Saturday, September 30, 2017

Grimm Day On Staten Island Mañana


Blame Trump?

Mafia thug Michael "Mikey Suits" Grimm was convicted on a plea-bargain and given a slap on the wrist sentence because he had so much dirt on so many FBI agents. Now he's out of prison and feels he is entitled to run for Congress again and pretend the only thing he ever did wrong was about paperwork. The GOP deserves Grimm as much as they deserve Roy Moore-- the two very different, but not unrelated, extremes that make up the modern Republican Party: greed and corruption meets unhinged hatred and bigotry. Tomorrow Grimm starts his primary campaign against relatively popular mainstream conservative Dan Donovan. The big question: will Grimm be able to get the backing of the fascist machine Bannon and the Mercers have put together? Donovan did, after all, refuse to back TrumpCare.

That was fast!

Rachel Shapiro wrote at Staten Island Live that "Grimm will kick off his campaign on Sunday morning in New Dorp hoping that the strong voter base that handed him a re-election in 2014 while he was under indictment is solid enough to defeat an incumbent and member of his own party.
Grimm served eight months in federal prison beginning in 2015 after pleading guilty to a single count of tax fraud related to a Manhattan health food restaurant he co-owned before taking office. He had won re-election against former Brooklyn Councilman Dominic Recchia, but resigned before taking the oath of office for the new term.

While many former Grimm supporters now back Donovan, others remain loyal to Grimm and are hoping for a come-back for the man whose re-election campaign, indictment and guilty plea were the subject of news coverage all over the country.

Many dismiss Grimm's prosecution as politically motivated, as similar offenses have been punished with civil fines. Others say as a congressman, Marine and FBI agent, he should be held to a higher standard of conduct, and thus deserved the punishment.

Now, having paid off the $139,000 in restitution, having the undying support of mentor Guy Molinari, and possibly that of Jim Molinaro, Grimm is seeking his old seat.

He'll make his announcement at 11:30 am at 2271 Hylan Blvd.

Donovan has the support of the district's elected Republicans -- both on Staten Island and on the Brooklyn side of the district -- as well as the local and state chairmen of the party.

As Newsweek pointed out last week, "Even in this political season of the astonishing, the improbable and the dismaying, the return of Michael G. Grimm, a former Republican congressman of Staten Island, is one of those ominous signs that the body politic is wracked by ailments more grave than we have known. For if this cancer returns, what others loom? Usually, nuance is necessary in politics. But not always. Grimm is probably the biggest embarrassment to afflict Congress in this strange, young century of ours. And that’s saying a lot for a institution led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, a hapless duo whose superpowers are confined to inaction, dishonesty and cowardice."

Newsweek isn't aware of the Mafia connection that goes way back into Grimm's sordid life. But, they know more than most Staten Island voters care to know:
Trying to actually describe Grimm’s manifold malfeasances is challenging, since there are so many... Tax evasion and campaign fraud are damning stuff, but a little dull. So how about the time he allegedly had sex with a woman in a Brooklyn bar? Or the time he plagiarized as speech from A Few Good Men to trumpet his own military service? Or the time he grandiosely claimed that his campaign offices had been infiltrated by political enemies, when it was really just the target of some teenaged vandals? There was also the time he brandished a gun at a nightclub, in plain abuse of his authority as an FBI agent. Also probably not kosher: Grimm’s investments with disgraced FBI agent Carlos Luquis. There was a shady trip to Cyprus, where he visited a businessman later arrested in Brooklyn on corruption charges. Grimm tried to hide evidence of the trip but ultimately failed. And there was something called “donor swapping,” a practice whose name hints at its blatant illegality.

...“Grimm doesn’t think he did anything wrong, isn’t really remorseful, and he appears to see the seat at his,” says Rachel Shapiro, who covers politics for the Staten Island Advance. “Donovan has some unpopular stances with his very conservative base,” she told me, pointing to his lack of enthusiasm for an Affordable Care Act repeal, as well as his moderate stance on immigration.

That Grimm would even consider pondering another run for office is a sign of a political climate so obscenely partisan that voters will consider deeply flawed candidates, as long as those candidates have the right letter next to their names. In Alabama, for example, incumbent U.S. Senator Luther Strange is defending his seat against Roy S. Moore, the shameless former chief justice of the state who treats the law as subservient to his own retrograde beliefs. Meanwhile, Robert Menendez, the Democratic senator from New Jersey, is on trial on a litany of corruption charges. The sordid stuff he stands accused of could send Menendez to prison, but he has deftly managed to raise more than $5 million for next year’s re-election campaign.

Grimm must see this and smile, especially since Staten Island is already predisposed to his political inclinations. Trump, clobbered in the four other boroughs of New York City, won 57 percent of the vote on Staten Island, the same share he got in Kansas. In other words, his incivility and dishonesty played well there-- or at least well enough to win.

Douglas Muzzio, a political scientist at Baruch College, put the matter plainly: “The guy who admitted to grabbing pussy and all that is the president, so...” Grimm’s encounter with Scotto of NY1 seemed astonishing back in the innocent days of 2014, when Americans still valued a free press and the democratic process. That, of course, was before Trump turned the Fifth Estate into a fifth column trying to undermine the American project, before he branded journalists dishonest enemies of the people; before his first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, assaulted a female journalist; before the Montana congressional candidate Greg Gianforte body slammed Ben Jacobs of The Guardian; before since-dismissed White House chief political strategist Stephen K. Bannon decreed that the media should “keep its mouth shut.”

At the same time, Grimm must look at Congress and think, I can do this. And he probably can. While it’s hard to call him an accomplished statesman, Grimm did assert that climate change was real, in contravention of Republican dogma. He showed a willingness to work with Democrats and, after Hurricane Sandy devastated his district in 2012, did worthy work in helping Staten Island recover. Congress today has an approval rating of 16 percent. Despite the many despicable things he’s done, Grimm isn’t going to harm that dismal reputation. Hell, he might even improve it by a point or two. At least the guy knows how to dress.

Shapiro of the Staten Island Advance doesn’t think that he can win against Donovan in 2018, but Richard Flanagan, a historian of Staten Island politics, is less confident that Grimm’s run would be quixotic. That’s not to say that such a run would be a good idea. “His return would most likely be an embarrassment to the congressional leadership,” Flanagan wrote in an email.

Muzzio has been watching New York politics for decades, and he doesn’t think Grimm is just another colorful New Yorker, a decent fella who takes it a little too far but always means well. Grimm is a “thug,” in Muzzio’s estimation. “A sophisticated wise guy.”

“There may be limits,” Muzzio told me, to what the American voter may be asked to countenance. “And this may be one of them.”

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