The United States Attorney for the Southern District, Preet Bharara, came to Albany last Monday. He took the town by force. He was kind enough to choose public radio station WAMC as the venue for his address, which was broadcast live. I did the interview and found my hero to be true to form. There is no nonsense about the man. In a way, his approach reminds me of Joe Friday on the popular television show of some years ago, Dragnet. Friday, played by Jack Webb would intone, “The facts ma’am, just the facts.” That said, he can also be very, very funny and humble and, well, I really liked him.
Bharara did the impossible. He convicted the leaders of the Assembly and the state Senate and, barring successful appeals, these two tragic figures are on their way to prison. The third famous man running the government, Andrew Cuomo, was not indicted after a seemingly endless investigation into his dismantling of the Moreland Act Commission and other matters in the western part of the state. Bharara announced that there was not enough evidence to convict him. That’s interesting language — “not enough evidence” rather than “no evidence” if you follow my drift.
But ever since Bharara got angry over Cuomo’s inexplicable ending of his own Moreland Act Commission we have seen a new Andrew Cuomo emerge. The new Andrew is nicer, more thoughtful and less likely to go on his inexplicable “everyone is my enemy” adventures. I suspect he may have been “scared straight” by the U.S. Attorney.
In a way, Bharara has saved Andrew from himself. The new Andrew is so much nicer and will surely see positive results as his polling numbers go up. As for Bharara, there are many who would love to see him run for governor and really clean up Albany in a way that Andrew Cuomo promised to do but failed at. Bharara says he isn’t going to run. I get that, but I hope he will. Thomas Dewey rode his prosecutorial role all the way to two unsuccessful runs for President of the United States on the backs of his crime-busting career.
Should either Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton become President, Bharara could stay where he is since the senior senator from the same party, in this case Chuck Schumer, gets to make that appointment and Schumer and Bharara are very close. However, one can only think that based on his so successful tenure as U.S. Attorney of the Southern District, a new President might want Bharara as Attorney General of the United States. On the other hand, he has such integrity that it is doubtful he would take a fall for any politician. In any case, he has a year to go in his job and my bet is that he will not rest on what he has done up to now.
I suspect one reason why Bharara came to Albany is that he knows his work is not yet done. He knows that it is that cadre known as “the good, honest legislators” who are the real problem. They have to be the ones who insist on real change. Instead, they elect the same-old, same-old people to their leadership posts. They elected the Boss of the Bronx to be the Boss of the Assembly. That guy, Carl Heastie, has already been tainted with a few ethical problems and I predict that we will see more coming.
Every once in a while, throughout history, an individual comes along who really makes a difference. Bharara is that guy, but he is just one man with a vision about how to do it. When he came to do his speech at WAMC’s Linda Norris Auditorium, his security was tight — very tight. Let’s all pray for the guy.