“This is quite a game, politics. There are no permanent enemies, and no permanent friends, only permanent interests,” according to William Clay, an old Southern politician. And once upon a time, that's the way it was in politics. But the current race for mayor of Pittsburgh tells a different story.
Incumbent Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, after suddenly dropping his re-election bid days after announcing he would run, has re-emerged as chairman of the “Committee for a Better Pittsburgh,” which is running negative ads against mayoral candidate and city Councilman Bill Peduto.
Ravenstahl and Peduto spent years as constant antagonists, as close as it gets to political enemies in this usually genial town. Ravenstahl, an accidental mayor, seemed to take little about governing seriously. And Peduto, who has been very serious about it all, chafed at Ravenstahl's nonchalance and challenged the mayor at every turn.
As Euripides said, “There is nothing like the sight of an old enemy down on his luck,” so it is understandable that the departing mayor would try to scuttle his nemesis. Seinfeld had Newman, Mozart had Salieri, Batman had The Joker and Peduto has Ravenstahl.
But if Ravenstahl had any interest in creating a better Pittsburgh, as the name of his committee indicates, he would have worked more and played less. While he surely had more fun than any other mayor in the city's history, his critics say he was more interested in a better Ravenstahl than a better Pittsburgh.
Ravenstahl seemed to get bad advice at every turn, using a Homeland Security vehicle to tailgate, crashing events where he was not invited and skipping those where he was expected. Heading to a ski resort to celebrate his birthday, when everybody with a television knew the winter storm of the century was headed for Pittsburgh, might be his legacy.
And it seems that the bad advice continues. If Ravenstahl hoped for a credible strike, an assault by one Democrat on a fellow Democrat, over policy or style, he could not have picked a worse messenger to craft his anti-Peduto missives.
The Alexandria, Va., advertising agency he retained is best known for the “Swift Boat” attack on Democrat John Kerry when he ran against George Bush, a tactic that is still reviled by Democrats. The firm, although it has had remarkable political success, is a deeply Republican outfit, now hired to intervene in what is essentially a family dispute among Pittsburgh Democrats.
Outsiders trying to manipulate the Pittsburgh mayor's race might be the rule and not the exception in local politics after this. There is nothing illegal about it and Ravenstahl has the same First Amendment rights as everyone else, including the freedom to choose his messenger.
But this is still a battle among Pittsburghers. At the end of the day, this race is about the candidates, their ideas and plans, as they describe them, and not some message from afar.
It is about the future — not Luke Ravenstahl's last hurrah.
Joseph Sabino Mistick, a lawyer, law professor and political analyst, lives in Squirrel Hill (SabinoMistick@aol.com).
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Steelers’ tarnished Bell rings true
- Tomlin gives suggestion Steelers won’t be shy about going for 2
- UPMC offering buyouts to 3,500 employees in cost-cutting move
- Pirates win 5th straight as offense continues to click in win over Marlins
- Police question resident in Latrobe apartment house fire
- Vandals ruin Ligonier Township farmers’ garden
- Pirates notebook: Struggling Polanco held out of starting lineup
- Soccer officials arrested in Zurich; World Cup votes probed
- Pittsburgh shortens the party for Chesney fans
- Steelers notebook: LB Harrison open for larger role
- Steelers’ Brown: Attendance ‘never a doubt’ for offseason workouts