The Return of Michael Avenatti

If you wrote a novel about Michael Avenatti’s recent career as a media darling and potential presidential candidate, most readers would probably complain that story was too implausible to be taken seriously.

The attorney and former CNN favorite apparently came close to running for President before announcing, back in December, that he wouldn’t be a candidate but that he would have won if he had run.

Even though Avenatti declined to run, he had still had quite a year.  Before he first emerged in March as Stormy Daniels’s attorney, no one had ever heard of Michael Avenatti.  Then, because he was always on twitter and television and he was a relentless critics of Donald Trump’s, he became a Resistance favorite and, briefly, a viable presidential contender.

Shortly afterwards, Avenatti was arrested for attempting to extort Nike.  Then, it was revealed that he apparently embezzled money from his clients, including Stormy Daniels.  And finally, the California bar association announced that they were considering disbarring him.  That’s not even taking into account the domestic battery arrest, the bankruptcies, the not-inconsiderable part that Avenatti played in getting Brett Kavanaugh confirmed to the Supreme Court, and the “creepy porn lawyer” label that came to define Avenatti in the eyes of many.

Just like what used to happen whenever a party official fucked up in the Soviet Union, Michael Avenatti was transformed into an unperson.  #Basta was no longer a Resistance-approved twitter hashtag.  No longer was Brian Stelter inviting him on TV.  The ladies of The View would no longer discuss Avenatti sex fantasies.  Colbert stopped calling too.  The days of Michael “Avenhottie” were over.  In fact, the only people who continued to acknowledge Avenatti’s existence were the people at Fox News and that was just so they could rerun clips of Avenatti getting owned by Tucker Carlson.

(How bad do you have to be at your job to get not only owned but also thoroughly humiliated by Tucker Carlson, of all people?  That’s like losing a battle of the wits to Mike Huckabee.)

Now that basically everyone in the entire world is saying, “Michael Avenatti?  Never heard of him,” Michael Avenatti has let it be known that he might be running for President after all. Say what you will about his ethics, his temper, his fame whoring, and his stupid catchphrase, you can’t deny that he’s got balls.

Running for president is definitely one way to get back on television and, if Avenatti’s elected, he can put off going to prison for at least four years.  For the record, Avenatti (who previously endorsed Joe Biden) says that he’s considering a run because only a fighter can take on Trump and that’s what Avenatti has always styled himself as being.

Can we finally just say ¡Basta! to these media-created candidates?

It Looks Like President Mike Gravel Will Not Be Happening

The teenagers in charge of Mike Gravel’s presidential candidacy have thrown in the towel and suspended his campaign.

No surprise there.  The campaign has been upfront about only existing to get Gravel on the debate stage so that he could make a case for pushing the Democrats even further to the left.  With the DNC refusing to invite Gravel to participate in the 2nd debate (despite Gravel having met their fundraising requirement), it was obvious that Gravel’s campaign would soon end.

Just how involved the 89 year-old Gravel actually was with the campaign is not an easy question to answer.  The teens themselves only reached out to him after hearing about him on Chapo Trap House.  Some critics claimed that the campaign was elder abuse and others accused it of being a scampac.  I don’t think it was intentionally meant to be either.  Though I may not be on the same political side as the Gravel teens, I will miss their sarcastic twitter commentary.

According to the linked Politico article above, the two teens will be moving on to a fellowship with Jacobin Magazine.  Ten years from now, they’ll probably have their own HBO show with David Hogg.

For now, it’s time to say goodbye to the Mike Gravel presidential campaign and to thank them for making the campaign season a little more interesting.

Gracie Mansion: Where Dreams Go To Die

It’s been said that being Mayor of New York City is the “second toughest job in America.”  Only being President is tougher.  Of course, the President doesn’t have to deal with trying to fix the subways so how tough is his job, really?

I can understand why so many New York politicians dream of being mayor.  New York City may be “ungovernable,” as John Lindsay used to put it, but it’s still the center of both America’s culture and its economy.  Being mayor means that you’re in charge of one of the most important cities in the world.  It also means becoming an instant celebrity.

