When Buffalo-area businessman Carl Paladino ran for the New York State governorship in 2010, his supporters put up campaign signs that explained the motivation for their choice of candidate with the slogan “I’m mad as hell too, Carl!” After hearing the man speak a few times, and seeing the constant evidence of passionate, irredeemable instability in his eyes whenever he appeared on television, I considered printing off a series of satirical reproductions of those signs, which adopted the same color scheme and design but changed the slogan to the more straightforward “I’m crazy as hell too, Carl!”
Last April, for no apparent reason, I began receiving mass e-mails from the former gubernatorial candidate and perennial conservative activist. I have no idea how I got onto his list of contacts. I’ve never communicated with the man, and I never expressed interest in his campaign. I can only assume that my e-mail address was passed to him by a third party, and despite my distaste for Paladino’s politics and personal behavior, I wasn’t about to protest that connection, however casual and tenuous. The man is certainly a financially and socially powerful presence in my region, and it’s good to both have access to such a person and be able to basically keep tabs on his activities.
In keeping tabs on Paladino by reading the e-mails that he’s directing to fellow Republics, sometimes en masse and sometimes individually while copying to his entire contact list, I’ve had ample opportunity to confirm previous suspicions beyond a shadow of a doubt. Carl Paladino is a goddamn sociopath. His formal communications paint the picture of a man who is utterly incapable of seeing another person’s point of view, incapable of empathy, having no impulse control and no sense of self-restraint. The tone of every one of his letters is so cocksure and combative as to suggest no genuine motivation other than a personal display of red-faced plumage.
In a recent letter to New York State Senator Tom Libous, Paladino starts out:
“I heard you are angry with the grassroots/tea party taxpayers and I over our comments about your alleged criminal and otherwise pathetic behavior as a Senator. Tom, we don’t care.”
He then demands that the Senator resign unless he comes over to Paladino’s way of thinking. Evidently, Paladino’s means of trying to convince the senator to accept his demands include describing Libous as “an incorrigible, arrogant, greedy and deceitful person comfortably in bed with the unions and other special interests.” Later he refers to Libous as “Tommy boy” before calling him “a little conniving sneak.”
By way of reiterating his self-important demands, Paladino later says “You're a grown man. You should acknowledge and apologize for your bad actions. That's what men do. They don't cry and whine.”
To date the densest example of Paladino’s unrestrained aggression is a message that he directed at long-ago US Senator Alfonse D’Amato. The message announces that it was sent via Paladino’s iPhone, which leads me to wonder whether some momentary spark set him off as he went about his daily business, compelling him to deliver this colorful vituperation in sight of absolutely everyone he knows:
“Al, keep your nose out of WNY politics or I will expose your underbelly. You are a spineless fraud and you're going down with Skelos. Did you have fun at Andrews $50k party? You are such a low life parasite. It's all about money and you could care less about the people and republican principals. What are you going to do when I tell the people that you were the prime mover of Andrew's gay marriage bill so he could pound his chest as the most powerful governor the state has ever known and you could have access as a lobby for the big buck clients you extort.”
This sort of language and the completely shameless way in which Paladino uses it makes me wonder about people like him, who have consolidated wealth and power over the course of a long career in business. Is tact a skill that Paladino has never had to utilize in his life? Is he actually used to getting his own way simply by forcefully demanding it and trash-talking his opposition? Is that the way goals are achieved in the world of business development, or is it just true of Paladino’s own private world?
In government, even a person identified as a political firebrand doesn’t approach a fraction of the divisiveness or resistance to compromise showcased in Paladino’s writings. And this is true even in the current political climate where divisiveness and non-compromise is the order of the day, especially among Republicans. To Paladino, anyone on his side of the aisle who strays in the least measure from his vision for the party is a target for being branded, in his terminology, a RINO (Republican In Name Only). And woe unto he who is marked by Paladino’s scarlet letters, for Carl Paladino speaks for the “grassroots/tea party” base of the Republican Party, and without them, as he threatens to Senator Libous, “your career as an elected official will end this year.”
Indeed, Paladino’s messages are full of intimations of a kind of political insight that extends far beyond the observational and into the prophetic. “The Albany establishment is on its way out,” he writes without a trace of uncertainty. “In a few years it will be gone.” The man is so blindly assured of his viewpoints on everything that he has apparently convinced himself that he can tell the future.
But in view of the rest of his remarks in a number of letters, I’d say that that’s not just an outgrowth of his unquestioning convictions. Rather, it’s part and parcel of a severe messianic complex. His letters are permeated with unrestrained anger, but they are also paradoxically peppered with slightly religious language. Apart from painting himself as the sole arbiter of judgment as to one’s true allegiance to the Republican Party, which, incidentally, he formally joined only seven years ago, he also takes up the mantle of a priestly dispenser of political absolution.
