The Catholic Thing
The Death of Character in New York City Print E-mail
By George J. Marlin   
Wednesday, 04 September 2013

Twenty years ago I ran for mayor of New York City as the candidate of the Conservative and Right-to Life Parties. I opposed the incumbent Democrat David Dinkins and liberal Republican Rudy Giuliani.

I entered the race to give New Yorkers a choice, particularly on social issues. Both Dinkins and Giuliani agreed on support for abortion, condom distribution in schools, gay rights, and opposition to school vouchers.

I believed I was suited to seek the office because living in borough neighborhoods most of my life, I knew first-hand the damage incurred over the decades by the “urban renewal” projects of social engineers.

I watched thousands of lower- and middle-class homes bulldozed and replaced with “projects.” I saw the bureaucrats create a welfare system that, in the words of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, resulted in the formation of a “permanent dependent class.” I witnessed many an erstwhile neighborhood collapse into something called “the community,” with its permanent underclass, rampant racism, runaway crime, and the myriad social programs that dreamers dreamt could solve the problems they had created. And those programs became a beast with an insatiable appetite for tax dollars.

In November 1993, I lost. But it was well worth the fight.

Fast forward to 2013. In this year’s citywide races, the candidates are a collection of extreme leftist wannabees who would like to take New York back to the days when then mayor and still liberal icon, John Lindsay, championed the Great Society and the social engineers drove the nation’s largest city into bankruptcy.

One Nanny State candidate who wanted to separate himself from the herd not only promised to expand the distribution of condoms to grammar school and high school students, but insisted the condoms be manufactured in New York City to increase jobs.

It gets worse. In the past twenty years, the rules for candidates have changed significantly. As long as a candidate walks liberalism’s party line, nothing else matters. Hence, the candidacies of Anthony Weiner for mayor and Eliot Spitzer for comptroller.

As a member of Congress, Anthony Weiner disgraced his office and embarrassed his family and his constituents with his sexting. He resigned in 2011, not because of his perverted actions, but because he was caught in a self-created maze of lies about his behavior.

Weiner, the ultimate narcissist whose purpose for seeking elected office was to get attention, was incapable of getting a real job and leading a normal life. After two years of brooding, he decided, in Bill Clinton fashion, that his scandalous behavior was old news and jumped into the Democratic mayoral primary.

For several weeks public opinion surveys placed him first in a field of seven. But then it became public that, while he was sitting at home in exile, he did more than just brood while undergoing “counseling.” He was sexting young girls under the nom de plume “Carlos Danger” and proclaiming himself “an argumentative, perpetually horny middle-aged man.”

Weiner’s politically ambitious wife and Hillary Clinton protégé, Huma Abedin, actually defended him in public, stating that because she has forgiven him so should New Yorkers. Despite the revelations, the shameless Weiner has refused to drop out and thrives on the attention over the “Carlos Danger” exposé.

To massage his ego, he has hired people to form crowds around him during campaign stops. Also, his interns are appearing in Weiner commercials looking in awe of him.

Then there’s the candidacy of Eliot Spitzer – a/k/a Client #9 – for the office of N.Y.C. Comptroller.

Spitzer, as New York State’s Chief Law Enforcement Officer and Chief Executive Officer – i.e., as Attorney General and Governor – repeatedly broke state and federal laws. He violated a N.Y. anti-prostitution law that he had promoted as AG and signed into law as governor. Spitzer took prostitutes over state lines in violation of the Mann Act.

The former “Sheriff of Wall Street” also engaged in money laundering. Wiring money from a bank for illegal purposes – in his case paying for prostitutes – is a violation of the Federal Laundering of Money Instruments Law.

Most people would hang their heads in shame and avoid the public square for committing sexual crimes. But Spitzer, who rivals Weiner for the City’s Narcissist of the Year award, dismissed his criminal activity as mere passing failures.

Sadly, many New Yorkers (but not his wife and three daughters who have shunned him) are buying his act. Recent polls indicate he might just win.

Yes, much has changed since I ran for office in 1993. The foremost being that defects in character no longer bar people from seeking or holding public office.

Character consists of empathy and self-control. The social-philosopher James Q. Wilson defined empathy as a “willingness to take into account the rights, needs, and feelings of others.”  “Self-control,” he wrote, is a “willingness to take into account the more distant consequences of present actions; to be, in short, somewhat future oriented rather than wholly present oriented.”

Weiner and Spitzer are textbooks cases of the opposite kind of character. But in New York City, the nation’s narcissist capital, they can get away with their depravities because properly formed character doesn’t matter. They fit quite comfortably into the city’s huge sub-culture with its nihilistic ethic of self-esteem and celebration of self-absorption and instant gratification.

George J. Marlin is an editor of The Quotable Fulton Sheen and the author of The American Catholic VoterHis most recent book is Narcissist Nation: Reflections of a Blue-State Conservative.
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

Rules for Commenting

The Catholic Thing welcomes comments, which should reflect a sense of brevity and a spirit of Christian civility, and which, as discretion indicates, we reserve the right to publish or not. And, please, do not include links to other websites; we simply haven't time to check them all.