The job is also a political dead end.

Since 1665, there have been over a hundred mayors of New York City.  Only two of them have gone on to higher office after serving as mayor.

DeWitt Clinton was appointed the position in 1803, after having briefly served in the U.S. Senate.  While still serving as mayor, Clinton ran for President in 1812 and came close to defeating James Madison.  Clinton would later be elected governor.

Fernando Wood was a former Congressman who was twice elected mayor, once in 1854 and again in 1860.  During the Civil War, Wood suggested that the city should secede from the United States so that it could continue to trade with the Confederacy.  Wood’s opposition to the Civil War put an end to his presidential ambitions but he was reelected to Congress after his mayoral term ended.

And that’s it.  Others have tried but none have succeeded.

In 1940, President Roosevelt reportedly considered naming Fiorello H. La Guardia to be his running mate but it’s not known how serious Roosevelt was about the idea.

In 1956, Mayor Robert F. Wagner was the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate but was defeated by Jacob Javits.  That same year, Wagner was briefly a candidate for the Democratic vice presidential nomination but lost to Estes Kefauver.

John V. Lindsay, who was once compared to JFK, probably could have been named Nixon’s running mate in ’68 or been appointed to Bobby Kennedy’s senate seat if he hadn’t made an enemy of Governor Nelson Rockefeller.  Instead, the Republican Lindsay ended up switching to the Democratic Party in 1971, running unsuccessfully for President in 1972, and making a final and futile grasp for political relevance by running for the U.S. Senate in 1980.  (He came in third in the primary.)

Ed Koch tried to parlay his national popularity into a run for governor in 1982 and was defeated in the primary by Mario Cuomo, whom Koch had previously defeated in the 1977 mayoral election.  Upstate voters were not as enamored with Koch as New York City was.  (And the city would later turn on Koch in 1989, rejecting him in favor of David Dinkins.)

The presidential campaigns of George B. McClellan, Jr., William Jay Gaynor, Lindsay, and Rudy Giuliani all failed to go anywhere and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 2020 campaign has become a national joke.

And then there’s a case of Michael Bloomberg, who flirts with an improbable presidential run every four years.  Because he’s rich, Bloomberg is always taken seriously as a candidate, despite the fact that his every attempt to influence policy outside of New York has been a flop.

The most successful politician to run for Mayor of New York was someone who not only lost the election but came in a poor third, behind the winning Democrat and an insurgent socialist.  Teddy Roosevelt may have lost the 1886 mayoral election but, 15 years later, he would become President of the United States.  Would Roosevelt have ever become President if he had won that mayoral election?

Gracie Mansion is where dreams go to die.

 

I Skipped The Debate And I Regret Nothing

I didn’t watch last night’s Democratic debate but I had a good reason.  I was watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars instead.  They were both on TCM and I think I made the right decision in choosing them over Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, in particular, is always better than I remembered.  The first time that I ever watched Close Encounters was in a film class and, at the film’s conclusion, tears started to form in my eyes.  I assumed that it was just I was just moved by the end of the film, with Richard Dreyfuss going into space and Melinda Dillon being reunited with her son.  Later, I went back to my dorm room and discovered that I was running a fever and had a temperature of 101.  Whether you’re sick or not, watching Close Encounters is still an emotionally rewarding experience.  That scene where the aliens first arrive at Devil’s Tower still takes my breath away.

As for Star Wars, it’s still a great thrill ride.  I watch it and I’m a kid again.  Of course, while I’m watching it, I don’t worry about things like how Darth Vader could have built C3PO or Luke’s obvious crush on his sister.  I just sit back, relax, and have a blast.

For those two movies, I skipped last night’s debate and I regret nothing.

Captain America: The People’s Choice

In 1980, John Anderson was briefly a viable third party presidential candidate so it made sense that Marvel would follow with a storyline in which a group of activist attempt to convince Captain America to make a third party bid of his own.  Ultimately, Cap turned down their offer.