What is it that Paladino says men do instead of “crying and whining?” “They atone and ask for forgiveness.” Only then will the angry prophet, in his power as private representative of an entire constituency, allow a Republican’s political career to proceed. Helpfully, the savior of true Republicanism tells Senator Libous exactly what he needs to do for penance:
“…you must tell the grassroots/tea party taxpayers in writing that you have had an epiphany, ask them to forgive your past transgressions and promise that you will advocate for and defend Conservative Republican interests…”
Notice that to accept Paladino’s demands is not to capitulate, nor to agree, but rather to have an epiphany. Such language suggests that there are never two ways of looking at an issue, never legitimate alternatives in the service of the public. It suggests access on Paladino’s part to some absolute political Truth, which the “RINOs” that dominate state government are sinfully resisting.
There is a frightfully evangelizing quality to all of this, a “recant or be damned” mentality, which is fascinating to me as someone with a background in religious studies. The impulse to drive a wedge between Republicans deemed either orthodox or imposters appears not unlike the evangelical assertion that Catholics, for instance, are false Christians. Similarly, his appeal to the true-Republican imperative as an explanation for everything that is wrong with New York State reminds me of the tendency of certain evangelicals to assert the nation’s rejection of traditional Christian values as an explanation of everything from 9/11 to the Aurora theater shooting.
The picture that Paladino paints is one in which the state of New York is headed towards nothing less than a localized apocalypse. And it is entirely the fault of those who fail to adopt the very specific messianic message of the Paladino-party line. “If the brainpower and time wasted on theatrics, illusion and game-playing were invested in real responsible government,” he writes to Libous, “New York would still be a great place to live and raise a family.” As it stands, the state is not such a place. And it’s not enough for Carl Paladino to suggest that he would do things differently in order to promote better outcomes. No, no; in absence of the embrace of his guiding wisdom, the entire state, as he writes in the first sentence of an open letter accompanying the one addressed to Libous, “continues down a slippery slope into the abyss.”
Now, lest I be accused of quoting him out of context, Paladino does not explicitly say that that abyss looms because of the rejection of his governorship. In fact, in response to an e-mail from Albany County Republican Committee Chairman Donald A. Clarey, requesting removal from Paladino’s mailing list after his “pathetic screed” against Libous, Paladino tells the Chairman, “I have no ego to fulfill, sir.” Of course, I find that laughable, and I don’t think it unfair to conclude that Paladino truly perceives himself as the sole salvation of the New York State Republican Party and the state itself. Though he never says such a thing outright, he does invest himself with the power to set an unquestionable agenda for the entire conservative wing of New York politics.
The final ultimatum and source of absolution that he presents to Senator Libous is this:
“Endorse our slate of Republican primary candidates for the Senate, Assembly and US Senate and House of Representatives and withdraw any prior endorsements of their opponents.”
Taking all of this together, I’d say I’m actually impressed with Paladino’s ability to delicately blend, in his political activism, the typically-American culture of evangelical Christianity and aspects of his Italian Catholic background. After all, at the same time that he cries doom for the forsaken state of New York lest it repent of its evil ways and be born again, he also demands strict adherence to a hierarchy with himself in the role of pope.
Again, I’m not asserting these things baselessly. I’m extrapolating from his own sociopathic commentary. By presuming to speak for the entire grassroots base of the New York conservative movement, separating tea partiers and RINOs like sheep and goats, and making unilateral demands of duly elected officials, it seems clear that he is aiming to position himself as a solitary guiding force behind the entire Republican state government, even in the wake of a sound electoral defeat. He even makes this fairly chilling remark in his message to Chairman Clarey: “Running for office was only the beginning statement for me.”
On the other hand, I’m not sure whether Paladino is jostling for the position of Republican pontiff or conservative Christ. The messianic language that he relies on is pretty strong. Still addressing Clarey, he says, “If I had tried to do something, the likes of you wouldn’t stop me.” Unless Carl Paladino actually has been sent by God to save the Republican Party from itself, in light of comments like that I worry that the non-fulfillment of his goals is the only thing dividing Paladino the property developer from Paladino the super-villain.
Is my analysis here overly rhetorical? Doesn’t it take a pretty seriously unstable person to say, essentially, “I am a greater force than so puny an individual as you can reckon with”? Even if I’m just half-right about that, it isn’t the craziest ranting one finds in a Carl Paladino letter. The really unsettling stuff is the goddamn conspiracy theories.
To hear Paladino tell it, nothing that is done against him, or even just against his preferences, is done individually or on the basis of innocent motives. Everything is a coordinated attack. When Clarey wrote back to basically say, “you’re an irrelevant loon; stop e-mailing me,” Paladino’s verbose reply included the paranoid statement, “If the best that Libous can do is to send a washed up politician like you after me it illustrates just how weakened and insecure he is.”
