The Public Record: Paladino Out in the Cold

by / Jan. 4, 2017 9am EST

On December 6, Buffalo developer Carl Paladino traveled to Manhattan to cycle through the receiving line at Trump Tower. Paladino was co-chair of Donald Trump’s New York State campaign; he had served as a surrogate on television news shows; he came not simply to congratulate Trump on his election but to allow Trump to do him the honor of soliciting advice on issues and filling jobs, perhaps even to be offered a position himself in Trump’s administration.

Maybe Paladino was offered a post; maybe he wasn’t. “We talked about that. He knows,” Paladino told Bob McCarthy of the Buffalo News. “But I would have to have something to get my teeth into and be engaged. Otherwise, I’ve got a good job.”

Paladino told politicsny.net, run by Michael Caputo, who ran the developer’s gubernatorial campaign in 2010 and worked for Trump during the primary season, “If I could be where the action is and help create a better government, looking at productivity and proficiency, here and there or wherever, that would be the type of office I’d want to hold.”

Let’s imagine for a moment that Trump did offer Paladino some sort of job. Maybe short-term, maybe honorific, but nonetheless a place in the White House—a reward for his loyalty and hard work during the campaign.

Imagine, too, that Paladino relished the excuse to resign from his elected position on Buffalo’s school board, where, thanks the ouster in May of his allies James Sampson and Jay McCarthy, he is now a member of a board minority. Recall, too, that Paladino very nearly lost his seat to 18-year-old Austin Harig. His two remaining allies on the board, Patti Pierce and Larry Quinn, were not up for re-election last spring.

And, continuing to hold those two hypotheticals, let’s take a fresh look at the consequences of Paladino’s remarks, published in the December 22 edition of Artvoice, in which he fantasizes about Barack Obama dying of mad cow disease contracted during bestial sex and Michelle Obama’s “return to being a male,” let loose in Zimbabwe “where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.”

The condemnation of his remarks has been widespread and thorough, coming from predictable quarters—progressives, elected officials, racial justice activists, Paladino’s many political foes, even some of his political friends—and from not-so-predictable sources: The Trump transition team issued a terse rebuke through a spokesperson the morning after the comments were published. That rebuke was quickly amplified on the alt-right mouthpiece Breitbart.com, which is run by senior Trump advisor Steve Bannon. Locally, even WBEN’s conservative talk show hosts, Tom Bauerle and David Bellavia—usually quick to defend Paladino and even quicker to decry what they mistakenly call “political correctness”—were largely circumspect.

Late last week, news arrived that local Republican donors planned to throw a $5,000-a-plate fundraising luncheon to help pay Trump’s transition team. The event, to be held Thursday, January 5 at the Westin Hotel, will be headlined by Kellyanne Conway, who was the last manager of the Trump campaign. 

On Monday, the New York Daily News reported that Paladino—Trump’s stalwart in Western New York, the man who tried to recruit Trump to run for governor of New York in 2014, and who delivered to Trump his first endorsement from a sitting GOP congressman, Clarence’s Chris Collins—would have no role in the fundraiser. Paladino quickly ran to the Buffalo News to insist he remained tight with Trump. He explained that he would attend Thursday’s fundraiser and sponsor another, separate fundraising event. “I’m not cut out,” he told reporter Samantha Christmann. “It’s only in the hearts and minds of the progressives and those haters out there that it means something else.”

Don’t believe it: He’s out. And, if there was a position on offer, that offer is gone, too. Likely his list of recommended hires for the Trump administration is considered poison now, too.

He has lost his excuse to depart the school board whose proceedings he can no longer dictate, and the calls for his resignation have galvanized his stubborn pride. He’ll never leave willingly so long as his critics insist that he should. So we’re stuck with him. 

Carl Paladino shot himself in the foot, and the ricochet caught everyone nearby him, friend and foe, in the backside. Enjoy the irony.