POLITICS JULY 22, 2013
New York magazine has an unintentionally hilarious little piece on Scott Stringer, the poor fellow who was on his way to becoming the city's comptroller. But then Eliot Spitzer entered the race, collected the required signatures, and bolted ahead of Stringer in the polls. What is a man to do in this situation? Well, it appears that Stringer has settled on a strategy: He will remind people of Spitzer's difficulties by declaring himself a great family man. The piece begins as follows:
"Max, can you say ‘Vote for my daddy’?” asks Scott Stringer, the Manhattan borough president and, until two weeks ago—when former governor Eliot Spitzer announced his candidacy—New York’s only Democratic candidate for comptroller.
Max, Stringer’s 19-month-old son, sits at the dining-room table in Stringer’s modest apartment on the Upper West Side. It’s seven in the morning, and the little boy’s lips and chin are smeared with yogurt and bits of strawberry and blueberry pancakes. The expression on his face is all ecstasy.
“Voaddefoouwwdaaaddiiee!” he says, then goes back to his breakfast orgy.
Over on the couch, Stringer bursts with elation. He’s not only a proud father marveling at his young boy’s ability to follow directions; Max, so innocently devouring his yogurt and strawberries while wearing a VOTE FOR MY DADDY T-shirt, is also an integral part of Stringer’s campaign strategy. Soon, little Maxie; his infant brother, Miles; and his mom, Stringer’s wife, Elyse Buxbaum, will be making appearances at subway stops to support Stringer for comptroller, the office that oversees the city’s finances and pension plans.
The writer of the piece, Geoffrey Gray, then ackowledges his own presence at the Stringer house:
[The bad polls help] explain why Stringer and his picture-perfect family have invited a reporter and photographer to breakfast, to see in person his infant Spitzer-buster. By holding up little Max in front of the camera, Stringer hopes to seize the moral high ground over Spitzer, whose career-bungling cavorting with prostitutes is the most notorious of his political liabilities.
Gray managed to type the second sentence here without pausing to note the complete absurdity of what Stringer is doing. By using his son as a campaign prop, Stringer "hopes to seize the moral high ground." Pause over that one for a moment. It gets better:
Next to the couch, a campaign aide is going through the morning’s papers, relishing some needed good news that Spitzer’s wife, Silda, is now living eighteen blocks away from her husband, whom she has yet to publicly support. It is all more ammo for the Max attack. "When they see you, Max, game over," Stringer kvells. "We’re ready."
It's not entirely clear whether Stringer is being ironic here, or even self-aware, but Gray passes over the whole scene—from the unseemly delight in Spitzer's marital issues, to the continuing use of little Max for political ends—without comment. Stringer continues on in the same fashion:
"I don’t think my personality comes through," Stringer says. “Other candidates, you talk about it as the Big Personality, where I'm more the Big Report. This campaign is going to focus a lot on my family and my own public persona in a way that my twenty-page reports have not, and that is going to be a legitimate challenge for me.”
Nothing will show Stringer's family-man side like using that same family as a campaign prop!
Isaac Chotiner is a senior editor at The New Republic. Follow him @IChotiner.