Friday, July 03, 2009

Sampson and DeMayor

Gee, it's getting just like one of those old tag-team wrestling matches watching the NY Post and Mike Bloomberg go after State Senator John Sampson. First, the Post "exposes" Sampson for a supposed conflict of interest in representing a school principal who was fired from her job. Then it inveighs against him in one of its editorial series in support of a mayoral stranglehold on the city's schools.

And then, you know what happens next? Mighty Mite Mike, takes his partner's cue, and jumps the ring ropes, swinging away at the already pummeled senator: "Mayor Bloomberg yesterday blasted Senate Democratic leader John Sampson for allowing mayoral control of schools to expire at the same time he's representing a woman in a suit against Chancellor Joel Klein. Bloomberg noted that legislators are permitted to have outside law practices -- but then fumed, "What's legal in Albany sometimes defies imagination."

Can you get a better Master Card moment then this? And what's even more precious is the way in which Bloomberg tries to take the ethical high ground; and elide the way in which his own spending-both direct and charitable-has basically rendered the democratic process inoperative. Here's his haughty comments to the WFP forumn: "Mayor Bloomberg Thursday night defended the overwhelming pile of money he is spending to win reelection, while two Democrats who want to replace him said he was running a city for the rich. "I made every dime that I have," Bloomberg told the Working Families Party candidate forum, sparking scattered hisses from the crowd of about 250."

Not to mention the way in which he overran the will of the voters on term limits. You see, Bloomberg would like us to view political corruption in only a certain narrow way-the taking of special interest money, or bribes; or having a law practice that night be seen as a conflict of interest, as in the case of John Sampson. The massive use of millions of dollars to "get my message out," along with the ability to dole out $250 million a year in charitable giving, is not depicted as anything untoward. This is, in our view, a classic definition of solipsistic.

And, of course, the WFP event wasn't covered by the NY Post; nor has the paper bothered to examine the mayor's public and private spending; talk about whose ox is being gored! No examination either of the mayor's role in the Albany meltdown; or the impact of his tax and spend policies on the city's faltering economy. Isn't there simply a confluence of class interest here?

After all, as the NY Times reports this morning, of all the people in this school governance battle, only John Sampson has even gone to a city public school: "Mr. Sampson, now in his seventh term in the Senate, was born in Bedford-Stuyvesant, not far from the district in southeast Brooklyn he now represents and lives in with his wife and three daughters. A product of city schools, he attended elementary school at Public School 3 and Samuel J. Tilden High School, where he found his wide, bulky frame well suited for football and baseball. Clement Sampson, a Guyanese immigrant, was a carpenter; his wife, who is deceased, was a special education teacher for the city."

Just maybe, Sampson has a legitimate ax to grind: "Mr. Sampson said that his affinity for the public school system is what has made him so outspoken on the issue of school control...“I don’t need to be lectured about that because I’m a product of the public school systems. And the benefits I received from the public school system put me in the position I’m in today,” Mr. Sampson said in a brief interview this week. “I’m not playing politics at all.”

It's ironic, as well as instructive to point out, that this journalistic trysting is happening at the same time that the Washington Post is being exposed for pimping access to the Obama administration. On the other outstretched hand, the NY Post's ethical lapse doesn't involve selling access; it involves the kind of media scuba diving that makes the idea of being in the tank simply quaint. These two fish-Bloomberg and Murdoch-are swimming in their own gated pond.