Brian Keeler: Maloney’s “Speak-Before-You-Think” Problem?

When I read that Carolyn Maloney repeated a racial slur a while ago as part of an anecdote she was using to slam Senator Gillibrand, I was a bit shocked at the phrase, but not altogether surprised that she spoke without really thinking it through. Now let me say right off that I do not believe for a moment that Representative Maloney is a racist or that the word she used is a part of her regular vocabulary. I don’t. In fact, I have no doubt that, as she said in her apology, she finds that word disgusting. No, the reason I wasn’t entirely surprised is that Carolyn Maloney has a history of speaking before thinking, exhibiting no edit button whatsoever and having a remarkably tin political ear, particularly since Gov. Paterson appointed Senator Gillibrand to the Senate and Maloney began her on-again-off-again non-campaign-campaign for New York’s Senate seat.

One of the factors that has contributed to this — and, frankly, one of the reasons I think Maloney was passed over for the Senate appointment — is that since winning election in 1992, Maloney hasn’t had a competitive race for her seat. Unlike Senator Gillibrand, Maloney hasn’t needed to be on message or to have the discipline of a battle tested candidate. She has spent 16 years saying and doing whatever off-message thing comes into her mind without any ramifications? For a candidate in a tough election, that just can’t happen.

Below, I’ve compiled Carolyn Maloney’s strangest moments of the past few months since she started saying she was going to run against Senator Gillibrand. Altogether, this really makes me think she is not ready for prime time:

The NY Daily News, 7/21: “I feel this country has gotten beyond racial politics,” Maloney said. “We are a multi-racial country and we are all working together, moving forward. Barack Obama is an example of the fact that America has moved beyond racism in this country and we’re moving toward equal treatment for all people and we want to get women in the Constitution. Right?”

City Hall News, 7/17: “In fact, I got a call from someone from Puerto Rico, said [Gillibrand] went to Puerto Rico and came out for English-only [education]. And he said, ‘It was like saying n–r to a Puerto Rican,'” she said, using the full racial slur. “I don’t know–I don’t know if that’s true or not. I just called. I’m just throwing that out. All of her–well, what does she stand for?”

The New York Times 7/1: “But she is upset that an issue she had long been working on — one that would provide millions of dollars to monitor the health of the Sept. 11 workers — is now being championed by Ms. Gillibrand in the Senate. ‘Here she takes my bill and introduces it,’ Ms. Maloney said.'”

The New York Times 7/1: In an interview on Wednesday, Ms. Maloney said she wanted to give voters a choice. “People around the world watched and were inspired as people in Iran risked their lives to vote,” she said. “New Yorkers deserve the same. They deserve the right to vote, the right to make their own decision.”

NY Daily News 5/31: “Rep. Carolyn Maloney left little doubt she’s coming after Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand next year. Appearing at a Thursday night fund-raiser at the Manhattan home of folk legend Peter Yarrow, Maloney riffed on Yarrow’s classic “If I Had a Hammer,” saying that when she heard Gov. Paterson’s “doozie” appointment of Gillibrand to Hillary Clinton’s seat, “I wished I had a hammer.””

The Washington Times, 5/22: “We could not help but ask if the congresswoman had introduced Ms. Steinem to her newest colleague in the New York delegation, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, appointed in January to fill Hillary Rodham Clinton’s vacated Senate seat. ‘Don’t go there,’ said the congresswoman (who had her own designs on the seat), sticking her finger down her throat as if she wanted to gag… Is this what they call sisterly affection?”

And this doesn’t even include the strangely incompetent roll out of Maloney’s “campaign,” which just announced yet another delay in her announcement. The NY Daily News calls her “dithering” and puts it this way:

Maloney has stumbled badly even before reaching the starting line.

All this leads me to wonder, who’s running the show here? Can we really put the fate of a precious Democratic Senate seat in the hands of this team? Can we really entrust the fate of our 60 seat Senate majority to a sitting member of Congress who would be so careless as to utter the N word in anger?

Just sayin’.

PS. Yes, I have been a long time supporter of Kirsten Gillibrand since I ran for office in 2006, where our districts overlapped. That said, this diary is about Congresswoman Maloney’s lack of grace under fire and the way she has begun her “campaign.”


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