Interview With Malachy McCourt

November 5th, 2006

By Emily McNeill

Malachy McCourt is an actor, humorist, bestselling author and prominent character
in his brother Frank’s Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir, “Angela’s Ashes.” An outspoken political and social critic for decades, McCourt is the Green Party candidate for governor of New York State. Like other Green Party candidates, McCourt has been excluded from the gubernatorial debates. He spoke with Buzzsaw editor Emily McNeill about politics, his campaign and his vision for New York.

Buzzsaw Haircut: Why did you decide to run for governor?

Malachy McCourt: First of all, I am standing for governor. That’s what they do in Europe. The others are running. So they’ll be runnersup, and I shall be standing.
When I was asked, I was on a radio program here on WBAI, which is a community
station, and a woman named Marie called up, and she said, you’ve been doing a lot of
talking about politics and what’s wrong, so why don’t you do something? I said, I am doing something – I’m broadcasting and talking about the problems and giving people an
opportunity. No, she said, you ought to do something more than that, and the Green
Party needs someone to get on the ballot and get 50,000 votes, and we think you could do it. So that’s how it started. That was about six or seven months ago.

BH: Do you have a sense of how you’re doing? Do you expect to reach the 50,000 mark?

MM: We just got the Zogby poll, and 14 percent of independents are going to vote for me, and 5 percent overall, and that could translate into anything from 300,000 to 500,000 votes. So I have no doubt at all we’ll get the 50,000.

BH: What do you think is the importance of keeping the Green Party on the ballot? Can
the Green Party have any positive influence without some major electoral reforms?

MM: We have a political monopoly here with the Democrats and the Republicans, and all of them without exception have been purchased, bought and enslaved by corporate money and slime. So they owe their allegiance to corporations and not to the people. This
is supposedly a government of the people, by the people and for the people, but the people’s interests are not served by Democrats and Republicans.

So the Green Party is a voice for looking after people. The government is supposed
to take care of the most vulnerable people: children, the aged, the ill, the mentally ill,
the disabled and everybody else, and that is not happening in our society because we are
corrupted by greed and by profiteering.

BH: What are the issues you are trying to raise in your campaign?

MM: I speak about corporate corruption and this horrendous, stupid, idiotic, evil war that
has been imposed on us by these profiteers. As governor, who’s commander-in-chief of
the National Guard, I would say that the state needs these soldiers back here to look after the conditions and the crises that we have in the state, particularly in places like Buffalo with snow storms, and with floods overflowing the riverbanks and with the pollution and the litter that we have around the state. I think that the National Guard could take care of the problems we have with those situations.

I believe that the state should not do business with corporations that pay minimum wage; it should be triple the minimum wage, and every company doing business with the state should have a sickness insurance – I don’t call it health insurance; you don’t insure against health – and pensions and more than a living wage. And I believe that we have to make sure that all people are taken care of in a medical situation, that there has to be a one-payer, single, universal plan for people who are sick, and we must take the profit out of sickness.

BH: Do you believe that if the political will was there these things would be feasible?

MM: They are possible because our state has wasted 30 billion dollars on this stupid war.
We are wasting money on munitions, and we are wasting money on maintaining a military establishment that just flies around and round and round. We don’t have a declared war, and that war, such as it was, was declared “mission accomplished” by the acting commander-in-chief, so we are there not alone immorally, but illegally as well. I say to people, “Don’t waste your vote, give it me,” because if you keep doing
the same thing over and over again, you will get what you’ve always gotten. So that’s
what I tell people. Whether we win or not, there has to be a sizable voice here telling those folks, those [politicians] that will take them for granted. Overwhelming votes always give people arrogance. Even underwhelming votes give people arrogance.

BH: Do you think that states pulling their National Guard troops from Iraq could be a
viable option for forcing the federal government to act?

MM: They would have to prove they are necessary in Iraq, and all I would have to say is
that we have a great necessity for the National Guard here, so it would be a constitutional
issue. I think we would win that one, because we are there, as I said, illegally and immorally, and there’s no war, and that’s the condition for sending the National Guard abroad under the Constitution. There is no officially-declared war.

BH: What do you think are the issues most overlooked by the Spitzer and Faso campaigns?

