Last week, Carl Paladino, a wealthy Buffalo real estate developer, rode the Tea Party wave to become New York’s Republican gubernatorial candidate against Democrat Andrew Cuomo, son of former governor Mario. This morning, a handful of local Jewish Democrats joined rabbis from Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox community on the steps of City Hall to denounce comments Paladino had made about Sheldon Silver. “If I could ever describe a person who would fit the bill of an anti-Christ or a Hitler,” said Paladino of the Orthodox Jewish New York Assembly Speaker, who still lives on the Lower East Side, “this guy is it.” At a public forum in Niagara Falls, Paladino added that Silver is “probably the most corrupt and incompetent human being to ever serve in state government in the state of New York.”
What’s the catch? Paladino made these statements in October of 2009. They resurfaced in August, toward the end of his primary race against Rick Lazio. All of which makes this morning’s press conference look, well, a little hysterical. In fact, the event perfectly encapsulated the current schizophrenia of the ultra-Orthodox electorate, which famously tends Republican in national elections over concerns about Israel and swings Democratic in local elections to protect public benefits and perks, which, in New York at least, are the purview of Silver, Hikind, and a handful of other powerful Democrats, who would have more sway with a Cuomo administration as serious budget cuts get underway next year. In other words: You might hate Obama, but if you abandon your local Democrats, you can kiss your food stamps and zoning exemptions goodbye.
So while longtime Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind lectured the assembled TV news crews about how Paladino should be ashamed of himself for possibly inciting Nazi skinheads to actually grab baseball bats and go looking for Silver, the whole event was really designed for consumption by Orthodox voters, who are not known to be overly enthusiastic fans of the Obama administration (and by extension this year’s Democrats), and who New York Democrats are clearly concerned may be tempted to vent their spleens by voting with the Tea Party in November. “Does he know the long history of pogroms and anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe?” Hikind asked. “I am not a great fan of the President of the United States—at all—but to engage in racism? What the hell is he thinking? Is he out of his freakin’ mind?”
But, never fear: Debate is alive and well in Jewish political circles. Just before the news conference got underway, a rabbi circulated a press release issued by the Rabbinical Alliance of America defending Paladino, and criticizing Silver for supporting gay marriage, “which legitimizes the homosexual lifestyle,” and also for supporting elective abortions—and, as the release pointed out, “killing babies and rampant homosexuality were indeed very much apart [sic] of the Nazi program.” Which sounds an awful lot like calling Silver and other pro-choice politicians … well, you know.
Jewish Community to Speak Out Against Paladino [Vos Iz Neias]
Allison Hoffman is a senior editor at Tablet Magazine. Her Twitter feed is @allisont_dc.