A later issue of What If… revealed that, if Captain America had run, he would have easily been elected President.  Then, he would have been assassinated because every issue of What If… ended with everyone dead.  It’s a good thing he didn’t run.

Could Captain America win the election if he ran today?  As an unwoke fictional character whose costume would be considered triggering, it might be difficult for him to do so.  Still, who better to make America great than America himself?

The (Possible) Return of Mark Sanford

Mark Sanford, the former governor and congressman from South Carolina, says that he’s going to decide in the next 30 days whether or not to challenge President Trump in the Republican Primary.

Today, if Sanford’s remembered for anything, it’s for disappearing for 6 days in 2009.  Sanford was governor of South Carolina at the time.  His aides said that the governor was “hiking the Appalachian Trail.”  It turned out that he was actually in South America, visiting a woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair.  Sanford did manage to survive an impeachment attempt but, at the time, it was assumed that his political career was over.

In 2013, Sanford proved the naysayers wrong by winning a seat in the U.S. House.  (He had also previously served in the House before running for governor.)  Sanford’s race got a good deal of national attention because he was running against Stephen Colbert’s sister.  In hindsight, Sanford’s easy victory, despite his personal baggage and an overhyped opponent, was a precursor to the eventual election of Donald Trump.

Speaking of Trump, Sanford was an outspoken critic of the President’s travel ban.  That led to Sanford losing his primary in 2018.  Again, it seemed like his political career was over and again, Sanford is considering attempting a comeback.

Before he went off to South America, Mark Sanford was someone who was frequently mentioned as being a future president.  If not for the scandal, Sanford probably would have run in 2012 or 2016.  Challenging an incumbent President is almost always a fool’s errand.  Ronald Reagan came close to denying the nomination to Gerald Ford in 1976 and then he went on to become President himself but he’s the exception to the rule.  A more typical example is Ted Kennedy, who was seen as being a real threat to Jimmy Carter in 1980 but whose bumbling campaign destroyed his future presidential prospects.

If Sanford does run, he’ll be joining former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld in challenging Trump.  The last time that a Republican incumbent was challenged by two “credible” candidates was in 1972, when Pete McCloskey challenged Nixon from the left while John Ashbrook challenged him from the right.  Nixon easily swatted away both challengers and, despite many perceived weaknesses, went on to win in a record-setting landslide.  Why did Nixon win?  It wasn’t because Nixon was a popular President.  Instead, by nominating George McGovern, the Democrats went so far to the Left that they alienated the traditional members of their base.

It’s starting to feel like 1972 all over again.

George Will on Michael Bennet

George Will has a new column out where he makes the case that Michael Bennet is the Democratic candidate who has the best chance to defeat Trump.  Will argues that Bennet is progressive enough for the Democratic base while, at the same time, not being so crazy that he would turn off the swing voters.  Though Will doesn’t specifically say it, his column portrays Bennet as being Joe Biden without all of the baggage and the distracting Bidenisms that are currently threatening the latter’s front runner status.

It is debatable how much influence George Will’s endorsement is going to do anyone running in a Democratic primary.  At this point, it probably wouldn’t do that much good for someone running in a Republican primary either.  Will, like many intelligent people, is currently stuck in the political limbo of being insufficiently liberal for Democrats but also not enough of a Trump booster for the GOP.  For the record, I was not impressed with what I saw of Bennet at the debate but, whether you agree with his conclusions or not, Will’s column is still worthwhile because it reveals far more about Bennet’s background and character that we’re going to see in a news cycle that’s dominated by Biden, Harris, Warren, and Sanders.  Underneath that bland facade, it turns out that Bennet has an interesting story to tell.

What truly struck me, as I read Will’s column, is that Michael Bennet is the type of blandly competent politician who probably would have been a strong candidate in the days before the office of the presidency was elevated to quasi-religious status.  Times have changed, though, and now the President is expected to be transformational figure.  Simply having the potential to be good at the job is no longer enough.