The Brian Lehrer Show is a bastion of mature and levelheaded discussion of the day's news and hot topics in what's usually a wasteland of radio shouting. That fact makes it all the more hilarious that what was supposed to be a pre-primary debate between the two men fighting over the Democratic nomination for the 10th Congressional District in New York, incumbent Jerry Nadler and challenger Oliver Rosenberg, became an opus of cringe comedy from the moment Rosenberg opened his mouth.
How quickly did things turn weird? After Nadler gives a summation of the size of his district and what he considers his accomplishments in his latest term, Rosenberg thanks Lehrer for giving New Yorkers a chance to hear about "the issues" and follows that with a Sarah Palin-esque steam-of-consciousness:
"I'm running because I love my city and I know we can make it fabulous. What makes New York City great is you can come from anywhere and be who you want to be in New York City and it breaks my heart to see what's happening to it. Everywhere you go it's just Duane Reades and banks. Mom and pop shops can't afford the rent. We're losing what makes New York City special. Lee's Art Shop, Renaissance Diner, H & H Bagels. I can't get my bagels and schmear. We want our bagels back!
What's next to go, Fairway? Barney Greengrass? The politicians don't care. They care about the money they get from their friends in the banks. They don't care about our city. I do. That's why I'm running. The subways are third world. The rents are too damn high. This is the year millions of people are standing up. All the problems have gotten worse in Congress. We don't take this, we're New Yorkers. We're not afraid to speak up. We need new answers, a new plan, new energy. As Alexander Hamilton says, 'This is not a moment this is the movement. Foes oppose us we take an honest stand. We roll like Moses claiming our promised land.' Rise up, rise up and vote."
Yes, beyond fact that Rosenberg doesn't seem to understand what the federal government can do locally, that's an actual candidate for federal office ascribing a lyric from the character Alexander Hamilton to the actual Alexander Hamilton. The debate went on in basically the same fashion for another eighteen minutes. Rosenberg hand waves away the (correct) point that every issue he listed was a local issue with the counter that it's "the same all talk, no action of career politicians."
Rosenberg, who was an investment manager at JP MORGAN says the words "Wall Street got its bailout, it's time for Main Street to get a bailout" without somehow being crushed by the cognitive dissonance of it all. Rosenberg also calls for a federal transaction tax on "foreigners" buying luxury real estate, which Nadler very calmly explains can't only be directed at non-citizens.
It somehow gets worse near the end when Lehrer points out Rosenberg's long history of being registered and voting as a Republican, followed by Nadler reading Rosenberg's (deleted) right-wing tweets praising Ari Fleischer and calling for Obama to be impeached that he did as recently as 2014 and 2015. Rosenberg's reasoning?
"Jerry has no idea what it's like to be gay, a teenager and in the closet with the pressure to conform. When I was 19 and in the closet, I did what my family told me to do. I've grown and come to accept who I am, now who people say I should be. I am gay and I was a Democrat trapped in a Republican's body."
Rosenberg was 30 years old in 2015.
Say what you will about the complacency that long-term incumbency can impose on a candidate, Rosenberg's performance was deeply embarrassing and only makes us wonder if his candidacy is some kind of performance art or even an Alvin Greene-esque strawman attempt to knock Nadler off in retaliation for his vote in favor of the Iran nuclear deal.