Friday, December 26, 2014

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NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt's daily look Inside City Hall.

NY1 ItCH: A Grimm Campaign Strategy

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It sounds like Congressman Michael Grimm wishes he could throw the entire press corps off a balcony, blaming the Fourth Estate for his federal tax fraud indictment.

In a "tense" interview with Politico, the Staten Island lawmaker avoids threatening reporter Alex Isenstadt but rips into the media for his troubles: "There’s no question: I’ve been vilified by the press since the day I got here, From the very beginning they had to figure out how to get rid of this guy.”

Beyond not realizing that most reporters are too busy trying to find their way to the next press conference to conspire to ruin the career of a politician, Grimm also fails to understand that most journalists prize diversity in the people who they cover. When we book guests on "Inside City Hall", it's hard to balance things when only three of the City Council's 51 members are Republicans and just one of the 14 members of Congress who represent city neighborhoods is a Republican – Grimm.

But reporters also want a good story and Grimm's federal investigation – and now indictment – is blood in the water. For more than a year, reporters would ask legitimate questions to Grimm about the probe and would get anger or obfuscation – but never a straight answer. A more-polished politician (like Charles Rangel during his House ethics probe) would laugh off questions – and even hold press conferences until reporters were punched out. Instead, Grimm always looks like he wants to punch out reporters, engaging in the classic blame-the-messenger strategy that has served few politicians well.

Despite the tax fraud and perjury charges, Grimm is running for re-election but he's holding campaign events almost like he's a wounded animal, not really alerting the media about his events and avoiding substantive questions at all costs. Regardless of the indictment, Grimm would serve himself – and his constituents – well by talking candidly about his plans for his next term, rather than grumbling to a reporter in a diner in Brooklyn and playing duck-and-cover on the campaign trail. Maybe Grimm should try speaking from a balcony – rather than threatening to throw someone off one.

Bob Hardt

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