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Recanting Cantor

From The Other Side Of The Bench

By David J. Seidemann, Esq.

A few years back, when I contemplated running for a seat in the United States Congress, the first person I met in Washington DC was Congressman Eric Cantor from Virginia. We spent about a half hour together in his office where he gave me words of general encouragement and specific advice as to how to run and structure a campaign.

Cantor described the daily routine of a congressman, the highs and lows of the job, and how precarious a position it is. I remember him telling me that basically your reelection campaign begins the day after your victory in the first election.

A few hours ago, Cantor conceded defeat in his bid for reelection. His loss in the primary to an unknown Republican Tea Party economics professor is being termed by the pundits as one of the biggest upsets in U.S. political history. He was widely acknowledged as the highest ranking Jewish Republican in Washington and his defeat creates a void and one less important voice for Jewish interests and for the State of Israel.

The Republican establishment is rocked by this defeat and the Democratic leadership is dancing in the aisles. They see it as a repudiation of the Republican Party and a sign that the fringe right element of the Republican Party scored a victory, but, in doing so, highlighted the stark difference between that fringe element and mainstream America. They are banking on the fact that Joe American will reject the extreme candidate just nominated in Virginia in favor of a rank-and-file, middle-of-the road Democrat.

But the Democrats should be careful. For it is just as likely that Cantor’s defeat was a repudiation of the entire body of Congress. The average American is worn out by the stalemate in Washington where more time is spent investigating inactivity than time is spent being active.

Joe American is fed up with politicians messing up and deflecting critique and criticism by crying that the opposition is simply politicizing their failures. Baloney.

When the president and the State Department mess up in Benghazi and four of our own die, it is not partisan politics to investigate “why.” On the contrary, not to ask questions, to hide behind false defenses such as “You are politicizing the issue by making me answer questions,” is politics at its worst.

When the president and the Defense Department mess up and release terrorists whom we have no capability of monitoring, it would be politics not to ask the tough questions.

In this writer’s opinion, Cantor lost not because he wasn’t a Democrat, but rather because in the minds of the 64,000 people who voted in the Virginia primary, Cantor was no longer Republican enough. He outspent his challenger by millions but it didn’t matter. The voters wanted a staunch Conservative and Cantor was no longer perceived as that. His stance on immigration, where he implied that he could work on a compromise bill with the “chief-do-nothing” in Washington, was too much for the voters on the right to accept. Lesson learned. Be yourself to the end or your end might come sooner than you had hoped for.

“And the man Moses was modest, more than any other man on the face of the land.” Our rabbis point out that the extent of Moses’ modesty could have been conveyed simply by the verse stating that he was most modest, and that the words “on the face of this land” are seemingly extra. Those extra words seem to bespeak haughtiness, especially if they are really not necessary.

The commentaries explain that the extra words convey that every blade of grass and every human being is unique, and if we know that, then surely Moses knew that. But in spite of that knowledge, which could have made Moses egotistical, he nevertheless was uniquely modest. That was his greatness. The very realization that could have fueled his ego, kept in check, is what accentuated his modesty. Uniqueness indeed.

I met a young adult the other night on the street. I had met her previously about a year ago. She was not in good shape back then, and I suggested then that she seek professional help, to which she agreed. When I saw her the other night, she was on the street, standing against a building, in the throes of a panic attack. I spoke to her for a few minutes and offered to either drive her to a hospital or to her doctors or perhaps to call 911.

She told me that she had been down that road before and that every time she presents at the hospital, they throw a few pills at her and tell her to grow up. “I won’t go through that again,” she cried.

I listened to her for about 20 minutes and when she finished I told her that life stinks. “It’s awful,” I said. “I don’t think I ever heard a worse story,” I continued. “Your life uniquely stinks.”

For the first time in 20 minutes her crying slowed a bit.

“But I am so glad I bumped into you,” I continued, “because I was having an awful day. I was feeling that I was uniquely suffering, and now that I met you, I see that while my issues might be unique, the concept of me and me alone suffering is incorrect. I am not alone in searching for answers.”

Her tears stopped, and a small smile broke out. I got back on my soap box and said, “Thank you for being here and encouraging me. And just like I ran into you tonight and you helped me, you will meet someone tomorrow who will help you. And you will realize tomorrow, like I realized tonight, that uniqueness does not mean that we operate in solitude.”

I told her that just like her problems are unique, so too will be the answers that she finds.

Are her problems over, her issues solved? I doubt it. Will she suffer in the future? Most probably. But I saw her a week later and she was all smiles. She thanked me for acknowledging her uniqueness and told me that if she didn’t have that chance encounter with me that night, her night might have ended differently. We shouldn’t know of such things.

Be yourself and your end might come much further down the road than it seems. v

David Seidemann is a partner with the law firm of Seidemann and Mermelstein and serves as a professor of business law at Touro College. He can be reached at 718-692-1013 or

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Posted by on June 13, 2014. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.