MM: They have overlooked the quality of life in the state. They talk about taxes, taxes,
reducing taxes, as if all the people in New York think about is money. None of them have
ever mentioned about air, about the quality of our air, about doing something about our water, they’ve done nothing about alternative energy, they’ve talked not a whit about what people eat in this state, about the crisis of high-school dropouts, and so many
of them end up in prison, costing $50,000 a year. Faso said in one of the debates, we’re
paying $17,000 a year for each child, and we’re not getting our money’s worth. That’s a
peculiar way to look at children, as if they’re just money’s worth, or something with a
price. There are old people who are alone, and lonely and isolated. They’re not being looked after. Our mentally ill people are thrown into prison, and because they don’t comprehend the rules, they go totally insane, and then they commit suicide in prison. Those things are not being addressed.

BH: You’ve criticized Spitzer and Faso for never having had to really work. What do you
think are the implications of electing politicians who are disconnected from the working

MM: They’ve had comfortable lives. They talk about rolling up their sleeves. They talk
about fighting, and running, rolling up their sleeves. Fighting and running – they don’t do a damn thing. As people in positions of political influence, we’re put in to represent the interests of the people. What we do, as best as possible, is we talk to other legislators and say, we need to pass a law which will guarantee this. That’s all – stop this nonsense about fighting. Who’ve they come to fight? They talk about fighting – I don’t see any bloody noses or smashed teeth, or anything else like that. It’s all just rubbish.

BH: Are you optimistic about the November elections?

MM: I trust that the momentum of the deprivation of liberty is going to stop, and that,
somehow or another, the Democrats will take over the House and the Senate so as to put a stop to this lunatic stampede towards dictatorship and oppression.

BH: Has campaigning changed any of your ideas about politics or democracy?

MM: No, but the one lovely and beautiful thing is that people are so generous and so
open and so willing to have a chat. I haven’t run into any sort of anger. Just one person
shouted at me one day, but that was it. Most people are very decent, even if they disagree with me. Even people who are suffering – I know that New York State, Upstate, there’s a great deal of economic suffering there, economic deprivation. It’s not being looked into or looked after, whereas we have $120 billion controlled by the comptroller in our state, and that money is not being invested in our state.
We need to do better, not in corporations, but in people. There are so many people who have such great ideas who can do it on a small scale and employ 20 or 30 people all around the state in small businesses.

BH: Do you plan to write about your experiences as a candidate?

MM: Yeah, it’s all been grist for the mill. All experiences are. I’m now in the middle
of writing an introduction to James Joyce’s “Dubliners.” But that’s the only thing I’m
doing right now in the way of writing. I probably will. I’m not taking any notes, but
something will occur to me. It’s an amazing experience anyway – to be 75 years old and
be traipsing around not jus Upstate, but I’m going out to San Francisco for a fundraiser
and then to Minneapolis, and I’ll be up there in Ithaca and in Syracuse and Rochester and
Buffalo again, and it’s wonderful to be able to talk to people.

BH: What do you think is the future of the Green Party?

MM: I believe what the Green Party ought to do would be like the evangelical right, who are always being urged to go out and go for every office that’s open from the elected
janitor to the school board to the community councils – all of that. That’s what the Green
Party ought to do to get this surge of support.

BH: Do you have faith in the American democracy?

MM: I do, indeed. I just have to say that Winston Churchhill – a man I didn’t particularly
admire, but he was a very good speaker and a very good writer – said, “Democracy is the
worst form of government, except all the others.” I have great faith. I love my country, I’m a great patriot. I’ve never killed anybody for my country, and I don’t intend to. I will not make enemies for this great country of mine.

Whaling Wall Matthew Farrell
Chow Feng Shui Josh Elmer
Stained Glass Ceiling Emily McNeill
Anarchitect Mike Berlin
SaHarrison Desert Harrison Flatau
Metrolollipopolis Jennifer Konerman
Tropic of Scurvy Heather Newberger
Copy Editors Danielle Sherwood
  Jenna Scatena
  Elliott Feedore
Adviser Mary Beth O’Connor
Chief Residents Abby Bertumen
  Kelly Burdick
  Bryan Chambala
  Sam Costello
  Cole Louison
  James Sigman

Buzzsaw Haircut is funded by the Ithaca College Student Government Association, the Park School of Communications and a generous grant from Campus Progress.

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Front cover and back cover of print edition by Jake I. Forney.
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