To his credit, if Paladino believes that every private e-mail communication of Republican officials is directed from on high, it goes a long way toward explaining why he believes that there’s a position of puppet master for which he is a viable candidate.
If such a position existed and Paladino occupied it, he would evidently deliver the New York State Republican government from a culture in which absolutely everything is done for reasons other than those stated. He likes to go on in pretty much all of his messages about oil drilling in the Marcellus Shale, a process which very well might threaten the drinking water of residents of Western New York and Pennsylvania. His readers are tacitly encouraged to take it for granted that Paladino’s advocacy comes sans any ulterior motives whatsoever, while simultaneously rejecting every public claim on the part of his opponents. In his open letter regarding Tom Libous he says of the state Senator:
“He has the power to bring 25,000 – $75,000/year jobs to his area of the state by permitting the drilling of the Marcellus Shale but instead he argues environmental concerns to mask the good old boy two-step where the defer decision until the drillers figure out how to bring Mr. Green to the tables of Al D’Amato and the other parasitic lobbyists so they can line the campaign bank accounts of the establishment boys and play their gay marriage chips.”
Leave aside for the moment the weird inclusion of gay marriage in this narrative. (We’ll come back to it in a moment.) That aside, you see the situation? The prospect of methane spewing from people’s home taps is just a distraction, and the ongoing citizen protests against extracting natural gas through hydraulic fracturing are, I suppose, a smokescreen masterminded by lifelong Republican Alfonse D’Amato who has personal control of environmental impact studies and can reverse their results once the proper sum of money is delivered to his office. Or something like that. I don’t know, I’m confused.
But what’s important is that Carl Paladino knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that there are no environmental threats connected to the Marcellus Shale drilling proposals, and if he was in charge and impact studies showed clean projections, those claims would be trustworthy. After all, no lobbying organizations or political operatives stand to benefit financially from the drilling going forward. Right?
If that’s the kind of high profile conspiracy that operates among those on Carl Paladino’s side of the aisle (though in name only, mind you), then you can imagine what kind of political sorcery is operating among Democrats and liberals. Labor unions are especially guilty, and especially capable of the most elaborate public misrepresentations of their beliefs, attitudes, motivations, and activities. Going back to the letter addressed to Tom Libous, we find Paladino saying:
“The pension reform and union contract deals were toothless sellouts to the unions, who play-acted for a week afterward that they were so outraged with Andrew Cuomo…”
Get it? Even if it looks like a political agreement was a compromise that was actually disadvantageous to the progressive faction, it was really exactly what the progressives wanted. How do we know? Well, because it wasn’t the way Carl Paladino would have done it, I guess. Carl Paladino knows how to get everything that the Republican base wants out of every situation. Carl Paladino knows how compromise works. According to his reply to Donald Clarey, “As long as the Republicans control 1/3 of the vote in Albany they can veto anything. That’s where the bargaining comes in, Tit for tat.”
That’s where bargaining comes in. You know, in not bargaining, even when you’re in the minority. Or is that called “stonewalling the democratic process”? I can never remember these things when I’ve been sucked down the rabbit hole of Carl Paladino’s furious insanity. The man represents the absolute worst of today’s Republican praise for tribalist non-cooperation, if only because his allegiance to it is inflated by a conspiracy-theory mindset that regards any compromise whatsoever as a deliberate and complete giveaway to the opposing side of the issue.
Oh, and just wait until you see how endemic that RINO betrayal is, according to Paladino. To date, the fucking craziest thing that he has sent me is a message bearing the subject line “FW: Al D’Amato, the predator.” It’s such an exquisite work of paranoia and self-indulgence that I can only do it justice by copying most of it directly, with interspersed paraphrases and commentary. The mini-essay starts as an explanation of the context for the tirade against D’Amato that was quoted near the beginning of this post. He writes:
“Al D’Amato, in concert with his surrogates Dean Skelos and George Maziarz were approached last year by Andrew Cuomo and his minions to make a deal. Cuomo wanted to show everyone in the State that he could do anything with the complicit New York State Republican led Senate… including getting legislative approval for the extreme left issue of gay marriage. Getting that law passed would allow Cuomo to… payback the gay community for their 2010 unwarranted but effective bashing of my candidacy.”
Right off the bat, Paladino takes the ambitious step of making the conspiracy equally about him as an individual and the issues that he thinks no ordinary person could support, since he doesn’t support them. Could it be that Paladino’s political opponents just have different opinions about what’s best for the state? Not a chance! They are evil masterminds who wish to instill chaos upon the state of New York because they have the power to do so, and Carl Paladino has not yet saved us.
