04 April 2009

In The Power Broker, Robert Caro describes the rise of "Impy," the New York City Council President who became mayor in 1950 when William O'Dwyer resigned to become Ambassador to Mexico:

The nomination of this totally unknown minor Tammany ward heeler to the city's second-highest elective office, the position of succession to the mayoralty, had "staggered . . . even the most imaginative among political reporters." And so had the explanation of how he had obtained the nomination. At a last-minute reshuffling of the 1945 Democratic ticket, the leaders finally agreed on Lazarus Joseph for Comptroller, and then realized that since O'Dwyer was Irish and from Brooklyn, while Joseph was Jewish and from the Bronx, the slate could have ethnic and geographic balance only if its third member was an Italian from Manhattan -- and were unable to think of a single Manhattan Italian official they could trust. After hours of impasse, one leader reasoned that since legal secretaryships to State Supreme Court justices carried a respectable salary for which little or no work was required, they would have been given only to the "safest" of Democratic workers. Pulling out a little "Green Book," the official directory of city employees, he turned to the list of legal secretaries, ran his finger down it looking for a name that even the dumbest voter would be able to tell was Italian -- and came to Vincent R. Impellitteri. . . .

. . .this explanation seemed almost unbelievable -- until one met Impellitteri.

I'm not sure whether to feel insulted or excited about my future job prospects.

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