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Bob McMillanAn Opinion

By Bob McMillan
Presidents v. The Supreme Court

The recent political chatter about “Obamacare” before the Supreme Court of the United States got a great deal of media attention.  President Obama added fuel to the fire when he declared, “Ultimately, I am confident the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”

For someone who was a law professor those words were absurd.  Even if a bill passed unanimously in the house and senate, it could still be overturned – if the law was in violation of the Constitution.


Michael Miller

Viewpoint

By Michael Miller
1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing

Nelson Rockefeller’s nomination for Governor in 1958 was partly an upstate revolt against the continued domination of party affairs by the Nassau Republican organization. Rockefeller was a man who always had bigger fish to fry, and throughout his almost 15 years as governor, he often went out of his way not to step on the toes of the touchy Nassau GOP. That’s why Nassau is the only large New York county without a state office building. Respect the turf.

Just before taking office, Rockefeller announced that State Senator William Hults would be Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, but not until the end of the 1959 legislative session, so that Glen Cove, North Hempstead, Oyster Bay and a sliver of Hempstead wouldn’t lose their Senate representation until 1960.


Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’

The Nassau County district attorney’s (DA) office makes a cameo appearance in Empty Mansions, an incredible book about Huguette Clark (1906-2011), the Manhattan-raised heiress whose generosity and eccentricities were legendary.

Now that Ryan Murphy, a creator of television’s “Glee,” has optioned Empty Mansions’ film rights, I imagine a scrum of top actresses are vying to play Clark.


Dems Avoided Big Question

From the first moment back in February when Tom Suozzi said he’d be running for Nassau County Executive again, the most common question I’ve been asked is this: Why is he doing this? The debt, the taxes, the coliseum, the whatever, we know, we know. A hundred different people could adequately complain about what. But why? Why should Tom Suozzi be the county executive again?

And his campaign never answered that question to the satisfaction of a lot of voters.

The exact same campaign, with the same marketing, the same everything, probably would have worked better with a candidate who was running for the first time. Eight years of incumbency builds up a lot of baggage. Campaigns for third terms are frequently the hardest. Even harder are comeback campaigns for the same office. The people around Tom Suozzi made themselves believe that 2009 was a fluke. After casting blame in every direction, the party line finally settled on this: By accident, a lot of Democrats forgot to vote.

Looking back, this unhealthy denial was evident throughout this fall’s primary campaign. Wisely allowing his opponent’s campaign to sink of its own weight, the Suozzi operation concentrated on Ed Mangano. Most of the Suozzi advertising didn’t mention the primary, and much of the literature was mailed to Republicans. Perhaps the most stunning aspect of the Suozzi general election campaign is the lack of any attempt to inoculate against what was coming, and the lateness in mounting a defense against any of it.

I’m holding 13 pieces of Ed Mangano campaign literature that was mailed to my home this fall (I’m not counting taxpayer-funded mail from county agencies). 13 mention taxes, 12 mention pay raise. Some of the wording is lifted from Suozzi’s primary opponent’s literature. This wasn’t any kind of whisper campaign.

Tom Suozzi may have had very good reasons for supporting a one-fifth increase in one-fifth of the typical property tax bill, during two terms in which the county portion of that bill was reduced by about 30 percent. Perhaps bankruptcy was prevented. Perhaps the county could continue to make the lives of children at risk a little easier.

That’s at least as compelling an argument for leadership, a reason to own and be proud of making the toughest decisions in a time of crisis, than “He took the pay raise, too.” Who knows? The Suozzi campaign never gave supporters ammunition. The choice was made to pretend and plough forward.

On Nov. 4, I received 17 automated “robo-calls” delivering endorsements or pleas. I never received a call making sure, in a redistricting year, I knew where to vote or how I could get a ride to the polling place. The memory and priority of that basic political function — make sure your people know where, when and how to vote — has faded away.

Like the “cargo cultures” found on Pacific Islands after the war, in which islanders went through elaborate motions to make the big cargo planes come back, these are “cargo campaigns.” They go through motions without really knowing why. Actually talking and listening to voters, or even gleaning input and field information from the ranks is gone. No percentage in it.

At least 22,000 more voters cast ballots this year than in 2009, but voters with active enrollments climbed 46,000. Turnout was actually down. The first-ever campaign between two county executives should have offered stark choices and captured voter imagination. Why it didn’t is a critical question we all should ask.

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