Comments (12)Add Comment
written by Jack,CT, September 04, 2013
Oh George,
The problem of "Drugs" were not
mentioned as our prisons are flooded with
sick addicts and payroll is made for
all those involved...many who admit the
"Urban Renewal" system apparently glanced
at here as failing as we LOCK up those who
have been considered 'Mentally Ill and
with Addictions....SINCE 1956 (Alcoholism made a MENTAL
Many police will admit as much and most ILLNESS!)
health care worker. AMA
I understand "Condom" seems to be a
big issue here perhaps this explains
a lower rate of HIV or perhaps not
either way I just do not see it as a
major issue for Americas Largest
Local Economy~!
God Bless!
written by Manfred, September 04, 2013
Thanks, Mr. Marlin. You could also mention Ms. Quinn who is in a lesbian "marriage" and Mr.DeBlasio who is married to a black woman who admits to formerly being a lesbian. It reminds me of the people that Noah and his family waved to as they closed and sealed the door of the Ark. As St. Augustine said in his homilies, those fully inside the Ark (the Church) were saved while those outside all perished.
written by Deacon Ed Peitler, September 04, 2013
I believe I can level criticism against New York City because it was the place of my birth, where I received my education from 1st grade to Ph.D. (all except kindergarten which I did at PS 39), and where I was nurtured in the faith. It was a place where, as a 10 year old, I could hop onto the IND subway to Manhattan with my pals, walk the main thoroughfares, take in an exhibit of Skinnerian behaviorism at the Time Life Building, take the elevator to the 65th floor of the Hilton for a great view of the City and "beg" for nickles on the streets until we had enough money for lunch at Horn and Hardart cafeteria - all in time to make it back home to Brooklyn by once again jumping the turnstiles of the subway. Life was good and innocent then in NYC.

The problem, I am afraid is not the Weiners or the Spitzers of this world. It's that the neighborhoods have vanished and along with them the sense of community. And if you were Catholic, that community was the parish church and school. No, the problem is that NYC is populated with narcissists, hedonists whose values can be reduced to making as much money as one can regardless of what it means for the next guy. If NYC were not the financial capital of the world (presuming Hong Kong is not) it would soon be the next Detroit. The human values on display in NYC do not make for a bright future for its culture.

I was content to move away as fast as I could from that culture and raise my children elsewhere. But I can never fully escape the clutches of my NYC heritage since my wife is quick to remind me on occasion when I am preaching: "I can tell you're tired; your 'Brooklynese' was coming through."
written by Grump, September 04, 2013
As a born-and-bred New Yorker it pains me to see a once-proud city now mired in mediocrity at so many levels, especially politics. I am now decades and miles removed from NYC but still have a few friends and kin who also lament the decline.

I'm old enough to remember Mayor Wagner, a Democrat and a Roman Catholic who, among other things, led an effort to rid the city of "gay" bars in preparation for the 1964 World's Fair. Can one imagine how popular this would be today?

Mayor Wagner, who lost a bid to unseat Republican Sen. Jacob Javits in 1956, did a lot of good things during his three terms as mayor including helping to build public housing and schools and creating the City University of New York system and Lincoln Center. He also helped bring National League baseball back to NY with the Mets after the Dodgers and Giants skipped town.

George, your excellent essay is particularly timely for me as I often re-read "The Quotable Fulton Sheen", which you helped edit and which sits on my nightstand.

Quoting the good bishop: "Some day a politician will arise who will be so devoted to truth that he will follow it, knowing that by doing so, he will go down to defeat. That day will be the restoration of politics as principles; it will also be the rebirth of a nation."

I think we're all still waiting for that day.

written by Walter, September 04, 2013
Manfred, glad you are checking everyone's boarding pass on the Ark.

Several questions re. your line "...a black woman who admits to formerly being a lesbian."

Why is her race relevant? Shouldn't someone who abandons the gay lifestyle for heterosexual marriage and parenthood be lauded? Unless you have met her personally, how can you possibly have any clue about her life, her relationships or what is in her heart?
written by senex, September 04, 2013
This article reads like a postscript to Father Schall's article yesterday on the Politician's Private Conscience.
written by Mandrake, September 04, 2013
@Walter ... No one gets into heaven unless I say so. Popes nor Bishops nor ... you!

Of course, I get a pass ...
written by Walter, September 04, 2013
@Mandrake: well, that clears things up! Where do I send my check?
written by Jack,CT, September 06, 2013
-CDC,just out today TEEN birth rate down 7%!
the lowest in the 73 years of collecting
written by Romy1, September 07, 2013
Mr. Marlin, this is yesterday's news, warmed over. Correct me, but does anyone take Spitzer or Wiener seriously?
Jack, you need to get out of CT, even just a bit.
written by DS, September 11, 2013
Mr. Marlin, Spitzer and Weiner both lost yesterday. It is clear that your generalizations about the New York electorate were wrong. Character still matters.
written by Tomas, October 10, 2013

Did you ever expect anything different? The blueprint was exposed in The Slaughter of the Cities, a fine book by E. Michael Jones.

Write comment
smaller | bigger

security code
Write the displayed characters


Other Articles By This Author