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Let’s call a cease-fire on extreme political warfare

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American politics has always been a contact sport. But it has crossed a line in recent years. It is now less like sport and more like war.

I know, of course, that even in the late 18th century there were high-pitched political battles. In fact, the most dramatic of these resulted in the death of Alexander Hamilton in a gun duel with his political enemy, Aaron Burr, right across the Hudson in Weehawken.

Despite our lax gun-control laws, we no longer have gun duels to settle political battles. Instead, we have weaponized law enforcement and unleashed ambitious investigators and prosecutors to take down our elected leaders.

This has been evident both in our recent presidential election as well as in New York’s city and state government. Think about it: Wasn’t FBI director James Comey a key factor in the demise of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign? Didn’t Trump and his hyped-up rally audiences constantly chant: “Lock her up!”?

We usually only read about non-democratic and authoritarian governments that lock up political opponents, not live in one. So I ask, how did we sink so low?

Even in New York, a relatively progressive state, we are witnessing potential prosecutorial overreach. For the past few months, everyone on the inside of New York City politics has been buzzing about the potential indictment of Mayor DeBlasio, possibly along with a number of his key aides. Many people in recent days have told me that the results from two grand juries that were empaneled for investigations of the administra­tion’s political activities are imminent.

Although I am skeptical that any of this will be fatal to the mayor’s re-election chances, there is still a dark cloud hanging over him and a few potential competitors are anxiously awaiting the U.S. attorney’s and district attorney’s decision.

In scandal-scarred Albany, we have recently witnessed the indictments and convictions of two of the three most po werful elected leaders in the state — Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Majority Leader Dean Skelos. This came after a dozen convictions of legislators in the past decade in addition to the recent indictment of a close aide to the governor.

Does power corrupt, as the old saying goes, or have we criminalized politics to the point where every elected leader should both wear a wire and be considered a prime suspect for some malfeasance?

There’s no easy way to answer this. Yes, absolute power corrupts absolutely (as we saw in the case of the 20-year reign of Sheldon Silver). Yes, large campaign donations to elected leaders can lead to favoritism and quid pro quos that certainly cross a line too frequently.

But…

Houston, we have a big problem when Hillary Clinton’s ill-advised use of a private server for privacy reasons results in calls for prosecution and jail time. And when the mayor of New York City can’t engage in partisan politics to aide Democratic candidates for the state Senate without being accused of campaign finance fraud.

Don’t get me wrong — we need vigilance to keep politicians straight and bold prosecutors to pursue justice when they’re not.

But we have reached a tipping point when seemingly every political action results in an investigation. When prosecutors leak to the press the empaneling of grand juries to investigate malfeasance. When overzealous political fathers’ attempts to help their troubled children results in jail time.

We are living in strange and dangerous times politically.

It is high time we call off the political wars and weaponized investigations and let government focus on improving society and building for the future.

With our education system, our roads, bridges and subways all deteriorating, there is a lot of work to do in a bipartisan way to make our society even greater.

Let’s call a political cease-fire.

Tom Allon, president of City & State NY, was a Republican and Liberal Party-backed mayoral candidate in 2013 before he left to return to the private sector. Reach him at tallon@cityandstateny.com.

Posted 12:00 am, January 20, 2017
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Reader feedback

Lou from Bayside says:
Sure, but Times ledger is still "Fake News"
Jan. 20, 6:46 am
Helton from Flushing says:
Tom,

To answer your question...No, James Comey was not a key factor in Hillary's presidential demise. In fact, it likely had no bearing whatsoever on her candidacy at all.

I know it's hard, but time to face the facts. Comey's disclosures were in the last few weeks of the campaign. People had already made up their minds by then.

Hillary lost because of Hillary. She and you thought that people would vote for her:

1) Simply because she was a woman, which meant ignoring her many flaws - the biggest one being her reputation as a dishonest person.

2) She was unable to generate the excitement that Obama had generated in his campaigns.

3) She arrogantly thought that she could ignore key states like Wisconsin.

4) NY and California are your liberal/progressive bastions. In a large part of the rest of the country, people were tired of their income stagnating, regardless of what people like you tried to convince us otherwise. People know the truth that the country is struggling economically, with a large reason being that Obamacare put a real strain on private businesses, so employers kept their employee hours to less than 30 to avoid having to pay.

5) People are tired of the policies and lies that seem to favor everyone except American citizens. Hillary was rightly seen as having a 3rd term of Obama, and the working stiffs in the country said "No more!"

6) Your progressive policies resulted in the President flat out lying to the American people. Do you recall...
- "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor."
- "The stimulus package will result in shovel ready jobs."

7) Obamacare was passed solely by Democrats who saw Pelosi have the gall to state "We need to pass the bill so you can find out what's in the bill."

That is as un-American as you can get, regardless of your party affiliation. The arrogance of Pelosi was matched by the rest of you progressives.

8) As far as Hillary's use of a private server, I won't say that she should have been jailed, but she absolutely should have been fired immediately. I say that because I spent my career working for the U.S. Customs Service, and we had to conduct all official business on government computers - no personal computers allowed. In fact, we had to take a security test every year and get a 90% passing grade, or else we were not allowed on the work computer. The security test always included the part about having to use the govt. computer for official business. See - there's that arrogance again. "The rules apply to thee, but not for me."

9) As far as Mayor Wilhelm, many NYers do think he's dishonest and with good reason. His first order of business as mayor was the horse carriage industry. We all discovered later that this issue was nothing more than a money grubbing land deal for his real estate friends.

10) Illegal immigration is a big issue, not just because of the merits of the issue, but because it highlights the dishonesty and lack of respect for the laws that all Americans must live by. How dare you or anyone else state that you will ignore federal law about illegal aliens?

Here's some free advice - Our immigration system is not broken. In fact, it works just fine. But, you and your progressive friends seem to think that our immigration laws are optional. Tell your illegal friends to leave since they broke into our country, get in line and wait their turn like every other person who went through the legal process.

If they don't like it? Tough noogies as we used to say in Brooklyn. Immigrating to America is a privilege, not a right. And many Americans are sick and tired of your laissez faire attitude towards our immigration laws.

And that is why Madame Clinton is attending today's inauguration as a guest, instead of attending as our 45th President.
Jan. 20, 11:49 am
Gene Ralno from 123rd says:
I interpret this as a plea to not aim the now weaponized IRS at the many leftist political enterprises. Or instruct the EPA to not enforce violations of leftist donors. Or instruct them to write new regulations aimed at leftist political and for profit activities. In other words forget about the abuses of an abusive president and play nice for a couple of terms. Although that's the right thing to do, there's a dark side of me that hopes not entirely.
Jan. 20, 1:25 pm

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