I must say, though, if you identify gay marriage as an “extreme left issue,” it’s pretty bold to describe gay opposition to your candidacy as unwarranted. For those who don’t remember, one of the things that helped to sink Paladino’s gubernatorial campaign was his having delivered a speech in which he chastised Andrew Cuomo for having marched in a gay pride parade, and described teaching acceptance of homosexuality as “brainwashing.”
But now that Paladino can identify homosexuals as a convenient scapegoat for his loss of the election, it has made it easy for him to place them in a diagram of the elaborate behind-the-scenes power structures controlling state politics. Think I’m being hyperbolic? Keep reading.
“In return D’Amato, the prime mover of the effort, would get access to Cuomo on initiatives that he needed for his lobbying clients who pay big bucks.”
I hope you’ll agree that this is already getting a little convoluted. Now it wasn’t just the gay community attacking the Paladino campaign out of sheer ill-will (Paladino never entertains the notion that it had to do with policy in the first place). Rather, the gay community acted at the masterminding behest of Alfonse D’Amato for some unspecified reason.
And here we leap to the Marcellus shale issue again:
“Anyone who thinks that the holdup of the Marcellus shale drilling permit has anything to do with the merits being argued in public is a fool drinking cool-aid. It’s all about Mr. Green showing up at the doors of the likes of D’Amato the lobbyist.”
It cannot be stressed enough: Policy differences never have anything to do with policy. In Carl Paladino’s mind, there is only one legitimate opinion on any topic, and every alternative is invented to make money. Christ, obviously I feel that the influence of money in politics needs to be vastly diminished, but I also believe that lobbyists contribute money because they actually want certain policies, not, as Paladino seems to imply, because they simply wish to toss a monkey wrench into the workings of democracy and trade cash in the process. Lobbyists or no lobbyists, the workings of democracy consist of multiple opinions, and that appears to be something that Carl Paladino cannot accept.
“Knowing that Skelos and Maziarz… were spineless and could not vote for the bill, the cabal picked 4 republican senators… and promised they would each get $500,000 in contributions from the gay community and future favors from the cabal including campaign support.”
I really like Paladino’s choice of the word “cabal.” It truly emphasizes the paranoia. I also like how he impugns the integrity of Skelos and Maziarz for fucking agreeing with Paladino’s position on the gay marriage issue. It implies that Carl Paladino lives in a one hundred percent trust-free world in which no one on Earth ever acts according to their personal principles or stated motives. Also, I didn’t realize that the entire gay community was a lobbying organization. No wonder they were able to single-handedly sink Paladino’s campaign for governor. It’s a good thing they had Alfonse D’Amato to direct their actions for them.
“Freshman Senator Grisanti from Buffalo intended to do the right for his constituents when he got in office. Cuomo, Maziarz, Skelos and D’Amato brought heavy pressure on him to sell out and at the last minute he threw his integrity under the bus, broke his promises to the people who donated to his campaign and voted for the law.”
I hope readers will recall Grisanti’s surprise vote in favor of gay marriage, which saved gay marriage from defeat in New York State. Well, now, thanks to Carl Paladino, those same readers know what the real reason for his change of heart was. It wasn’t for his stated reasons, that he could find no legal reason to deny other people rights that he himself had. Nor does it have anything to do with the capability of human beings to change their opinions sometimes. Carl Paladino wouldn’t know anything about that. He’s probably never changed an opinion in his life, even when he changed political parties. Hell, he seems not to understand that other opinions exist.
To hear Paladino tell it, Grisanti’s vote was actually the result of a nefarious plot by Governor Cuomo and an aging lobbyist to do pass an initiative that they didn’t believe in, for no other reason than because they thought it would go against the public will, with the help of a series of bribes bankrolled by a sprawling, well-organized secret society of fabulously wealthy homosexuals. Oh, and they only got away with it because they all first conspired to keep Carl Paladino out of office, which had nothing to do with Paladino being vehemently anti-gay, as well as a goddamn sociopath.
“I believe that if Mark came out and told the truth about what happened to him and revealed the hypocrisy of the cabal’s complicity the people of his district would be forgiving, but that will not happen because the cabal continues to stroke and intimidate him with false hope.”
Wait. Grisanti hasn’t come out and told the truth about this? Then how the hell do you know the truth about it, Carl? Is it because you have a prophetic access to all truth at all times, or is it perhaps because you’re just making shit up with your diseased mind?
Little doubt he believes the former, which sort of explains the religious overtones of his final comments. You see, Senator Grisanti, salvation awaits you. If you repent you will be forgiven, and you must repent, for the promises of those who reject the Republican messiah are empty promises, and the hope they offer is false hope. There is only one political Truth in New York State, and it is yelling “fuck you” at its opponents as loudly as it can.