The concept goes back at least to the early 16th century, and probably much before Niccolò Machiavelli wrote in “The Prince” about plotting against someone who holds power.
“Never do an enemy a small injury,” he wrote. “The injury that is to be done to a man ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge.”
A similar sentiment was expressed by Ralph Waldo Emerson in the 19th century, when he commented on a young essayist who criticized Plato in somewhat mild terms.
“Never strike a king,” Emerson said, “unless you are sure you shall kill him.”
Now, nobody is advocating actually doing in New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, but lately there have been those who have been calling for his political scalp, and with good reason.
Silver, who has been the powerful speaker of the New York state Assembly since 1994, has admitted approving the outlay of $103,000 in taxpayer money to female legislative aides who had allegedly been sexually harassed by since-resigned Bronx Assemblyman Vito Lopez.
The New York City Chapter of the National Organization for Women called Silver’s actions a “shameful cover-up and protection of a serial harasser.”
Several years ago, J. Michael Boxley was accused of raping two women while he was working for Silver. In 2006, the speaker got the Assembly to settle a lawsuit based on the accusations for half a million dollars in state money.
Clearly, it is time for Silver, a Democrat who represents the 65th Assembly District in Manhattan, to resign or be forced out.
Getting rid of the wily Silver won’t be easy. A coup was attempted in 2000 against what Brooklyn Assemblyman James Brennan called “a virtual dictatorship” … and failed miserably. Leading the insurrection was Michael Bragman.
After the revolt was crushed, Silver removed Bragman from his longtime position of assembly leader, including the extra $34,500 that went with it, along with other perquisites. Bragman resigned less than two years later. Fellow rebels Michael Luster and Ronald Tocci lost their committee chairmanships.
Curiously, our local assemblyman, Bill Magee of the 121st District, took part in the 2000 revolt against Silver, but was not punished. Asked last week by The Daily Star whether Silver should resign, we got this disappointing answer:
“He (Silver) has apologized for a mistake that he’s made,” Magee said, “and said it won’t happen again.”
That’s just pitiful. If saying “I’m sorry and I won’t do it again” is the standard for every heinous act, then we wouldn’t need prisons. What we do need now are some Assembly members with the courage to “strike a king” and get rid of Sheldon Silver.