a long, bumpy transcontinental flight from Europe.

Ruby reached in her pocketbook and presented two checks for the Cuomo campaign.  When I suggested they could just as easily have mailed them in, she said:  “Not for him.  Not for you.  We wanted to deliver them in person.”   

There was another night at Le Cirque for dinner.  When the main course arrived, I had my fork poised in hand and ready to dig in.  Ruby said:  “Not yet … a prayer first,” and she had us clasp hands all round while she whispered a prayer for world peace.  You do that at home, one would imagine.  But she did it anywhere she damn well pleased.

Mario Cuomo used to say he prays for ‘sureness.’  I’m not sure about a lot of things.  But of this I’m sure:  Ossie Davis was a saint.

And now she’s gone to meet him on a bigger, better, sweeter stage.

You have to give them equal billing.

 

 

Contact

William O’Shaughnessy

914-235-3279 … 914-980-7003

wfo@wvox.com