Category: Archive

Echo Profile: Mission improbable

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The governor of California faces a constitutional bar on a White House run because he is not a natural born American citizen.
So there will never be a presidential race pitting these two larger than life men, no fight to the finish between the terminator and the tormentor of those who hack along the usual roads to high political office.
In the meantime, however, there is the matter of the New York governor’s race, an event in which McCourt is both the candidate for the Greens and, given the relative paucity of political office-seeking on his otherwise extensive resume, the greenest of candidates.
At 75, a milestone he recently passed flying more colors than just his adopted party’s, McCourt would be forgiven if he put his feet up and simply contemplated a decently long life that has drawn on the absurdities of earthly existence as a fuel for, well, proclaiming to anyone within earshot the absurdity of earthly existence.
But the truth is that Malachy McCourt takes a lot in this world seriously, very seriously.
True, you might have to look past a wall of funny lines as long as the great one in China, but it would be wrong to believe for a minute that the McCourt onslaught on Albany is entirely devoid of gravitas.
“Yes I do take this seriously,” McCourt said this week just before entering a studio for a radio interview.
“Just to mention two issues. I want to see the withdrawing of National Guard troops from Iraq and the outlawing of corporate contributions which amount to the purchasing of politicians,” he said.
As governor, McCourt would also give teachers big pay hikes. If he made them retroactive his brother Frank would owe him big time.
Serious issues aside, McCourt’s presence in the New York race has given the affair a levity that has been almost entirely absent in any race, in any state, this grimly set midterm election year.
He is, for example, the only candidate in the country who has proclaimed that if he wins the first thing he will do is demand a recount.
At the beginning of this year, Malachy McCourt was a Democrat. He was, and remains, avowedly anti-war and, as a candidate for governor, has picked up the endorsement of activist mom Cindy Sheehan.
He was approached by the Green Party on the basis that, given his singular profile, he would not have trouble securing the 50,000 signatures required to run for governor on that party’s ticket.
By hook and by crook he secured them and the rest, you never know, might be history.
But if not history, then at least a little hysterical.
Whether he likes it or not, Malachy McCourt has the cut of a politician, though perhaps one of another time and a place. He might have been the Irish-American mayor of a big city in the glorious and damnable days of Tammany.
He might have been Boss McCourt, or maybe Plunkitt.
And pigs may have flown but there was nobody around to notice.
Regardless, by simply being himself, Mayor McCourt would have made people laugh, thus at least putting himself on a higher plain than many a onetime mayor, governor or indeed president more apt to make the voters groan.
It will be curious indeed to see how many New Yorkers vote for McCourt on Nov. 7. Behind the celebrity status that he brings to his adopted party, McCourt’s candidacy is being seen by some as a symptom of a wider need for noticeable third choice candidates in local and national politics.
Of course there are not a few voters who would see McCourt more in terms of being a third rail candidate.
Either way, his bid, be it eccentric or essential, has to be seen against the backdrop of an increasing number of voters across the country declaring themselves to be independent of any party affiliation; a sign, if one was needed, that there is now a need in American politics for a viable third party.
If one evolved, it’s a fair bet that Malachy McCourt would not join. He is above all, a rebel, an independent, one of a kind, even in the context of a family that seems to have a trademark on all of those categories.
Like his famous brother, Frank, Malachy was one of the Brooklyn McCourts who emigrated in reverse back to Limerick.
Before Frank was a literary celebrity, Malachy was certainly very well known if not necessarily known very well.
When he returned to America in the early 1950s he worked a variety of jobs before setting out to become an actor. This he did with a fair degree of success. Along the way he was a radio talk show host who was frequently summoned to television shows to keep the talking going.
This he did with ease and aplomb.
As a writer and raconteur, however, McCourt, arguably, found his truest callings.
He co-authored the play “A Couple of Blaguards” along with Frank and, like his brother, has produced a torrent of writings and musings over the last decade or so.
The two most prominent of the McCourt brothers seem to be engaged in a bookish version of a weapons race.
Frank, despite a literary trifecta that includes the Pulitzer-winning “Angela’s Ashes,” is trailing Malachy who now has eight titles in print including the best selling memoir, “A Monk Swimming.”
Malachy’s latest tome, “Malachy McCourt’s History of Ireland” is quite simply that and is, if nothing else, less stressful than the real thing.
It is also surprisingly sympathetic towards a number of Irish historical figures who McCourt would have little time for in purely political terms.
Which begs a question. Would Malachy McCourt the rebel and outsider have anytime at all for Governor McCourt?
By way of an answer, here’s a prediction. Should Malachy McCourt be elected governor of New York, once he has stopped laughing and has rammed his serious initiatives through the gobsmacked legislature, his next move is a no-brainer.
He will found an underground movement dedicated to his own downfall.

The Malachy McCourt File

Born: Brooklyn, New York, Sept. 30, 1931
Grew Up: In Limerick (allegedly).
Education: Ended early in the formal sense but definitely ongoing.
Married To: Diana. Father of five, grandfather to four.
In His Own Words: Take your pick, but given the week that’s in it: “You Don’t Have To Be Irish To vote For Me.”

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