Bright Idea

Bright Idea

We don’t tune in to comedian Bill Maher’s long-running HBO show “Real Time” for our weekly political cues. In fact, more often than not, we find ourselves disagreeing with the funnyman.
However, what is indisputable is the program’s uncanny ability, usually via its guests, to allow viewers to consider ideas and perspectives to which they otherwise might not be exposed.
Case in point: Last Friday’s (March 29) show. One of Maher’s five guests should be very familiar to loyal readers of The Forum, because prior to his sudden termination on March 11, 2017, we chronicled the many political corruption cases former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara brought before the federal bench, including those of disgraced Albany power players Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos.
The hard-charging, yet soft-spoken Bharara also famously produced guilty verdicts from the 2014-2015 trials of former Queens pols Malcolm Smith and Dan Halloran, and former Queens County GOP Vice Chairman Vince Tabone. The treacherous trio was convicted of bribery charges stemming from a scheme to rig the 2013 New York City mayoral election. Tabone and the once-powerful Democrat Smith played major roles in a failed $200,000 pay-to-play plan in which Smith tried to buy his way onto the Republican line with the help of Tabone and several other officials, including the former City Councilman Halloran, who was memorialized on audio and video recordings accepting bribes.
All three men remain in the federal prison system.
Back to Bharara and Maher. Bharara (pictured here with South Bend, Indiana Mayor, 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, and fellow “Real Time” guest Pete Buttigieg) is currently on a book tour, promoting his debut tome, “Doing Justice: A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law.” During last Friday’s episode of “Real Time,” Maher brought out Bharara as the last of his five guests.
The talk turned to Buttigieg and the already expansive field of Democratic presidential candidates for the 2020 campaign. Inevitably, Iowa found its way into the collegial confab led by Maher and featuring Bharara, and panelists: conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan; U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.); and conservative pundit S.E. Cupp. The first votes of the 2020 U.S. presidential cycle are scheduled to take place on Feb. 3 during the (in)famous Iowa Caucuses.
“For a party so proud of being diverse, why have the first primary in Iowa, one of the least-diverse states in the nation?” Maher inquired of the Dems. “It seems to send a different kind of message.”
After a couple of beats, Bharara jumped in and posited: “Why not have the first primary in Queens? It’s the most diverse county in the country.”
We must admit—at first glance, we laughed. But then we considered it: Why not?
For now, leave all of the logistics out of it. Yes, it would make NYC an even more gridlocked city for a couple of weeks. Yes, it would be a counterterrorism nightmare. And no, we don’t want more people dumped on us.
But just think of all the positives such an annual event would bring to The World’s Borough: an incredibly potent shot in the economic arm, especially for our small businesses; tourism; media exposure.
Just think about it. Not a bad idea.
Thanks, Preet.


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